What's the longest town name in the world?

Wales, UK - Located on an island off the coast of Wales is a town with such a long name that it has made history and even won a world record. What is the longest town name in the world, and why?

There's something remarkable about a town name so long that it's famous.
There's something remarkable about a town name so long that it's famous.  © Collage: IMAGO/Avalon.red

Adorned with red trimmings, trapezoidal windows, and a sign across it that reaches from one side of the building to the other, the station that inhabits the Welsh village known to have the longest town name in the world is as beautiful as the town's name is bizarre.

For the people who live there, though, a name this long can be a little difficult to accommodate. It has the world record for the longest town name in the world, and boy-oh-boy is it long!

What is the world's longest town name?

Located on the Isle of Anglesey off the coast of Wales, the town of Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch has the longest town name in the world, with 58 characters and 18 syllables. For context, in terms of place names, the town is second to only Taumata­whakatangihanga­koauau­o­tamatea­turi­pukaka­piki­maunga­horo­nuku­pokai­whenua­ki­tana­tahu, a hill located in southern Hawke's Bay, New Zealand.

Interestingly, the Welsh town (which often goes as just Llanfairpwllgwyngyll) is quite ancient, with human activity known to have existed there for several thousand years. Traditionally an agricultural and fishing island, the Isle of Anglesey has been dominated by multiple peoples over the course of its life.

During the Roman Empire, the town was invaded and captured under Gaius Suetonius Paulinus before being briefly abandoned and then integrating into the medieval Kingdom of Gwynedd in the fifth or sixth century AD. With more history than can possibly fit into one article, Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch is a genuinely fascinating place.

Nowadays, it is mostly famous for its name as well as its railway station. In terms of tourism, the town sees more than 200,000 visitors every year, most of whom stay in the town simply because they are taking a holiday on the island. Llanfairpwllgwyngyll is famous, however, for being the location of the first-ever Women's Institute meeting in 1915.

The town had become a viral social media sensation over recent years, made famous by Channel 4's weatherman Liam Dutton when he managed to flawlessly pronounce it in one take during a forecast.

Why is Wales' longest town name so long?

Wales' Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch got its long name in the 19th century as a publicity stunt for the town's train station. Its first known name was discovered to be "Pwllgwyngyll" in an ecclesiastical valuation from the 1250s. The name at the time meant "the pool of the white hazels" and referenced one of two towns that made up a parish.

When looked at linguistically, the final name is a conglomeration of Welsh words mushed together over the years, even including that very same medieval name. It not only includes the reference to white hazels but also a "fierce whirlpool" and the church of Saint Tysilio, a Welsh bishop who died in 640 AD, likely around the time that the town was originally established.

The whirlpool is likely a reference to the Menai Strait, while the Saint Tysilio reference is likely a reference to a chapel located nearby. Its name was contrived in 1869 to give the local railway station the longest station name in Britain and, therefore, get some publicity for the town and island.

It is with this bizarre move that Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch became famous. So, you have to give it to them: those Victorians certainly knew what they were doing!

Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch is famous for its long name.
Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch is famous for its long name.  © IMAGO/Avalon.red

Don't try to fit the longest town name on a sign!

One of the funniest things about a place with such a long name is that, of course, it has to fit onto signs. This is where the station comes back, as Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is written across the front of it, white text on a lavender background, from one end of the wall to another. It's quite something to see, to be honest!

Of course, the answer to the question is that most signs probably refer to the town with an acronym so that presenters on TV or sign writers have a bit of an easier job. One such acronym is "Llanfair PG," or even just "Llanfair." Still, that doesn't make it any less entertaining when it is written down in all its Welsh glory.

Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO/Avalon.red

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