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

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

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 See also Aber and Inver (placename elements)
ac, acc, ock OE acorn, or oak tree Accrington,[2] Acomb, Acton, Matlock[3]
afon, avon[1] 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[4][5][6] I, SG high, height Armagh, Ardglass, Ardgay
ash OE ash tree Ashby de la Zouch, Ashton-under-Lyne, Ashton-in-Makerfield[7]
ast OE east Aston, Astley[8] 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 OE from acsa, meaning river Exeter, River Axe (Devon), River Exe, River Usk, Axminster, River Esk, Lothian.
ay, y, ey[9] OE/ON island Ramsay, Westray, Lundy,[10] Orkney suffix (usually)
bal, balla, bally, ball[4] SG, I farm, homestead or mouth, approach Ballachulish, Balerno, Ballymena, Ballinamallard, Ballater, Balmoral prefix anglicised from baile or sometimes also béal
beck,[9] bach OE,ON stream Holbeck,[11] 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[9] OE/ON hill (cf. 'iceberg') Roseberry Topping, Berkhamsted, Sedbergh In Farnborough (OE Fernaberga),[12] berg has converged toward borough, Ger. berg
bex OE box, the tree Bexley, Bexhill-on-Sea[13] The OE name of Bexhill-on-Sea was Bexelei, a glade where box grew.[13]
blen, blaen C, W fell, hill, upland Blencathra, Blencogo, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Blantyre
bost[9] 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,[14] Ashbourne, Blackburn, Bannockburn, Goulburn cf. Ger. -born as in Herborn. The word "burn" is still in common use in Scotland in this sense.
brad OE broad Bradford[15] prefix
bre[1] C, W, K hill Bredon, Carn Brea prefix
bury, borough, brough, burgh OE fortified enclosure Aylesbury, Canterbury, Dewsbury, Bury, Pendlebury, Newbury, Shrewsbury, Tewkesbury, Glastonbury,[16] Middlesbrough,[17] 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,[9] bie ON settlement, village Grimsby,[18] 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 P thicket Kincardine, Cardenden suffix
caer, car[1] C, W camp, fortification Caerdydd, Caerleon, Carlisle,[19] 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,[20] Doncaster, Gloucester, Caister, Manchester, Chichester, Worcester, Chester, Exeter, Cirencester, Colchester, Tadcaster, Leicester, Towcester, Winchester suffix
cheap, chipping OE market Chipping Norton,[21] Chipping Campden, Chepstow, Chipping also as part of a street, e.g. Cheapside. Chippenham is from a personal name.
combe, coombe Bry valley Barcombe ("Valley of the Britons"), Farncombe, Ilfracombe, Salcombe, Coombe Country Park,[22] 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, Didcot, Draycott in the Clay, Swadlincote[23] 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 W narrow Culcheth[24] 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 interfix 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[9] 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,[25] Dean Village, Walkden, Horndean, Todmorden[26] suffix the geography is often the only indicator as to the original root word (cf. don, a hill)
din, dinas[1] 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,[27] Bredon, Willesden, London suffix
Druineach[28] SG uncertain Airigh nan Druineach, Cladh nan Druineach, Druineachan
drum[4] SG, I, W, C ridge, back Drumchapel, Drumnacanvy, Drumnadrochit, Dundrum, Mindrum prefix Gaelic examples are anglicised from druim
dubh,[4] dow, dhu, duff SG, I black Eilean Dubh, Eas Dubh, Dublin suffix, occasionally prefix anglicised from dubh
dun, dum, don, doune[4] SG, I 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,[29] 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,[30] Hay (-on-Wye) unrelated to -ey 'island', above; see also -hay below
field OE open land, a forest clearing Sheffield,[31] 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[32] suffix
firth[9] 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, Henffordd, 'Hereford' in Welsh cf. Ger. -furt as in Frankfurt am Main
fos, foss, ffos L, OE, W ditch River Foss, Fangfoss[33] Separate from ON foss, force, below
foss, force[9] ON waterfall Aira Force, High Force, Hardraw Force Separate from L/OE fos, foss, above
gate ON road Gate Helmsley,[34] Harrogate
gar(t)[9] SG enclosed field[35] Garscube, Gartmore, Gartness
garth[9] ON, W enclosure, small summit or ridge Aysgarth cf. Ger. -gart as in Stuttgart
gill, ghyll[9] ON ravine, narrow gully Gillamoor, Garrigill, Dungeon Ghyll
glen,[4] glyn SG, I, W narrow valley, dale Rutherglen, Glenarm, Corby Glen anglicised from gleann
glind OE enclosure Glynde
gowt[36][37] 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.[38]
ham OE farm, homestead, [settlement] Rotherham,[39] Newham, Nottingham, Tottenham, Oldham, Newsham, Faversham, West Ham, Birmingham, Lewisham, Gillingham, Chatham, Chippenham, Cheltenham, Buckingham, Dagenham, Evesham, Wrexham, Dereham, Altrincham, Durham, Billingham, Hexham[40] suffix often confused by hamm, an enclosure; cf. Nl. hem and Ger. Heim
-hay, -hays, -hayes OE area of land enclosed by a hedge[41] 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,[42] Hythe, Erith
