Los Angeles County is quite a county. With a population of about 10 million, it's not only the most populous county in the United States, but it has more people than the entire nation of Sweden. It's home of America's aerospace and entertainment industries. It's home to the two largest ports in the U.S.. Los Angeles County has got it all: Mountains, beaches, deserts, even two islands and 88 incorporated cities.
Eighty-eight cities with eighty-eight distinct names (Okay, some of the names are similar). And what's in a name? A glimpse of the town's history, that's what. Many of the cities are named after the original Mexican-era ranchos, or even invented (i.e. gringo) Spanish. One is even in French. Some are named after the native Tongva or Chumash. Another is named after a Native American language from the Midwest. Some are named after saints. Others are named after the town's founders, or their native hometowns. And a few are named after lofty, idyllic visions of what their founders wanted their city to eventually be.
So after much Militant research, here it is, the etymology of Los Angeles county's 88 cities, in alphabetical order:
Agoura Hills – Misspelling of French Basque settler Pierre Agourre.
Alhambra –Washington Irving’s book, “Tales of the Alhambra.”
Arcadia – Named by founder Lucky Baldwin, meaning “utopia” or “paradise,” which originated from the Greek region of Arcadia.
Artesia – The artesian wells found in the city.
Avalon – Referenced in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “Idylls of the King;” meant “Bright gem of the ocean” or “Beautiful isle of the blest.”
Azusa – Derived from the Tongva village Asuksagna (“Place of the water”).
Baldwin Park – Founded by Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin.
Bell – Founded by James George Bell.
Bell Gardens – Nearby Bell and the farms developed by Japanese gardeners.
Bellflower – Anglicized version of the Bellefleur apples that grew in local orchards.
Beverly Hills – After Beverly Farms, Massachusetts and the Santa Monica Mountain foothills.
Bradbury – Founded by Louis Leonard Bradbury.
Burbank – Founded by dentist and land developer Dr. David Burbank.
Calabasas – From Spanish word “Calabaza” (pumpkin).
Carson – John Manuel Carson, developer and head of Dominguez Water Corporation, grandson of Don Manuel Dominguez.
Cerritos – Nearby Rancho Los Cerritos (Spanish for “Little Hills”).
Claremont – Name arbitrarily given by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway for a train station
Commerce – Chosen in the late 1940s by community leaders to encourage...well...commerce (If they only knew there would be gambling casinos...).
Compton – Land pioneer Griffith Dickenson Compton, who donated much of his land to incorporate city.
Covina – Named by engineer Fred Eaton (who eventually became Los Angeles Mayor and conceptualized the Los Angeles Aqueduct) after the San Gabriel Mountain valleys, which formed a natural “COVE” around the local “VINE”yards.
Cudahy – Founded by Irish immigrant and meat packer Michael Cudahy.
Culver City – Founded by real estate developer Harry H. Culver.
Diamond Bar – Named by ranch owner Frederick E. Lewis for the "Diamond-Over-A-Bar" cattle branding iron design, which he registered in 1918.
Downey – Founded by former California governor John Gately Downey, a land developer.
Duarte – After Mexican rancho grantee Corporal Andres Duarte.
El Monte – Old Spanish name for “meadow” or “marsh.”
El Segundo – Invented Spanish for “The second” Standard Oil refinery on the West Coast.
Gardena – Invented Spanish reference for area’s reputation as the only dry-season garden/green spot found between Los Angeles and the sea.
Glendale – Named by local residents, meaning “valley valley.”
Glendora – Founder George Whitcomb combined the “glen” (valley) where he lived, with the name of his wife Leadora.
Hawaiian Gardens – Named in reference to a bamboo shack refreshment stand that opened in 1927 on Carson and Norwalk boulevards, that was decorated to resemble a Hawaiian garden.
Hawthorne – Named by the daughter of town’s co-founder Benjamin Harding; she shared the same birthday with author Nathaniel Hawthorne (OMG, really?!).
Hermosa Beach – Spanish for “beautiful.”
Hidden Hills – Named by developer A.E. Hanson, who also developed Rolling Hills; location is “hidden” between the San Fernando and Simi valleys.
Huntington Park – Founded by Pacific Electric Railway's Henry Huntington.
Industry – Named by city boosters to promote industry; incorporated to avoid being annexed by neighboring cities for tax revenue.
Inglewood – Named after founder Daniel Freeman’s hometown of Inglewood, Ontario, Canada.
Irwindale – A Mr. Irwin who used the town’s first gas-powered water pump to bring a water supply to the community. His daughter’s name was Dale.
La Cañada Flintridge – From Mexican-era Rancho La Cañada, and Flintridge, named after developer and former U.S. Senator Frank P. Flint.
La Habra Heights – From Mexican-era Rancho La Habra (mountain pass).
La Mirada – Invented Spanish – “The Look.”
