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auchter or ochter, or octre ; au and o are here found
freely interchanging, as in Auchtertyre or OCHTERTYRE,
AUCHTERNEED, in 1619 Ochterneid, &c. This uachdar
is literally the summit or upper part, hence, a high
field ; then, seemingly, any field, as in AUCHTER-


(4) Bail, baile, a hamlet, or simply a house. We all
have heard of the multitudinous Irish Sallys; and
ball- or balla- is a common prefix in the Isle of Man.
But it is as common in Scotland BALNABRUAICH,
BALLATER, BALLINLUIG, and so almost ad inftnitum.
In the lowlands of Aberdeen alone there are said to be
no less than fifty instances. Occasionally the 6 has
become p, as in BALGONIE, a. 1300, Palgovehy.


(5) Barr, a height or hill, as in BARE, BARRA,
BARRASSIE, &c. ; the aspiration of the b appears in
CRAIGIEVAR, and in the name of ' young LOCHINVAR '
(G. lochan-a-bharra}. But the second part of DUNBAR
probably refers to an Irish St Barr.

(6) Bldr, a plain, as in Blair, BLAIRGOWRIE, BAL-
BLAIR, &c.

(7) Coil, or cuil, a corner, a nook, as in COILANTOGLE,
COLFIN, CULROSS, &c. This word is always apt, in
names, to be confused with coill, 'a wood' (see the List
passim). The island of COLL itself probably means a
' hazel.'

(8) Bail, a field or meadow; the prefix dal- is
always Gaelic, and has this meaning, as in DALAROSSIE,
DALNASPIDAL; but the suffix -dale is always either
Norse (see p. Iv) or English, in Scotland usually the
former, and always means ' valley.'

(9) G-arradh, an enclosure, garden, akin to the Mid.
Eng. garth, and the ordinary Eng. yard, usually found
sometimes as Garry-, as in GARRYNAHINE, ' garden on
the river/ in Lewis ; but yarry in names usually repre-
sents garbli, rough, as in Glengarry. In GARRABOST,
another Lewis name, we have a compound of Gaelic
and Norse, =' garden-place.' Just as in the case of
dal or dale, the prefix gart- is Gaelic, but the suffix
-garth must be English or Norse.

(10) Inver or inbhir, already referred to (pp. xxvii-
xxviii). Unlike aber, and contrary to Isaac Taylor's
idea, inver is found practically all over Scotland, save
in those northern isles where the Norseman has clean
swept the board ; but it is much commoner north than
south of the old Roman Wall. Aber alone does not
occur as a Scottish name, though the railway traveller


in North Wales knows it well. But simple INVER
occurs again and again on the south shore of the
Dornoch Firth, as name of a little village, formerly
Inverlochslm, and near Crathie, and where Bran joins
Tay ; and then there is Loch Inver, so well known to
the Sutherland salmon-fisher. Inver always tends to
slide into inner-, as both old charters and modern
pronunciations amply testify, e.g., Inver- or INNER-
ARITY, Inner- or INVER-KIP, &c. Inver does not exist
in Brythonic Wales, and it is rare in Ireland; these
facts, coupled with its comparative rarity south of
Forth and Clyde, point to its being, in all likelihood, a
Pictish word. Sometimes it helps to form a hybrid
name, as in IXXERWICK, south of Dunbar.

(11) Marjh, a plain, probably akin to mag, 'the palm
of the hand,' as in MACHRAHANISH ; but the final
guttural usually vanishes. Thus we get MAMBEG and
MAMORE, 'little' and 'big plain,' and also such a
curious-looking name as C AMBUS o' MAY, which just
means ' crook of the plain ; ' whilst magJi appears in
two Inverness-shire names as MOY. MEARNS, the old
name for Kincardine, as Dr Skene is never weary of
telling us, is probably magh Gircjinn, to which the only
existing early form, Moerne, seems to point.

(12) The Pictish pette, found in names as Pit-, Pitte-,
Petti- (see p. xxvii.); also, in 1211, we find the form
Put-mullin ( ' land of the mill ' ). After the common
fashion of such words cf. the Eng. ham and ton
pette or pit first means an enclosed bit of land, then a
farm, then the cottages round the farm, and so, a
village. In Gaelic, i.e., the tongue of the Dalriad
Scots, which afterwards overspread the whole land, pi t
is commonly rendered by baile ; it is doubtful if it is
ever rendered by both, ' a hut ' (see PITGAVENY). The


region of pit- is the east centre of Scotland from the
Firth of Forth to Tarbat Ness. There is, perhaps, none
north of Pitkerry, Fearn ; and there seem to be none
at all in the west.

(13) Tulach, a hillock or hill : the unstressed second
syllable usually drops into y or % ; but we have the full
word standing by itself in TULLOCH, near Dingwall,
already so spelt in 1158. Tidach occurs both as prefix
KIRKINTILLOCH. It has somewhat more disguised
itself in MORTLACH, and yet more in MURTHLY, both
of which represent the G. mar t(h)ulach, ' big hill.'

