We know the probable reason why the capital of England is called Big Smoke (it must have something to do with the Great Fire of London). But why London? We need to go back to antiquity to answer this question.
Ancient Britannia Under the Roman Rule
When the Romans invaded the present-day territory of Great Britain, they founded a huge trading settlement called Londinium. This was a few decades before the birth of Christ. There’s a lot of debate about where the ‘London’ or ‘Londin’ part of the name comes from. Nobody’s asking about the suffix – as you may have noticed, -ium was a common one in Roman times. A number of elements of Celtic translation apply in this case. Celtic dialects were dominant in Wales and the West Country before the arrival of the Romans arrived.
Temple of Diana
The original name of the settlement may have been ‘Llan Dian’, referring to the Temple of Diana which is believed to have been on the present-day site of St Paul’s Cathedral, or ‘Llyn Dain’, Welsh for ‘pool of the Thames’. Alfred the Great took over the former Roman town in the 700s and anglicized the name to Lundenburh. With time, this was shortened to London. This name referred only to what we now call the City of London – London would have looked much different and been a lot smaller back then.
More specifically, the reference was to the original square mile of the walled city the Romans founded. What we think of now as London’s villages and boroughs, such as Notting Hill and Greenwich, would have been completely separate villages and towns at the time.