The Grammarphobia Blog

Why does the Bronx have a “the”?

Q: I listen to you whenever you’re on WNYC, but I can’t call in because I’m driving a bus during the broadcast. My question is this: Why do we refer to Bronx, New York, as the Bronx? We don’t use “the” with Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, the other New York City boroughs. Why do we use it with the Bronx?

A: Dr. Peter Derrick of the Bronx Historical Society says the Bronx has a “the” because it’s named after the Bronx River, which runs through the borough. The Bronx River, in turn, was named after Jonas Bronck, the first European settler in the area, according to Dr. Derrick. One common misconception, he says, is that the borough got its ‘the’ from people who said they were going up to visit the Broncks on their farm.

There’s a capital “T” in the official name of the borough, according to Dr. Derrick, so it should be The Bronx, not the Bronx. But most newspapers (and this blog) prefer a lower-case “t.”