from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • A city of western Alaska on Norton Sound and the southern coast of Seward Peninsula. It was founded as a gold-mining camp in 1898 and became a boomtown during the gold rush.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • proper noun seaport in West Alaska
  • proper noun cape in West Alaska


Sorry, no etymologies found.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • "When the miners registered the town with the U.S. Post Office to receive mail, they initially named the mining district Anvil City after a nearby rock that looked like the blacksmith's tool. The postal authorities, however, rejected the name because another Alaskan mining camp had already claimed the title, and so instead the boomtown was called Nome, after the cape of the same name thirteen miles to the east. The naming of Cape Nome is widely believed to have been the result of a cartographer's bad handwriting. A draftsman aboard HMS Herald, which was in search of the missing crew of the 1845 Franklin Expedition, had apparently written '? Name' on his map when the ship passed by a cape on the Seward Peninsula that had not been marked. When the map was later drawn in permanent pen, the cartographer mistook the question mark for a C and the 'Name' for 'Nome.' Some locals in Nome believe in another version. The Eskimo expression kn-no-me means 'I don't know' and is thought to have been the answer Natives gave when foreign visitors landing on the shore asked the likely question, 'What's the name of this place?'"

    --Gay Salisbury and Laney Salisbury, The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race against an Epidemic (NY and London: W.W. Norton & Co., 2003), 14n

    (I'll add only that almost every place in America has that story told about how it was named--the Native inhabitants told the Europeans "I don't know" in their own language and the "name" stuck. But that doesn't necessarily mean it didn't happen.)

    January 24, 2017