Most of the names by which Đà Nẵng city has been known make reference to its position at the Hàn River estuary. The city’s present name is generally agreed to be a Vietnamese adaptation of the Cham word da nak, which is translated as “opening of a large river”.
Map of Annam drafted by Alexandre de Rhodes. “Cua han” appears along the coast (upside-down, left of centre).
Other Chamic sources, with similar definitions, have been proposed. Inrasara (aka Phú Trạm), a researcher specializing in Champa, suggests Đà Nẵng is a variation of the Cham word daknan (lit. “the large water”); Sakaya (aka Văn Món), another Champa researcher, claims a connection with the Raglai word danang, meaning “river source”.Another name given to Đà Nẵng was Cửa Hàn (lit. “mouth of the Han [river]”). The name used by the French, Tourane, is said to derive from this name, by way of a rough transliteration.Notably, this name (spelled “Cua han”) appears on maps of the area drafted by Alexandre de Rhodes in 1650. The name Kean (cf. Kẻ Hàn, roughly “Han market”) was another name purportedly used during the 17th century to refer to the land situated at the foot of the Hải Vân Pass.
The Chinese name, 峴港 (Vietnamese: Hiện Cảng), translates to either “port having many mussels” or “port by a small but dangerous mountain”. The latter interpretation is taken as a reference to nearby Sơn Trà Mountain.
Other names referring to Đà Nẵng include:
Vũng Thùng, a colloquial name which survives in folklore.
Trà Úc, Trà Áo, Trà Sơn and Đồng Long Loan, literary names used by Confucian scholars.
In Sino-Vietnamese script, used until 1945, “Đà Nẵng” is written as 沱灢.
Thái Phiên, a name used briefly after the 1945 August Revolution, commemorating Thái Phiên, the leader of popular revolts during the 1916 Duy Tan Resistance.