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 FormEtymologyPoSDefinitionModern Examples Historical EvidenceSND LinkDOST LinkNotes
weelweilOE wǣlna deep pool in a river or a narrow part of an estuary or the sea; a whirlpoolBloody Wiel (Wigtownshire); Maxwellheugh (Roxburghshire); Reidweil (Kirkcudbrightshire); Cairdie Wiel (Wigtownshire); Scar Weil (Kirkcudbrightshire); Old Weal (Roxburghshire); Cantin Wiel (Wigtownshire)Macch'swel 1159; Sant Katrynis weill 1553; the guidwyffis weill 1586; Craigweill 1593weel n1weil(l, weel(l n
burnburnOE burnana brook or stream; water (from a fountain or well)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)Merburne c1170; Triernburn c1200; Bradestrothirburne c1220; Kyrkeburne 1229; le Burnhedis 1505; Burneside 1548burn n; S1 burn n; S2 burn nburn nSee also SND brin n1
brig, briggbrigOE brycg, ON bryggjana bridge; a reef, a long low ridge of sea-rocks; a large flat stone, a flagstoneBlackbriggs (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)Prestesbrige c1150; Hatherbrig c1190; Risibrigg c1240; Briggate c1266; Brighous 1337; Bryghend 1359brig n1; S1 brig n1; S2 brig n1brig, bryg n
stankstankOF estancna pool, a pond, a fish pond (on an estate); the area of ground around a pond; a small semi-stagnant (overgrown) sheet of water, a stretch of slow-moving water, a sluggish stream; a ditch, an open watercourse; a gutter, a drainage channelBlack Stank (Wigtownshire); Stankards (West Lothian); Fivestanks (West Lothian); Gowan Stank (West Lothian)Castilstank 13thC; Hawedenstank 1397; Houden Stank 1398; Stank of Fowles 1590stank n1; S2 stank n1stank n1
bleck, blackblak, blakeOE blæcablack; (of a hill) covered with heather; (of a house) built of drystone and earthBlack 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)Blakepol c1190; Blachedene c1200; Blachope 1218; Blakhall c1330S2 bleck adj; black adj; S1 black adj, S2 black adj; black-house n; S1 black-house n; S2 black-house nblak, blac(k a; blake, blaik aSee also DOST bla, blae, a
birkenbirkinOE *bircenabirchen, consisting of birch-woodBirkenshaw (North Lanarkshire, West Lothian); Birkenbush (Angus, Banffshire); Birkenhill Croft (Morayshire); Birken Burn (Stirlingshire); Birkenside (Berwickshire)Birchinsyde 1158; Birkenside c 1170; Birkynshawe 1336-37; Birkenbrewell 1664birken abirkin, birken a
bentbentOE beonetna 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 hillsideBenthead (Ayrshire, West Lothian); Gullane Bents (East Lothian); Bentfoot (North Lanarkshire); The Bents (West Lothian); White Bents (Angus)The Bentis 1586; Bents of Balruddie 1662; Broadbents 1773; Southbent 1755bent n1; S1 bent n1; bent n2bent n
bernbern, barnOE berernna barnBarnhill (Glasgow, Inverness) Kingsbarns (Fife); West Barns (East Lothian); Barnhead (Angus); Barnton (Edinburgh); Barn Hills (Wigtownshire); Barns Ness (East Lothian); Barns of Craig (Angus)Northbernis 1328; Suthbarne 1373; Berntoun 1390-1406; le Barnis 1490; bornestede 1560S1 bern n2; S2 bern n2bern n1; barn, barne n; ADDS barn n; born(e n
air, ayre, ireayrON eyrrna gravelly beach, a gravel bank, a bed of gravelAyre of Breiwick (Shetland); Woodcock Air (Dumfriesshire); Ayre of Deepdale (Shetland); Ayre of Cara (Orkney); Ayre Dyke (Shetland); Ayre of Westermill (Orkney)Wodecok Heyr 1333-34; Wodecokheir 1360; the ayr of Kyrkwall 1539; Stour-air 1809air n4; ire n2ayr n
auld, owld, oldald, auld, oldOE aldaold; former, previousAuldhame (East Lothian); Auldgirth (Dumfriesshire); Auldhall (Fife, Stirlingshire); Old Liston (Midlothian); Auldcastle Road (Inverness); Oldmeldrum (Aberdeenshire)Aldeham 1094; Aldehamstoc 1127; Aldestelle 1136; Aldetuneburne c1200; Auldton 1329auld adj; S1 auld adj; S2 auld adj; old adj; S1 old adj; S2 old adj; owld adj; S2 owld adjald, auld a; old(e, ould(e a
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
garthgarthON garðrnan enclosure, yard, a small patch of enclosed cultivated ground, enclosed pasture (and the house attached to it); a shallow part or stretch of a river which may be used as a fordApplegarth (Dumfriesshire); Garthdee (Aberdeenshire); Fairgirth (Wigtownshire); Auldgirth (Dumfriesshire); Martin Girth (Kirkcudbrightshire); Inchgarth (Aberdeenshire)Apilgarth 1361; Le fischegarth de Esk 1492; Apilgirth 1505; Algarth 1531garth n; S1 garth n; S2 garth ngarth nSee also DOST fisch-garth n
tountounOE tūnna farm (and farm buildings); a hamlet inhabited by estate tenants; a villlage, a burgh, a town; (in Shetland) the enclosed arable ground of a farmAnderston (Glasgow); Edgerston (Roxburghshire); Mertoun (Berwickshire); Ferryton (Ross and Cromarty); Beckton (Dumfriesshire); Smithton (Inverness); Westerton (Glasgow); Templeton (Angus); Synton (Selkirkshire)Hadyton 1098; Sprostona 1119-24; Clerchetun c1141; Kyrchetune c1145; Hadingtoun a1150; Langtune c1150toun n; S1 toun n; S2 toun ntoun, town(e, ton(e nSee also DOST toun end n and toun heid n
aikakeOE ācnoak, an oak treeAikrig (Dumfriesshire); Oakwood (Selkirkshire); Oakbank (Midlothian); Oakfield (Fife)Akedene c1204; Aikwod 1567-68; Aikrig 1662; Oak Wood 1684aik n; S2 aik n; oak nake, aik n; ADDS ake, aik n; (oke) ock(e n
aikenakin, okenOE ǣcen, ācenaconsisting of oaks, oakenAikendean (Midlothian); Aikenhead (Glasgow); Aikencleugh (Ayrshire); Aikenshaw (Dunbartonshire)Akinhede 1260; Akynhevid 1379; Eck(i)eden 1612 Oakendean 1773aiken adjakin, aikin a; oken, oikin, oa(c)ken a
know, knoweknow, knollOE cnollna small rounded hill, a hillock or mound (sometimes associated with fairies)Acreknowe (Roxburghshire); Crowdieknowe (Dumfriesshire); Knowe of Grugar (Orkney); Mill Knowe (Argyllshire); Tappetknowe (Stirlingshire); Silver Knowe (Perthshire); Gallows Knowe (West Lothian); Knowe of Steeringlo (Orkney) Knowehead (Aberdeenshire, Angus); Broomknowe (Fife); Knowe of Burgarth (Shetland); Silverknowes (Edinburgh); Dam Knowe (Wigtownshire)Brunecnolh 1165-1249; Knolestruthyr c1350; Lie widderitknow 1599; Clerks Know 1754know n; S1 know n; S2 know nknoll n; know 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 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.)