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Place Name Origins

Virtually all of the place names decided on up to around the 14th Century were due to the environment of the area. For example, Doncaster would probably have originated as a Roman fort on a hill, from the Roman 'Caster' and Celtic 'Don'.

Roman | Celtic | Saxon | Viking

Roman Terms: 50BC - 410 AD

Caster: Fort; Camp; Later town
Cester: Fort; Camp; Later town
Chester: Fort; Camp; Later town
Fos (s): Ditch
Port: Harbour; Gate
Street: Paved way

Towns such as Lancaster, named by the Romans after their camp over the River Lune and Chester, which was the site of Deva, a Roman legionary fortress and what remains include the largest stone-built military Roman amphitheatre to have been discovered in Britain, are typical of places named in Roman times.

Celtic Terms: 800BC - 400 AD

Aber: River mouth or ford
Afon: River
Allt: Hillside
Avon; Esk; Eye; Dee: River
Bedd: Grave
Bre-; Drum; Don: Hill
Caer: Fortress
Capel: Chapel
Carnedd: Cairn
Castell: Castle
Coed: Wood
Cwm: Valley
Dinas: City
Glan: River Bank
Hamps: Dry stream in Summer
Llan: Church
Llyn: Lake
Mawr: Big
Môr: Sea
Mynydd: Mountain
Pant: Hollow
Pen; Bryn: Hill; Head
Plas: Palace
Pont; Bont: Bridge
Porth: Harbour
Tre: Hamlet; Village; Town
Treath: Beach
Ynys: Island

Aberaeron,   Aberystwyth and Aberdeen are typical of towns named after the rivers which disgorge their waters into the sea and which the towns grew around. Llandudno and Llangollen amongst many other towns expanded around the local church.

Many examples of Celtic words can be seen in Scotland, Ireland and most commonly in Wales.

Saxon Terms: 350AD - 1000AD

Bourne: Stream
Burn: Stream
Burg: Large village
Croft: Small enclosure
Cot: Small hut
Delph: Ditch, dyke or stream
Den(n): Pig pasture
Eg; Ey; Ea; Eig: Island
Fall: Area cleared of trees
Fen: Fen
Field: Field
Ham: Village
Hurst: Clearing
Ing: People
Lake: Lake
Ley; Lea: Clearing
Mere: Pool
Moor: Moor
Moss: Swamp
Riding; Rod: Cleared land
Stead: place
Stoc: Summer pasture
Stoke: 'Daughter' settlement
Stow: Holy Place
Ton; Tun: House; Farm
Weald; Wold; High Woodland
Wic; Wike: Farm; Group of huts
Wood: Wood
Worth: Fenced land
Worthy: Enclosed land

Stow on the Wold and Stowmarket probably developed from the local place of worship whilst Bournemouth was named from where the mouth of the Bourne stream meets the sea.

Viking Terms: 750AD - 1100AD

Akr: Acre
Beck: Stream
Booth: Summer pasture
By: Farm; Village
Ey: Island
Fell; How: Hill or mound
Fiord: Fiord
Fiskr: Fish
Gardr: Yard; landing place
Garth: Enclosure
Gate: Road
Geit: Goat
Gill: Ravine or valley
Holm(r): Island
Hus: House
Ings: Marsh; meadow
Kald: Cold
Kelda: Spring, stream
Kirk: Church
Laithe: Barn
Lin: Flax
Lund: Grove
Melr: Sandbank
Orme: Serpent
Pollr: Pool
Skar: Cleft
Sker: Rock
Slack: Stream in a valley
Stakkr: Rock in the sea
Stan: Stone
Stokkr: Sound
Tarn: Lake
Thorp: Daughter settlement
Thwaite: Forest clearing; meadow
Toft: Homestead
Wath: Ford
Wray: Remote place

Streams in the North of England are more often named Beck and some villages have what would seem like obvious names such as Troutbeck in Cumbria.

Many towns and villages in the British Isles are named after original places of worship and those which use the Viking term Kirk such as Kirkby Lonsdale, Kirkby Moorside and Kirkby Stephen all appear in the north including Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands off the Northern coast of Scotland.