Spain: The long and the short of it

The Longest and shortest Spanish place names

The town of Ea, Basque Country. Credit: GoogleMaps.com

Spain holds the honour of having the longest place name in the EU and fifth longest in the world with its 39 letters. 

Of course, the European champion is from Wales and one that no doubt all Britons can easily pronounce: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

However, the EU champion is in the picturesque Baztan Valley of Navarra in the Basque Country. Here you will find the small village of Azpilicuetagaraycosaroyarenberecolarrea.

This Iberian word wonder, often abbreviated to Azpilkueta for practical reasons, translates from Basque as ‘low field of the high corral,’ reflecting the area’s landscape.

With just about 190 residents and a modest count of 20 houses, this village isn’t just a linguistic curiosity; it is steeped in mythological lore with tales of lamias.

Legend has it that lamias are seductive yet dangerous female creatures from Greek mythology, that purportedly eat children and seduce the menfolk, they can also influence the local weather, bringing storms.

A tale of two regions

Azpilicuetagaraycosaroyarenberecolarrea’s exceptional length and cultural depth contrast sharply with the brief and quirky names found in Galicia.

This region, known for its linguistic diversity and cultural richness, doesn’t waste its breath or ink with rambling place names.

In the province of A Coruña, there are towns with names that are as short as three letters, such as Cee, Zas, and Teo. These towns are not just easy to remember but also reflect Galicia’s unique cultural heritage.

Further south in Galicia, travellers will come across other minimal names places. In the province of Lugo there are the towns of Foz and Pol. Still further afield in the Galician province of Pontevedra visitors will find Tui, Mos and Oia.

Incredibly, to find Spain’s shortest place name we have to go back to the Basque Country. On the northern coast, in the province of Biscay lies the little town of Ea.

A tale of two regions

While Navarra prides itself on having the longest town name in mainland Europe, Galicia celebrates its short-named locales.

Each name, whether lengthy or brief, carries its own story and significance, deeply intertwined with the regions’ histories and languages.

The variety of names from Azpilicuetagaraycosaroyarenberecolarrea to Teo to Ea, highlights the rich linguistic tapestry and cultural diversity found across Spain’s varied landscapes.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.

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