Big Ben: The Tower With Five Names

By M@ Last edited 6 months ago
Big Ben: The Tower With Five Names

In 2012, the tower commonly called Big Ben was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honour of the Queen. It is the most recent twist in a long history of confusing names and nicknames. This latest appellation just adds to the glorious complexity. Here's our guide to a London treasure that's held more names than the back of the Chelsea manager's chair:

Big Ben: the universal, popular name for the tower, repeated throughout the world. Pros: everyone knows what you're talking about, and it has a nice ring (pun sort-of intended). Cons: purists don't like it. 'Big Ben is the name of the bell,' they'll say. Not quite. Big Ben is the name of the largest bell (of five), and is itself only a nickname for the Great Bell of Westminster.

St Stephen's Tower: regularly used in newspapers, guide books and by 'that bloke down the pub who likes correcting people'. Pros: sounds more official than Big Ben. Cons: it's completely incorrect. St Stephen's is another (smaller) tower over the main public entrance. The tower never officially held this name, but many think it did.

The Clock Tower: a term long used within the Palace and its communications. Pros: it was once the official name, but has since been supplanted by the Elizabeth Tower. Cons: it's too ambiguous a term to gain popular currency — there are many clock towers in London let alone the world, and calling it the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster is too much of a mouthful.

The Elizabeth Tower: the new name to tie in with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Pros: there's a certain harmony in nominally pairing the edifice with the Victoria Tower at the southern end of the building. Cons: republicans don't like it, and everyone will still call it Big Ben anyway.

The east tower: a description of Big Ben seen all over the press during the name change to the Elizabeth Tower, presumably pasted in from the same media release. Pros: avoids the whole name problem by using a geographic term. Cons: it's the wrong geographic term. The twoer is at the northern end of the complex, not the east, and there are a few smaller towers more easterly than Big Ben.

In conclusion: ever the diplomats, we propose the tower henceforth be called St Elizabeth Stephen's Big East Clock Ben. But we'll still call it Big Ben.

Last Updated 01 December 2017


Good for you, let it remain Big Ben. I can't see why it should be renamed just because a rich old lady who's had the best medical care possible all her life is still around.
Mind you, I'm glad she is if only to prevent her plant-haranguing son getting into Buck House.

Brian Lovett

How about "Neo-Gothic architectural conglomeration clock/bell tower" which also has a nice ring about.


I'va always thought Big Ben is actually a bit *rawdy*.

Why not a dull and boring (but efficient) London Clock?


It will always be the Clock Tower to me


The Cock Tower? Since most of the MPs inside are cocks?


I grew up knowing it as st stephens tower. If they were going to change its name why wasn't it made public? Isn't it bad enough brick lane is now know as bengalli town! I think it's utterly ridiculous what is the point in learning history at school when historic places names can be changed at the drop of a hat!

Clunking Fist

"The Clock Tower: a term used within the Palace and its communications. Pros: it's the official name. "
Wasn't it called the Constitutional Clock Tower?


Lonely United States women become disappointed when they learn that Big Ben is just a clock.

John Airey

Never mind what it's called - what's the plan to stop it falling over? The recent extension of Westminster Underground station made matters worse.