Why do we call it Norfolk ?

Norfolk did not begin it’s English speaking history with its present name.

The site of the future City of Norfolk was contained on one of the original eight counties created by the first settlers in 1634, who named it Elizabeth City County after Queen Elizabeth.

Three years later, the county was reorganized into Upper Norfolk County (later re-named Nansemond County, and now part of the City of Suffolk) and Lower Norfolk County.

Lower Norfolk County was comprised of what later became Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake.

That same year, a land grant in the area was given to Henry Lord Maltravers, a great grandson of the 4th Duke of Norfolk, and even though he never claimed his grant, which later reverted to the crown, it is believed his family’s royal connection via the Duke of Norfolk was the source of the counties names. Therefrom the name of the city later developed along the Elizabeth River… Norfolk.

There is another theory that Capt Adam Thorowgood (Thoroughgood), an early prominent settler, named the county after his original home in Norfolk County, England.

Whichever story is true, one can spot a present native of Norfolk, and its surrounding environs, by his or her pronunciation of the city’s name in a millisecond; For only interlopers and pretenders ever pronounce it as it phonetically reads. True sons and daughters of the city will ever be from “Nawh-fulk”; accent on the first syllable, passing “l” in the second.

None but a third generation native could possibly render the gentle mellifluous lilt of that southern inflection so effortlessly.


  1. Denny Lindhower says:

    I love these little tid-bits of history that appear in your blogs. It is true that those of us from around here can tell when someone says Norfolk, whether they live here or they don’t!

  2. Jennifer Douglas says:

    HAHA How true that is, about how people pronounce Norfolk!

  3. Andre Andes says:

    SO TRUE!!

  4. Cindy B says:

    Remember in the old days when Waterside was a cool mall with crazy unusual stuff & great food? Those were the days… Like the article!

  5. Lee H says:

    So, Thorowgood (Thoroughgood) spellings, very interesting. Wonder if it was ever pronounced differently like Norfolk??

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