English Place Names

by Rachel
(Andalucia, Spain)

I'd love some more information about place/town names. I find them really interesting, the history and changes that take place.

Rachel from Andalucia for Holidays


Hi Rachel,
that's a great question! English place names are really fascinating to research. With the two thousand years of history England has seen, many different peoples have left their marks on the map.

Some of the oldest place names date back to Roman times. Any town ending -chester or -caster, such as Cirencester, Chester, Tadcaster, Doncaster, was once a Roman fortification or castra.

After the Romans left, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings found England to their liking. Many Saxon place names are found along the east and south coasts of England.

The Saxons often named places after geographical features close to their homes. Towns ending in -hill, -ford, -dale, -thorn are typical.

And towns ending in -wick or -wich, such as Norwich or Ipswich, were once Anglo-Saxon trading settlements.

Christianity - saints, monasteries and nunneries - also left its mark on English place names. Bury St Edmunds is named after Edmund, the martyred king of the East Angles. And many villages and towns are named after St Mary, St Paul, St Peter or St Augustine.

After the Norman victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, another set of place names was introduced. Many villages and towns whose name start with Bel- or Beau-, meaning beautiful or fair, are Norman in origin. Well-known examples are Belvoir in Leicestershire, or Beaulieu in Hampshire.

There are some really interesting books out there if you'd like to dig a little deeper. They're the sort of books you dip into from time to time, when something catches your fancy - and you'll find that when you emerge it's much later than you thought.

Amazon UK

Amazon UK



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English place names
by: Heather


It may also interest you, that if you live in the north of England (which i do) you will more than likely have Viking blood running in your veins, if you live in southern England, you will have French i.e Norman blood.

After the conquest in 1066 although there were several revolts made by the English, near enough the whole of England spoke French and only the English peasentry retained the anglo tongue. Quite a few of our modern day words for example Beef originates from the French word Boef, Pork, Porc. Animals that were eaten by the poor like Chicken retained the english name.

Celtic place names
by: Anonymous

You forgot to mention the few, but important Celtic place names in England. Places such as Kent, London, Thames and Devon all derive their place names from Celtic words, and almost all English rivers do as well.

Most English place names are Anglo-Saxon or Norse (Viking), but the others a still quite evident.

Comment from Sue:
Too true! Many thanks for pointing that out. I was always taught that the Celts (or Brits) were pushed far into the West when the various later peoples invaded. Now it seems, that some of that "invasion" never happened. So the Celtic roots to many place names are even more likely... Thanks!

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