List of generic forms in place names in the United Kingdom and Ireland

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The study of place names is called toponymy; for a more detailed examination of this subject in relation to British place names, refer to Toponymy in Great Britain. This article lists a number of common generic forms found in place names in Great Britain and Ireland, their meanings and some examples of their use.

Key to languages: Bry. Brythonic; C - Cumbric; K - Cornish; I - Irish; L - Latin; ME - Middle English; NF - Norman French; OE - Old English; ON - Old Norse; P - Pictish; SG - Scots Gaelic; W - Welsh

Term Origin Meaning Example Position Comments
aber[1] C, W, P, K mouth (of a river), confluence, a meeting of waters Aberystwyth, Aberdyfi, Aberdeen, Abergavenny, Aberuthven prefix
ac, acc, ock OE acorn, or oak tree Accrington,[2] Acomb, Acton, Matlock[3]
afon, avon[1] W, SG, K, I river River Avon, 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[4] I, SG high, height Armagh, Ardglass
ash OE ash tree Ashton-under-Lyne, Ashton-in-Makerfield [5]
ast OE east Aston, Astley [6] prefix
auch(en)/(in)-, ach-[4] 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-[4] I, SG height, top of something Auchtermuchty, Auchterarder prefix anglicised from uachdar
axe, exe, usk, esk Bry. from isca, meaning water Exeter, River Axe (Devon), River Exe, River Usk, Axminster, River Esk, Lothian.
ay, y, ey[7] OE/ON island Ramsay, Westray, Lundy,[8] Orkney suffix (usually)
bal, balla, bally, ball[4] SG, I farm, homestead Ballachulish, Balerno, Ballymena, Ballinamallard, Ballater, Balmoral prefix anglicised from baile
beck[7] OE,ON stream Holbeck,[9] Beckinsale, Troutbeck, Beckton, Tooting Bec cf. ger. Bach
ben, beinn, beann SG mountain Ben Nevis, Ben Cruachan Prob related to P & W pen
berg, berry[7] OE/ON hill (cf. 'iceberg') Roseberry Topping, Berkhamsted In Farnborough (OE Fernaberga),[10] berg has converged toward borough
bex OE box, the tree Bexley, Bexhill-on-Sea[11] The OE name of Bexhill-on-Sea was Bexelei, a glade where box grew.[11]
blen, blaen C, W fell, hill, upland Blencathra, Blencogo, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Blantyre
bost[7] ON farm Leurbost suffix cf. ster, (bol)staðr; this form is usually found in the Outer Hebrides
bourne, burn OE large brook, large stream, small river Bournemouth, Bourne, Eastbourne,[12] Ashbourne, Blackburn, Bannockburn cf. ger. -born as in Herborn. The word "burn" is still in common use in Scotland in this sense.
brad OE broad Bradford[13] prefix
bre[1] C, W, K hill Bredon, Carn Brea prefix
bury, borough, brough, burgh OE fortified enclosure Aylesbury, Canterbury, Dewsbury, Bury, Pendlebury, Shrewsbury, Tewkesbury, Glastonbury,[14] Middlesbrough,[15] Edinburgh, Bamburgh, Peterborough, Knaresborough, Scarborough, Jedburgh, Aldeburgh (usually) suffix See Borough for further information and other uses. Burgh is primarily Northumbrian and Scots. Cf. nl. and ger. Burg
by[7] ON settlement, village Grimsby,[16] Tenby, Derby, Whitby, Selby, Crosby, Formby, Kirkby, Rugby, Helsby, Corby, Wetherby usually suffix but compare Bicker (the town marsh) also survives in bylaw and by-election
carden P thicket Kincardine, Cardenden suffix
caer, car[1] C, W (<L) camp, fortification Caerdydd, Caerleon, Carlisle,[17] Caerfyrddin prefix Brythonic caer from Latin castrum; cf Chester (OE).
caster, chester, cester, ceter OE (<L) camp, fortification (of Roman origin) Lancaster,[18] Doncaster, Gloucester, Caister, Manchester, Chichester, Worcester, Chester, Exeter, Cirencester, Colchester, Tadcaster, Leicester, Towcester suffix
cheap, chipping OE market Chipping Norton,[19] Chipping Campden, Chepstow also as part of a street name, e.g. Cheapside. Chippenham is from a personal name.
