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: rig, rigg
Older Scots Form: ryg
Etymology: ON hryggr, OE hrycg
PoS: n
Definition: a 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 islands
Modern Examples: Broomrigg (Dumfriesshire); Rigghouse (West Lothian); Rigghead (Dumfriesshire); Oatrigg (West Lothian)
Historical Evidence: Gret rigesmedue c1170; Todholerig 1165-82; Mosiburnerig 1195-96; Burnerig 1165-1214
SND Link: rig n1; S1 rig n1; S2 rig n1
DOST Link: rig, ryg(g n

Modern Form: ring
Older Scots Form: ring
Etymology: OE hring
PoS: n
Definition: a ring; a circular earthwork, a pre-historic hill-fort; a circle of standing stones
Modern Examples: The Ring of Brodgar (Orkney); St Bride's Ring (Angus); Ring (Fife); Ring Liggat (Kirkcudbrightshire); The Rings (Peeblesshire)
Historical Evidence: Ringuude 1165-1214; Ryngwodfelde 14thC; Ringwoodfield 1664; Ringhill 1832
SND Link: ring n1; S2 ring n1
DOST Link: ring n1; rang n

Modern Form: ruid, rood
Older Scots Form: rud, ruid
Etymology: OE rōd
PoS: n
Definition: a cross, a religious symbol, a chapel or church of the Holy Rood; a plot or unit of land; a piece of ground apportioned from the land belonging to a burgh to anyone wishing to set up house thereon and to cultivate the remainder
Modern Examples: Holyrood (Edinburgh); Roodlands (East Lothian); Shortroods (Renfrewshire); Roodyards (Angus); Roodland (Ayrshire)
Historical Evidence: de Huntrodes apud Eccles 13thC; Rauphysrohd c1350; Stokrude 1413; Borrow Roods 1764
SND Link: ruid n
DOST Link: rud(e, ruid n1; reed n
Notes: See also DOST (rede), reid n6; DOST Burrow rudis n and DOSTBorow ruidis n

Modern Form: sand, saun
Older Scots Form: sand
Etymology: OE sand
PoS: n
Definition: sand, sandy ground, the sea-shore, a beach
Modern Examples: Sandend (Banffshire); Sandhead (Wigtownshire); Seton Sands (East Lothian); Sandgreen (Kirkcudbrightshire); Sands of Luce (Wigtownshire); Sand Brae (Aberdeenshire); Silver Sands (Morayshire); Sand Mill (Wigtownshire); Sands (Fife)
Historical Evidence: Joymersandes c1240; Burch-in-the-sand la14thC; Sand halch 1435; Sandfurde 1449; the sandis of Mussilburghe 1561; sandhalff c1616
SND Link: sand n; S2 sand n
DOST Link: sand n

Modern Form: sandy
Older Scots Form: sandy
Etymology: OE sandig
PoS: a
Definition: consisting of, or covered in sand; sandy
Modern Examples: Sandy Hirst (East Lothian); Sandyford (Dunbartonshire); Sandystones (Roxburghshire); Sandyhill (Fife); Sandy Knowes (North Lanarkshire); Sandilands (South Lanarkshire); Sandydub (Fife)
Historical Evidence: Sandilandis 1348; Sandystanis 1499-1500; Sande Knowis 1550; Sandieburne 1632
SND Link: sandy adj
DOST Link: sandy adj; S2 sandy adj

Modern Form: scrog, scrogg
Older Scots Form: scrog
Etymology: ME skrogg
PoS: n
Definition: brushwood or scrub, thickets of bushes or small trees; an area or piece of land covered with scrub or brushwood; a stunted or crooked bush or low tree, a stump or root of a tree, a crabapple tree
Modern Examples: Scroghill (Aberdeenshire); Scrogs of Drumruck (Kirkcudbrightshire); Scroggs (Dumfriesshire); Scrogbank (Selkirkshire); Crossford Scroggs (Dumfriesshire)
Historical Evidence: terram de Scrogges c1208; Scrogisston 1476; Scrogbank 1595; Priesthaugh Scrogg 1805
SND Link: scrog n1; S2 scrog n1; scrag n
DOST Link: scrog(g, skrog(g n

Modern Form: seat
Older Scots Form: sete
Etymology: ON sǽti
PoS: n
Definition: a high, saddle-shaped and conspicuous hill; a dwelling house, a country seat, a place of habitation
Modern Examples: Arthur's Seat (Edinburgh); Earl's Seat (Stirlingshire); Foresterseat (Morayshire); St Arnold's Seat (Angus); Leven Seat (Midlothian); Mowat's Seat (Angus)
Historical Evidence: Kingesseteburne 1165-90; Pronewessete c1180; Keluesete 1165-1214; Kingessete c1200
SND Link: seat n; S1 seat n
DOST Link: DOST sete, seit(e n

