Place-Name Glossary

This is a glossary of Scots words which are used in place-names. Each entry gives the meaning of the word, alongside linguistic notes (discussed below) and modern and historical examples of the word in actual place-names in Scotland.

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Modern FormOlder Scots FormEtymology PoSDefinitionModern ExamplesHistorical EvidenceSND LinkDOST LinkNotes
holm (2)holmON holmrnan islet, a small (grassy) island (in a loch or off a larger island) often used for pasturageHolm of Grimbister (Orkney); Holm of Rendall (Orkney); Holm of Califf (Shetland); Holms of Vatsland (Shetland); Holm of Cruester (Shetland)Holm a1688; Holms of Spurness 1832; Holm of Huip 1832; Holm of Houss 1887holm n; S1 holm nholm n; ADDS holm nSee also DOST ting holm n
hope (2), hoobhopeON hópna small bay or havenSt Margaret's Hope (Fife, Orkney); The Houb (Shetland); Chalmers Hope (Orkney); St Andrews Hope (Fife); Houb of Scatsta (Shetland); Pan Hope (Orkney)Lovnan houp 17thC; St Margaret’s Hope a1688; Kirk-hope a1688; North-hope 1700; Pan Houp 1795hope n2; hoob nhope, houp n5See also SND ob n
rig, riggrygON hryggr, OE hrycgna ridge of high ground, a long narrow hill, a hill-crest; a strip of ploughed land (raised in the middle and sloping towards the sides), a measure of land; a strip of land leased for building in a Scottish burgh (usually with a narrow street frontage and a considerable extension backwards); a chain of hills, rocks or islandsBroomrigg (Dumfriesshire); Rigghouse (West Lothian); Rigghead (Dumfriesshire); Oatrigg (West Lothian)Gret rigesmedue c1170; Todholerig 1165-82; Mosiburnerig 1195-96; Burnerig 1165-1214rig n1; S1 rig n1; S2 rig n1rig, ryg(g n
whamquhawmeON hvammrna dale or valley, a broad hollow among hills (with a stream), a little glen; a hollow piece of ground (in a field), a depressionThe Whaum (St Andrews); Wham Park (Stirlingshire); Whoam Park (West Lothian); Whoam Quarry (West Lothian)Quhawmes 1594; wester quhawme 1635; Whalmfoot 1635-6; Sandy Wham 1773wham n1quhawme n
kirkkyrkON kirkja, OE kirkena churchNew Kirk (Aberdeenshire); Hobkirk (Roxburghshire); Ladykirk (Berwickshire); Kirk o' Field (Midllothian]; Kirkford (Fife); Kirkmuir (Kirkcudbrightshire)Kyrckeburne c1160; Selekirke 1165-1214; Askirke 1214-49; Kyrkhop a1300kirk n1; S1 kirk n1; S2 kirk n1kirk n; ADDS kirk n
kirktonkirktounON kirkja, OE kirke + OE tūnna town or village situated by a church, the hamlet in which the parish church of a rural parish is located; a farm adjacent to a churchKirkton of Bourtie (Aberdeenshire); Kirkton (Fife, Midlothian, Roxburghshire); Kirktonbridge Cottages (Aberdeenshire); Kirkton of Cults (Fife); Kirkton of Tough (Aberdeenshire); Kirkton Muir (Kincardineshire); Nether Kirkton (Aberdeenshire); Kirktonhill (Dumfriesshire)Kyrchetune c1145; Kirketun 1206; Kirketun super Stryvelin 1319; kyrktoune 1403kirk n1; S2 kirk n1kirk-, kyrktoun nSee also DOST kirk-clachan n
quoyquyON kvína piece of land (originally part of the common pasture) which had been enclosed and cultivated as part of a farm’Quoy Sinclair (Orkney); Quoys of Reiss (Caithness); Mossquoy (Orkney); Quoy Park (Orkney); Quoyhenry (Orkney)Sanct Margarettis quoy 1591; quoygrahame 1634; St Katharein's quoyes 1706; Castle quoy 1766quoy n; S1 quoy nquoy n2; quy, qui n2See also DOST quyland n and quoyland n
miremyreON mýrr, ME mirena piece of swampy ground, a bog, a morass; a peat bogCraigmire (Aberdeenshire); Myreside (Angus, East Lothian, Moray); Black Myre (Aberdeenshire); Halymyres (Kincardinechaire); Hartwoodmyres (Selkirkshire); Whitemyres (Aberdeen); Greenmyre (Aberdeenshire); Myreton (Angus)Wytteriggemyre c1200; Falumireside 13thC; Seggymir 1302; Hwytemyr c1320; Red(e)myre 1348; ly Futyis myre 1463mire n1myr(e, mir(e n
nessnesON nes, OE næs(s)na promontory or headlandNess of Clousta (Shetland); Ness of Quoys (Caithness); Kirkness (Fife); Blackness (Dundee); Ness of Culsetter (Shetland); Bo'Ness (West Lothian); Ness of Burravoe (Shetland); Bridgeness (West Lothian); Scurdie Ness (Angus)le nesse 1150; le Nys 1292; Blaknis 1330; Blacnes 1330ness n; S2 ness nnes, nesse n
seatseteON sǽtina high, saddle-shaped and conspicuous hill; a dwelling house, a country seat, a place of habitationArthur's Seat (Edinburgh); Earl's Seat (Stirlingshire); Foresterseat (Morayshire); St Arnold's Seat (Angus); Leven Seat (Midlothian); Mowat's Seat (Angus)Kingesseteburne 1165-90; Pronewessete c1180; Keluesete 1165-1214; Kingessete c1200seat n; S1 seat nDOST sete, seit(e n
skerrieskerryON skerna skerry, an isolated reef or rocky islet in the seaSkerry of the Sound (Orkney); Covsea Skerries (Morayshire); Seal Skerry (Orkney); Skerries of Fuglaness (Shetland); Little Skerries (Morayshire)Selchiskerrie; 1634; Skerrie of Burrafirth 164; Selchskerrie 1655; Inner Skerry 1887skerrie n; S2 skerrie nskerry nCompare DOST skelly n and SND skerrie n2; see also DOST skirrach n
slackslakON slakkinhollow or depression in the ground; a valley between hills; a low-lying waterlogged depression in the ground, a marsh, a morass, boggy ground on a valley floorSlackhead (Banffshire); Gateslack (Dumfriesshire); Aikie Slack (Kirkcudbrightshire); Slacks of Glencarvie (Aberdeenshire); Windy Slack (Midlothian); Mitchellslacks (Dumfriesshire); Beeslack (Midlothian)Catslak 1456; How Slak 1458-59; Grene-slak 1540; Broom Slack 1565; Chamar Slack 1719; St Ethernens Slack 1723slack n2; S2 slack n2slak n1
starstarON stǫrrna species of grass or sedge (growing on moorish or boggy ground); land covered in sedgesStarlaw (West Lothian); Starcleuch Edge (Roxburghshire); Star Wood (East Lothian); Star Burn (South Lanarkshire); Starhill (Banffshire)star of Kelle 1471; (le) Starlaw 1468 the stare myr 1549; Sterlaw 1618star n2star(e n3
tafttoftON topt, OE toftna homestead (and the attached land), the site of a house or buildingsTaft (Orkney); Easter Tofts (South Lanarkshire); Upper Tofts (Roxburghshire); Tofthill Plantation (Fife); Edgerston Tofts (Roxburghshire); Greentoft (Orkney); Lower Toft (Roxburghshire)Eghetofft 1214-49; Braytoftis 1248-9; Godemannistoft c.1235; Toftes 1296; Tofts 1622taft ntoft n1See also DOST Tofting, Thoftyn, n
voevoe, woON vágrnan inlet of the sea, a deep bay or long creek, a fjordVoe of Sound (Shetland); East Voe of Quarff (Shetland); West Voe of Sumburgh (Shetland); Voe of Clousta (Shetland)Voe of Sara 1733; North Voe 1832; South Voe 1832; East Voe of Scalloway 1887voe n; S2 voe nvo(e, wo n
carsekerse, carsuncertainnlow and fertile land along the bank of a riverCarse of Gowrie (Perthshire); The Carse (Inverness); Kinneil Kerse (West Lothian); Carse of Raddery (Ross and Cromarty); Carse Knowe (West Lothian); Kerse (Ayrshire); East Kerse Mains (West Lothian); Carsethorn (Kirkcudbright); Carseburn (Angus)Cars 1292; Ferycars 1359; Cars de Buthkener 1359; Kars 1390; Kers 1392; Kerse de Kambus 1451; Carse of Gowrie 1564; Kersheid 1641carse ncars, carse n; kars n; kers(e n1

