Harvard University and MIT are mainly situated in the city of Cambridge, MA, which is just north of Boston. When the area was first settled in 1631, however, it was just referred to as the newe towne, which was later shortened to Newtowne. Eventually, the city split into what are now the present-day towns of Newton, Cambridge, and a few others parts, most of which were incorporated into Boston. As I've explained in my latest map (see the infographics page), the Cambridge part was named in honor of the university in England, and it's stuck since. Now we get to the fun part: the etymology of Cambridge. It seems intuitive that it would be named after the River Cam, which flows through the center, but a lot has actually changed throughout the years. In Middle English, it was also spelled Cantebrigge and Grentebrige, and it all traces back to Old English Grantabrycg, which meant "Granta bridge", Granta being the old name for the river Cam. The reason it's different today is because British accents mangled the spelling and pronunciation to Cambridge over time, and people adjusted the river name to accommodate for that, too. The etymology of Granta is uncertain, but likely stems from Brittonic, and brycg, through Proto-Germanic, derives from Proto-Indo-European bherw, meaning "wooden flooring".
Adam Aleksic is a 220-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd