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Folklore: pre-English placenames

Mr Happy 09 Jun 02 - 07:11 AM
Gareth 09 Jun 02 - 08:21 AM
greg stephens 09 Jun 02 - 09:13 AM
Nigel Parsons 09 Jun 02 - 03:30 PM
Gareth 09 Jun 02 - 06:38 PM
Snuffy 09 Jun 02 - 07:26 PM
Scabby Douglas 10 Jun 02 - 04:22 AM
Haruo 10 Jun 02 - 11:44 AM
Mr Happy 10 Jun 02 - 12:09 PM
Malcolm Douglas 10 Jun 02 - 12:28 PM
GUEST,Pavane 10 Jun 02 - 01:06 PM
weepiper 10 Jun 02 - 05:46 PM
BanjoRay 10 Jun 02 - 06:48 PM
GUEST,pavane 11 Jun 02 - 02:44 AM
Scabby Douglas 11 Jun 02 - 04:26 AM
sian, west wales 11 Jun 02 - 04:57 AM
Steve Parkes 11 Jun 02 - 05:16 AM
GUEST,stigWeard 11 Jun 02 - 07:22 AM
GUEST,Pavane 11 Jun 02 - 07:33 AM
GUEST,pavane 11 Jun 02 - 07:51 AM
Penny S. 11 Jun 02 - 05:21 PM
mousethief 11 Jun 02 - 05:24 PM
Mr Red 11 Jun 02 - 05:53 PM
Gareth 11 Jun 02 - 07:06 PM
GUEST,Pavane 12 Jun 02 - 02:44 AM
Desert Dancer 03 Sep 11 - 02:04 PM
Desert Dancer 03 Sep 11 - 02:07 PM
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Subject: pre-english placenames
From: Mr Happy
Date: 09 Jun 02 - 07:11 AM

I've noted with interest 2 other threads, 'counting songs', & its derivative, 'shepherd counting systems', & this has prompted me to raise the point that besides pre-English language counting systems surviving, also we can see these remnants in place names all over Britain.

The shepherd counting system is very like welsh, as are lots of names.

Examples; Aberdeen, Penrith, Pen-y-Ghent [a hill in N.Yorks], Chapel-en-le-frith [this a mixture of French & Welsh].

Other examples & histories please


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: Gareth
Date: 09 Jun 02 - 08:21 AM

Penhowtor Hill translates as Hillhillhill Hill

Gareth from Ystrad Mynach which translates as Monksford.


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: greg stephens
Date: 09 Jun 02 - 09:13 AM

Torpenhowe Hill I think..unless you've got another one in Wales Penhowtor?.Like all the best stories, that Hill Hill Hill etymology for Torpenhowe is in some doubt....particularly in view of the flat location of the village. Thorfinn's Haugr(burial mound) is another possible origin which is I believe equally likely, from early spellings and background linguistic evidence. But not half as funny! Incidentally, there ar many Pens in England, some far from the Celtic strongholds in the west. I am sitting in Penkhull at the moment, inStoke. Penkhull is in the classic "Pen" geographical position, the summit at the end of a ridge.Just like Penkridge a little way south near Stafford, and Penn a bit further by Wolverhampton...none of them very "Celtic" places nowadays!


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 09 Jun 02 - 03:30 PM

Gareth: surely Monk's Valley, or vale!
Nigel


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: Gareth
Date: 09 Jun 02 - 06:38 PM

Ystrad = Walk or Ford. Next village up is Maesycwmmer = Meadows or fields by the valley.

Gareth


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: Snuffy
Date: 09 Jun 02 - 07:26 PM

Near Wigan (itself a Welsh name) are Bryn and Ince (Ynys)


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: Scabby Douglas
Date: 10 Jun 02 - 04:22 AM

I think that in Scotland, non-Anglo-Saxon placenames are probably in the majority, although one of the most interesting placenames is that of Falkirk.

If I remember the discussion correctly, Falkirk derives from Faw(speckled or multi-coloured?), and Kirk for church. The earlier name for the town was Egglesbrec (not sure about the spelling) from Celtic - can't remember whether it was Gaelic or Brythonic - meaning the same thing. The Latin name for the church was Varia Capella - meaning much the same.

It appears that the earliest church buildings had a variegated finish, hence the name.

Reviewing what I've written, might have been better if I'd gone home and looked up my sources. However, ain't nobody here but just us duffers, eh?

Cheers

Steven


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: Haruo
Date: 10 Jun 02 - 11:44 AM

Kirk is Anglo-Saxon, albeit of a northerly sort. For the purposes of this discussion, Lallans placenames count as English, I'd think.

Liland


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: Mr Happy
Date: 10 Jun 02 - 12:09 PM

then there's rivers; Stratford on Avon (Afon:welsh =river)

any others?


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 10 Jun 02 - 12:28 PM

The country is full of them, giving the lie to those who imagine that the Angles, Saxons and so on somehow "drove the Britons into the extreme West". Continuity of names for geographical features (which they mainly are in England, settlements being more usually named in English or its earlier forms) implies a degree of continuity of culture also.

