How the Inland Empire Cities Got Their Names

Southern California’s Inland Empire is home to some uniquely named cities, including Rancho Cucamonga — quite possibly one of the funnest city designations that can roll off one’s tongue. But where do they come from? What do they mean? And how have they changed?

The blog Militant Angeleno has been taking a deep dive into cities’ names for years. In 2013, they published an etymology of Los Angeles County’s 88 cities. They’ve also recounted the origin and meaning of Orange County’s 34 city names.

On December 21, Militant Angeleno published, “32 More Suburbs in Search of Their Names: An Etymology of Cities in the Inland Empire.” The article lists the etymologies of 32 incorporated and unincorporated towns in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The blog limited the list to cities that exist within the Los Angeles Basin and the greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area that are not situated in the Mojave or Colorado deserts. Below are a few worth mentioning:

  • Etiwanda is named after the Etiwanda Native American tribe that inhabited the shores of Lake Michigan.
  • Fontana, Italian for “fountain” or “water source,” is so named because of its proximity to the Santa Ana River.
  • Jurupa Valley got its name because it was originally part of the Rancho Jurupa Mexican land grant.
  • Lake Elsinore’s etymology is a source of debate. One explanation is that it is named after the town in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” The other says it is an Anglicized version of the Spanish “El señor”.
  • Ontario is named after the Canadian province of Ontario. Founders George William and Charles Chaffey were from there.
  • Menifee is named after Luther Menifee Wilson, a miner who discovered quartz in the area in the 1880s.
  • Mentone is named after a town in France.
  • Montclair had its name changed from “Monte Vista” in 1958 at the request of the US Postal Service to avoid confusion with the Monte Vista in Northern California.
  • Norco gets its name from the North Corona Land Company that developed the town.
  • Rancho Cucamonga is named after the Tongva village of Kukamogna meaning "Place of the sand.”
  • Romoland was initially named Romola Farms. Its recent designation was also due to a request by the US Postal Service to avoid confusion with Ramona, CA.
  • Temecula comes from the word, “Temeekunga,” which means “place of the sun” in the language of the indigenous Luiseño/Payómkawichum people.
  • Wildomar is a combination of the names William Collier, Donald Graham, and Margaret Collier Graham. They founded the town.

Read about the etymologies of more 21 more Inland Empire communities here.


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