Benjamin Franklin parkway leading to the Philadelphia skyline at dusk

Everybody knows that Philadelphia goes by “The City of Brotherly Love,” but do many of us actually know why? It’s not like it’s an area known for affectionate siblings—though hometown pride does emanate from the slogan, and that’s one of it’s most interesting influences.

Still though, why is it called this? The short, simple answer is, that’s what it means. William Penn named the city after greek words philos (love) and adelphos (brother). So the city’s name is actually said to translate to “The city of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.”

William Penn

So who was the man behind this moniker? William Penn was an early settler, quaker, and founder of the Pennsylvania colony, which we all know went onto become Philadelphia’s home state. As the founder of the region, he also pioneered the planning and the development of the city of Philadelphia. He was notoriously thoughtful and careful with his every decision—from the location of the town between the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers, to the actual naming of the city.

Trying To Turn A New Leaf

So of all the phrases, concepts, and Greek translations Penn had to choose from, why did he land on “Philadelphia?” It seems that it was all about trying to turn over a new leaf. He apparently was not a huge fan of the crowded infrastructure of London, and originally envisioned Philadelphia as a spread out community that was a hybrid between city and country. It was to be a place where you had room to breathe, and where that and a new government could help you accept your neighbor regardless what religion you were.

While the roots of Penn’s philosophy seemed sensible, and religious freedom was a touchstone of the Revolution, the slave-owning real estate tycoon didn’t quite have the fullest sense of the community he was setting up.

How It Resonates Today

Today, with centuries of culture and personality built up, the breathing city of Philadelphia exemplifies “brotherly or sisterly love” in its own fashion. Its sports fans are known to be the most loyal and passionate in the business, while it’s often a tough love, it’s a love for sure. The music in Philadelphia is one of a kind, and it’s developed historically standout sounds in the hip-hop, and indie rock spaces. On top of it all, Philly is a city that shares its cheesesteaks, art museums, festivals, and personalities with all of its visitors, just like a sibling you grew up alongside.

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