combe, coombe, cwm Bry valley Barcombe ("Valley of the Britons"), Farncombe, Ilfracombe, Cwmbrân ("Brân's Valley"), Coombe Country Park,[20] usually pronounced 'coo-m' or 'cum', cognate with cwm
coed[1] W wood, forest Betws-y-coed
cot, cott OE,W cottage, small building or derived from Bry/W Coed or Coet meaning a wood Ascot, Draycott in the Clay, Swadlincote[21] 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.
cul C narrow Culcheth[22] prefix
cwm, cum[1] 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 hyphenated between two other names Used where two parishes were combined into one. Unrelated to Cumbric cum.
dal[4] SG, I meadow, low lying area by river Dalry, Dalmellington prefix Cognate with and probably influenced by P Dol
dale[7] OE/ON valley OE, allotment OE Airedale i.e. valley of the River Aire, Rochdale, Saxondale suffix Cognate with Tal (Ger.), dalr (ON)
dean, den, don OE - denu valley (dene) Croydon,[23] Dean Village, Horndean, Todmorden[24] suffix the geography is often the only indicator as to the original root word (cf. don, a hill)
din, dinas[1] W fort Dinas Powys 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,[25] Bredon, Willesden suffix
drum[4] SG, I ridge, back Drumchapel, Drumnacanvy, Drumnadrochit prefix anglicised from druim
dubh,[4] dow, dhu, duff SG, I black Eilean Dubh, Eas Dubh suffix, occasionally prefix anglicised from dubh
dun, dum, don, doune[4] SG, I fort Dundee, Dumbarton, Dungannon, Dumfries, Donegal prefix derived from dùn.
Eagles, Eglos, Eglews, Eccles W(<L) 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, e.g., eig OE eg island Romsey,[26] Athelney, Ely cf. Low German -oog as in Langeoog
ey OE haeg enclosure Hornsey,[27] Hay (-on-Wye) unrelated to -ey 'island', above
field OE open land, a forest clearing Sheffield,[28] 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 OE wood or woodland Holmfirth, Chapel-en-le-Frith[29] suffix
firth[7] ON fjord, inlet Burrafirth, Firth of Forth from Norse fjorðr
ford, forth OE ford, crossing Bradford, Ampleforth, Watford, Salford, Castleford, Guildford, Stafford, Chelmsford, Retford, Dartford, Bideford, Knutsford, Burford, Sleaford cf. ger. -furt as in Frankfurt am Main
fos, foss L, OE ditch River Foss, Fangfoss[30] Separate from ON foss, force, below
foss, force[7] ON waterfall Aira Force, High Force, Hardraw Force Separate from L/OE fos, foss, above
gate ON road Gate Helmsley,[31] Harrogate
gar(t)[7] SG enclosed field[32] Garscube, Gartmore, Gartness
garth[7] ON enclosure Aysgarth cf. ger. -gart as in Stuttgart
gill, ghyll[7] ON ravine, narrow gully Gillamoor, Garrigill, Dungeon Ghyll
glen[4] SG, I narrow valley, dale Rutherglen, Glenarm, Corby Glen anglicised from gleann
gowt[33][34] Water outfall, sluice, drain Guthram Gowt, Anton's Gowt First ref gives the word as the local pronunciation of go out; 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.[35]
ham OE farm, homestead, [settlement] Rotherham,[36] Newham, Nottingham, Tottenham, Oldham, Newsham, Faversham, West Ham, Birmingham, Lewisham, Gillingham, Chatham, Chippenham, Cheltenham, Buckingham, Dagenham, Evesham, Wrexham, Dereham, Altrincham, Durham, Billingham, Hexham [37] suffix often confused by hamm, an enclosure; cf. nl. hem and ger. Heim
hithe, hythe OE wharf, place for landing boats Rotherhithe,[38] Hythe, Erith
holm OE island Holmfirth, Hempholme[39]
hope OE valley, enclosed area Woolhope, Glossop[40] cf. ger. Hof
howe ON haugr mound, hill, knoll, Howe, Norfolk, Howe, North Yorkshire[41]
hurst, hirst OE (wooded) hill Dewhurst, Woodhurst, Lyndhurst[42] cf. ger. Horst
inch I, SG Island, dry area in marsh. Inchmarnock, Insch, Keith Inch cf. W. ynys
ing OE ingas people of Reading,[43] the people (followers) of Reada, Spalding, the people of Spald, Wapping, Kettering, Worthing, Dorking, Barking, Epping[44] Woking, Pickering suffix sometimes survives in an apparent plural form e.g. Hastings;[45] 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[46] suffix difficult to distinguish from -ingas without examination of early place-name forms.
