Sunday, 26 November 2017

Scottish place names in the USA

In another unashamedly blatant plug for my book English Place Names Transferred to the USA, I thought it might be nice to look at some of the examples from Scotland. Less of a challenge than last week's Welsh names as many of these come from Old English, although I did need help with the Gaelic.

Aberdeen - means 'at the mouth of the Don', even though the river Dee also flows here the early forms clearly show this is a later mistaken idea.

Angus - an old county of Scotland named after the 8th century King of the Picts Aonghus or Oengus meaning 'unique choice'.

Argyle - from Gaelic meaning 'land of the Gaels', these Scots were of Irish origin.

Bannockburn - a famous name, owing to the battle of 1314, meaning 'little shining stream'.

Bathgate - from Brythonic baedd coed or 'boar wood'.

Berwick - an Old English place name from bere wic or 'barley farmstead'.

Cheviot - of uncertain origin, but may be a Pre-Celtic tribal name or a derivative of Brythonic cefn or 'ridge'.

Clyde - a Brythonic river name meaning 'the cleansing one'.

Culloden - another name made famous by a battle, here that name likely means 'back of the pool'.

Douglas - the two Scottish Gaelic elements dubh glas combine to speak of 'the dark water'.

Dumbarton - another of Scottish Gaelic origin, dun Breatainn describing 'the fortified stronghold of the Britons'.

Dumfries - Scottish Gaelic again, here dun phris refers to 'the fortified stronghold of the woodland'.

Dunbar - and again, where Scottish Gaelic dun barr refers to 'the fort of the height'.

Dundee - is most often said to be 'the fort of Daig', a personal name of unknown context.

Dunfermline - of unknown derivation, other than the first element dun 'fort'. Some sources point to a likely Pictish personal name, but without suggesting any.

Edinburgh - a name from Scottish Gaelic aodann 'rock face' and Old English burh 'stronghold'.

Elgin - this part of Scotland was settled by Gaelic-speakers from Ireland, thus the idea this comes from Ealg with the diminutive in to mean 'little Ireland' makes perfect sense.

Fordyce - another Scottish Gaelic name, where faithir deas refers to 'the fortification of the south-facing slope'.

Galloway - a name meaning 'land of the stranger Gaels', for this part of the country had been settled by those of a mixed Irish/Scandinavian descent.

Glasgow - from Brythonic glas cau 'place of the green hollow'.

Glencoe - another of Scottish Gaelic origin and referring to 'the narrow valley'.

Gretna - a famous Scottish name and one of Old English derivation where greoten halh refers to 'the gravelly nook of land'.

Hamilton - named after Lord Hamilton, he coming here during the 15th century.

Harris - an Old Scandinavian name meaning 'the higher island'. The island is officially known as Lewis and Harris, although this is only one island and Harris is the higher mountainous region.

Hope - of Old Scandinavian origin where hop means 'sheltered place' and originally referred to the haven offered by the bay of the same name.

Houston - comprised of Old English tun and a Saxon personal name, this is 'the farmstead of a man called Hugo'.

Inverness - Scottish Gaelic inbhir means 'mouth of' and precedes the name of the river Ness, itself of unknown origin.

Iona - a small island seemingly derived from Old Irish for 'yew'.

Irvine - a Brythonic name meaning 'the white river'.

Kelso - Old English calc hoh refers to 'the ridge of chalk'.

Kinross - from Scottish Gaelic ceann ros 'the head of the promontory'.

Kirk - likely from Old Scandinavian kirkja rather than Old English cirice, although both simply mean 'church'.

Lanark - a Brythonic name where llanerc means 'forest glade'.

Leith - if this comes from Brythonic lleith 'moist' then this name is telling us it is a 'wet place'.

Lenox - named after the Dukes of Lennox, an ancient place name referring to 'the place covered in elms'.

Linwood - combining Brythonic llyn and Old English wudu means this began as 'the wood by a pool'.

Lomond - if this is Brythonic then this is from lumon 'beacon', or of Scottish Gaelic then leamhan 'elm trees'. Either way it refers to the land and not the more famous loch, itself taking the name from the hill of Ben Lomond.

Melrose - a Scottish Gaelic name where mael ros refers to 'the bare moor'.

Montrose - again Scottish Gaelic moine ros 'the peat moss of the promontory'.

Morton - here is Old English mor tun 'the farmstead of the moor'.

Nevis - an ancient name, probably nebh 'cloud' and a reference to the mountain and not a 'cloud' as we would speak today (indeed Old English clud meant 'mountain' and not 'cloud'). Alternatively Old Gaelic numheis meaning 'venomous' has been suggested, but just what is venomous is uncertain.

Paisley - from Brythonic pasgell llethr 'sloping pasture'.

Peebles - means 'the place of the shielings', ie pasture seasonally given over to grazing sheep.

Perth - a place name meaning '(place of) the thicket'.

Preston - from Old English preost tun 'the farmstead of the priests'.

Roxborough - an Old English place name meaning 'the fortified place of a man called Hroc'.

Sutherland - if defined as 'the place of the southern territory' it becomes obvious.

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