The Book of English Place Names


Do you look at the names of the places around you? Have you ever wondered where they come from? Well this book attempts to explain, some of them at least.

It focuses solely on England, going area by area, county by county. Even so it only covers the more interesting place names or larger towns and cities. It’s enough to show the history of diversity we have though, with many areas showing a prevalence from among the Old Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Danish and Norman names.

There are also several sections where particular naming conventions are explored, such as names resulting from farming, for example. There’s also a handy appendix detailing the elements common to many place names. Every ‘rule’ has exceptions though, as detailed throughout the book.

It included plenty of information I didn’t know before, in the naming of places, but also their history. I live near Southampton, for example, and didn’t realise the county it belongs to (Hampshire) is named after it. It was originally just called Homtun, the reference to south was added later, to distinguish it from what would become Northampton.

This is far from a straight dictionary of names and meaning though. While it may not cover as many places as other books, each entry has a description of the name and often history relating to it, making it a more pleasant read. The nature of the entries also make it very easy to dip in and out.

A very interesting read.

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This was a copy of the book

Reviewed: 12th June 2015