The Info List - List Of Generic Forms In British Place Names

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The study of place names is called toponymy; for a more detailed examination of this subject in relation to British place names, refer to Toponymy in Great Britain. This article lists a number of common generic forms found in place names in Great Britain
Great Britain
and Ireland, their meanings and some examples of their use. Key to languages: Bry. Brythonic; C - Cumbric; K - Cornish; I - Irish; L - Latin; ME - Middle English; NF - Norman French; OE - Old English; ON - Old Norse; P - Pictish; SG - Scots Gaelic; W - Welsh

Term Origin Meaning Example Position Comments

aber[1] C, W, P, K mouth (of a river), confluence, a meeting of waters Aberystwyth, Aberdyfi, Aberdeen, Abergavenny, Aberuthven prefix

ac, acc, ock OE acorn, or oak tree Accrington,[2] Acomb, Acton, Matlock[3]

afon, avon[1] W, SG, K, I river River Avon, Avonmouth, Avonwick, Glanyrafon

W afon is pronounced "AH-von"; several English rivers are named Avon. In Irish the word, spelled abhann, is mainly (though not exclusively) pronounced OW-en

ar, ard[4] I, SG high, height Armagh, Ardglass

ash OE ash tree Ashton-under-Lyne, Ashton-in-Makerfield

ast OE east Aston, Astley [6] prefix

auch(en)/(in)-, ach-[4] I, SG field Auchendinny, Auchenshuggle, Auchinairn, Achnasheen prefix anglicised from achadh. Ach- is generally the Highland form, and Auch- the lowland. Auchen- (from Achadh nan …) means 'field of the …'

auchter-[4] I, SG height, top of something Auchtermuchty, Auchterarder prefix anglicised from uachdar

axe, exe, usk, esk Bry. from isca, meaning water Exeter, River Axe (Devon), River Exe, River Usk, Axminster, River Esk, Lothian.

ay, y, ey[7] OE/ON island Ramsay, Westray, Lundy,[8] Orkney suffix (usually)

bal, balla, bally, ball[4] SG, I farm, homestead Ballachulish, Balerno, Ballymena, Ballinamallard, Ballater, Balmoral prefix anglicised from baile

beck[7] OE,ON stream Holbeck,[9] Beckinsale, Troutbeck, Beckton, Tooting Bec

cf. ger. Bach

ben, beinn, beann SG mountain Ben Nevis, Ben Cruachan

Prob related to P & W pen

berg, berry[7] OE/ON hill (cf. 'iceberg') Roseberry Topping, Berkhamsted

In Farnborough (OE Fernaberga),[10] berg has converged toward borough

bex OE box, the tree Bexley, Bexhill-on-Sea[11]

The OE name of Bexhill-on-Sea
was Bexelei, a glade where box grew.[11]

blen, blaen C, W fell, hill, upland Blencathra, Blencogo, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Blantyre

bost[7] ON farm Leurbost suffix cf. ster, (bol)staðr; this form is usually found in the Outer Hebrides

bourne, burn OE large brook, large stream, small river Bournemouth, Bourne, Eastbourne,[12] Ashbourne, Blackburn, Bannockburn

cf. ger. -born as in Herborn. The word "burn" is still in common use in Scotland in this sense.

brad OE broad Bradford[13] prefix

bre[1] C, W, K hill Bredon, Carn Brea prefix

bury, borough, brough, burgh OE fortified enclosure Aylesbury, Canterbury, Dewsbury, Bury, Pendlebury, Newbury, Shrewsbury, Tewkesbury, Glastonbury,[14] Middlesbrough,[15] Edinburgh, Bamburgh, Peterborough, Knaresborough, Scarborough, Jedburgh, Aldeburgh (usually) suffix See Borough for further information and other uses. Burgh is primarily Northumbrian and Scots. Cf. nl. and ger. Burg

by,[7] bie ON settlement, village Grimsby,[16] Tenby, Derby, Whitby, Selby, Crosby, Formby, Kirkby, Rugby, Helsby, Corby, Wetherby, Lockerbie usually suffix but compare Bicker (the town marsh) also survives in bylaw and by-election

