Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty

These iconic landmarks aren’t actually called what you think they’re called

What’s in a name?

Luke Rix-Standing
Tuesday 27 April 2021 13:54

They say that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, which is just as well, because many of world’s premier marvels have official titles you may not even have heard of. From the currently-undergoing-renovations Big Ben to the domes of Moscow’s Red Square these are the wonders of the world that aren’t actually called what you think…

UK, England, London, Westminster, Palace of Westminster, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben

Perhaps the ultimate in misnamed landmarks, pub quizzers everywhere would do well to remember that the name Big Ben refers to the tower’s enormous bell. The building in which it lives is the Elizabeth Tower.

It probably shouldn’t be surprising that The Great Wall of China is a name created by Westerners to refer to this world-leadingly large fortification. In China the wall is called Changcheng – literally just, ‘long wall’.

The Tokyo Tower

The red and white girders of the Tokyo Tower are near-synonymous with the Japanese capital, but the anglicised name translates as Nippon Denpatou, which means Japan Radio Tower.

The Statue of Liberty has technically been called Liberty Enlightening the World since being gifted to America by France in 1885. The internal structure was designed by Gustave Eiffel, also the brains behind the (correctly named) Eiffel Tower.

The Willis Tower in Chicago was the tallest building in the world on completion in 1973, beating out New York-based compatriot The World Trade Center. It was called the Sears Tower until 2009, and by most people, it still is.

The last surviving remnants of the first and second temples of Jerusalem, the  ‘Wailing Wall’ holy site is known as the Western Wall by most Israeli Jews, some of whom deem the title ‘Wailing Wall’ derogatory.

St Basil's Cathedral

Churches often have multiple titles, and nowhere is that truer than in Moscow’s Red Square. St. Basil’s Cathedral is also called Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed, Pokrovsky Cathedral, and Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat. We’re not sure exactly which of these English iterations is most official, but we know it’s not St. Basil’s.

Arguably the City of London’s best-loved skyscraper, you don’t have to be a genius to realise The Gherkin is probably a nickname. Even so, the official name is particularly boring – the building’s address, 30 St. Mary’s Axe.

St Basil's Cathedral

See if you can guess where the name for Istanbul’s Blue Mosque comes from. We’ll give you a hint – it has nothing to do with religious tradition. The official name is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, after the then-ruling Ottoman sultan.