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11 totally redundant place names
Lake Tahoe means Lake Lake. La Brea Tar Pits means The Tar Tar Pits. And more!
 
Lake Tahoe literally means Lake Lake.
Lake Tahoe literally means Lake Lake. Mick Roessler/Corbis

East of Lancashire, England, lies Pendle Hill, known for its historical association with witch trials, scientific discoveries about air pressure, and religious visions that led to the founding of the Quaker movement. It is also known for having a tautological name.

A tautological name has two parts that are redundant, or synonymous. Tautological place names usually come about when more than one language goes into the name. Some California examples that mix Spanish and English are Laguna Lake (Lake Lake) and Lake Lagunita (Lake Little Lake). The Pendle in Pendle Hill is derived from Pen-hyll, a combination of the Cumbric word for hill and the Old English word for hill. So Pendle Hill is really Hill Hill Hill. Here are 11 other redundant place names:

1. LAKE TAHOE (LAKE LAKE)

This scenic body of water on the Nevada/California border gets its name from a loose pronunciation of dá’aw, a word from the Native American language Washo that means lake.

2. LA BREA TAR PITS (THE TAR TAR PITS)

The animal bones displayed at this California attraction were preserved in la brea, Spanish for the tar.

3. MILKY WAY GALAXY (MILKY WAY MILKY)

The general astronomical term galaxy comes from the word the ancient Greeks used to describe the band of light they could see in the night sky, galaxias or milky.

4. MINNEHAHA FALLS (WATERFALL FALLS)

The name for this Minnesota waterfall does not, as the legend has it, mean "laughing water." It comes from the Dakota word for waterfall.

5. SAHARA DESERT (DESERTS DESERT)

The name for this giant expanse of North Africa comes from çaḥrā, the Arabic word for deserts.

6. EL CAMINO WAY (THE WAY WAY)

There's a street in Palo Alto, CA called El Camino Way, or The Way Way. If you drive down it in your Chevy El Camino you will be driving your way down The Way Way in The Way.

7. AVENUE ROAD

The city of Toronto can't claim the foreign language excuse for this tautological street name.

8. STREET ROAD

Nor can this name for Pennsylvania Route 132 be blamed on foreign language issues.

9. MISSISSIPPI RIVER (BIG RIVER RIVER)

Our favorite spelling word is derived from an Algonquian word for big river.

10. THE ROCK OF GIBRALTAR (THE ROCK OF THE ROCK OF TARIQ)

Gibraltar came from the Arabic Jabal Tariq, or The Rock of Tariq, named for Tariq ibn Ziyad, the 8th century Muslim commander who conquered Spain after assembling his troops at Gibraltar.

11. EAST TIMOR (EAST EAST)

Whether you say East Timor or Timor Leste, it still means East East. Timor comes from the Indonesian/Malay timur, for east. One could argue that the name isn't really tautological, since Timor is the name for the easternmost island in a chain of islands, and East Timor is the eastern half of that island. It's the easternmost part of the easternmost island. Not the same easternmosts!

 
Arika Okrent is editor-at-large at TheWeek.com and a frequent contributor to Mental Floss. She is the author of In the Land of Invented Languages, a history of the attempt to build a better language. She holds a doctorate in linguistics and a first-level certification in Klingon.

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