History: Why is New York City sometimes called Gotham?

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Long before Batman began wearing snazzy bright-coloured underpants over grey tights in a series of beloved comic book tales, New Yorkers were referring to the Big Apple as Gotham. The very word “Gotham” suggests darkness – thanks to the Dark Knight himself and also to generations of disenfranchised and nihilistic goths who grew up on iconic bands like The Cure.

In fact though, Gotham is an Anglo Saxon word meaning “Goat Town” and was first used by Washington Irving in in his satirical 1807 periodical Salmagundi. Irving was comparing the savvy New Yorkers to inhabitants of the tiny English village of Gotham who gained notoriety way back in the thirteenth century by pretending to be insane just to get out of paying taxes to King John.

Insanity is a prevailing them in the Batman comics and Gotham’s Arkham Asylum has housed many of the world’s craziest comic book villains.

Most recently, cashing in on the Batman craze, several politicians have sought to designate “Gotham” as the official nickname for New York, rightly pointing to the fact that the word was coined way before anyone had thought of the “Big Apple”.

* Please email us at with your own stories about Gotham.


Written by Jim McMillan

August 3, 2008 at 11:36 pm

Posted in Batman, Gotham, History

Tagged with , , ,

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