carden P thicket Kincardine, Cardenden suffix

caer, car[1] C, W camp, fortification Caerdydd, Caerleon, Carlisle,[17] Caerfyrddin prefix Brythonic caer from Latin
castrum; cf Chester

caster, chester, cester, ceter OE (<L) camp, fortification (of Roman origin) Lancaster,[18] Doncaster, Gloucester, Caister, Manchester, Chichester, Worcester, Chester, Exeter, Cirencester, Colchester, Tadcaster, Leicester, Towcester, Winchester suffix

cheap, chipping OE market Chipping Norton,[19] Chipping Campden, Chepstow

also as part of a street, e.g. Cheapside. Chippenham
is from a personal name.

combe, coombe Bry valley Barcombe
("Valley of the Britons"), Farncombe, Ilfracombe, Salcombe, Coombe Country Park,[20]

usually pronounced 'coo-m' or 'cum', cognate with cwm

coed[1] W wood, forest Betws-y-coed

cot, cott OE,W cottage, small building or derived from Bry/W Coed or Coet meaning a wood Ascot, Didcot, Draycott in the Clay, Swadlincote[21] suffix

Craig, crag, creag Bry, SG, I A jutting rock. Craigavon, Creag Meagaidh, Pen y Graig, Ard Crags This root is common to all the Celtic languages.

cul C narrow Culcheth[22] prefix

cwm, cum[1] W, C valley Cwmaman, Cumdivock, Cwmann, Cwmbran, Cwm Head prefix cwm in Welsh and cum in Cumbric; borrowed into old English as suffix coombe.

-cum- L with Salcott-cum-Virley, Cockshutt-cum-Petton, Chorlton-cum-Hardy hyphenated between two other names Used where two parishes were combined into one. Unrelated to Cumbric cum.

dal[4] SG, I meadow, low-lying area by river Dalry, Dalmellington prefix Cognate with and probably influenced by P Dol

dale[7] OE/ON valley OE, allotment OE Airedale
i.e. valley of the River Aire, Rochdale suffix Cognate with Tal (Ger.), dalr (ON)

dean, den, don OE - denu valley (dene) Croydon,[23] Dean Village, Horndean, Todmorden[24] suffix the geography is often the only indicator as to the original root word (cf. don, a hill)

din, dinas[1] W, K fort Dinas Powys, Castle an Dinas prefix homologous to dun; see below

dol Bry, P, W meadow, low-lying area by river Dolgellau, Dull prefix

don, den Bry via OE hill, down Abingdon,[25] Bredon, Willesden suffix

drum[4] SG, I ridge, back Drumchapel, Drumnacanvy, Drumnadrochit, Dundrum prefix anglicised from druim

dubh,[4] dow, dhu, duff SG, I black Eilean Dubh, Eas Dubh, Dublin suffix, occasionally prefix anglicised from dubh

dun, dum, don, doune[4] SG, I fort Dundee, Dumbarton, Dungannon, Dumfries, Donegal, Dundalk, Dundrum prefix derived from dùn.

Eagles, Eglos, Eglews, Eccles W, K(<L) Church Eaglesham, Egloskerry, Ecclefechan

from Latin
ecclesia, thus cognate to French église and G. eaglais

Eilean I, SG Island Eilean Donan, Eilean Sùbhainn

Sometimes anglicised to island as a prefix e.g. Island Davaar

ey, ea, eg, eig OE eg island Romsey,[26] Athelney, Ely

cf. Low German
Low German
-oog as in Langeoog, Dutch -oog as in Schiermonnikoog, Norwegian øy(-a) as in Ulvøya

ey OE haeg enclosure Hornsey,[27] Hay (-on-Wye)

unrelated to -ey 'island', above; see also -hay below

field OE open land, a forest clearing Sheffield,[28] Huddersfield, Wakefield, Mansfield, Macclesfield, Mirfield, Chesterfield, Murrayfield, Whitefield, Lichfield, Driffield suffix cf. ger. Feld

fin SG white, holy Findochty prefix anglicised from fionn

firth, frith OE wood or woodland Holmfirth, Chapel-en-le-Frith[29] suffix

firth[7] ON fjord, inlet Burrafirth, Firth
of Forth, Solway Firth, Firth
of Clyde

from Norse fjorðr

ford, forth OE ford, crossing Bradford, Ampleforth, Watford, Salford, Castleford, Guildford, Stafford, Chelmsford, Retford, Dartford, Bideford, Knutsford, Burford, Sleaford

cf. ger. -furt as in Frankfurt am Main

fos, foss L, OE ditch River Foss, Fangfoss[30]

