The city of Penza bears its name in honor of the river on whose shores it was built. At present, the river Sura runs through the center of the city, and the river Penza flows into the Sura near the outskirts of Penza. Perhaps things looked different 300 year ago!
The meaning of the word 'penza' has been lost over the centuries. There is a number of mutually excluding hypotheses explaining the possible meaning of the word.
According to one of them, many many years ago one rich Mordovian man lived here. This man was the owner of the land on which the city was built. The name of the man was Pianza. In the course of time this name has been transformed into Pienza, and then - into Penza. The last version of the name has been assigned both to the river, and to the city.
Another hypothesis supposes that the word 'penza' means 'bird-cherry' in the ancient Mordovian language. This supposition has no solid historical foundation, but we like it. Really, the shores of this small river are covered with shrubs of bird-cherry.