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 Form: aik
Older Scots Form: ake
Etymology: OE āc
PoS: n
Definition: oak, an oak tree
Modern Examples: Aikrig (Dumfriesshire); Oakwood (Selkirkshire); Oakbank (Midlothian); Oakfield (Fife)
Historical Evidence: Akedene c1204; Aikwod 1567-68; Aikrig 1662; Oak Wood 1684
SND Link: aik n; S2 aik n; oak n
DOST Link: ake, aik n; ADDS ake, aik n; (oke) ock(e n

Modern Form: aiken
Older Scots Form: akin, oken
Etymology: OE ǣcen, ācen
PoS: a
Definition: consisting of oaks, oaken
Modern Examples: Aikendean (Midlothian); Aikenhead (Glasgow); Aikencleugh (Ayrshire); Aikenshaw (Dunbartonshire)
Historical Evidence: Akinhede 1260; Akynhevid 1379; Eck(i)eden 1612 Oakendean 1773
SND Link: aiken adj
DOST Link: akin, aikin a; oken, oikin, oa(c)ken a

Modern Form: air, ayre, ire
Older Scots Form: ayr
Etymology: ON eyrr
PoS: n
Definition: a gravelly beach, a gravel bank, a bed of gravel
Modern Examples: Ayre of Breiwick (Shetland); Woodcock Air (Dumfriesshire); Ayre of Deepdale (Shetland); Ayre of Cara (Orkney); Ayre Dyke (Shetland); Ayre of Westermill (Orkney)
Historical Evidence: Wodecok Heyr 1333-34; Wodecokheir 1360; the ayr of Kyrkwall 1539; Stour-air 1809
SND Link: air n4; ire n2
DOST Link: ayr n

Modern Form: auld, owld, old
Older Scots Form: ald, auld, old
Etymology: OE ald
PoS: a
Definition: old; former, previous
Modern Examples: Auldhame (East Lothian); Auldgirth (Dumfriesshire); Auldhall (Fife, Stirlingshire); Old Liston (Midlothian); Auldcastle Road (Inverness); Oldmeldrum (Aberdeenshire)
Historical Evidence: Aldeham 1094; Aldehamstoc 1127; Aldestelle 1136; Aldetuneburne c1200; Auldton 1329
SND Link: auld adj; S1 auld adj; S2 auld adj; old adj; S1 old adj; S2 old adj; owld adj; S2 owld adj
DOST Link: ald, auld a; old(e, ould(e a

Modern Form: bank
Older Scots Form: bank
Etymology: ON bakki, *banki, ME banke
PoS: n
Definition: a bank, a river bank; a raised shelf or ridge of ground; steep cliffs or precipitous rocks (along the coast); a hill slope; a foot-path or walk; the place in a moss from which peats are cut; the boundary line of a farm
Modern Examples: Clydebank (Dunbartonshire); Bankfoot (Perthshire); Scrogbank (Selkirkshire); Meadowbank (Edinburgh); Springbank (Wigtownshire); Bankend (Dumfriesshire); Greenbank (Aberdeenshire); Nessbank (Inverness)
Historical Evidence: Byrkebanke 13thC; Brerybankes 1367; Bankhede 1519; Bankend 1546
SND Link: bank n2, S1 bank n2, bakk n1
DOST Link: bank n1

Modern Form: bent
Older Scots Form: bent
Etymology: OE beonet
PoS: n
Definition: a strong coarse variety of grass of a reedy or rush-like character (found on moorland or links); a place where such grass grows; a sandy hillock or a stretch of open ground covered with bent grass; a (grassy) slope or hillside
Modern Examples: Benthead (Ayrshire, West Lothian); Gullane Bents (East Lothian); Bentfoot (North Lanarkshire); The Bents (West Lothian); White Bents (Angus)
Historical Evidence: The Bentis 1586; Bents of Balruddie 1662; Broadbents 1773; Southbent 1755
SND Link: bent n1; S1 bent n1; bent n2
DOST Link: bent n

Modern Form: bern
Older Scots Form: bern, barn
Etymology: OE berern
PoS: n
Definition: a barn
Modern Examples: Barnhill (Glasgow, Inverness) Kingsbarns (Fife); West Barns (East Lothian); Barnhead (Angus); Barnton (Edinburgh); Barn Hills (Wigtownshire); Barns Ness (East Lothian); Barns of Craig (Angus)
Historical Evidence: Northbernis 1328; Suthbarne 1373; Berntoun 1390-1406; le Barnis 1490; bornestede 1560
SND Link: S1 bern n2; S2 bern n2
DOST Link: bern n1; barn, barne n; ADDS barn n; born(e n

