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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Some interesting English place names

By 'The English Rose.'

Have you ever wondered how some places got their names? I have. I do know that many places in USA were named by Scottish, English and Irish immigrants to your shores wanting to have some memory of the places they had left behind so that many of your place names will be familiar to us. Here though I can only talk for certain about names in the UK.
It is a very interesting task, trying to discover the true origins of particular places, although some of them are lost in time. Strangely, the name London cannot be accurately dated. It is true the Romans called it Londinium, but it existed there long before the Romans ‘conquered’ the British Isles. It has been said that the meaning comes from ‘the place belonging to a man called Londinius’ from a Celtic name, but really the true meaning is very obscure now. 

The name Eton comes from ‘village on the river’, and Everton, from ‘wild boar village’, (or farm). There are many more names whose origins are obscure, for instance what about Stoke Poges, or Great Snoring (yes they really exist!)
Many place names were originally used to describe the topographical features of the area, Nettlebed leaves you in no doubt as to what was prevalent in that area, Marshwood too! We also have a mix of topographical and man-made features such as in – ham = small village + tun = water meadow = ‘the small village by the water meadow’ or Hamton, later to be known as Hampton, later still, Southhampton. 
Some places come from the name of the people who first settled the area, so we have – Matfield –‘the open land of the man called Matta’ and Hepscott – ‘the cottages of a man called Hebbi’.

A strange sounding place name near to me, which I often wondered about is Ramsbottom! Apart from the obvious, (and why would anyone call a place after a sheep’s backside?) I have discovered that ramsons are a type of wild garlic, and the ‘bottom’ means ‘valley’ therefore it is ‘the valley of the wild garlic’ a lovely name, but you’d be hard pushed to find any wild garlic anywhere near the very industrialised area that is the delightfully named Ramsbottom today.

Of course, many place names came from the settlement of certain areas by the various conquerors of the British Isles, Vikings, Anglo Saxons and Romans all had an input and many places still carry the mark of their original settlers. The Saxons gave us Stow = ‘Holy place’, as in Stow on the Wold – ‘the Holy place on the river Wold’. They also gave us Bury = ‘fortified place’. There is a town called Bury near me, but these days there are none of the original fortifications left of course. 
The Saxons also gave us Caester = ‘fort or town’ which the Romans changed to Chester. Close by me, we have Ribchester, = ‘the fort on the river Ribble’, which contains the remains of Roman settlement and a Roman museum displaying the many finds from the area.

We have a couple of Washingtons over here, and the name is supposed to mean ‘Estate of the family of a man called Wassa’. I don’t suppose it means quite the same over in USA? One I really like and which is shared by both countries, is Brumby in the North East of England, No it doesn’t come from the horse, it actually means ‘the farmstead of a man called Bruni’.

I do hope you have enjoyed this brief look at a fascinating subject. See you all again soon!


  1. Good Morning Jill, my you are up and about early today. :) Such an interesting piece. I think here in the states we did very much the same. Many of our towns have Indian names or named after an animal or such. For example my town is named Missouri Valley. I suspect because it sits smack dab in the middle between the Missouri River and the Loess Hills. There are other names in my area which fit with your scheme of names. Pigeon Creek is pretty self explanatory and Little Sioux just up the road is a smaller portion of the Big Sioux River which used to be a large Sioux Indian encampment. A town over is Mondamin, named for an Indian chief. I suspect since we all came from different areas of the world, our country being the great melting pot and all, our ancestors brought with them the tradition of naming things as they did where they came from.

  2. Hi Barbara, Thanks for coming by, don't forget our time differences probably mean I'm up late not early! I have three clocks on my computer with different time zones showing, right now its 3 pm Saturday afternoon here, with eastern time being 10 am and Pacific time being 7am Saturday. Which of those is closest to you? It's interesting finding out where your place names come from isn't it. I like Pigeon Creek! Nice to see you here.

    1. Jill, eastern time would be the closest, but actually it is an hour ahead of us since we are on central time. So excited to see you doing so well and winning awards.

  3. Thanks so much Barbara. I'm excited about it too! I hope for maore to come. Don't we all!

  4. Jill, I simply love this post. Language and origins of names is a constant fascination for me, and you have filled the bill very nicely with this post. Now, I think I need to follow up with some research here. A phone call yesterday from a man who lived on Monadnock Rd. let me know it was an Algonquin word meaning small hill or mountain top. Doris McCraw

  5. how fun! Since I love family history and five eighths of my heritage comes from England, I particularly enjoy learning about the origin of place names as well as family names. Thanks for sharing. Robyn Echols writing as Zina Abbott

  6. Hello Doris and Robyn, Thanks for coming by, I'm glad you enjoyed my post.
    I look forward to reading more from you both.

  7. DANG! I had written you a long comment and it vanished. POO! enjoyed your post, Jill. And congrats on your awards!

  8. Hey Cheryl! Thanks for commenting, and thanks for the congrats. Sorry that your long comment vanished, I like your long comments!

  9. I'm an Anglophile, so your information was fascinating as well as informative for me. :-) I especially liked the "Ramsbottom" information. lolol

  10. Hi Kaye. Thank you. I like the origins of the name Ramsbottom too! If there is anything I can help you with regarding the UK, just drop me a line. If I don't have the answer I know people who will have it! Thanks for coming by.