In 2016, the city had a population of 1,704,694, with a population of 1,942,044 in the urban agglomeration, including all of the other municipalities on the Island of Montreal. The broader metropolitan area had a population of 4,098,927.French is the city's official language and is the language spoken at home by 49.8% of the population of the city, followed by English at 22.8% and 18.3% other languages (in the 2016 census, not including multi-language responses). In the larger Montreal Census Metropolitan Area, 65.8% of the population speaks French at home, compared to 15.3% who speak English. The agglomeration Montreal is one of the most bilingual cities in Quebec and Canada, with over 59% of the population able to speak both English and French. Montreal is the second largest primarily French-speaking city in the world, after Paris. It is situated 258 kilometres (160 mi) south-west of Quebec City.
Historically the commercial capital of Canada, Montreal was surpassed in population and in economic strength by Toronto in the 1970s. It remains an important centre of commerce, aerospace, transport, finance, pharmaceuticals, technology, design, education, art, culture, tourism, food, fashion, gaming, film, and world affairs. Montreal has the second-highest number of consulates in North America, serves as the location of the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization, and was named a UNESCO City of Design in 2006. In 2017, Montreal was ranked the 12th most liveable city in the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit in its annual Global Liveability Ranking, and the best city in the world to be a university student in the QS World University Rankings.
European settlers from La Flèche in the Loire valley first named their new town, founded in 1642, Ville Marie ("City of Mary"), named for the Virgin Mary. Its current name comes from Mount Royal, the triple-peaked hill in the heart of the city. According to one theory, the name derives from mont Réal, (Mont Royal in modern French, although in 16th-century French the forms réal and royal were used interchangeably); Cartier's 1535 diary entry, naming the mountain, refers to le mont Royal. One possibility, noted by the Government of Canada on its web site concerning Canadian place names, speculates that the name as it is written nowadays originated when an early map of 1556 used the Italian name of the mountain, Monte Real;
the Commission de toponymie du Québec has dismissed this idea as a misconception.