inver, inner[4] SG mouth of (a river), confluence, a meeting of waters Inverness, Inveraray, Innerleithen prefix cf. aber.
keld ON spring Keld, Threlkeld[47]
keth, cheth C wood Penketh, Culcheth[22] suffix cf. W. coed
kil[4] SG, I monastic cell, old church Kilmarnock, Killead, Kilkenny prefix anglicised from Cill
kin[4] SG, I head Kincardine, Kinallen prefix anglicised from Ceann
king OE/ON king, tribal leader King's Norton, King's Lynn,[48] Kingston, Kingston Bagpuize, Coningsby[49]
kirk[7] ON church Kirkwall, Ormskirk, Colkirk, Falkirk, Kirkstead, Kirkby on Bain cf. ger -kirch as in Altkirch, nl. -kerk as in Heemskerk
knock I, SG hill Knockhill, Knock, County Clare, Knock, Isle of Lewis, Knockentiber anglicised from cnoc; Cronk on Isle of Man.
kyle, kyles[4] SG narrows Kyle of Lochalsh, Kyles of Bute prefix anglicised from Caol and caolas
lan, lhan, llan[1] C, K, P, W church, churchyard, village with church, parish Lanteglos (Cornwall), Lhanbryde (Moray), Lanercost, Llanbedr Pont Steffan, Llanybydder, Llandudno, Llanelli, Llangefni, Llangollen prefix,
lang OE, ON long Langdale,[50] Great Langton, Kings Langley, Langbank, 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,[51] 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,[52] in the vicinity of, near to Chester-le-Street 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,[53] Hadleigh, Leigh, Beverley (usually) suffix cf. nl. -loo as in Waterloo, ger. -loh as in Gütersloh
lin, llyn[1] Bry, C, W lake (or simply water) Lindow, Lindefferon, Llyn Brianne, Pen Llyn, Lincoln usually prefix
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 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,[54] Grasmere, Cromer,[55] Tranmere
minster OE large church, monastery Westminster, Wimborne Minster, Leominster, Kidderminster, Minster Lovell, Ilminster[56] cf. ger. Münster
more I, SG large, great Dunmore, Lismore, Strathmore Anglicised from mòr
moss OE Swamp, bog Mossley, Lindow Moss, Moss Side[57] cf. ger. Moos
mouth ME Mouth (of a river), bay Plymouth, Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Monmouth, Sidmouth, Weymouth suffix cf. ger. Münden or Gemünd
mynydd[1] W mountain Mynydd Moel prefix
nan, nans K valley Nancledra (Cornwall) prefix
nant[1] C, W ravine or the stream in it Nantgarw, Nantwich prefix same origin as nan, nans above
ness[7] OE, ON promontory, headland (literally 'nose') Sheerness, Skegness, Furness suffix
nor OE north Norton, Norbury, Norwich[58] prefix
pant[1] W a hollow Pant Glas, Pant (Merthyr Tydfil), Pant (Shropshire)
parva L little Appleby Parva, Wigston Parva, Ruston Parva, Glen Parva, Thornham Parva
pen[1] C, K, W head (headland or hill) Penzance, Pendle, Penrith, Penarth, Pencoed, Penmaen, Pengam prefix also Pedn in W. Cornwall
pit P portion, share, farm Pitlochry (Perthshire), Pitmedden prefix homologous with K peath
pol C, K pool or lake Polperro, Polruan, Polzeath prefix
pont[1] L, K, W, C bridge Pontypridd, Pontypool, Penpont prefix can also be found in its mutated form bont, e.g., 'Pen-y-bont (Bridgend); originally from Latin pons (pont–)
pool harbour Liverpool, Blackpool, Hartlepool, Welshpool[59] suffix
porth[1] K, W harbour Porthcawl, Porthgain, Porthaethwy prefix
port ME port, harbour Davenport, Southport, Stockport, Bridport, Newport, Maryport, Ellesmere Port suffix
shaw OE a wood Penshaw, Openshaw, Wythenshawe, Shaw[60] standalone or suffix a fringe of woodland
shep, ship OE sheep Shepshed, Shepton Mallet, Shipton, Shipley prefix
stan OE stone, stony Stanmore, Stamford,[61] Stanlow prefix cf. ger. Stein
stead OE place, enclosed pasture Hampstead, Berkhamsted, Hemel Hempstead[62] suffix cf. ger. Stadt or -stätt as in Eichstätt, nl. -stad as in Zaanstad
ster[7] ON farm Lybster, Scrabster suffix cf. -bost from (bol)staðr
stoke OE stoc dependent farmstead, secondary settlement Stoke-on-Trent,[63] Stoke Damerel, Basingstoke, Stoke Mandeville (usually) standalone
stow OE (holy) place (of assembly) Stow-on-the-Wold,[64] Padstow, Bristol,[65] Stowmarket
strath[4] SG wide valley, vale Strathmore (Angus) prefix 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,[66] Sutton prefix
swin OE pigs, swine Swindon, Swinford, Swinton[67]
tarn ON lake Tarnock In modern English, usually a glacial lake in a coombe.
