The Origin of English Place-Names

The Origin of English Place-Names

The Origin of English Place-Names

The Origin of English Place-Names

Excerpt

'OXSHOTT, where the ox was shot.' This remark, overheard from a stranger passing through the town, might well be taken as a text and a justification for this book. It reveals an interest in place-names and a realisation that they must have a meaning, but the explanation is a popular etymology which ignores all the essentials. The speaker was unaware of the necessity of tracing the history of the name which proves it has nothing to do with the ox, whilst the shott was a piece of land and had no connexion with shooting. A long experience of lecturing on place-names to local Antiquarian and Historical Societies has proved not only that there is a wide interest in the subject, but also that this interest is increased when the principles underlying the study are explained with illustrative examples. The real difficulty is that whilst the general principles and the simpler problems can be explained to the non-expert, the interpretation of difficult names involves a knowledge of philology and languages not possessed by the many and much must be taken on trust, just as the layman can appreciate the results of atomic science although he is ignorant of the physics and higher mathematics on which they are based. The purpose of this book is first to give the general reader an indication of the way in which explanations of place-names are arrived at, and secondly to give him some idea of the general results already achieved.

Many place-names can be explained without difficulty; for some more than one interpretation is possible; others have so far defeated the experts. In selecting examples, every effort has been made to indicate where doubt exists. Early forms have been given, where necessary, to show that the name has changed. Dates have been added, but it has not been considered essential to give the source of these early forms. Those interested who wish for more detailed information will find it in the books listed in the bibliography.

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