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 Older Scots FormEtymologyPoSDefinitionModern ExamplesHistorical EvidenceSND LinkDOST LinkNotes
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
cotcot, coteOE cotna small house, a humble dwelling, a cottage; a sheep-houseSaltcoats (Ayrshire, East Lothian); Cotts of Innes (Morayshire); Cauldcoats (Midlothian); Gatehousecote (Roxburghshire); Lochcote (West Lothian); Banks Cott (Kirkcudbrightshire); Butchercoat (Berwickshire); Coates (Midlothian)Grenhilcotis c1320; Saltcotis 1368; Lochcot(t)is 1471; Coitcroft 1576cot n; S2 cot ncot, cott n3; cote, coit n2See also DOST cotland n and cote-, coit-, coatland, n; and DOST cot-toun 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
spoutspoutME spowtena 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 conduitThe 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)Sanct Mwngowis Spowtis 1558; Spoutwellis 1585-6; Spoutwells 1662; The Spout of Welltrees 1807spout n; S2 spout nspout n
steidstedeOE stedenan inhabited place, a hamlet or village; an area of land, a landed property or estate, a farm; a dwelling-place; the site of a building, the piece of land on which a building standsNewstead (Roxburghshire); Kirkstead (Selkirkshire); Millstead (Dumfriesshire); Castle Steads (Midlothian); Middlestead (Selkirkshire)Selestede 1165-1214; Castilsted 13thC; le stede de Kynewarde 1509; Hannykyn kill steid 1560steid n; S2 steid nsted(e, steid n1
wallwellOE wælla, wiellana natural spring of water which forms a pool or spring; a source of water with medicinal, miraculous or supernatural properties, a holy well; a tide race in the seaNinewells (Dundee); Wellheads (Banffshirre); Craigswalls (Berwickshire); Drywells (Banffshire); Mungo's Walls (Berwickshire); Walton (Fife); St Mungo's Well (Aberdeenshire); Billerwell (Roxburghshire); Black Walls (Fife); Springwells (Banffshire); Blindwells (Angus)Macchuswel 1159; Kalde Welle c1190; Kersewelle 1195; Blynd Wollis 1203-22; Creswel 1214-49; Caldwell 1294wall n; S2 wall nwel(l, wal(l, wol(l n
waterywattiryOE wæterigafull of water, well watered, wateryEaster Watery Knowe (Angus); Wester Watery Knowe (Angus); Wateryslack (Aberdeenshire); Waterybutts (Perthshire)Wattridike c1230; Watryraw 1405; Wetterybuttis 1567; Watrielawes 1664water n; S1 water n; S2 water nwattiry, wat(t)(e)ry 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 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.)