Much breath is expended on discussions about Lake Geneva’s true French name. Is it Lac Léman or Lac de Genève? Discussions can become quite heated the further you go from Geneva. Many in Lausanne recoil at the idea of the lake’s name deriving from a certain town at the far and thinner end of Switzerland’s largest lake – the lake lies across the cantons of Geneva, Vaud and Valais, as well as the Savoie region of France.
The map above suggests both names are valid, or at least were when this map was created in 1771. The names Lemanus Lacus and Lac de Genève are both shown clearly side by side.
Geography professor Jean-Claude Vernex, told 20 Minutes, that the whole lake was once called lacus Lemanus before being chopped in two and called lac de Genève at one end and lac de Lozanne at the other. Then in the 19th century, with the arrival of the first official Swiss map, the whole thing was called lac Léman. For some, confusion still reigns, for others like Daniel Rossellat, the mayor of Nyon, “it’s lac Léman, no question. For us lac de Genève starts in Versoix!”
Fortunately for many foreigners, English keeps it simple providing no alternative to Lake Geneva. German is the same, which makes it easy to respond to this question: what do most Swiss call it? The Swiss German-speaking majority call it der Genfersee.