The city lies on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay (of the Baltic Sea), in a conurbation with the city of Gdynia, spa town of Sopot, and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the Tricity (Trójmiasto), with a population approaching 1.4 million. Gdańsk itself has a population of 460,427 (December 2012), making it the largest city in the Pomerania region of Northern Poland.
Gdańsk is the capital of Gdańsk Pomerania and the largest city of Kashubia. With its origins as a Polish stronghold erected in the 980s by Mieszko I of Poland, the city's history is complex, with periods of Polish rule, periods of Prussian or German rule, and periods of autonomy or self-rule as a "free city". In the early-modern age Gdańsk was a royal city of Poland. It was considered the wealthiest and the largest city of Poland, prior to the 18th century rapid growth of Warsaw. Between the world wars, the Free City of Danzig was in a customs union with Poland and was located between German East Prussia and the so-called Polish Corridor.
Gdańsk lies at the mouth of the Motława River, connected to the Leniwka, a branch in the delta of the nearby Vistula River, which drains 60 percent of Poland and connects Gdańsk with the Polish capital, Warsaw. Together with the nearby port of Gdynia, Gdańsk is also a notable industrial center. In the late Middle Ages it was an important seaport and shipbuilding town and, in the 14th and 15th centuries, a member of the Hanseatic League.
The city's name is thought to originate from the Gdania River, the original name of the Motława branch on which the city is situated. The name of a settlement was recorded after St. Adalbert's death in AD 997 as urbs Gyddanyzc and later was written as Kdanzk in 1148, Gdanzc in 1188, Danceke in 1228, Gdansk in 1236,Danzc in 1263, Danczk in 1311,Danczik in 1399,Danczig in 1414, Gdąnsk in 1656. In Polish the modern name of the city is pronounced [ɡdaɲsk] (listen). In English (where the diacritic over the "n" is frequently omitted) the usual pronunciation is k/ or k/. The German name, "Danzig", is pronounced as [ˈdantsɪç] (listen).
The city's Latin name may be given as either Gedania, Gedanum or Dantiscum; the variety of Latin names reflects the mixed influence of the city's Polish, German and Kashubian heritage. Other former spellings of the name include Dantzig, Dantsic and Dantzic.
On special occasions the city is also referred to as "The Royal Polish City of Gdańsk" (Polish Królewskie Polskie Miasto Gdańsk, Latin Regia Civitas Polonica Gedanensis, Kashubian Królewsczi Polsczi Gard Gduńsk). In the Kashubian language the city is called Gduńsk. Kashubians also use the name "Our Capital City Gduńsk" (Nasz Stoleczny Gard Gduńsk) or "The Kashubian Capital City Gduńsk" (Stoleczny Kaszëbsczi Gard Gduńsk).