Modern Form: seggy
Older Scots Form: segy
Etymology: ME seggy
PoS: adj
Definition: sedgy, covered in or bordered with sedge or sedges; (marshy)
Modern Examples: Seggieden (Angus, Fife); Seggiecrook (Banffshire); Seggy Neuk (Kirkcudbrightshire); Seggiehill (Fife); Seggy Gut (Kirkcudbrightshire)
Historical Evidence: Segyden 12thC; Seggymir 1302; Seggywellisheuid c1318; Segidene 1466
SND Link: seg n1; seggy adj
DOST Link: seg(g)y adj

Modern Form: shank
Older Scots Form: schank
Etymology: OE scanga
PoS: n
Definition: a downward spur or projection of a hill, a descending ridge which joins a hill summit to the plain
Modern Examples: Shankfoot (Kirkcudbright); Shank (Midlothian); Shankend (Roxburghshire); Shank of Inchgrundle (Angus); Shank Cleugh (Midlothian); Meg's Shank (Dumfriesshire); Shankend Wood (Midlothian)
Historical Evidence: Schanke c1320; Cammo Schaunkis 1507 Bowshank 1593; The Shankfot croft 1690
SND Link: shank n
DOST Link: s(c)hank n

Modern Form: shaw
Older Scots Form: schaw
Etymology: OE sceaga, scaga, ON skagi
PoS: n
Definition: a small (natural) wood, a copse, a thicket, a grove; a bank of narrow ground at the top which broadens out towards the foot
Modern Examples: Pollokshaws (Glasgow); Shawhead (North Lanarkshire); Shaw Brae (Kirkcudbrightshire); Kirkshaws (North Lanarkshire); Shaw Hill (Wigtownshire); Shaw Fell (Kirkcudbrightshire)
Historical Evidence: Haresawes a1240; Crennescawe 1214-49; Swynschawis 1265; Langesawe 1294; Hawkeschaws 1315-21
SND Link: shaw n2
DOST Link: s(c)haw n1

Modern Form: sheep
Older Scots Form: schepe, chepe
Etymology: OE scēap, scēp
PoS: n
Definition: (a) sheep
Modern Examples: Sheepbridge (Fife); Sheep Lairs (Kirkcudbrightshire); Sheep House (Midlothian); Sheep Hill (Kirkcudbrightshire)
Historical Evidence: Scypwel c1143-47; Schipwell 1165-1214; Schepehinche 1261; Schypinche 1262; Shepwell 1337; Schephalche 1374-75
SND Link: sheep n1; S2 sheep n2
DOST Link: s(c)hep(e, s(c)heip, s(c)hip n; chep(e, cheip n2

Modern Form: shiel
Older Scots Form: schele
Etymology: ME schele
PoS: n
Definition: a rude (wooden) hut, a temporary building for seasonal accommodation or storage, a bothy; a shed; an outhouse; a small cottage, a hovel; a piece of pasturage on which a hut has been built, a summer pasturage; a shelter used by fishermen; a sheepcot; a summer or country retreat in the hills occupied by the gentry
Modern Examples: Foulshiels (Roxburghshire); Shiels of Glendui (Aberdeenshire); Ketlleshiel (Berwickshire); North Shiel (West Lothian); Shielhill (Aberdeenshire, Angus); Cauldshiel (East Lothian); Galashiels (Selkirkshire); Shielwalls (Stirlingshire)
Historical Evidence: Bothkillscheles a1159; Windicheles c1200 Schotteschales 1202-8; Mayschelis a1214
SND Link: shiel n; S1 shiel n
DOST Link: schele, s(c)heil(l n

Modern Form: side
Older Scots Form: side, syde
Etymology: OE sīde
PoS: n
Definition: a side, a slope or hillside; the edge of a forest; a bank or shore of a river or sea, the lands adjacent to a waterway; an area lying adjacent to or at the side of a particular building, place or route; a seashore
Modern Examples: Kelvinside (Glasgow); Morningside (Edinburgh); Mosside of Kirkbuddo (Angus); Braeside of Cults (Fife); Myreside (Angus); Thickside (Roxburghshire); Bemersyde (Berwickshire); Gateside (Angus); Breckonside (Dumfriesshire)
Historical Evidence: Cirnside c1098; Galtunesside a1153; Birchinsyde 12thC; Fausydde a1199; Bemersyd c1220; Grenesid c1220
SND Link: side n; S2 side n
DOST Link: sid(e n
Notes: See also DOST gat(e-syd(e n, water-side n and bra-side n