The Scottish parallel would be placenames of Pictish (there are plenty) rather than Gaelic derivation, as (unless memory fails; my history books are still in boxes) Gaelic- and English- speaking immigration to what we now call Scotland was largely contemporaneous, though in the early days the Gaelic influence was undoubtedly greater.


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: GUEST,Pavane
Date: 10 Jun 02 - 01:06 PM

I have read that river names are some of the oldest names in the UK. Thames is believed to be from a pre-celtic language, apparently with a meaning of 'dark'. Ouse, Nene and others may also be pre-Celtic.

As for Pictish,I recently read a book on the Picts which showed a distribution of Pictish (mostly Eastern Scotland) and Gaelic (Western) place names. Unfortunately little is known of the Pictish language, although it was Celtic and survived until about 600AD.


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: weepiper
Date: 10 Jun 02 - 05:46 PM

Pavane is right about Pictish names in Scotland, they are mostly to be found between Aberdeen and the Firth of Forth. Mostly they are combination names, with a Pictish generic (like 'hill' or 'field') and a Gaelic specific (like (hill) 'of the fox', or 'of the smith'). As I remember most of them are Pit- names, like Pittenweem. Pit is supposed to mean 'portion of land' or something vague like that.

And Scabby Doug has the Falkirk thing right too - the pre-Scots name is spelt Eaglais Bhreac and it's Gaelic. It's a nice example of successive incomers translating the existing place name. There are lots of Gaelic names all over the lowlands of Scotland, which most people seem to find surprising. For example near Edinburgh you find Auchendinny (Achadh an t-sionnaich, 'Field of the fox'), Ballencrieff (Baile nan Craoibhe, 'Tree farmstead'), Gullane (Gualainn, 'shoulder' of land). And conversely most of the place names in the Western Isles, perceived heartland of Gaelic, are of Norse origin...

In England a lot of the major towns and cities have pre-English names... Carlisle, York, London spring to mind immediately.

Will stop yadding on now... could go on for hours about placenames :-)


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: BanjoRay
Date: 10 Jun 02 - 06:48 PM

Just outside Otley in North Yorkshire there's Ben Rhydding - anyone know where this came from?

Cheers
Ray


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: GUEST,pavane
Date: 11 Jun 02 - 02:44 AM

Sounds very Celtic/Welsh - Rhydding is seen in Wales, there is one near us (Don't know what it means though)


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: Scabby Douglas
Date: 11 Jun 02 - 04:26 AM

Liland/Malcolm - yes, I realise I wasn't being very clear in my earlier post. What I meant to say was that although very many non-Anglo-Saxon placenames have been retained in Scotland, I thought that the derivation of Falkirk was amongst the most intersting of Anglo-Saxon/Scots placenames. I like the fact that each of the recorded placenames - Latin/Celtic/Scots have in turn named the place in the same way and after the most distinctive local feature.

Of course Kirk and Faw are both Scots/Anglo-Saxon in origin. Sorry if I didn't make my point clearly.

Cheers

Steven


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: sian, west wales
Date: 11 Jun 02 - 04:57 AM

Cumbria and Cymru (Wales) are from the same root. And Catterick is Welsh too.

I've also heard that names with -din, -deen, -dun, -(d)din, et al. are sign posts to a Brythonic/Goidelic heritage and refer to fortified sites/communities. Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dun Laoghaire, Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen) are examples. Carmarthen is an example of how meanings get lost, too. Some historians say that it was originally just "Myrddin", or walled (mur) fort (din) and at some point "Caer" (castle/fortification) got banged on to the front of it. I see that there's a place between Hereford and Leominster called Hope-under-Dinmore; be interesting to know if there was a fort there ...

Of course, Cornwall is chock-a-block with places that sound completely familiar to the Welsh - but that's to be expected.

I was also told that words with 'wy' in them and which either *are* rivers or *on* rivers are likely to be very old and celtic in origin. Wye, of course, is one.

sian


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 11 Jun 02 - 05:16 AM

Isn't ystrad cognate with street, strada, strasse etc.? Nearly all the European and Scandinavian languages (inc. classical Greek and Latin) derive from a common ancestor, so it wouldn't be surprising to find similarities of this kind.

Steve


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: GUEST,stigWeard
Date: 11 Jun 02 - 07:22 AM

I could be wrong here, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that Avon and Afon are actually a remnant of the language of the people prior to the influence of Celtic culture, making it one of the oldest words in the English and Welsh languages.

I wonder how many more names survive from our ancestors pre-celtic languages?


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: GUEST,Pavane
Date: 11 Jun 02 - 07:33 AM

As a rough guide:

All European languages except Basque, Hungarian and Finnish belong to the Indo European group, which dates back to at least 6000 BC. Sanskrit, Latin and Greek were descendents, as were the Celtic, Slavonic and Germanic groups and Persian. Romany is also related.

There are many dead languages in this group, including Hittite.

Arabic, Hebrew, Coptic and many other Middle-East languages belong to a different family, which is split in to Semitic and Hamitic branches (Named after the sons of Noah - Shem and Ham).


