Why Is New York City Sometimes Called Gotham?


Comic book fans are likely familiar with the name "Gotham City" as the name of a fictionalized New York City as presented in the "Batman" franchise universe, but in actuality, this nickname for Manhattan predates the comic books by several decades. American author Washington Irving is believed to be responsible not for coining the term but for applying it to New York City in the early 1800s.

The use of the name Gotham to describe a geographical location can actually be dated back to England's Middle Ages, when a town named Gotham was reported to be populated almost entirely by fools. In fact, the Gotham name itself is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word indicating a town full of goats. Based on these two bits of information, it's clear that Irving wasn't exactly being nice about New York City and its citizens when he and some of his New-York-resident literati friends started publishing tales of their exploits in a city called Gotham. The nickname seems to have stuck, though, and more than a century later, when "Batman" writer Bill Finger was looking for names in a phone book, he saw the name Gotham attached to a jewelry business and decided to use it for his superhero story.