Modern Form: skellie
Older Scots Form: skelly
Etymology: ? OIr sceillec
PoS: n
Definition: a skerry, a ridge of rock on a seashore (covered at high water)
Modern Examples: Maw Skelly (Angus); Skellies Rocks (Fife); The Skellies (Aberdeenshire); Mary's Skelly (Fife); Longskelly Point (East Lothian); Corskelly (Aberdeenshire); Cuttyskelly (Fife)
Historical Evidence: the quheit skellie 1577; Mill Skelly 1855; Westland Skelly 1855; Skelly Rocks 1864
SND Link: skellie n2
DOST Link: skelly n
Notes: Compare DOST skerry n and SND skerrie n

Modern Form: skerrie
Older Scots Form: skerry
Etymology: ON sker
PoS: n
Definition: a skerry, an isolated reef or rocky islet in the sea
Modern Examples: Skerry of the Sound (Orkney); Covsea Skerries (Morayshire); Seal Skerry (Orkney); Skerries of Fuglaness (Shetland); Little Skerries (Morayshire)
Historical Evidence: Selchiskerrie; 1634; Skerrie of Burrafirth 164; Selchskerrie 1655; Inner Skerry 1887
SND Link: skerrie n; S2 skerrie n
DOST Link: skerry n
Notes: Compare DOST skelly n and SND skerrie n2; see also DOST skirrach n

Modern Form: slack
Older Scots Form: slak
Etymology: ON slakki
PoS: n
Definition: hollow 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 floor
Modern Examples: Slackhead (Banffshire); Gateslack (Dumfriesshire); Aikie Slack (Kirkcudbrightshire); Slacks of Glencarvie (Aberdeenshire); Windy Slack (Midlothian); Mitchellslacks (Dumfriesshire); Beeslack (Midlothian)
Historical Evidence: Catslak 1456; How Slak 1458-59; Grene-slak 1540; Broom Slack 1565; Chamar Slack 1719; St Ethernens Slack 1723
SND Link: slack n2; S2 slack n2
DOST Link: slak n1

Modern Form: slap
Older Scots Form: slop
Etymology: Middle Dutch slop
PoS: n
Definition: a gap, breach or hole (in a wall), an entrance or exit, an opening; a narrow lane running between houses; a pass or shallow valley between hills; a gate
Modern Examples: Slap of Quoybeezie (Orkney); Waterslap (Stirlingshire); Slap of Faravill (Orkney); Coldstone Slap (Midlothian); Kirkslap (Stirlingshire); Slap of Warth (Orkney); Mote Slap (Wigtownshire); Slap of Grindela (Orkney)
Historical Evidence: Liggʒet Slappe 1561; Claysclope 1635; Barkerland slop 1707; Coldstaine Slap 1715
SND Link: slap n2; S2 slap n2
DOST Link: slop, slap n1

Modern Form: smiddie
Older Scots Form: smiddy
Etymology: OE smiþþe, ON smiðja
PoS: n
Definition: a smithy, the workshop of a smith, a blacksmith’s shop, a forge
Modern Examples: Smiddyhill (Aberdeenshire); Smiddyboyne (Banffshire); Buchanan Smithy (Stirlingshire); Smiddiecroft (Aberdeenshire); Smithy Hill (Wigtownshire); Smithyhillock (Aberdeenshire)
Historical Evidence: Smythyhill 1379; Smethy Barr 1426; Smethycrofft 1456; Smedebar 1540-41
SND Link: smiddie n; S2 smiddie n
DOST Link: smithy n
Notes: See also DOST (Smiddy-land,) Smid(d)ieland, n

Modern Form: smith
Older Scots Form: smyth, smeth
Etymology: OE smið, ON smiðr
PoS: n
Definition: one who works in metal, a smith
Modern Examples: Smithfield (Aberdeen, Fife); Smeaton (Fife, Midlothian); Smith's Lands (Midlothain); Smithton (Inverness)
Historical Evidence: Smithetun 12thC; Smythishalch 1321; Smethwod 1327; Smeithfield 1329-71
SND Link: smith n
DOST Link: smith(e, smyth(t n

