When you’re attempting to come up with a fictional place, one of the things you need is a name. This largely applies to cities and towns, but on occasion this can also apply to specific things like rivers, buildings or landmarks. Names for characters are difficult enough, and settings are no different. Thankfully finding a good name for your setting doesn’t have to be difficult.
Check local languages. A lot of places here in Arizona take their cue from the Spanish language. This applies names like Rio Verde, Sierra Vista and Mesa. There are also plenty of other examples. La Joya, Texas; La Puente, California and Cerro Gordo, Illinois are all towns with Spanish names. There are also plenty of other language based names. French and Native American words are scattered across the United States, which can give you a clue to their history and the culture around them.
History isn’t a bad place to look either. If you’ve ever had the occasion to visit Tombstone, Arizona, you might know that it’s named that way because the founder was told the only thing he’d ever find out there was his tombstone. Some cities are also named after their founders, with Rome being named after one of its two founders.
Local Landmarks play a crucial role as well. Stratford-upon-Avon is quite literally that: a town on the Avon river. Salt Lake City is another example. If you’re looking to name a landmark, try pairing an adjective and a noun together. This gives you things like Black Forest, Salt Lake, Sand Creek, the Dead Sea and Great Barrier Reef.
Adding on suffixes like ‘-ville’ and ‘-ton’ can be used to name. Like naming landmarks, these can be applied to simple adjective. This can give you name like Greenville, Waterville, Downton and Brewton.
Finally, when all else fails combining names can give you a unique name. If you only know your city is where your main characters meet, try mashing together ‘Main Characters’ for something like ‘Mairacter City’. If you need a little more help, there are a few word mixers on the internet which can give you a hand smashing names together.