Separate from ON foss, force, below

foss, force[7] ON waterfall Aira Force, High Force, Hardraw Force

Separate from L/OE fos, foss, above

gate ON road Gate Helmsley,[31] Harrogate

gar(t)[7] SG enclosed field[32] Garscube, Gartmore, Gartness

garth[7] ON enclosure Aysgarth

cf. ger. -gart as in Stuttgart

gill, ghyll[7] ON ravine, narrow gully Gillamoor, Garrigill, Dungeon Ghyll

glen[4] SG, I narrow valley, dale Rutherglen, Glenarm, Corby

anglicised from gleann


Water outfall, sluice, drain Guthram Gowt, Anton's Gowt

First ref gives the word as the local pronunciation of go out; Second as 'A water-pipe under the ground. A sewer. A flood-gate, through which the marsh-water runs from the reens into the sea.'. Reen is a Somerset word, not used in the Fens. Gout appears to be cognate with the French égout, sewer. Though the modern mind associates the word 'sewer' with foul water, it was not always necessarily so.[35]

ham OE farm, homestead, [settlement] Rotherham,[36] Newham, Nottingham, Tottenham, Oldham, Newsham, Faversham, West Ham, Birmingham, Lewisham, Gillingham, Chatham, Chippenham, Cheltenham, Buckingham, Dagenham, Evesham, Wrexham, Dereham, Altrincham, Durham, Billingham, Hexham
[37] suffix often confused by hamm, an enclosure; cf. nl. hem and ger. Heim

-hay, -hays, -hayes OE area of land enclosed by a hedge[38] Cheslyn Hay, Walsall; Floyer Hayes, Devon; Northern Hay, Shill Hay, Southern Hay, Northern Hay, Fryers Hay, Bon Hay, all surrounding the City of Exeter, Devon; Moor Hayes, Cullompton, Devon suffix see also Hayes (surname), sometimes derived from this topological source

hithe, hythe OE wharf, place for landing boats Rotherhithe,[39] Hythe, Erith

holm OE island Holmfirth, Hempholme, Hubberholme[40]

hope OE valley, enclosed area Woolhope, Glossop[41]

cf. ger. Hof

howe ON haugr mound, hill, knoll, Howe, Norfolk, Howe, North Yorkshire[42]

hurst, hirst OE (wooded) hill Goudhurst, Woodhurst, Lyndhurst[43]

cf. ger. Horst

inch I, SG Island, dry area in marsh. Inchmarnock, Insch, Keith Inch

cf. W. ynys

ing OE ingas people of Reading,[44] the people (followers) of Reada, Spalding, the people of Spald, Wapping, Kettering, Worthing, Dorking, Barking, Epping[45] Woking, Pickering suffix sometimes survives in an apparent plural form e.g. Hastings;[46] also, often combined with 'ham' or 'ton'; 'homestead of the people of' (e.g. Birmingham, Bridlington); cf. nl. and ger. -ing(en) as in Groningen, Göttingen, or Straubing

ing OE place, small stream Lockinge[47] suffix difficult to distinguish from -ingas without examination of early place-name forms.

inver, inner[4] SG mouth of (a river), confluence, a meeting of waters Inverness, Inveraray, Innerleithen prefix cf. aber.