Modern Form: souter
Older Scots Form: soutar
Etymology: OE sūtere
PoS: n
Definition: a shoemaker, a cobbler
Modern Examples: The Sutors (Ross and Cromarty); Souterhill (Aberdeenshire); Souterhouse (North Lanarkshire); Souterland (Midlothian); Sutor Stacks (Ross and Cromarty); Souterford (Aberdeenshire)
Historical Evidence: swtercrophtdyk a1325; Sutergate 1337; Sowttergait 1563; Soutarland 1696; The Cromarty Sutors 1854
SND Link: souter n; S2 souter n
DOST Link: soutar n

Modern Form: south
Older Scots Form: south
Etymology: OE sūþ
PoS: a
Definition: situated in, or belonging to, the south; southern, southerly
Modern Examples: South Inch (Aberdeenshire); South Queensferry (West Lothian); South Nettlehirst (Ayrshire); South Mains (Angus); South Kessock (Inverness); Southfield (Midlothian); South Glen (Stirlingshire)
Historical Evidence: Suthberwik c1170; Sutblan 1236; Suthtun de Laynal c1248; Suthebuttes 13thC; Southgate 1449-50; Southfelde 1450
SND Link: south a; S2 south a
DOST Link: south a

Modern Form: spital
Older Scots Form: spittal
Etymology: ME spitel
PoS: n
Definition: a hospice or shelter for travellers (in mountainous country); a house or place of refuge for the sick or destitute; land whose revenue supported a hospital; the hospital itself
Modern Examples: Spital (Dunbartonshire); The Spittal Haugh (Aberdeenshire); Spittalburn (Angus); Spittal of Glenmuick (Aberdeenshire); Spittalrig (East Lothian); Spital Shore (Ross and Cromarty); Spittal (East Lothian); Port of Spittal (Wigtownshire)
Historical Evidence: Spetelcrag 1208-14; Spyttalhillis 1310; Spittaltoun 1565-6; Spittellis Hospitell 1641; Spittall Haugh 1721
SND Link: spital n
DOST Link: spit(t)al(l, spit(t)ell n
Notes: See also DOST hospitale n

Modern Form: spout
Older Scots Form: spout
Etymology: ME spowte
PoS: n
Definition: a well, a forceful movement or discharge of water; a spring of water (issuing from the ground or a rock); a waterfall, a cascade, a cataract; a narrow enclosed defile or pathway, a gully in the face of cliffs; a narrow lane between houses; a pipe or conduit
Modern Examples: The Red Spout (Aberdeenshire); Lynn Spout (Ayrshire); Spout Wells (Perthshire, Wigtownshire); Lochspouts (Ayrshire); Black Spout (Aberdeenshire, Perthshire); Spout Park (West Lothian); Corrie Spout (Stirlingshire); Garnock Spout (Renfrewshire); Spout of Ballagan (Stirlingshire)
Historical Evidence: Sanct Mwngowis Spowtis 1558; Spoutwellis 1585-6; Spoutwells 1662; The Spout of Welltrees 1807
SND Link: spout n; S2 spout n
DOST Link: spout n

Modern Form: stane
Older Scots Form: stane
Etymology: OE stān, ON steinn
PoS: n
Definition: a stone; a rock, a boundary stone, a landmark, a stone used as a meeting place
Modern Examples: Thirlestane (Berwickshire, Selkirkshire); Harestanes (Dunbartonshire, Fife, Roxburghshire); Stanerig (Stirlingshire); Shoestanes (Midlothian); Stenton (Fife); Brigstanes (Kincardineshire); Stenhouse (Dumfriesshire, Edinburgh, Fife); Brotherstone (Berwickshire, Midlothian)
Historical Evidence: Staincros 1165-1214; Steinreise bech 1194-1214; Stanhus 1214-49; Thirlestan c1260; Stenhyve 1607; Steanhous 1666
SND Link: stane n; S1 stane n; S2 stane n; stone n1
DOST Link: stan(e n

Modern Form: stanie
Older Scots Form: stany
Etymology: OE stānig
PoS: a
Definition: abundant in stones; characterised by stone or stones
Modern Examples: Staney Hill (Roxburghshire); Stoneywood (Stirlingshire); Stanygill (Roxburghshire); Stoneyhill Wood (Aberdeen); Stoneyport (Midlothian); Stonyford (Angus); Stoneyflat (Midlothian); Stonywynd (Fife); Stoneyhill (Midlothian)
Historical Evidence: Staniford 1165-82; Stanyacre c1250; Stanyburne 1597; Stanie Mailing 1660 (1663)
SND Link: stane n; stane S2
DOST Link: stany adj

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.)