Tautological Names | Places With Repetitive Names

(Last Updated On: October 31, 2022)

You’ve probably heard that, in English, the Sahara Desert is actually just the “desert desert.” It’s pretty dumb when you think about it, it’s like saying a rose is a rose. Very informative. But what if we told you that these names are actually super common–they’re called tautological names. So let’s look at some places that are named themselves. 

What’s in a (tautological) name?

The only thing we really have to deconstruct here is what “tautology” is. A tautology is any statement that repeats itself; these statements use synonymous (or very near-synonymous) words or phrases that end up with the statement saying the exact same thing twice. 

In literature, most would consider it a mistake (if the author were to use a tautology unintentionally). Tautology can be implemented either linguistically or logically, and while we’re not going to go through an introduction to logic class, you do kind of realize tautologies are redundant once you start thinking in terms of logic. For example, the definition of “tautology” is a logical tautology. A tautology is a statement that says the same thing twice. But a statement that says the same thing twice is also a tautology. 

You probably use tautologies all the time without thinking about it. For example, “RSVP” comes from the French for “please respond,” so anyone saying “please RSVP” is asking you to “please please respond.” Telling someone “you gotta do what you gotta do” is another, or saying that something “will happen or it won’t.” If there’s the one person in your meetings who goes “in my opinion, I think,” they’re also saying the same thing twice–since what you think is, by definition, an opinion. So you can make fun of them now.

Oh, and we know you’ve used this one: “global pandemic.” The word “pandemic” means “all the people” if you translate it from its Greek roots

10 More Examples of Tautological Names

1. The Milky Way Galaxy

Galaxy means “milky” in Greek.

2. The Mississippi River

“Mississippi” is derived from an Ojibwe word meaning “big river.” 

3. Street Road

Actually Pennsylvania has two Street Roads. 

4. Lake Tahoe

5. Walla Walla River

The “Walla” is repeated twice to signify that it’s a little river.

6. Montana Mountain

7. Isla Pulo

Neither word is in English, but translated it just means “Island Island.”

8. El Camino Way

Translate this Californian street from Spanish and you get “The Way Way.”

9. East Timor/Timor Leste

“Timor” is derived from the Malay word for “east,” so East Timor means “East East.” You may raise Timor Leste as a counterargument, but “leste” is just Portuguese for “east.” 

10. Faroe Islands

They’re the Sheep Islands Islands! 

Lots of places are so new they put it in the name. See if you know them here.

About the Author:

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Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.