Have you ever wondered how a town or city got its name? Many places are named after a person that had a role in establishing them. Other city name origins aren’t quite as obvious. Regardless of the source, an unusual town or city name, even a very short one, can serve as a reminder of a community’s long history.
24/7 Wall St. set out to discover the country’s 50 shortest town and city names by reviewing all incorporated towns, cities, and villages listed by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Each place that appears on this list has a name that’s just three letters long. Since each name is equal in length, we listed these cities from least to most populous. The smallest town on this list has just 231 residents, while the largest has nearly 38,000.
Several of these places at one point held a different name, which changed upon their incorporation as a town, village, or city. Eva, Alabama, for example, was originally known as Cowhead. But when the town needed to change its name in order to incorporate and build a post office, Cowhead became Eva, in honor of a baby girl delivered by a local physician.
These short names came from a variety of sources. Religious texts, prominent citizens, and local industries all served as the inspiration for some places on the list. Other name origins are difficult to determine. Having a shorter town name was practical back in the 19th and 20th centuries, because when many of these places were officially incorporated, the addresses had to be handwritten. Quite a few town histories state that short names were chosen for convenience, as cutting out letters saved residents time and ink when writing their return addresses.
To identify the shortest town and city names in the nation, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed all incorporated places tracked by the U.S. Census. These are places with a charter recognized by state and elected officials. We did not consider Census Designated Places (CDPs), which are statistical, unincorporated entities. Hawaii, where all places are considered CDPs, was an exception. To count the characters in each place’s name, we counted “town,” city,” “village,”and “municipality,” only when these were parts of the official title.
For example, in the case of Gas City, Indiana, the word city is part of the proper name, whereas the word city in Gas, Kansas, is not part of the official title and was excluded from the character count. There are more than 50 places in America with three-letter names — 24/7 Wall St. selected the 50 with the largest populations. Population figures are five-year averages from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey.