This article lists a number of common generic forms in place names in the British Isles, their meanings and some examples of their use. The study of place names is called toponymy; for a more detailed examination of this subject in relation to British and Irish place names, refer to Toponymy in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Key to languages: Bry: Brythonic; C: Cumbric; K: Cornish; I: Irish; L: Latin; ME: Middle English; NF: Norman French; OE: Old English (Anglo-Saxon); ON: Old Norse; P: Pictish; S: Scots; SG: Scots Gaelic; W: Welsh
|aber||C, W, P, K||mouth (of a river), confluence, a meeting of waters||Aberystwyth, Aberdyfi, Aberdeen, Abergavenny, Aberuthven||prefix||See also Aber and Inver (placename elements)|
|ac, acc, ock||OE||acorn, or oak tree||Accrington, Acomb, Acton, Matlock|
|afon, avon||Bry, C, P, 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||I, SG||high, height||Armagh, Ardglass, Ardgay|
|ash||OE||ash tree||Ashby de la Zouch, Ashton-under-Lyne, Ashton-in-Makerfield|
|auch(en)/(in)-, ach-||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-||I, SG||height, top of something||Auchtermuchty, Auchterarder||prefix||anglicised from uachdar|
|axe, exe, usk, esk||OE||from acsa, meaning river||Exeter, River Axe (Devon), River Exe, River Usk, Axminster, River Esk, Lothian.|
|ay, y, ey||OE/ON||island||Ramsay, Westray, Lundy, Selsey, Orkney||suffix (usually)|
|bal, balla, bally, ball||SG, I||farm, homestead or mouth, approach||Ballachulish, Balerno, Ballymena, Ballinamallard, Ballater, Balmoral||prefix||anglicised from baile or sometimes also béal|
|beck, bach||OE,ON||stream||Holbeck, Beckinsale, Troutbeck, Beckton, Tooting Bec, Sandbach, Comberbach||cf. Ger. Bach|
|ben, beinn, beann, ban, bannau, bannock, bannog||SG, W||mountain, summit, summits, mountainous||Ben Nevis, Ben Cruachan, Bannau Brycheiniog, Bannockburn|
|berg, berry||OE/ON||hill (cf. 'iceberg')||Roseberry Topping, Berkhamsted, Sedbergh||In Farnborough (OE Fernaberga), berg has converged toward borough, Ger. berg|
|bex||OE||box, the tree||Bexley, Bexhill-on-Sea||The OE name of Bexhill-on-Sea was Bexelei, a glade where box grew.|
|blen, blaen||C, W||fell, hill, upland||Blencathra, Blencogo, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Blantyre|
|bost||ON||farm||Leurbost||suffix||cf. ster, (bol)staðr; this form is usually found in the Outer Hebrides. Related to Swedish 'bol' as in Bäckebol and Brandsbol, as well the direct cognate Bolstad.|
|bourne, burn||OE||large brook, large stream, small river||Bournemouth, Melbourne, Bourne, Eastbourne, Ashbourne, Blackburn, Bannockburn, Goulburn||cf. Ger. -born as in Herborn. The word "burn" is still in common use in Scotland in this sense.|
|bre||C, W, K||hill||Bredon, Carn Brea||prefix|
|bury, borough, brough, burgh||OE||fortified enclosure||Aylesbury, Canterbury, Dewsbury, Bury, Pendlebury, Newbury, Shrewsbury, Tewkesbury, Glastonbury, Middlesbrough, Edinburgh, Bamburgh, Peterborough, Knaresborough, Scarborough, Jedburgh, Aldeburgh||(usually) suffix||See also -bury and Borough for further information and other uses. Burgh is primarily Northumbrian and Scots. Cf. Nl. and Ger. Burg|
|by, bie||ON||settlement, village||Grimsby, 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, cardden||C, P, W||enclosure||Kincardine, Cardenden, Pluscarden||suffix|
|caer, car||C, P, W||camp, fortification||Caerdydd, Caerleon, Carlisle, Caerfyrddin||prefix||See also Caer. Brythonic caer from Latin castrum; cf Chester (OE).|
|caster, chester, cester, ceter||OE (<L)||camp, fortification (of Roman origin)||Lancaster, Doncaster, Gloucester, Caister, Manchester, Chichester, Worcester, Chester, Exeter, Cirencester, Colchester, Tadcaster, Leicester, Towcester, Winchester||suffix|
|cheap, chipping||OE||market||Chipping Norton, Chipping Campden, Chepstow, Chipping||also as part of a street, e.g. Cheapside. Chippenham is from a personal name.|
|clere||Possibly W||Possibly clear or bright||Burghclere, Highclere|
|combe, coombe||Bry||valley||Barcombe ("Valley of the Britons"), Farncombe, Ilfracombe, Salcombe, Coombe Country Park,||usually pronounced 'coo-m' or 'cum', cognate with cwm|
|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||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.|
|cwm, cum||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||interfix||Used where two parishes were combined into one. Unrelated to Cumbric cum.|
|dal||SG, I||meadow, low-lying area by river||Dalry, Dalmellington||prefix||Cognate with and probably influenced by P Dol|
|dale||OE/ON||valley OE, allotment OE||Airedale i.e. valley of the River Aire, Rochdale, Weardale||suffix||Cognate with Tal (Ger.), dalr (ON)|
|dean, den, don||OE - denu||valley (dene)||Croydon, Dean Village, Walkden, Horndean, Todmorden||suffix||the geography is often the only indicator as to the original root word (cf. don, a hill)|
|din, dinas||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, Bredon, Willesden, London||suffix|
|Druineach||SG||uncertain||Airigh nan Druineach, Cladh nan Druineach, Druineachan|
|drum||SG, I, W, C||ridge, back||Drumchapel, Drumnacanvy, Drumnadrochit, Dundrum, Mindrum||prefix||Gaelic examples are anglicised from druim|
|dubh, dow, dhu, duff||SG, I||black||Eilean Dubh, Eas Dubh, Dublin||suffix, occasionally prefix||anglicised from dubh|
|dun, dum, don, doune||SG, I, C, Bry, P||fort||Dundee, Dumbarton, Dungannon, Dumfries, Donegal, Dundalk, Dundrum||prefix||See also Dun. Derived from dùn.|
|Eagles, Eglos, Eglews, Eccles, Eglwys||W, K(<L), C, P||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, Athelney, Ely||cf. Low German -oog as in Langeoog, Dutch -oog as in Schiermonnikoog, Norwegian øy(-a) as in Ulvøya|
|ey||OE haeg||enclosure||Hornsey, Hay (-on-Wye)||unrelated to -ey 'island', above; see also -hay below|
|field||OE||open land, a forest clearing||Sheffield, 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, fridd||OE W||wood or woodland or uncultivated land with small trees and bushes at the edge of cultivated land, especially on hillsides.||Holmfirth, Chapel-en-le-Frith||suffix|
|firth||ON||fjord, inlet||Burrafirth, Firth of Forth, Solway Firth, Firth of Clyde||from Norse fjorðr|
|ford, forth, ffordd||OE, W||ford, crossing, road||Saltford, Bradford, Ampleforth, Watford, Salford, Castleford, Guildford, Stafford, Chelmsford, Retford, Dartford, Bideford, Knutsford, Burford, Sleaford Penffordd, Hereford (Henffordd in Welsh)||cf. Ger. -furt as in Frankfurt am Main|
|fos, foss, ffos||L, OE, W||ditch||River Foss, Fangfoss||Separate from ON foss, force, below|
|foss, force||ON||waterfall||Aira Force, High Force, Hardraw Force||Separate from L/OE fos, foss, above|
|gate||ON||road||Gate Helmsley, Harrogate|
|gar(t)||SG||enclosed field||Garscube, Gartmore, Gartness|
|garth||ON, W||enclosure, small summit or ridge||Aysgarth||cf. Ger. -gart as in Stuttgart|
|gill, ghyll||ON||ravine, narrow gully||Gillamoor, Garrigill, Dungeon Ghyll|
|glen, glyn||SG, I, W||narrow valley, dale||Rutherglen, Glenarm, Corby Glen||anglicised from gleann|
|gowt||Water outfall, sluice, drain||Guthram Gowt, Anton's Gowt||First reference gives the word as the local pronunciation of go out; the 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.|
|ham||OE||farm, homestead, [settlement]||Rotherham, Newham, Nottingham, Tottenham, Oldham, Newsham, Faversham, West Ham, Birmingham, Lewisham, Gillingham, Chatham, Chippenham, Cheltenham, Buckingham, Dagenham, Evesham, Wrexham, Dereham, Altrincham, Durham, Billingham, Hexham||suffix||often confused by hamm, an enclosure; cf. Nl. hem and Ger. Heim|
|-hay, -hays, -hayes||OE||area of land enclosed by a hedge||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; Billinghay,Lincolnshire||suffix||see also Hayes (surname), sometimes derived from this topological source|
|hithe, hythe||OE||wharf, place for landing boats||Rotherhithe, Hythe, Erith|
|holm||ON, OE||holly, island||Holmfirth, Lealholm, Hempholme, Holme, Hubberholme|
|hope||OE||valley, enclosed area||Woolhope, Glossop||cf. Ger. Hof|
|howe||ON haugr||mound, hill, knoll,||Howe, Norfolk, Howe, North Yorkshire|
|hurst, hirst||OE||(wooded) hill||Goudhurst, Herstmonceux, Woodhurst, Lyndhurst||cf. Ger. Horst|
|inch||C, I, P, SG||Island, dry area in marsh.||Ince, Inchmarnock, Insch, Keith Inch||cf. W. ynys. Occurs as Ince and Ins in Northern England.|
|ing||OE ingas||people of||Reading, the people (followers) of Reada, Spalding, the people of Spald, Wapping, Kettering, Worthing, Dorking, Barking, Epping Woking, Pickering||suffix||sometimes survives in an apparent plural form e.g. Hastings; 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||suffix||difficult to distinguish from -ingas without examination of early place-name forms.|
|inver, inner||SG||mouth of (a river), confluence, a meeting of waters||Inverness, Inveraray, Innerleithen||prefix||cf. aber. |
|keth, cheth||C||wood||Penketh, Culcheth||suffix||cf. W. coed|
|kil, Cil||SG, I, W||monastic cell, old church, nook, corner||Kilmarnock, Killead, Kilkenny, Kilgetty, Cil-y-coed||prefix||anglicised from Cill|
|kin||SG, I||head||Kincardine, Kinallen||prefix||anglicised from Ceann. Cognate of W pen|
|king||OE/ON||king, tribal leader||King's Norton, King's Lynn, Kingston, Kingston Bagpuize, Kingskerswell, Coningsby|
|kirk||ON||church||Kirkwall, Ormskirk, Colkirk, Falkirk, Kirkstead, Kirkby on Bain||See also Kirk (placename element). cf. ger -kirch as in Altkirch, Nl. -kerk as in Heemskerk|
|knock, cnwc||I, SG, C, Bry, W||hill, rocky hillock||Knockhill, Knock, County Clare, Knock, Isle of Lewis, Knockentiber, Knock, Cnwc-Parc-y-morfa, Pembrokeshire, Wales, Pen-cnwc, Pembrokeshire, Wales||anglicised from cnoc; Cronk on Isle of Man.|
|kyle, kyles||SG||narrows||Kyle of Lochalsh, Kyles of Bute||prefix||anglicised from Caol and caolas|
|lan, lhan, llan||C, K, P, W||church, churchyard, village with church, parish||Lanteglos (Cornwall), Lhanbryde (Moray), Lanercost, Llanbedr Pont Steffan, Llanybydder, Llandudno, Llanelli, Llangefni, Llangollen||prefix,||See also Llan (placename)|
|lang||OE, ON||long||Langdale, 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, 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, in the vicinity of, near to||Chester-le-Street, Burgh le Marsh, Stanford-le-Hope||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, Hadleigh, Leigh, Beverley, Keighley, Batley, Abbots Leigh||(usually) suffix||cf. Nl. -loo as in Waterloo, Ger. -loh as in Gütersloh|
|lin, llyn, Lynn||Bry, C, I, P, W||lake (or simply water)||Lindisfarne, Llyn Brianne||usually prefix||From Old Celtic lindon|
|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.|
|magna||L||great||Appleby Magna, Chew Magna, Wigston Magna, Ludford 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, Grasmere, Cromer, Tranmere|
|minster||OE||large church, monastery||Westminster, Wimborne Minster, Leominster, Kidderminster, Minster Lovell, Ilminster||cf. Ger. Münster|
|more||I, SG||large, great||Dunmore, Lismore, Strathmore||Anglicised from mòr|
|moss||OE, S||Swamp, bog||Mossley, Lindow Moss, Moss Side||cf. Ger. Moos |
Occasionally represents Bry maɣes
|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|
|nan, nans||K||valley||Nancledra (Cornwall)||prefix|
|nant||C, W||ravine or the stream in it||Nantgarw, Nantwich||prefix||same origin as nan, nans above|
|ness||OE, ON||promontory, headland (literally 'nose')||Sheerness, Skegness, Furness, Durness, Dungeness, Bo’ness||suffix|
|nor||OE||north||Norton, Norbury, Norwich||prefix|
|pant||C, P, W||a hollow||Pant Glas, Pant (Merthyr Tydfil), Pant (Shropshire), Panbride|
|parva||L||little||Appleby Parva, Wigston Parva, Ruston Parva, Glen Parva, Thornham Parva, Ludford Parva|
|pen||C, K, W, ?P||head (headland or hill), top, far end of, end of||Penzance, Pendle, Penrith, Pen-y-ghent, Penarth, Pencoed, Penmaen, Pengam, Penffordd, Pembrokeshire, Pen-y-gwryd, ?Pennan||prefix,||also Pedn in W. Cornwall|
|pit||?Bry, ?P, SG (< P)||portion, share, farm||?Corstopitum, Pitlochry (Perthshire), Pitmedden||usually a prefix||Scottish Pit- names typically employ a Pictish loanword into Gaelic. Homologous with K peath, W peth.|
|pol, pwll||C, K, W.||pool or lake||Polperro, Polruan, Polzeath, Pwllheli, Gwynedd, Pwll, Llanelli||prefix|
|pont||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||suffix|
|porth||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, a thicket||Openshaw, Wythenshawe, Shaw||standalone or suffix||a fringe of woodland, from OE sceaga|
|shep, ship||OE||sheep||Shepshed, Shepton Mallet, Shipton, Shipley||prefix|
|stan||OE||stone, stony||Stanmore, Stamford, Stanlow||prefix||cf. Ger. Stein|
|stead||OE||place, enclosed pasture||Hampstead, Berkhamsted, Hemel Hempstead||suffix||cf. Ger. Stadt or -stätt as in Eichstätt, Nl. -stad as in Zaanstad|
|ster||ON||farm||Lybster, Scrabster||suffix||cf. -bost from (bol)staðr|
|stoke||OE stoc||dependent farmstead, secondary settlement||Stoke-upon-Trent, Stoke Damerel, Basingstoke, Stoke Mandeville, Stoke Gabriel||(usually) standalone|
|stow||OE||(holy) place (of assembly)||Stow-on-the-Wold, Padstow, Bristol, Stowmarket, Felixstowe|
|strath||C, P, SG||wide valley, vale||Strathmore (Angus)||prefix||Gaelic examples are 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, Sutton||prefix|
|swin||OE||pigs, swine||Swindon, Swinford, Swinton|
|rigg, rig||ON, S||ridge||Askrigg, Bonnyrigg||suffix|
|tarn||ON||lake||Malham Tarn||In modern English, usually a glacial lake in a coombe.|
|thorp, thorpe||ON||secondary settlement||Cleethorpes, Thorpeness, Scunthorpe, Armthorpe, Bishopthorpe, Mablethorpe||See also Thorp. An outlier of an earlier settlement. cf. Ger. Dorf, Nl. -dorp as in Badhoevedorp|
|thwaite, twatt||ON thveit||a forest clearing with a dwelling, or parcel of land||Huthwaite, Twatt, Slaithwaite, Thornthwaite, Braithwaite, Bassenthwaite, Finsthwaite||suffix|
|Tre-, Tra-||C, K, P, W||settlement||Tranent, Trevose Head, Tregaron, Trenear, Treorchy, Treherbert, Trealaw, Treharris, Trehafod, Tredegar,||usually prefix|
|tilly, tullie, tulloch||SG||hillock||Tillicoultry, Tillydrone, Tulliallan||prefix|
|toft||ON||homestead||Lowestoft, Fishtoft, Langtoft (Lincs), Langtoft (ER of Yorks), Wigtoft||usually suffix|
|treath, traeth||K, W||beach||Tywardreath, Traeth Mwnt, Cardigan|
|tun, ton||OE tun||enclosure, estate, homestead||Skipton, Elston, Tunstead, Warrington, Patrington, Brighton, Coniston, Clacton, Everton, Broughton, Luton, Merton, Wincanton, Bolton, Workington, Preston, Bridlington, Stockton-on-Tees, Taunton, Boston, Acton, Brixton, 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, on, in||ME||by/"upon" a river||Newcastle upon Tyne, Kingston upon Hull, Stratford-upon-Avon, Staines-upon-Thames, Burton upon Trent, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Walton-on-Thames, Hampton-in-Arden|
|weald, wold||OE||high woodland||Wealdstone, Stow-on-the-Wold, Southwold, Easingwold, Methwold, Cuxwold, Hockwold||cf. Ger. Wald|
|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||suffix||related to Latin vicus (place), cf. Nl. wijk, Ger. weig as in Braunschweig|
|wick||ON vik||bay||Wick, Lerwick, Winwick, Barnoldswick, Keswick, Prestwick, North Berwick, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Goodwick, Glodwick, Ardwick, Beswick, Walberswick||suffix||cf. Jorvik (modern York)|
|win, vin, fin||Bry||white||Winchester, Wimborne (earlier Winborne), Vindolanda, Fintry||prefix||uenta- attested in Roman period. Compare with gwyn|
|worth, worthy, wardine||OE||enclosure||Tamworth, Farnworth, Rickmansworth, Nailsworth, Kenilworth, Lutterworth, Bedworth, Letchworth, Halesworth, Wirksworth, Whitworth, Cudworth, Haworth, Holsworthy, Bredwardine||usually suffix||cf. Nl. -waard as in Heerhugowaard|
|ynys||W||Island||Ynys Môn (Anglesey), Ynyslas|
- English Place-Name Society
- Germanic toponymy
- List of United Kingdom county name etymologies
- Place name origins
- Place names in Ireland
- Placenames Database of Ireland
- Scottish toponymy
- Toponymy in the United Kingdom and Ireland
- Toponymy of England
- Welsh toponymy
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