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It is the central city of the northern (Ruhr) part of the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area and seat to several of the region's authorities.

Essen is seat to 13 of the 100 largest German corporations, including three DAX corporations, placing the city second only to Munich and on-par with Frankfurt am Main in number of corporate headquarters.

This long-lasting process of annexation has led to a strong identification of the population with "their" boroughs or districts and to a rare peculiarity: The borough of Kettwig, located south of the Ruhr River, and which was not annexed until 1975, has its own area code.

Although scholars still dispute the interpretation of the name, there remain a few noteworthy interpretations.

The oldest known form of the city's name is Astnide, which changed to Essen by way of forms such as Astnidum, Assinde, Essendia and Esnede.

Essen is located in the centre of the Ruhr area, one of the largest urban areas in Europe (see also: megalopolis), comprising eleven independent cities and four districts with some 5.3 million inhabitants.

The city limits of Essen itself are 87 km (54 mi) long and border ten cities, five independent and five kreisangehörig (i.e., belonging to a district), with a total population of approximately 1.4 million.

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