What's in a Named Place?

Like every part of the world Britain's place names have a story to tell, and reflect the history of our island. In our own case many of the names have Norse and Anglo Saxon origins, with Latin and some Norman influences later.

Place names fall basically into three types - topographical (describing landscape features), habitative (defining a settlement), or folk (referring to a people or tribe). Generally you will find that place names combine two or three of these as, for example, in Kirkby which means church village.

The list below - which is by no means comprehensive - gives some modern prefix and suffixes you will find in Britain's place names.

Key: Anglo Saxon, Old Norse, Old English, Latin, Norman, Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish

bally~ bal~farm, village G Ballyhaugh
barrow~grove, woodAS Barrow in Furness
beaubeautiful NBeaumont
benhill GBen Nevis
bre~hill OEBretby
bur~ ~buryfortified placeASBanbury
burgh~ ~burgcastleASBamburgh
bourn~ ~burne ~burnstream, springASBournemouth
~byfarm, villageON Slingsby
car~fortified placeWCarmarthen
chester~ ~caster fort, walled townL Ilchester
chet, chutewoodOELytchett
~cot ~cote shelter, cottageASSwadlincote
dal~ ~dalevalleyONSwaledale
~dare ~derryoak wood or groveGAberdare
~dean ~denswine pastureASCroxden
dun~ ~downhill, downASDunston
~ey ~ayislandONOrkney
garryrough GInvergarry
glennarrow valleyGGlenlivet
~grave ~grovegroveASGargrave
hamhomestead, villageASHovingham
hurst~ ~hirstwooded hillASChislehurst
~ingplace or followers ofASReading
leigh~ lee~ ~leyglade, clearingASSoudley
loch~ ~lochlake GLoch Lomond
mer~ mar~ ~merelake, poolASEllesmere
~mond ~monthillNRichmond
~ness capeON Orford Ness
penhillC Pendeen
polpool, lakeCPolperro
pwllanchorage, pool WPwllheli
ros/s~ ~rose rhos~moorlandWRhosgadfan
~stead ~sted place, siteASStansted
stoke~ ~stockplaceASStoke Lacy
stow~ ~stowe meeting place ASStowmarket
strat~ stret~ ~streetRoman roadLChester-le-Street
thorp~ ~thorpefarm, villageONConeysthorpe
~ton~ ~tun enclosure, villageASTerrington
torhigh rock, rocky peakOEMam Tor
thwait/e glade, clearingONBassenthwaite
~wick ~wichdwelling, farmASAlnwick
If you're one of the frequent visitors directed to this page by a search engine, take a moment to look around the rest of the website. We also have a piece on the history of Britain's landscape within this 'Places to Visit' section.


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