keld ON spring Keld, Threlkeld[48]

keth, cheth C wood Penketh, Culcheth[22] suffix cf. W. coed

kil[4] SG, I monastic cell, old church Kilmarnock, Killead, Kilkenny prefix anglicised from Cill

kin[4] SG, I head Kincardine, Kinallen prefix anglicised from Ceann

king OE/ON king, tribal leader King's Norton, King's Lynn,[49] Kingston, Kingston Bagpuize, Kingskerswell, Coningsby[50]

kirk[7] ON church Kirkwall, Ormskirk, Colkirk, Falkirk, Kirkstead, Kirkby
on Bain

cf. ger -kirch as in Altkirch, nl. -kerk as in Heemskerk

knock I, SG hill Knockhill, Knock, County Clare, Knock, Isle of Lewis, Knockentiber

anglicised from cnoc; Cronk on Isle of Man.

kyle, kyles[4] SG narrows Kyle of Lochalsh, Kyles of Bute prefix anglicised from Caol and caolas

lan, lhan, llan[1] C, K, P, W church, churchyard, village with church, parish Lanteglos (Cornwall), Lhanbryde
(Moray), Lanercost, Llanbedr Pont Steffan, Llanybydder, Llandudno, Llanelli, Llangefni, Llangollen prefix,

lang OE, ON long Langdale,[51] Great Langton, Kings Langley, Langbank, Langwathby, Lang Toun prefix cf. ger. -langen as in Erlangen; still in use in English dialect and Scots.

law, low OE from hlaw, a rounded hill Charlaw, Tow Law, Lewes, Ludlow,[52] North Berwick
North Berwick
Law often standalone often a hill with a barrow or hillocks on its summit; still in use in Scotland.

le NF? from archaic French lès,[53] in the vicinity of, near to Chester-le-Street interfix Hartlepool
appears to contain le by folk etymology; older spellings show no such element.

lea, ley, leigh OE from leah, a woodland clearing Barnsley,[54] Hadleigh, Leigh, Beverley, Keighley, Batley, Abbots Leigh (usually) suffix cf. nl. -loo as in Waterloo, ger. -loh as in Gütersloh

lin, llyn[1] Bry, C, W lake (or simply water) Lindow, Lindefferon, Llyn Brianne, Pen Llyn, Lincoln usually prefix

ling, lyng OE, ON heather Lingmell, Lingwood, Linga

loch, lough SG, I lake, a sea inlet Loch Ryan, Lough Neagh, Sweethope Loughs, Glendalough, Loch Ness

Generally found in Scotland and Ireland, but also a handful in England.

lyn, lynn, lin W lake, pond Dublin, King's Lynn, Brooklyn

[citation needed]

magna L great Appleby Magna, Chew Magna, Wigston Magna

Primarily a medieval affectation

mawr W large, great Pen-y-cae-mawr, Pegwn Mawr, Merthyr Mawr

Fawr is the mutated form

mere OE lake, pool Windermere,[55] Grasmere, Cromer,[56] Tranmere

minster OE large church, monastery Westminster, Wimborne
Minster, Leominster, Kidderminster, Minster Lovell, Ilminster[57]

cf. ger. Münster

more I, SG large, great Dunmore, Lismore, Strathmore

Anglicised from mòr

moss OE Swamp, bog Mossley, Lindow Moss, Moss Side[58]

cf. ger. Moos

mouth ME Mouth (of a river), bay Plymouth, Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Monmouth, Sidmouth, Weymouth, Lynmouth, East Portlemouth, Exmouth, Yarmouth, Falmouth, Dartmouth suffix cf. ger. Münden or Gemünd

mynydd[1] W mountain Mynydd Moel prefix

nan, nans K valley Nancledra (Cornwall) prefix

nant[1] C, W ravine or the stream in it Nantgarw, Nantwich prefix same origin as nan, nans above

ness[7] OE, ON promontory, headland (literally 'nose') Sheerness, Skegness, Furness, Durness, Dungeness suffix

nor OE north Norton, Norbury, Norwich[59] prefix

pant[1] W a hollow Pant Glas, Pant (Merthyr Tydfil), Pant (Shropshire)

parva L little Appleby Parva, Wigston Parva, Ruston Parva, Glen Parva, Thornham Parva

pen[1] C, K, W head (headland or hill) Penzance, Pendle, Penrith, Penarth, Pencoed, Penmaen, Pengam prefix also Pedn in W. Cornwall

pit P portion, share, farm Pitlochry
(Perthshire), Pitmedden prefix homologous with K peath