holm ON, OE holly, island Holmfirth, Hempholme, Holme, Hubberholme[43]
hope OE valley, enclosed area Woolhope, Glossop[44] cf. Ger. Hof
howe ON haugr mound, hill, knoll, Howe, Norfolk, Howe, North Yorkshire[45]
hurst, hirst OE (wooded) hill Goudhurst, Herstmonceux, Woodhurst, Lyndhurst[46] 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.[47]
ing OE ingas people of Reading,[48] the people (followers) of Reada, Spalding, the people of Spald, Wapping, Kettering, Worthing, Dorking, Barking, Epping[49] Woking, Pickering suffix sometimes survives in an apparent plural form e.g. Hastings;[50] 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[51] 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[52]
keth, cheth C wood Penketh, Culcheth[24] suffix cf. W. coed
kil,[4] Cil SG, I, W monastic cell, old church, nook, corner Kilmarnock, Killead, Kilkenny, Kilgetty, Cil-y-coed prefix anglicised from Cill
kin[4] 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,[53] Kingston, Kingston Bagpuize, Kingskerswell, Coningsby[54]
kirk[9] 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[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, See also Llan (placename)
lang OE, ON long Langdale,[55] 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,[56] 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,[57] 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,[58] Hadleigh, Leigh, Beverley, Keighley, Batley, Abbots Leigh (usually) suffix cf. Nl. -loo as in Waterloo, Ger. -loh as in Gütersloh
lin, llyn,[1] Lynn Bry, C, W lake (or simply water) Lindow, Lindefferon, Llyn Brianne, Pen Llyn, Lincoln, King's Lynn 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.
lyn, lynn, lin W lake, pond Dublin, King's Lynn, Brooklyn [citation needed]
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,[59] Grasmere, Cromer,[60] Tranmere
minster OE large church, monastery Westminster, Wimborne Minster, Leominster, Kidderminster, Minster Lovell, Ilminster[61] cf. Ger. Münster
more I, SG large, great Dunmore, Lismore, Strathmore Anglicised from mòr
moss OE, S Swamp, bog Mossley, Lindow Moss, Moss Side[62] cf. Ger. Moos
Occasionally represents Bry maɣes[47]
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
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[9] OE, ON promontory, headland (literally 'nose') Sheerness, Skegness, Furness, Durness, Dungeness, Bo’ness suffix
nor OE north Norton, Norbury, Norwich[63] prefix
pant[1] 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[1] 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,[47] ?P, SG (< P) portion, share, farm ?Corstopitum,[47] Pitlochry (Perthshire), Pitmedden usually a prefix Scottish Pit- names typically employ a Pictish loanword into Gaelic.[47] Homologous with K peath, W peth.[47]
pol, pwll C, K, W. pool or lake Polperro, Polruan, Polzeath, Pwllheli, Gwynedd, Pwll, Llanelli prefix
pont[1] 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[64] suffix
porth[1] 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[65] 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,[66] Stanlow prefix cf. Ger. Stein
stead OE place, enclosed pasture Hampstead, Berkhamsted, Hemel Hempstead[67] suffix cf. Ger. Stadt or -stätt as in Eichstätt, Nl. -stad as in Zaanstad
ster[9] ON farm Lybster, Scrabster suffix cf. -bost from (bol)staðr
stoke OE stoc dependent farmstead, secondary settlement Stoke-on-Trent,[68] Stoke Damerel, Basingstoke, Stoke Mandeville, Stoke Gabriel (usually) standalone
stow OE (holy) place (of assembly) Stow-on-the-Wold,[69] Padstow, Bristol,[70] Stowmarket, Felixstowe
strath[4] C,[47] 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,[71] Sutton prefix
swin OE pigs, swine Swindon, Swinford, Swinton[72]
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,[73] Thorpeness, Scunthorpe, Armthorpe, Bishopthorpe, Mablethorpe See also Thorp. An outlier of an earlier settlement. cf. Ger. Dorf, Nl. -dorp as in Badhoevedorp
thwaite, twatt[9] ON thveit a forest clearing with a dwelling, or parcel of land Huthwaite, Twatt, Slaithwaite, Thornthwaite, Braithwaite, Bassenthwaite, Finsthwaite suffix
Tre-,[1] Tra- C, K, P, W settlement Tranent, Trevose Head, Tregaron, Trenear, Treorchy, Treherbert, Trealaw, Treharris, Trehafod, Tredegar, usually prefix
tilly,[4] tullie, tulloch SG hillock Tillicoultry, Tillydrone, Tulliallan prefix
toft[9] 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,[74] Coniston, Clacton, Everton, Broughton, Luton, Merton, Wincanton, Bolton, Workington, Preston, Bridlington, Stockton-on-Tees, Taunton, Boston, 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,[69] Southwold, Easingwold, Methwold, Cuxwold, Hockwold cf. Ger. Wald
wes OE west Wessex prefix
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[75] suffix related to Latin vicus (place), cf. Nl. wijk, Ger. weig as in Braunsweig
wick[9] 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,[76] 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 Môn (Anglesey), Ynyslas

See alsoEdit


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External linksEdit