List of generic forms in British place namesThe study of place names is called toponymy; for a more detailed examination of this subject relative to British place names please refer to British toponymy.
This list gives a number of common generic forms found in British place names. It is not uncommon to find a number of these in combinative compounds. An interesting example of place naming is Torpenhow Hill, in Cumbria; the name seems to have grown by waves of new inhabitants using the name given by the previous occupants, and adding to it: the three syllables, tor, pen, how, each mean "hill" in a different language. Moreover, there are a number of ambiguities, corruptions in spelling over the year, changes in meaning, etc. to further complicate the issue.
In places where the Danelaw prevailed and there is uncertainty over the origin of a place name, it is common sense to prefer the Viking meaning to the Anglo-Saxon, often, however, the two are coterminous. Taking Askrigg in Yorkshire, for example, "a place where ash trees grew", while the spelling of asc is indubitably Nordic, had the place been further south it could easily have represented a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon ash.
Unlike e.g. Anglo-Saxon place names, Cornish place names are resolved in reverse order, e.g. Tregonebris is Tre + Conebris i.e. "the settlement of Cunebris"
The terms Old English language and Anglo-Saxon language are fundamentally equivalent in meaning and represent the hybrid Germanic non-Celtic, non-Nordic, language between the Roman abandonment of Britain, and up to about 100 years after the Norman invasion in 1066.
|aber||W,P,K||mouth of (a river), confluence, a meeting of waters||Aberystwyth, Aberdyfi, Aberdeen||prefix|
|ac, acc||OE||acorn alt. association with oak||Accrington, Acomb|
|afon||W,SG,K||river||Aberafon|| ||afon is pronounced "AA von". A number of UK rivers are named "Avon"|
|ay (also ey)||V||island||Ramsay, Lundy, Orkney Islands||suffix (usually)|
|axe, exe||OE||from isca, meaning water||Exeter, River Axe, River Exe, River Usk, Axminster,Axmouth, etc|
|beck||V||stream||Holbeck, Beckinsale, Costa Beck, Cod Beck|
|Bex||OE||box, the tree||Bexley, Kent Bexhill-on-Sea (the OE name of Bexhill-on-Sea was Bexelei, a glade where box grew.|
|bourne||OE||brook, stream||Bournemouth, Sittingbourne|
|bury||OE||stronghold, fort||Aylesbury, Banbury||suffix|
|caster, cester, chester, caer||L||camp, fortification||Lancaster, Doncaster, Gloucester, Caister, Caerdydd, Caerleon, Manchester||suffix||Also can be corrupted e.g. Exeter, Uttoxeter|
|Chipping, Cheap-||OE||Market||Chipping Norton, Chipping Campden, Chippenham||Also as part of a street name eg Cheapside|
|King||OE Cyning||King, tribal leader||King's Norton, Kingston, Kingston Bagpuize|
|dale||?||valley||Airedale, the valley of the river Aire||suffix||Used in Yorkshire|
|deanas||OE||valley||Croydon, Dean Village||suffix||The geography is often the only indicator as to the original root word (cf. don, a hill)|
|fax||OE, V||fair, pale||Halifax|
|Fin||P||Hill (?)||Findochty||prefix||Possibly related to Pen|
|ham||OE||settlement, town||Oldham||suffix||Often confused by hamm, an enclosure|
|ing||OE: ingas||descendants or followers of||Reading i.e. the subjects of Reada||suffix||sometimes survives in its plural form e.g. Hastings|
|Inver||SG||mouth of (a river), confluence, a meeting of waters||Inverness||prefix|
|Lan, Lhan, Llan||K, P, W||church, church-site||Llanteglos, Cornwall, Lhanbryde, Moray Llanfair PG||prefix|
|Law||OE||from hlaw, a rounded hill||Charlaw Warden Law||(usually) standalone||often a hill with a barrow or hillocks on its summit|
|lea, ley||OE||derived from leah, a woodland clearing||Wembley||(usually) suffix|
|nan, nans||K||valley||Nancledra, Cornwall||prefix|
|pen||K, OE||hill||Penzance, Cornwall||prefix|
|pol||K||pool or lake||Polperro, Cornwall||prefix|
|pont||L, K, W||bridge||Pontypridd||prefix||Can also be found in its unmutated form "bont", e.g Pen-Y-Bont (Bridgend); originally from Latin pons|
|shaw||V||a wood; is a corruption of howe (cf.)||Penshaw||Standalone or suffix|
|Stoke||OE stoc||Dependent farmstead, settlement||Stoke-on-Trent, Stoke Damerell||(Usually) standalone|
|thorp, thorpe||V||village, settlement||Cleethorpes, Thorpeness|
|thwaite||V thveit||a forest clearing with a dwelling||Huthwaite||suffix|
|tun, ton||OE: tun||enclosure, farmstead, manor, estate||Tunstead, Tonbridge i.e. the bridge of the estate; Charlton (AS: ceorla-tun, "farmstead of the churls")|