The towers of downtown Toronto, Canada, seen from just above Yonge Street.
Toronto is the largest city in Canada and the provincial capital of Ontario.
On the northwest shore of Lake Ontario but as far south as the French Riviera, Toronto is the largest urban centre in Canada and fifth largest in North America, with a population of over 2.5 million. It is the core of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and part of the Golden Horseshoe region of south-central Ontario, populated by over 8 million residents.
People have lived in the area since shortly after the last ice age, but the urban centre dates to 1793, when British colonial officials founded the Town of York on the Upper Canadian frontier. That village grew to become the City of Toronto in 1834.
As Canada’s economic capital, Toronto leads in the aerospace sector, arts, business services, education, film, finance, media, medical research, publishing, software production, sports industries, telecommunication, television production, tourism, and transportation. The Toronto Stock Exchange, the world’s sixth largest, is located in the city, along with most of Canada’s corporations. The cost of living in Toronto is the highest in Canada.
Toronto’s labour force totalled more than 1.4 million in 2006, representing 20 per cent of the provincial labour force. Eighty percent of city residents work in service-producing industries.
About 49 percent of the population of Toronto was born outside Canada. Because of the city’s relatively low crime rate, clean environment, and high standard of living, Toronto is consistently rated one of the world’s most liveable cities by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Mercer Quality of Living Survey. Actor Peter Ustinov referred to it in 1987 as “a kind of New York operated by the Swiss.”
The name Toronto has a rich history. Originally, the term referred to The Narrows, a channel of water through which Lake Simcoe discharges into Lake Couchiching. The Mohawk called the narrows tkaronto, meaning “where there are trees standing in the water.”
By 1686, a canoe route tracking what is now the Humber River was known as the Passage de Taronto. As the route became more popular with French explorers the river became known as Rivière Taronto, and by the 1720s a fort to the east of the river mouth was named Fort Toronto.
Toronto has a number of nicknames. “T.O.” is an acrostic for Toronto, Ontario, pronounced “Tee-Oh.” “The Centre of the Universe,” a derogatory term used by Canadians outside the city, has been appropriated by Torontonians as a compliment. “Hogtown” comes from a prominent businessman of the nineteenth century, James Hogg, who operated a whisky distillery and a grist mill. “Toronto the Good” derives from the city’s strongly Victorian morality. “Muddy York” refers to the once largely unpaved streets of York, the predecessor of the current Toronto.