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A History of English Place Names and Where They Came From (Hardback)

Local History British History P&S History Social History

By John Moss
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 408
Illustrations: 9 black and white maps
ISBN: 9781526722843
Published: 18th May 2020

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The origin of the names of many English towns, hamlets and villages date as far back as Saxon times, when kings like Alfred the Great established fortified borough towns to defend against the Danes. A number of settlements were established and named by French Normans following the Conquest. Many are even older and are derived from Roman placenames. Some hark back to the Vikings who invaded our shores and established settlements in the eighth and ninth centuries.

Most began as simple descriptions of the location; some identified its founder, marked territorial limits, or gave tribal people a sense of their place in the grand scheme of things. Whatever their derivation, placenames are inextricably bound up in our history and they tell us a great deal about the place where we live.

John Moss’s book is one of the those that you never have to read cover to cover, but can pick it up at will and learn something new each time about place name origins, old words, and quite how our land has ended up in the ownership that it has!

Highly recommended, enjoy the lessons it brings!

For the Love of Books

As featured on Lost Cousins

Lost Cousins

A lot of different places introduced in the book. You get a brief introduction/history of the place before moving onto the next place. You get a map of the area as well. Good if you like knowing the meaning of a place.

NetGalley, Alexandra Roth

This is the type of book everyone would like to have in their own personal library, or maybe if you’re a bit weird like me. This book basically does what it says on the cover, it must have the name of every village or town in England in the book and with each name comes a small paragraph that explains how the place got its name and the reasons for it. At the beginning of the book there is a section that looks at the origins of where and how names come about such as looking at the Danes and Normans and how the words would be pronounced, and there is a nice little glossary too. Each chapter focuses on a different area which makes it all the easier to read up or find the place your after. While this is a reference book, it is an excellent read and very informative and certainly a book that will happily stay on my bookshelf for many years. Can I request a book on welsh place names too, please.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

I am an Anglophile and love to visit the UK. This book would be great fun as we drive around when visiting my friend. She has another book like this one that goes into the origins of place names. I do like this one as the text seems clearer and more straight forward. It was a treat to go through and pick out places I have been and things I have seen. I appreciated the section at the beginning that went into the history of England and therefore the evolution of the language. It was a timely reminder of the influences.

NetGalley, Susan Johnston

I think that this would be a go to book for anyone wanting to garner information about the origin of place names. It was highly interesting to read the section regarding the origin of the general prefixes and suffixes that many place names have.

NetGalley, Anna Elliott

This book covers a lot of ground in a relatively small number of pages and for my interest level, it got it just right. For me, it was not a book to be read cover to cover but to dip into as time and interest required. Whilst that may sound a little slipshod, it is not as I took a deliberate dip to check out the places that I already know and will, when COVID-19 lets us roam again, dip in each time I visit a place new to me.

Along with the explanations of individual place names there is a lot of background information on how, in general, names came about and why they came about. All in all a nice book to keep in the car.

NetGalley, Jon Jonnson

Acton Trussell, Long Duckmanton, Bradfield Combust – yes, many are the places in England that have peculiar names to distinguish them (and that's before we get to the meme-friendly rude names). This book admits there are far too many places in all for it to cover, but it does make a very good fist of explaining why the more significant are so titled, and gives handy background to our history as regards to who came over and when and what place-names they chose to suit themselves. Thus, with the knowledge within, you can work out what pretty much any place name might have meant. Observations from a strong browse range from the general – it's surprising how many places were named in their Latin version, even in the middle ages – to the specific – isn't it fun to think of waterways called "River River" and heights called "Hill Hill"? Both feature.

NetGalley, John Lloyd

Super interesting book, especially for people interested in words and history. Loved it, lots of fun!

NetGalley, Ruth Parker

What an interesting book and ideal for dipping into when you hear about/visit a new place as understanding the history of the name will help you understand the place itself.

NetGalley, Tracey McHardy

What did I get myself into?
We do not usually sit and think of the meaning of place names. We do not attribute much meaning to them, we just remember the feeling and memories those places left on us. However, you have got to admit that English place names are uniquely strange and curious and my blood runs faster when I get myself into linguistic discoveries as a linguist, language enthusiast and translator whose biggest dream is to become a polyglot.
Well, this is what I got myself into: A very detailed, well-researched reference book that offers interesting etymological facts.
Apparently English place names take their roots from Celtic people, Romans, Anglo-saxon and Scandinavian culture and Norse and Welsh languages, not to forget early christian settlements and later the religious impact, the effect of monarchy and aristocrats even females, the ladies of the land, though they did not have rights of ownership, left their footprints, too. This is a linguistic feast for language lovers and etymology enthusiast.
We travel on a map of Britain to places and settlements and analyze the etymological backgrounds of the names. The plain place names, which meant nothing before now have a character, a history and meaning History and linguistics. The places become more tangible with modern-day interpretations of archaic languages and it was quite fascinating to learn that most names come from nature - trees, plants, rivers and seas.
Learning Liverpool meant muddy pool, Manchester - breast-shaped hill (!!), Oxford - the river where the oxen cross and Gotham, which is derived from the words “Goat” and “Hamm” - an enclosure -, thus mean “an enclosure where the goats are kept,” were some of the most interesting facts of the book. Well suck it Batman!
A profound and informative book for the professionals and enthusiasts.

NetGalley, Gizem Uzan

This was just a really fun read. I learned some things about the history of English place names and some stuff about the roots of the English language. There are also some really ridiculous town and village names out there in England. It's a long book, but I would like it on my shelf because there's so much information in it.

NetGalley, Caidyn Young

Very well-researched and highly informative, A History of English Place Names delivers exactly what its title promises, and does so with a great focus on detail. If history, names, or English geography facts are your thing, then A History of English Place Names and Where They Came From is definitely a book for you.

NetGalley, Ioanna Tatari

An interesting book about the origins of places and towns of England... you can tell a lot of research was done and done well.

NetGalley, Sandra Berryman

An amazing researched resource in one handy volume! If you're at all curious about English place names and where they came from, you'll learn something here. I found it fascinating, though more to browse through than to read cover-to-cover. I had always wondered where the name Hockering came from (my ancestors were from there). Apparently, it comes from a word meaning "rounded hill". The word nerd in me is pleased!

NetGalley, Erin Childs

John Moss explores the origins of English town names, from the Viking era through to the Middle Ages

Family Tree online, 18th February 2020

Click here to listen

Talk Radio Europe interview with John Moss and presenter Dave Hodgson

About John Moss

John Moss studied Fine Arts and English in Wolverhampton and Manchester Art Schools, before taking early retirement after teaching and lecturing in Art & Design. He founded a Graphic Design company in 1997. Retired at last, he began writing: a science fiction trilogy in 2013, and now his first foray into historical non-fiction.

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