pol C, K pool or lake Polperro, Polruan, Polzeath prefix

pont[1] L, K, W, C bridge Pontypridd, Pontypool, Penpont, Pontefract prefix can also be found in its mutated form bont, e.g., 'Pen-y-bont (Bridgend); originally from Latin
pons (pont–)

pool OE harbour Liverpool, Blackpool, Hartlepool, Welshpool[60] suffix

porth[1] K, W harbour Porthcawl, Porthgain, Porthaethwy prefix

port ME port, harbour Davenport, Southport, Stockport, Bridport, Portsmouth, Newport, Maryport, Ellesmere Port suffix

shaw OE a wood Penshaw, Openshaw, Wythenshawe, Shaw[61] standalone or suffix a fringe of woodland

shep, ship OE sheep Shepshed, Shepton Mallet, Shipton, Shipley prefix

stan OE stone, stony Stanmore, Stamford,[62] Stanlow prefix cf. ger. Stein

stead OE place, enclosed pasture Hampstead, Berkhamsted, Hemel Hempstead[63] suffix cf. ger. Stadt or -stätt as in Eichstätt, nl. -stad as in Zaanstad

ster[7] ON farm Lybster, Scrabster suffix cf. -bost from (bol)staðr

stoke OE stoc dependent farmstead, secondary settlement Stoke-on-Trent,[64] Stoke Damerel, Basingstoke, Stoke Mandeville, Stoke Gabriel (usually) standalone

stow OE (holy) place (of assembly) Stow-on-the-Wold,[65] Padstow, Bristol,[66] Stowmarket, Felixstowe

strath[4] SG wide valley, vale Strathmore (Angus) prefix derived from srath (but conflated with Brythonic "Ystrad")

streat, street L, OE road (Roman) Spital-in-the-Street, Chester-le-Street, Streatham

derived from strata, L. 'paved road'

sud, sut OE south Sudbury,[67] Sutton prefix

swin OE pigs, swine Swindon, Swinford, Swinton[68]

tarn ON lake Tarnock

In modern English, usually a glacial lake in a coombe.

thorp, thorpe ON secondary settlement Cleethorpes,[69] Thorpeness, Scunthorpe, Armthorpe, Bishopthorpe, Mablethorpe

an outlier of an earlier settlement. cf. ger. Dorf, nl. -dorp as in Badhoevedorp

thwaite, twatt[7] ON thveit a forest clearing with a dwelling, or parcel of land Huthwaite, Twatt, Slaithwaite, Thornthwaite, Braithwaite, Bassenthwaite, Finsthwaite suffix

Tre-,[1] Tra- C, K, W settlement Tranent, Trevose Head, Tregaron, Trenear, Treorchy, Treherbert, Trealaw, Treharris, Trehafod, Tredegar, prefix

tilly,[4] tullie, tulloch SG hillock Tillicoultry, Tillydrone, Tulliallan prefix

toft[7] ON homestead Lowestoft, Fishtoft, Langtoft (Lincs), Langtoft (ER of Yorks), Wigtoft usually suffix

treath K beach Tywardreath

tun, ton OE tun enclosure, estate, homestead Skipton, Elston, Tunstead, Warrington, Patrington, Brighton,[70] Coniston, Clacton, Everton, Broughton, Luton, Merton, Wincanton, Bolton, Workington, Preston, Bridlington, Stockton-on-Tees, Taunton, Boston, Kensington, Paddington, Crediton, Honiton, Hamilton, Northampton, Southampton, Paignton, Tiverton, Helston, Wolverhampton, Buxton, Congleton, Darlington, Northallerton