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: GUEST,pavane
Date: 11 Jun 02 - 07:51 AM

Reconstruction of 'Proto Indo-European' (PIE for short) was started well over 200 years ago, when the similarities in the languages were recognised, which implied a common ancestor.

For example, the proposed PIE word for father is *pitar (* shows it is hypothetical) from which the Latin 'pater' is derived, and of course the French 'pere'.

The German languages have a 'sound shift' from p to f, shown by many other words (e.g. Foot)

English has later changed the t to th, giving father

Attempts to draw historical conclusions from the presence or absence of common words are not wholly reliable. It has been claimed that the PIE speakers did not have horses, as there is no common word for horse, but then neither is there a common word for milk!

It is interesting to speculate on what type of language would have been spoken by the builders of Stonehenge, who predated the Celts (and were therefore NOT druids).

Work has also been done in attempting to reconstruct the common ancestor of PIE and other language groups, pushing back further the date, maybe to 10,000 or even 20,000 BC.


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: Penny S.
Date: 11 Jun 02 - 05:21 PM

Penge - South London - is derived from Pencoed, the head of the wood, and is a hill, from which the great North Wood ran down to Bromley, Beckenham and so on. The form was then altered by English speakers who associated it with the ge ending, meaning region, as in Surrey, Eastry and Lyminge. Dover, Saxon Dofras, earlier Dubris, from Celtic at the waters, which still has a river called Dour, dwr or water. The town name didn't just sound similar to the Celtic. It had the equivalent case ending, so the meaning was carried over. Rochester, once Durobrivae, the fort at the bridges, was abbreviated to Robri, apparently, then became Hroficeaster and so Rochester. Dartford, from Darenteford, the river being the Darent, from the same root as Derwent, a river among oaks. The associated village Darenth, meaning at the Darent. Kent- pre-English, Kantion, the edge

A short selection from the far south-east. I'm told that Cantwarabyrig, the English fort of the people of Kent, is not derived from Durovernum Cantiacorum, the Celtic fort of the people of Kent by the alder trees.

As a further indication for some sort of continuity of occupation, there is evidence for modern parish boundaries being on the same lines as pre-Roman estate boundaries - certainly the villas of the occupation seem to lie close to later estate centres. The people who moved in thought of land as in units, and acquired it as units. Not like later colonials drawing straight lines willy-nilly across tribal boundaries.

Odd things happen because of this continuity. A battle between the Jutes and the British of London at the time of the settlement has established a speed limit position on the A2, for instance. This battle, at Crayford, set the final boundary of the Jutish advance at the time, and the boundary is marked by an earthwork known as Faesten Dyke (same root as fastness, a defensive word). Kent was later redefined at a line near the Crystal Palace ridge, a meeting place of major regional boundaries. On the establishment of Greater London, the older boundary was returned to (it would have remained as parish or borough boundaries), and London's traffic control scheme of 50 mph on the A2 therefore terminates at the early medieval boundary of British and Jute.

Penny


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: mousethief
Date: 11 Jun 02 - 05:24 PM

Lots of pre-English names this side of the Atlantic. Massachusetts, Illinois, Huron...

Alex


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: Mr Red
Date: 11 Jun 02 - 05:53 PM

Pavane
Yes but how do YOU pronounce Nene, & Ouse?
Norfampton (sic) people pronounce it Nenn, whereas below Oundle (pronounced Oondle in Oundle) it reverts to the Neen again.
Now Ouse pronounciation is it?
Still I guess it all comes out in the Wash.

FWIW I once had a book on this subject and a remarkably large proportion of place names where reckoned to be Scandanavian. Anglo-Saxon moreso. The rest pretty well evolved from there with plenty of Old French of course.


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: Gareth
Date: 11 Jun 02 - 07:06 PM

Dont forget the major invasion fort at Canterbury (Romans) was "Bigbury" some 3 mile east of Canterbury just to the south of the Roman Road of the A2 between Harbledown ( mentioned by Chaucer) and Chartham Hatch.

Gareth


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Subject: RE: pre-english placenames
From: GUEST,Pavane
Date: 12 Jun 02 - 02:44 AM

Mr Red - Thanks. I had no idea how they were pronounced, although I was told NENN for Nene.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: pre-English placenames
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 03 Sep 11 - 02:04 PM

Naming Rivers and Places - three interesting maps of placename info are at this link, the latter two being British. (The first, of American generic names for rivers, streams, etc. deserves a post elsewhere - I'm deciding where.)

~ Becky in Long Beach (California)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: pre-English placenames
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 03 Sep 11 - 02:07 PM

From that link,

"The map below (taken from my thesis) shows the different naming influences on settlements in Britain. The most striking aspect is the abrupt end to the Viking settlement names along what is called the Danelaw Line. So if you live north of this line you will be using more Viking words on a daily basis than those to the south. There are loads of people studying and recording the different place naming conventions in Britain- I would recommend you check out the "Institute for Name Studies" if you want more information."

Plenty to keep you busy in those links.

~ Becky in Long Beach


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