La Puente – After Rancho La Puente - Old Spanish for “The Bridge” (The Gaspar de Portola Expedition built a bridge over San Jose Creek).
La Verne – French for “growing green” or “spring-like.”
Lakewood – Named after the Lakewood Country Club, established 21 years before the city’s incorporation.
Lancaster – After Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Lawndale – Named by landowner Charles B. Hopper after Lawndale, Illinois.
Lomita – Spanish for “little hill.”
Long Beach - Named after the “Long Beach Land & Water Company” who bought land and incorporated the name “Long Beach,” a double-reference to the beach's length and Long Beach, New York.
Los Angeles - Oh come on, you should know this one already.
Lynwood – Named after Lynne Wood Sessions, wife of dairyman and major land owner Charles H. Sessions.
Malibu – Derived from Chumash village Humaliwo (“The surf sounds loudly”).
Manhattan Beach – Named in 1902 by land developer Stewart Merrill after his hometown of Manhattan, New York; “Beach” was added 25 years later.
Maywood – Named after May Wood, woman who worked for the real estate company that owned much of city’s land.
Monrovia – Named after founder and rancher, William Norton Monroe.
Montebello – Spanish for “Beautiful mountain;” named by William Mulholland who also engineered that city’s water system.
Monterey Park – Named after the nearby Monterey Hills, which were named after Pennsylvania’s Monterey Pass, site of a major Civil War battle.
Norwalk – Named after the “North Walk” path the Anaheim Branch Railroad crossed. The railroad named their station “Norwalk.”
Palmdale - Originally named Palmenthal (“palm valley”) by Swiss/German Lutheran settlers who mistook Joshua trees for palms.
Palos Verdes Estates – From Mexican-era Rancho de los Palos Verdes (“Ranch of the green sticks” – with “sticks” referring to trees).
Paramount – Named after Paramount Boulevard, meaning “important.”
Pasadena – Chippewa Native American for “Crown Of The Valley,” suggested by settler Dr. Thomas Elliot, who was recommended the name from a missionary friend from the Midwest who worked with Native American tribes.
Pico Rivera – Named after Mexican California governor Pio Pico, and the local confluence of the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel rivers.
Pomona – Named by horticulturist Solomon Gate, who won a contest to name the town. Named after the Roman goddess of fruit.
Rancho Palos Verdes – See Palos Verdes Estates.
Redondo Beach – Named after Mexican-era Rancho Sausal Redondo (“Round Willow Grove Ranch”), a reference to the round shape of the original rancho property.
Rolling Hills – After the rolling Palos Verdes Hills.
Rolling Hills Estates – See Rolling Hills.
Rosemead – Named by town pioneer Leonard J. Rose, who named his horse ranch, “Rose Meadow,” which later became “Rosemeade.”
San Dimas – Spanish for St. Dismas, the Biblical figure who was the repentant criminal that was crucified alongside Christ.
San Fernando – Named after Mission San Fernando Rey de España (“St. Ferdinand, King of Spain”).
San Gabriel – Named after Mission San Gabriel Archangel (“St. Gabriel the Archangel”).
San Marino – Named by founder James DeBarth Shorb after his grandfather’s plantation in Maryland, which was named after the small European republic of San Marino, which was named after Saint Marinus, a 4th-century monk.
Santa Clarita – Invented Spanish for “Little Santa Clara.” Named after the nearby Santa Clara River, but intentionally differentiated from the northern California city of Santa Clara.
Santa Fe Springs – Named after the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway which ran through town, and the local artesian springs.
Santa Monica – Named by Father Juan Crespi, who, upon arriving at Kuruvugna Springs (at modern-day University High School’s campus), thought the waters reminded him of the tears of Saint Monica.
Sierra Madre – Spanish for “mother mountain range,” the original name of the San Gabriel Mountains.
Signal Hill – Named after the hill that was traditionally used by the Tongva for smoke signal communication with the island village of Pimugna (Catalina Island).
South El Monte – See El Monte.
South Gate – Originally named “South Gate Gardens” - a reference to its location on the old Cudahy Ranch.
South Pasadena – See Pasadena.
Temple City – Founded by land owner Walter P. Temple. Originally named “Temple,” but U.S. Postmaster General wanted to avoid confusion (in the pre-ZIP code era) with Tempe, Arizona.
Torrance – Founded by land developer Jared Sydney Torrance.
Vernon – Named after Vernon Avenue, which was named after the French town of Vernon.
Walnut – Named after Rancho Los Nogales (“Walnut Ranch”).
West Covina – See Covina.
West Hollywood – Originally named “Sherman” after local electric railway tycoon Moses Sherman, who later called it “West Hollywood” to closely associate it with nearby Hollywood.
Westlake Village – Named after Westlake Lake, the westernmost lake (well, reservoir, really) in Los Angeles county (Their city government must have a Department of Redundancy Department).
Whittier – Founded by Quaker settlers who named it after their homeboy, poet John Greenleaf Whittier.