Modern Form: biggin, bigging
Older Scots Form: bigging, byggyng
Etymology: ME bigging
PoS: n
Definition: a building, a cottage; a cluster of houses, a hamlet
Modern Examples: Newbigging (Abderdeenshire, Angus, Dumfriesshire, Fife, Kincardineshire, Midlothian, Morayshire, Roxburghshire, South Lanarkshire, West Lothian); Lower Bigging(s) Upper Bigging(s) (Orkney)
Historical Evidence: Newbigginghe 1153; Neubiggyng 1315; Shirrefbyggyng 1374; Neubiging 1569
SND Link: biggin(g), biggen', biggan n2; S2 biggin(g) n2
DOST Link: biggin(g, byggyn(g n

Modern Form: birken
Older Scots Form: birkin
Etymology: OE *bircen
PoS: a
Definition: birchen, consisting of birch-wood
Modern Examples: Birkenshaw (North Lanarkshire, West Lothian); Birkenbush (Angus, Banffshire); Birkenhill Croft (Morayshire); Birken Burn (Stirlingshire); Birkenside (Berwickshire)
Historical Evidence: Birchinsyde 1158; Birkenside c 1170; Birkynshawe 1336-37; Birkenbrewell 1664
SND Link: birken a
DOST Link: birkin, birken a

Modern Form: bleck, black
Older Scots Form: blak, blake
Etymology: OE blæc
PoS: a
Definition: black; (of a hill) covered with heather; (of a house) built of drystone and earth
Modern Examples: Black Law (Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire, Fife); The Black Isle (Ross and Cromarty); Blackchester (Berwickshire); Black Bothy (Abderdeenshire); Blackbraes (Stirlingshire); Blackwood (Dumfriesshire); Blackhall (Edinburgh); Blakedean (Roxburghshire); Blackcastle (Midlothian); Blackbyres (Ayrshire); Black Grain (Selkirkshire); The Black Bridge (Inverness)
Historical Evidence: Blakepol c1190; Blachedene c1200; Blachope 1218; Blakhall c1330
SND Link: S2 bleck adj; black adj; S1 black adj, S2 black adj; black-house n; S1 black-house n; S2 black-house n
DOST Link: blak, blac(k a; blake, blaik a
Notes: See also DOST bla, blae, a

Modern Form: blin
Older Scots Form: blind
Etymology: OE blind
PoS: a
Definition: not patent to the sight, covered, hidden; obscure, dark; unfertile, unproductive, barren
Modern Examples: The Blind Tunnel (Glasgow); Blindwells (Angus, Fife); Blind Capul (Fife); Blindhaugh Burn (Selkirkshire); Blindwell (Stirlingshire); Blindwalls (Wigtownshire)
Historical Evidence: Blyndewelle c1200; Blindethuayt c1218; Blindsyke c1350; Blyndle 1455; Blindley 1543
SND Link: blin, blind adj; S2 blin adj
DOST Link: blind, blynd a

Modern Form: bog
Older Scots Form: bog, boig
Etymology: Gael bog, bogach
PoS: n
Definition: a bog, a mire
Modern Examples: Bogton (North Lanarskhire); Bogside (Stirlingshire); Bogwells (Fife); Boghead (Dunbartonshire); Bogtown (Stirlingshire); Bogleys (Fife); Boghall (Angus)
Historical Evidence: Harebogge 1359; Blakeboggys 1359; Lochlebogsyd 1374; bogside 1417; Boighaw 1478
SND Link: bog, boag n3
DOST Link: bog n; ADDS bog n

Modern Form: bourtree
Older Scots Form: bourtre
Etymology: ME burtre
PoS: n
Definition: the elder tree
Modern Examples: Bourtreebush (Angus); Bourtrees (Ayrshire); Bourtreehill North, Bourtreehill South (Ayrshire); Bourtree Bush Park (West Lothian); Bourtreebuss (Fife)
Historical Evidence: Burtrees c1320; Bourtriehill 1590; Bourtrees 1662; Bourtrie-mailing 1663
SND Link: bourtree n; S2 bourtree n
DOST Link: bourtré, bowtré n
Notes: see also SND bour n

Modern Form: brae
Older Scots Form: bra, bray
Etymology: ON brá, ME bra
PoS: n
Definition: the steep or sloping bank of a river or lake or seashore, a steep slope rising from water; a bank or stretch of ground rising with a fairly steep slope, the face of a hill; a road which has a steep gradient; an upland, mountainous district
Modern Examples: Braes of Enzie (Morayshire); Stephen's Brae (Inverness); Ethie Brae (Perthshire); Pan Braes (West Lothian); Braehead (Renfrewshire); Links Brae (West Lothian); Brae of Yetts (Dunbartonshire); Willowbrae (Edinburgh); Braeside (Stirling)
Historical Evidence: le Bra de Bochquhopill 1451; bra of Cammys 1528; Hammildone bray 1556; bra of Mar 1587; South Bray 1592
SND Link: brae, bray(e), brea n1; S1 brae n1; S2 brae n2
DOST Link: bra, bray, brae n
Notes: See also DOST bra-hede n

Modern Form: braid
Older Scots Form: brade
Etymology: OE brād
PoS: a
Definition: broad or wide
Modern Examples: Braidshaw (Midlothian); Braidley (Roxburghshire); Braidfield (Dunbartonshire); Broadhaugh (Roxburghshire); Broadleys (Fife); Braidwood (Midlothian)
Historical Evidence: Bradestrother c1200; Brademedwe c1200; Bradeforde c1230; Bradewude a1240
SND Link: braid adj; S1 braid adj; S2 braid adj
DOST Link: brade, braid a

Modern Form: breckan, brechan
Older Scots Form: brakan
Etymology: ME braken
PoS: n
Definition: bracken
Modern Examples: Breckonside (Dumfriesshire); Breconrae (Dumfriesshire); Brackenhirst (North Lanarkshire); Brekenrig (Dumfriesshire); Bracken Falls (Wigtownshire); Brackenleys (Stirlingshire); Breconside (Kirkcudbrightshire); Breckenshank (Dumfriesshire)
Historical Evidence: Brakanwra c1270; Brakenrig 1428; Brakanhirst 1475; Brakanrig 1504
SND Link: brachan, brachen, brechan n; bracken n; breckan, brecken n
DOST Link: brakan, braikane n1

Modern Form: brig, brigg
Older Scots Form: brig
Etymology: OE brycg, ON bryggja
PoS: n
Definition: a bridge; a reef, a long low ridge of sea-rocks; a large flat stone, a flagstone
Modern Examples: Blackbriggs (Ayrshire, Kirkcudbrightshire); Birgham (Berwickshire); Gorebridge (Edinburgh); The Brig o Ballater; (Abderdeenshire); Brighouse (Kirkcudbrightshire); Brig o' Doon (Ayrshire); Fisherbriggs (Aberdeenshire); Briggait (Glasgow); Brigstanes (Kincardineshire); Stonebriggs (Aberdeenshire)
Historical Evidence: Prestesbrige c1150; Hatherbrig c1190; Risibrigg c1240; Briggate c1266; Brighous 1337; Bryghend 1359
SND Link: brig n1; S1 brig n1; S2 brig n1
DOST Link: brig, bryg n

Modern Form: brume, broom
Older Scots Form: brume, brome
Etymology: OE brōm
PoS: n
Definition: the plant broom, bushes or stretches of broom
Modern Examples: Broompark Farm (Glasgow); Broomhill (Ross and Cromarty); Broomhouse (East Lothian, Edinburgh, Roxburghshire); Broomridge (Stirling); Broomhall (Fife); Broomlands (Dumfriesshire, Midlothian, Roxburghshire); Broomknowes (Ayrshire)
Historical Evidence: Brumcrok c.1300; Bruymdyk 1490; Bromeparkis 1556; brumecroft c1567
SND Link: brume, brim n; S1 brume n; breem, breme n1; broom n1
DOST Link: brume n; brome, browme n