Glossary compiled by Dr Alison Grant of Scottish Language Dictionaries and the Scottish Place-Name Society.

Linguistic Notes

The glossary provides the Modern Scots form of each place-name element, and then traces the word back through the Older Scots form to its etymological root. Illustration of the development of each element is found in the historical forms, and modern usage is illustrated by the current place-name examples provided. The glossary also provides references to the two major Scots dictionaries, the Scottish National Dictionary (SND) and the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (DOST) together with any relevant supplementary material (the first SND supplement is marked S1, and the second S2, and the additions to DOST are marked ADDS). These dictionaries can be accessed online at www.dsl.ac.uk. Further supplementary material has been added from two 1940s Ph. D. theses, The Non-Celtic Place-Names of the Scottish Border Counties by May Williamson and The Place Name of Midlothian by Norman Dixon, both of which are available for consultation in the ‘resources’ section of the Scottish Place-Name Society website. The glossary contains Scots words derived from Old English, Old Norse, Middle Dutch, Anglo-Norman French and Latin, together with more recent loan-words from Gaelic and Insular Norn. For example, the whilst ‘glen’ is primarily a Gaelic place-name element, occurring in names such as Glen Affric and Glenmore, the word was also borrowed into Scots, where it was used to form names such as Glenhead and Glens of Foudland. Similarly, although names in ‘geo’ are often from Old Norse gjá, including Ramnageo and Papilgeo, the word was also borrowed into Scots from Norn, and used to coin names such as Millburn Geo and Geo of Dykesend.Counties (where given) are pre-1975 local government reorganisation.

PoS = Part of Speech (noun, adjective, etc.)