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Viking place names

Many places in Britain still have Viking names. They are particularly common in northern and eastern England because the Vikings settled there in large numbers. For example, WITHERSLACK in Cumbria comes from vithar (wood) + slacki (shallow valley) so it means “wood in a hollow”.

Here are some Viking words and their meanings (the spellings have been simplified !):

Word Meaning
AIN one/solitary
BECK stream
BY farm
DALE valley
FELL hill
GARTH enclosure (usually a grass paddock near to a farmhouse)
GILL/GHYLL ravine, narrow steep-sided valley
HOLME island or meadow field in marshland
KIRK church
KELD well/spring
SCAR outcrop of bare rock
SKEL spill/flood
STY pathway
THORP(E) outlying farm
THREL slave
TOFT cottage/house-site

Now see if you can “translate” the following place-names. Hover over the place name for the answer.

AINSTYBECKHOLMEKIRKBYFELKIRKAINGARTHSCARGILLSKELDALEKIRKTHORPETHRELKELDBECKTOFTE

These are all typically ‘northcountry’ names and would be most unusual in the south of England. Where ‘gill’ appears at the front of a name it is usually a personal name and is likely to be Saxon (e.g. Gillingham).

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