Mar 17, 2017

What's in a Name, Piccadilly Circus

The London landmark gets its name from the alternate meaning of ‘circus’ referring to a round junction where several streets meet.

(This also explains Oxford Circus, the Tube station just a half mile northwest). The other half of its name, meanwhile, is a centuries-old bit of snark.
A ‘piccadill’ is a large, ruffled collar that was the height of fashion in the late 16th and early 17th Centuries – think portraits of Queen Elizabeth I. Creating piccadills was how one London tailor, Robert Baker, made his fortune… and funded the construction of his grand house here in 1611. Apparently it was seen as a little too grand for a ‘lowly’ tailor, since it came to be known as Pickadilly Hall. The witty put-down stuck: when the junction was built there in 1819, it was called Piccadilly Circus. So, of course, was the Underground station when it opened in 1906.