Calicut or Kozhikode? Kerala Cities That Were Renamed

Years ago, when the British colonised our country, they decided to rename certain places. Our cities had such beautiful names, but the English were often tongue-tied. In other cases, some names of Kerala cities were changed over the course of history. Some of the original names were portmanteaus, some were religiously affiliated to a local god, and some names were just descriptions of the place. Ultimately, small parts of our culture were altered to suit another need. That being said, here are some Kerala cities that were renamed.


The name Kozhikode comes from Koyil-kota which translates to ‘fortified palace’. This was changed to Calicut. It is the second-largest metropolitan city in Kerala. Calico, which is a variety of hand-woven cotton fabric, appears to have been derived from the anglicised word Calicut. Calico used to be exported from the port of Kozhikode. It was once known as the ‘City of Spices’ due to ample trade from the city. Later, it was also given the tag ‘City of Sculptures’ because of a number of picturesque sculptures located across the city.

Also Read: Kerala and Her Trade Relations: What did the Ancient World Know About Kerala?

Calicut or Kozhikode? Kerala Cities That Were Renamed


Kannur came to be known as Cannanore under the reign of the British. Kannur may have come from the word Kanathur, a village in Kasargod. Another etymological origin states that it comes from the word ‘Kannan,’ another name for Lord Krishna; and the word ‘Ur’ which means village. Kannur was known as the ‘Manchester of Kerala’ because of its eminent handlooms.

Calicut or Kozhikode? Kerala Cities That Were Renamed

Sultan’s Battery-Sultan Bathery

Sultan’s Battery is quite an odd name, isn’t it? However, the city’s original name was Ganapathyvattom. When the erstwhile ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan conquered the Malabar region, he used the Bathery Jain Temple as an ammunition base. This gave it the name Sultan’s Battery, later renamed to Sultan Bathery. This town draws tourists with its lush greenery and ancient caves. It is also mostly populated by tribes.

Calicut or Kozhikode? Kerala Cities That Were Renamed


The beautiful capital city of God’s Own Country, Thiruvananthapuram is a bilingual word that translates to ‘The City of Lord Ananta’. This is a reference to the deity of Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple situated in the city. It was the capital city of the Travancore (taken from Thiruvithankodu), and Maharaja Marthanda Varma dedicated the city to Lord Padmanabha. This name was anglicised to Trivandrum, to prevent a conundrum (note the subtle rhyme). Thiruvananthapuram is a major information technology, academic and research hub. It is also known as the ‘Evergreen City of India’ for its amazing landscapes and enough public parks.

Also Read: Seven Most Important Kingdoms That Ruled Over Kerala

Calicut or Kozhikode? Kerala Cities That Were Renamed


Quilon was the anglicised version of the name Kollam. In fact, Quilon was also known as Desinganadu, named after King Jayasimha who established the Venad dynasty. Known as the ‘Cashew Capital of the World’, this city was actually mentioned in citations that dates back to Biblical times. The word Kollam comes from the Sanskrit word kollam, meaning pepper. Kollam was a major trading and export centre for pepper. Another theory states that the name comes from koyilam, a portmanteau of kovilakam (palace) and illam (brahmin residence). Some others suppose that it comes from the Chinese word kolasam (big market). 


Also Read: The First People In Kerala: What Do We Know About Our Prehistoric Ancestors?

As much as we find the anglicised versions of these renamed Kerala cities to say, the reinstating of original names to these places have been a remarkable move. Appreciating our own culture and homeland in all its authenticity and glory is a responsibility we have. After all, don’t you feel proud saying “Thiruvananthapuram” without choking on the word?

Annie George
A singer, writer and speaker, I love penning down my thoughts. Having a dog forms 70% of my personality. I make puns If necessary (or punnecessary).

Tell us what you're thinking

Subscribe to our newsletter

We'll send you a monthly newsletter with our top articles of the month

Latest Posts