A Dictionary of British Place-Names

Front Cover
A. D. Mills
OUP Oxford, Oct 9, 2003 - Reference - 576 pages
3 Reviews
Over 15,000 A-Z entries covering England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, make this the most comprehensive and up-to-date dictionary of British place names available. From Abbas Combe to Zennor, it gives the meaning and origin of names of counties, towns, and villages, tracing their development from earliest times to the present day. Invaluable for anyone finding out about a local area, lexicographers and local historians alike will be fascinated by what these place-names reveal. The dictionary features an in-depth introductory essay which discusses the chronology and development of British place-names, different types of formation, and sections focusing on Irish, Welsh, and Scottish place-names. It also includes an extensive bibliography for further research, maps of Britain showing old and new boundaries, and provides a Glossary of common elements in place-names. This critically acclaimed dictionary has been described as 'an indispensable travellling companion' (Landscape History), and 'another volume for every local historian's bookshelf' (Local Historian).

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I find this book to be an extremely valuable guide to how places got their names. It should be kept firmly in mind that the logic behind the meanings isn't guaranteed to be what the reader thinks it should be - things have changed a lot in the past 2,500 years - but this book isn't primarily concerned with the logic, just the meanings. It's the starting point for any further discovery, not the end result, unless the derivation is all you want to know. Without this, you wouldn't be able to start at all.
It also helps to undo some of the "fixes" people have insisted upon over the ages. ("Cambridge" translates to "Bridge over the river Granta", which apparently deeply offended the sensibilities of cartographers who renamed the river Cam as the original name was clearly an error on the part of the locals up to that point. And this was a Good Thing.)
 

Review: A Dictionary of English Place-Names

User Review  - Anne Hamilton - Goodreads

Not quite comprehensive - which perhaps I wouldn't have noticed except I was looking for placenames that turned out not to be listed. Great if you're not looking for anything too obscure. Read full review

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