• An Oxford Historian

Key to English Place-Names

One of the crucial aspects of historical onomastics is the question of place-names - how did places get their names, why have some names survived and others been forgotten, how can we trace the etymologies of these names? In England, place-names can be a complex mish-mash of 'Celtic', Latin, Old English, Old Norse and French name elements.


Researching place-names is notoriously difficult, as they are often scattered throughout different sources, or constructed in long lists that remove the spacial aspects of the data.

The Key to English Place-Names database, provided by the University of Nottingham, attempts to improve this situation. Containing 14,000 place-names across England, it can be accessed for free online here.



If you have a specific place-name in mind, a handy search function makes finding it easy. Alternatively, a map function also allows you to explore the landscape, and look for named places nearby. Each recorded place-name is marked with a red dot, which can be clicked on to provide the etymological evidence.


If you're interested in the history of place-names, or names more broadly, the Society of Names Studies in Britain and Ireland (SNSBI) provides a great list of resources.


 
  • Interested in history and archaeology, and keen to access more information and resources? I have recently released a set of free, online notes for the history of 'Anglo-Saxon' England - this is available here.

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  • Check out my previous articles on my own personal PhD research on Anglo-Saxon (here), Viking (here) and obscene (here) nicknames.

  • A new Deep-Dive article on the Westfield Farm cemetery can be found here.

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