Modern Form: burn
Older Scots Form: burn
Etymology: OE burna
PoS: n
Definition: a brook or stream; water (from a fountain or well)
Modern Examples: Blackburn (West Lothian); Springburn (Glasgow); Netherburn (South Lanarkshire); Burn of Cruan (Orkney); Den Burn (Aberdeenshire); Burnbank (North Lanarkshire); Millburn (Inverness); Burn of Whilk (Caithness); Dryburn (Morayshire); Burnside (Fife); Burnfoot (Wigtownshire)
Historical Evidence: Merburne c1170; Triernburn c1200; Bradestrothirburne c1220; Kyrkeburne 1229; le Burnhedis 1505; Burneside 1548
SND Link: burn n; S1 burn n; S2 burn n
DOST Link: burn n
Notes: See also SND brin n1

Modern Form: cairter
Older Scots Form: carter, karter
Etymology: ME cartare
PoS: n
Definition: a carter
Modern Examples: Carterhaugh (Angus, Selkirkshire); Carter Bar (Roxburghshire); Carterhope Burn (Peeblesshire); Carter Fell (Roxburghshire)
Historical Evidence: Carterford c1250; Cartergate c1250; Cartarehauch 1489-90; Carteryards 1657
SND Link: cairter n
DOST Link: cartar(e, carter n1; karter, kairter, n
Notes: See also SND S1 cadger n

Modern Form: carse
Older Scots Form: kerse, cars
Etymology: uncertain
PoS: n
Definition: low and fertile land along the bank of a river
Modern Examples: Carse 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)
Historical Evidence: Cars 1292; Ferycars 1359; Cars de Buthkener 1359; Kars 1390; Kers 1392; Kerse de Kambus 1451; Carse of Gowrie 1564; Kersheid 1641
SND Link: carse n
DOST Link: cars, carse n; kars n; kers(e n1

Modern Form: cauld, cowld
Older Scots Form: cald
Etymology: OE cald
PoS: a
Definition: cold
Modern Examples: Caldside (Berwickshire); Cauldcots (Angus); Caulhame (West Lothian); Cauldcoats (Midlothian, Renfrewshire); Cauldside (Dumfriesshire, East Lothian); Coldstream (Berwickshire); Cauldshiel (East Lothian)
Historical Evidence: Kalde welle c1190; Kaldestrem c 1200; Caldelaue 1218; Caldclogh 1363
SND Link: cauld adj; S1 cauld adj; S2 cauld adj; cowld adj; S2 cowld adj
DOST Link: cald, cauld a

Modern Form: cleugh, cleuch
Older Scots Form: cleuch
Etymology: OE *clōh
PoS: n
Definition: a (narrow) gorge or ravine with steep rocky sides, usually the course of a stream; the steep side of a ravine, a cliff; a crag, a rock
Modern Examples: Byrecleugh (Berwickshire); Hare Cleugh (East Lothian); Cleugh Hill (Wigtownshire); Buccleuch (Selkirkshire); The Cleuch (Midlothian); Point of the Cleugh (Wigtownshire)
Historical Evidence: Edwardes-cloch c1190; Ernesclucht c1350; Westircluch-heuyd c1370; Corsclewch 1456
SND Link: cleugh, cleuch n; S2 cleugh n
DOST Link: cleuch n

Modern Form: clint, klint
Older Scots Form: clynt
Etymology: ODan klint
PoS: n
Definition: a cliff, a high crag, a precipice; a rock or large stone; a crevice in rocks; steep faces on a high hill
Modern Examples: Clints of Drumore (Kirkcudbrightshire); Clintwood Castle (Roxburghshire); Oak Clints (Kirkcudbrightshire); Clints (Midlothian); Clints of the Buss (Kirkcudbrightshire); Clinthill (Dumfriesshire, Fife); Clints of the Spout (Kirkcudbrightshire); Sound Clint (Kirkcudbrightshire)
Historical Evidence: Clinkskaillis 1556; Klintwood 1654; Clints March 1781; Clintwood 1832
SND Link: clint, klint n; S2 clint n
DOST Link: clint, clynt n

Modern Form: connie, coney, kinnen, kunno
Older Scots Form: coning, cuning
Etymology: OF conin, conil, ME conyng
PoS: n
Definition: a rabbit
Modern Examples: Coney Park (Stirlingshire); Coneyhatch (Kincardineshire); Kinnen Hill (West Lothian); Cuninghowes (Edinburgh)
Historical Evidence: The Cunyshill c.1540; Cunninghills 1688; Cuninboigs 1688; Kinningbrae 1698
SND Link: connie n; kinnen n; S1 kinnen n, kunno n
DOST Link: coning, conyng n; cuning, cunning n; qwneing n; kinning n

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 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.)