thorp, thorpe ON secondary settlement Cleethorpes,[68] Thorpeness, Scunthorpe, Armthorpe, Bishopthorpe, Mablethorpe an outlier of an earlier settlement. cf. ger. Dorf, nl. -dorp as in Badhoevedorp
thwaite, twatt[7] ON thveit a forest clearing with a dwelling, or parcel of land Huthwaite, Twatt, Slaithwaite, Thornthwaite, Braithwaite suffix
Tre-[1] C, K, W settlement Tranent, Trevose Head, Tregaron, Trenear, Treorchy, Treherbert, Trealaw, Treharris, Trehafod, Tredegar prefix
tilly,[4] tullie, tulloch SG hillock Tillicoultry, Tillydrone, Tulliallan prefix
toft[7] ON homestead Lowestoft, Fishtoft, Langtoft (Lincs), Langtoft (ER of Yorks), Wigtoft usually suffix
treath K beach Tywardreath
tun, ton OE tun enclosure, estate, homestead Elston, Tunstead, Warrington, Brighton,[69] Coniston, Clacton, Everton, Broughton, Luton, Merton, Bolton, Workington, Preston, Bridlington, Stockton-on-Tees, Taunton, Boston, Kensington, Paddington, Crediton, Honiton, 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 ME by/"upon" a river Newcastle upon Tyne, Stratford-upon-Avon, Burton upon Trent, Berwick-upon-Tweed interfix
weald, wold OE high woodland Wealdstone, Stow-on-the-Wold,[64] 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[70] suffix related to Latin vicus (place), cf. nl. wijk
wick[7] ON vik bay Wick, Lerwick, Winwick, Barnoldswick, Keswick, Prestwick, North Berwick, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Goodwick, Glodwick, Ardwick, Beswick, Walberswick suffix cf. Jorvik (modern York)
whel C mine or cave Wheldrake
win Bry (unknown) Winchester, Wimborne (earlier Winborne) prefix uenta- attested in Roman period.
worth, worthy, wardine OE enclosure Tamworth,[71] Farnworth, Rickmansworth, Nailsworth, Kenilworth, Lutterworth, Bedworth, Letchworth, Halesworth, Wirksworth, Whitworth, Cudworth, Haworth, Holsworthy, Bredwardine usually suffix cf. nl. -waard as in Heerhugowaard
ynys[1] W Island Ynys Mon (Anglesey)

See also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 Guide to Welsh origins of place names in Britain. Ordnance Survey
  2. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  3. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 Guide to Gaelic origins of place names in Britain. Ordnance Survey Archived July 21, 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  5. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  6. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 Guide to Scandinavian origins of place names in Britain. Ordnance Survey
  8. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  9. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  10. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  12. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  13. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  14. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  15. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  16. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  17. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  18. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  19. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  20. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  21. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  23. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  24. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  25. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  26. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  27. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  28. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  29. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  30. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  31. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  32. "" (PDF). Retrieved 28 December 2014. External link in |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary. 1913.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. John Hobson Matthews, ed. (1905). Cardiff Records. 5,'Glossary'. pp. 557–598. Retrieved 26 November 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1972 reprint: 'sewer'.
  36. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  37. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  38. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  39. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  40. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  41. Glossary of Scandinavian origins of place names in Britain
  42. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  43. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  44. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  45. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  46. Margaret Gelling, Signposts to the Past (Phillimore, 3rd edition, reprinted 2000, chapter 5)
  47. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  48. previously Bishop's Lynn and Lynn Regis
  49. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  50. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  51. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  52. Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse. Retrieved 26 May 2010
  53. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  54. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  55. Name recorded after 1262
  56. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  57. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  58. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  59. Place Details
  60. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  61. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  62. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  63. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  64. 64.0 64.1 Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  65. Online Etymology Dictionary
  66. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  67. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  68. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  69. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  70. Warwickshire History, Warwickshire County Council, archived from the original on 1 October 2011, retrieved 2 April 2011
  71. Retrieved 3 July 2008.

External links