Hampton Roads is a term that is centuries-old. The designation came from a time in the past when the area was still an English outpost, about 4 centuries ago.
The word Hampton was assigned to commemorate Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, the owner of the Company in London and an avid advocate of the colonization of Virginia. Elizabeth Cittie was established as the area’s administrative center in its early years, named after Princess Elizabeth, King James I’s daughter. The Cittie was formally designated as so by the Virginia Company in 1619. A small town in the middle of Elizabeth Cittie came to be known as Hampton while the waterway near it was designated as Hampton Creek or Hampton River.
The Earl of Southampton is also referred to in the northern area of the bay (known as the Eastern Shore today). This area was named Northampton while Southampton encompasses area south of the James River. These names are still in use up until this day. The origin of the word Roads is more technical in nature.
The word is a shortened version of roadstead, which means a port’s safety. In relation to a body of water, the word means an area of water near a shore that is partly sheltered where vessels can safely ride at anchor. The Virginia General Assembly put the name Hampton Roads on record in 1755. It determined that the term refers to a channel that links the Chesapeake Bay with Nansemond River, Elizabeth River, and James River. Hampton Roads is one of the largest natural harbors in the world. This is due to its being the US northernmost East Coast port but is still ice-free throughout the year. The area also has another nickname to it, the Tidewater Virginia, but the name Hampton Roads sticks to it the most.