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The name is considered humorous by English speakers.

It is not known when the town was established but it certainly owes its existence to its location at the narrowest point across the Little Belt.

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The name Middelfart, first recorded as "Mæthælfar" in Valdemar's Census Book in 1231, consists of the old Danish word mæthal meaning 'middle' and far meaning 'way'.

This name originally referred to the strait Snævringen ('the narrowing'), which is the narrowest part of the Little Belt, and was subsequently applied to the settlement as well.

In 1970 a motorway bridge to Jutland was opened and in 2007 Middelfart became the seat of an expanded municipality, which included the former communes of Ejby and Nørre Aaby.

From the Middle Ages until the end of the 19th century the local fishermen were also whale hunters in winter.

The rail link between Middelfart and Nyborg opened in 1865, bringing added prosperity despite the fact that it connected with the ferry from Strib rather than the one from Middelfart.