Jurisdictionally, the metropolis extends mainly within the province of Lima and in a smaller portion, to the west, within the constitutional province of Callao, where the seaport and the Jorge Chávez airport are located. Both provinces have regional autonomy since 2002.
According to early Spanish articles the Lima area was once called Itchyma, after its original inhabitants. However, even before the Inca occupation of the area in the 15th century, a famous oracle in the Rímac valley had come to be known by visitors as Limaq (Limaq, pronounced [ˈli.mɑq], which means "talker" or "speaker" in the coastal Quechua that was the area's primary language before the Spanish arrival). This oracle was eventually destroyed by the Spanish and replaced with a church, but the name persisted: the chronicles show "Límac" replacing "Ychma" as the common name for the area.
Modern scholars speculate that the word "Lima" originated as the Spanish pronunciation of the native name Limaq. Linguistic evidence seems to support this theory as spoken Spanish consistently rejects stop consonants in word-final position. Non-Peruvian Spanish speakers may mistakenly define the city name as the direct Spanish translation of "lime", the citrus fruit.
Lima Cathedral in 1846
The city was founded in 1535 under the name City of Kings (Spanish: Ciudad de los Reyes) because its foundation was decided on 6 January, date of the feast of the Epiphany. This name quickly fell into disuse, and Lima became the city's name of choice; on the oldest Spanish maps of Peru, both Lima and Ciudad de los Reyes can be seen together.
The river that feeds Lima is called Rímac and many people erroneously assume that this is because its original Inca name is "Talking River" (the Incas spoke a highland variety of Quechua in which the word for "talker" was pronounced [ˈrimɑq]). However, the original inhabitants of the valley were not Incas. This name is an innovation arising from an effort by the Cuzco nobility in colonial times to standardize the toponym so that it would conform to the phonology of Cuzco Quechua.
Later, as the original inhabitants died out and the local Quechua became extinct, the Cuzco pronunciation prevailed. Nowadays, Spanish-speaking locals do not see the connection between the name of their city and the name of the river that runs through it. They often assume that the valley is named after the river; however, Spanish documents from the colonial period show the opposite to be true.