OE pronunciation 'toon'. Compare en. town, nl. tuin (garden) and ger. Zaun (fence); all derived from Germanic root tun

upon ME by/"upon" a river Newcastle upon Tyne, Kingston upon Hull, Stratford-upon-Avon, Burton upon Trent, Berwick-upon-Tweed interfix

weald, wold OE high woodland Wealdstone, Stow-on-the-Wold,[65] Southwold, Easingwold, Methwold, Cuxwold, Hockwold

cf. ger. Wald

wes OE west Wessex prefix

wick, wich, wych, wyke L, OE place, settlement Ipswich, Norwich, Alnwick, West Bromwich, Nantwich, Prestwich, Northwich, Woolwich, Horwich, Middlewich, Harwich, Bloxwich, Hammerwich, Sandwich, Aldwych, Gippeswyk, Heckmondwike, Warwick[71] suffix related to Latin
vicus (place), cf. nl. wijk

wick[7] ON vik bay Wick, Lerwick, Winwick, Barnoldswick, Keswick, Prestwick, North Berwick, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Goodwick, Glodwick, Ardwick, Beswick, Walberswick suffix cf. Jorvik (modern York)

whel C mine or cave Wheldrake

win Bry (unknown) Winchester, Wimborne
(earlier Winborne) prefix uenta- attested in Roman period.

worth, worthy, wardine OE enclosure Tamworth,[72] Farnworth, Rickmansworth, Nailsworth, Kenilworth, Lutterworth, Bedworth, Letchworth, Halesworth, Wirksworth, Whitworth, Cudworth, Haworth, Holsworthy, Bredwardine usually suffix cf. nl. -waard as in Heerhugowaard

ynys[1] W Island Ynys Mon (Anglesey)

See also[edit]

Place name origins Toponymy in the United Kingdom and Ireland Toponymical list of counties of the United Kingdom Toponymy of Ireland Toponymy of Wales Toponymy of England Toponymy of Scotland Germanic placename etymology English Place-Name Society Placenames Database of Ireland


^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-11-19. Retrieved 2008-07-03.  ^ [1][dead link] ^ [2][dead link] ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-11-19. Retrieved 2008-07-03.  ^ [3][dead link] ^ [4][dead link] ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Scandinavian Placenames Resources". Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 2016-07-24.  ^ [5][dead link] ^ [6][dead link] ^ [7][dead link] ^ a b [8][dead link] ^ [9][dead link] ^ [10][dead link] ^ [11][dead link] ^ [12][dead link] ^ [13][dead link] ^ [14][dead link] ^ [15][dead link] ^ [16][dead link] ^ [17][dead link] ^ [18][dead link] ^ a b [19][dead link] ^ [20][dead link] ^ [21][dead link] ^ [22][dead link] ^ [23][dead link] ^ [24][dead link] ^ [25][dead link] ^ [26][dead link] ^ [27][dead link] ^ [28][dead link] ^ "Faddoch (Ross), An Fhà daich" (PDF). Scottish.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2016-07-24.  ^ Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary. 1913.  ^ John Hobson Matthews, ed. (1905). Cardiff
Records. 5,'Glossary'. pp. 557–598. Retrieved 26 November 2009.  ^ Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1972 reprint: 'sewer'. ^ [29][dead link] ^ [30][dead link] ^ Johnston, Rev. James B., The Place-Names of England and Wales, London, 1915, p.147 [31] ^ [32][dead link] ^ [33][dead link] ^ [34][dead link] ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-28. Retrieved 2016-02-09.  ^ [35][dead link] ^ [36][dead link] ^ [37][dead link] ^ [38][dead link] ^ Margaret Gelling, Signposts to the Past (Phillimore, 3rd edition, reprinted 2000, chapter 5) ^ [39][dead link] ^ previously Bishop's Lynn and Lynn Regis ^ [40][dead link] ^ [41][dead link] ^ [42][dead link] ^ Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse. Retrieved 26 May 2010 ^ [43][dead link] ^ [44][dead link] ^ [45] ^ [46][dead link] ^ [47][dead link] ^ [48][dead link] ^ [49][dead link] ^ [50][dead link] ^ [51][dead link] ^ [52][dead link] ^ [53][dead link] ^ a b [54][dead link] ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Etymonline.com. Retrieved 2016-07-24.  ^ [55][dead link] ^ [56][dead link] ^ [57][dead link] ^ [58][dead link] ^ Warwickshire History, Warwickshire County Council, archived from the original on 1 October 2011, retrieved 2 April 2011 ^ [59][dead link]

External links[edit]

The Scottish Place-Name Society An Index to the Historical Place Names