Feature Type:City - A populated place with legally defined boundaries, incorporated as a city municipality under the provincial Municipal Act.
Status: Official
Name Authority: BC Geographical Names Office
Pronounced: nan EYE-mo
Relative Location: SE side of Vancouver Island, Nanaimo Land District
Latitude-Longitude: 49°09'49"N, 123°56'16"W at the approximate location of the Municipal Hall.
Datum: WGS84
NTS Map: 92G/4
Related Maps:
Other Recorded Names:
Origin Notes and History:

Incorporated as a City 24 December 1874. Nanaimo (City) confirmed 12 December 1939 on C.3577.

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

Nanaimo is an anglicization of the Halkemelem word for the area. This general area was the site of 5 fall and winter villages of the Nanaimo Coast Salish, each occupied by a named group or extended family. Anthropologist D. Jenness identified the villages as Solachwan, Tewahlchin, Anuweenis, Kwalsiarwahl and Ishihan. Summer villages were located at Gabriola Island and along the lower Fraser River. Various translations all touch on the notion of a shared locale: Sna Ney Mous, "meeting place" (Nanaimo Bastion); Sne-ny-mo, "group of many people" or "people of many names" (Provincial Archives, 1990); Snenaymexw, where the suffix mexw means "bunch, people" (Smithsonian, 1990); Snanaimooh (Tolmie & Dawson, 1884); Snanaimuq (Boas, 1889); Sne ney mux (Coull, 1996); Sne-ny-mo (Walbran, 1909); Sne-ny-mous, "gathering place" (Canadian Encyclopedia).

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

"This important BC coastal city takes its name from the Island Halkomelem First Nation inhabitants, the Snuneymuxw, who still occupy the region. Many different spelling for this name are found in early documents, including Sna Ney Mous, Sne-ny-mo and Snanaimuq. The Snuneymuxw were a confederacy of five extended families whose winter villages - Solachwan, Tewahlchin, Ishihan, Anuweenis and Kwalsiarwahl - were located in the general area. The exact meaning of the name is uncertain, but it seems to refer to a shared locale; "meeting place" or "people of many names" are two common translations." (p. 417)

Source: Scott, Andrew; "The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names"; Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, 2009.

"You will proceed with all possible diligence to Wintuhuysen inlet, commonly known as Nanymo bay, and formally take possession of the coal beds lately discovered...." (24 August 1852 letter from Governor James Douglas to Joseph MacKay). Mr McKay duly proceeded [there]...his first despatch to Governor Douglas being dated 'Wintuhuysen inlet, 1 September 1852'. This name is used by McKay until 8 March 1853, when he adopts 'Nanaimo'.

The settlement is marked Colvilletown [sic] on the war office map of 1859, also on the Nanaimo District official map of the same year (named after Andrew Colvile, governor of the Hudson's Bay Company 1852 - 1856). Letters for the settlement, previous to 1859, were usually addressed "Colville Town, Nanaimo, V. I." After that date the first name was gradually discontinued and has not been used since 1860. See Walbran for extensive additional description.......

Source: Walbran, John T; British Columbia Coast Names, 1592-1906: their origin and history; Ottawa, 1909 (republished for the Vancouver Public Library by J.J. Douglas Ltd, Vancouver, 1971)

In Dallas Square, Parks Canada has installed a National Historic Site monument "to mark the site of the first commercial coal mine in British Columbia, discovered in 1852." See also the municipality's own website.

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office