Origin of English Place Names

in History

People often wonder where place names come from. English place names come from a variety of old English and Anglo-Saxon words. Below are some examples of typical English place names and their origin. These are grouped into certain types of place names and includes some examples.


Place Names Ending in Don


There are several places in England ending with Don, such as Wimbledon, Croydon, Abingdon and, of course, London. The Don ending of the first three of these places comes from the Old English word Dun, meaning hill. Wimbledon comes from Wynnman’s Hill, Croydon comes from Crocus Hill and Abingdon from Aebba Hill. However, London does not come from this same origin, with its name a shortening of Londinium, a name from Roman Times, although the reason for this is unknown.


Place Names Ending in Mouth


Many place names are connected to waterways, with towns and cities ending in Mouth an example of this. This is a very common origin, with examples including Bournemouth, Plymouth and Great Yarmouth. This ending simply means that a town or city is at the mouth of a river. Bournemouth is at the mouth of the River Bourne, although the mouth is no longer visible as it goes underground at the Lower Garden not far from the sea. Plymouth’s etymology comes from being at the mouth of the River Plym, which itself was named after a nearby settlement upstream called Plimpton, or Plum Tree. Great Yarmouth is so-called due to being at the mouth of the River Yare.


Place Names Ending in Ford


Watford and Oxford are examples of English place names ending in Ford. This, perhaps not surprisingly, comes from being named after a Ford, as in a stream that can be walked or driven across. Watford stands on a low hill where the River Colne was forded with the Wat part of the name likely coming from the word Wet. It is effectively called Wetford. The name Oxford comes from Ford of the Oxen as it was a place often used as a crossing point by Oxen.


Place Names Ending in Bury


Bury endings is one of the more simple; it used to mean Borough. Salisbury originally comes from Serebberi, or borough of the Sareb, while Aylesbury comes from Aeglesburgh, meaning Fort of the Aegal. The town of Bury just means borough.


Place Names Ending in Stoke


The word Stoke comes from the Old English word for Stok, which meant place. So the city of Stoke or Stoke-Upon-Trent simply meant Place or a place on the River Trent. The Basing part of the town of Basingstoke comes from the Basa people, so Basingstoke essentially means place of the Basa people.


Place Names Ending in Ingham


Birmingham and Nottingham are amongst the places that end in Ingham. The Ing comes from Inga which meant people of, with the Ham meaning homestead. So Ingham really means People of the Homestead. Birmingham is Old English for Beormingaham, meaning a settlement of the Beormingas people, who were an Anglican Tribe. Nottingham started as Snotingaham, or Home of the Snot’s people. Snot was a Saxon Chief.


Andrew Marshall ©

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Origin of English Place Names

This article was published on 2012/03/24