The Anglicised name of Scotland's capital city is Edinburgh - pronounced 'Ed-in-bu-ruh' for the benefit of those who may confuse its -burgh with cities like Pittsburgh, or even mistake it for Edinboro, PA. The city was named for the feature which still dominates its skyline, Edinburgh Castle; in Gaelic (the language native to Scotland) the city is Dùn Èideann, itself taken from the old Celtic 'Din Eidyn' meaning 'fort on the hill'.
For a long time 'Edinburgh' was specifically the collection of properties stretching from the Castle down the ridge of what is now the Royal Mile, as far as the junction with Mary Street/Jeffrey Street. At this junction a large gateway, the Netherbow Port, marked the city boundary. There is a pub on this corner still named the World's End in recognition of that fact that entering the city gates required the payment of a toll, and for the impoverished residents of Edinburgh this meant they simply couldn't afford to leave the city to venture further afield as they wouldn't be able to pay the fee to get back home. The Netherbow junction was truly the end of their world.
In time the city grew outwards, incorporating outlying townships - areas considered integral to the city centre today, such as Grassmarket, Stockbridge, and even Holyrood, were all at one time separate settlements outside of the Edinburgh city boundaries. This boundary was marked at different periods in history with a series of defensive walls, the King's Wall, the Flodden Wall and the Telfer Wall. Surviving sections of these walls are visible at various points around the city.
The city itself enjoys a number of nicknames, most commonly being referred to colloquially as 'Auld Reekie', a Scots name translating as 'old smokey' on account of the prodigious number of chimneys that the city boasted, especially after the construction of the New Town. Such was the volume of wood smoke and other pollution generated by the city that a plume of dirty smoke hovered in the air over the city, visible from Fife, across the Firth of Forth to the north of the city.
Sometimes you may hear Edinburgh referred to as 'the Athens of the North', on account not only of its National Monument on Calton Hill, an attempted (and only partially completed) recreation of Greece's Parthenon, as well as other neoclassical influence on the city's architecture, but also for its surge in intellectual reputation as a centre of philosophy during the 18th century.
Poets like Robert Burns sometimes used Edinburgh's Latin name, 'Edina', in their work, and people who live here may be heard contracting its four syllables to 'Embra'.
Others just call it home.
Explore more of Edinburgh with a private city walking tour!
Edinburgh Expert Walking Tours is run by Gareth Davies, an adopted native of Edinburgh since 1998...