To these, the amateur can, of course, at once
add all those Gaelic words entering into place-
names which have already become part of ordinary
English speech. Such a word is ben, or in its
Brythonic form pen, as a suffix, usually aspirated into
-ven, as in MORVEN, SUILVEN, more rarely thus as a
prefix, e.g., VENLAW and VENNACHAR; penny or penni
has nothing to do with pen (see p. Ivii). Then there
are brae, G. braigh, the upper part of anything, hence
BRAEMAR, the Braes of Balquhidder, &c., but also quite
common in Lowland names, as in Cobble Brae (Fal-
kirk), Whale Brae (Newhaven); cairn; corrie, G.
coire, lit. a cauldron or kettle ; craig or crag, and its
diminutive craigan ; glen; inch, G. innis, an island
or links; knock, G. cnoc, a hill; loch, and its diminu-
tive lochan; and strath. Most of these words have
only been used by Southron tongues for a century, or a
little more or less. Sibbald in his well-known History
of Fife (edition 1710) does not speak of Ben Lomond,
but uses the cumbrous phrase 'Lomundian mountain.'
The earliest quotation for ben which the writer can
find is for the year 1771, when a T. Russell in Den-


holm's Tour Through Scotland (1804, p. 49), writes :
' Prompt thec Ben. Lomond's fearful height to climb.'
]Jr Murray's earliest instance is for 1788 ; and the
earliest example in his great dictionary for the use of
the word cairn as a landmark is from John Wesley in



WHEN we come to deal with the Norse names in Scot-
land, perhaps to say Scandinavian names would be
more correct, we find ourselves amongst a group most
interesting, and far more numerous than the outsider
would think. The story of the Norseman's deeds in
Scotland has been skimmed over but lightly by most
historians, and therefore it may be useful to set at least
the bones of that history before the reader. Dr Skene
thinks there is proof of Frisians, i.e., men from Holstein,
in Dumfriesshire even before the year 400 A.D. How-
ever that may be we have certain evidence that, before
the 8th century passed away, bold Vikings from Den-
mark and Norway had already begun to beach their
galleys on our long-suffering coasts. In 793 we find
their rude feet on holy Lindisfarne, close to the modern
Scottish border ; and in 794 they swooped down among
the Hebrides, being forced forth from their homes
because their own barren rocks could not sustain the
growing population. A field the size of a large pocket-
handkerchief cannot feed many extra mouths. This
quest for resting-place and sustenance drove some as
far away as the Volga ; it urged others over the cold

1 Their importance and greater difficulty incline us to put this
chapter before the English names, of which some are earlier in historic


seas, to Iceland and Greenland, and some rested not
till they had coasted down to where mighty New York
now spreads and grows. The uprise in the next century
of ambitious Harold of the Fair Hair (Haarfagr), who
at length made himself absolute king of Norway, drove
out many more of his most active opposers, who found
in the numerous rocky bays and friths of Western
Scotland the quarters most suited for the plunder-
ing forays of their long-oared ships. King Harold
followed after them, conquered all the isles away
as far south as Man (875 A.D.), and made his brother
Sigurd their first Jarl. Even before this the Orkneys
had been a station of call for the Vikings ; while
by the 10th century Norse rule had spread over all
the Hebrides, Caithness, and all but the south-west of
Sutherland. It has little affected Scottish topography
south of the river Oykel ; though latterly it included
the west of Inverness, Argyle, and all Arran, and even
reached as far as old Dumbarton.

In Orkney and Shetland the Viking completely
superseded the Pictish Celt, who, so far as place-
names are concerned, has strange to tell left scarcely
a trace behind. Almost the only exception, and
it is just half a one, is the name ORKNEY itself;
and one other partial instance is the Moulhead of
Deerness, Orkney, the Muli of the Saga, which is just
the G. maol, 'brow of a rock, cape.' It must be
remembered that here the Norseman had 600 years
and more in which to do his obliterating work. The
Nordreyar, 'northern isles,' as they were called in
contrast with the Sudreyar, 'southern isles' or Hebrides,
did not escape from his dominion till 14G9, when
James III. of Scotland married Margaret, daughter
of Christian I. of Denmark, and received these northern


isles as her dowry. But the Hebrides only remained
an appanage to the Norwegian crown for a scant
three years after King Haco was so sorely smitten, and
his fleet shattered, at the brave battle of Largs in

In these parts of northern and western Scotland,
Scandinavian names are found in more or less abund-
ance. 1 They also form quite a notable colony in Dum-
friesshire, especially between the rivers Esk and Nith ;
but the distinctive gill, beck, and rig spread a good deal
further than that away into Kirkcudbright, and up
Moffat Water, and not a few have even flowed over
into Peebles ; though on all Tweedside there is not a
single representative of the characteristic Norse suffixes
beck, force, garth, thorpe, thwoMe, and wald. The
Dumfries colony of names, like the Scandinavian names
in the Isle of Man, bear a more strongly Danish cast
than the others. This points to the now generally-
admitted fact that this special group of names is due
to an irruption of Danes, coming north from England
via Carlisle, and not to any landing of fair-haired pirates
direct from the sea. The native Gaels called the
Norsemen 'the fair strangers,' and the Danes 'the
dark strangers ' or gaill. The most hurried comparison
will show how like the Dumfries Danish names are to
the kindred names across the Border in Cumberland
fell and beck and bie and thwaite are alike common to

In other parts of Scotland, especially those at some
distance from the sea, Norse footprints are few and
far between. Even on the east coast itself, south of
Dingwall, undoubtedly Norse names are very rare.

1 Though we can remember none in Dumbarton.


Mr W. J. Liddoll 1 has drawn attention to a series of
interesting names connected, he thinks, with the doings
of one of these pirate Northmen called Buthar, cor-
rupted into Butter, the man after whom, he thinks,
bonnie Buttermere is named. He, it is said, has also
given his name to Butterstone or Butterstown, near
Dunkeld, and his path from thence to the sea is
marked by an old road over the Ochils, still called the
Butter Road, and past a Kinross-shire farm called
Buttenvell, on to Largo Bay. However, Mr A. J.
Stewart of Moneydie, a careful student, says Butters-
town is from the G. bothar, a road or lane, its name
having once been Bailebothar. There is another
' Buter mere ' away down in Wilts, mentioned in a
charter of King Athclstan's, 931, and there are several
spots in Galloway called Butter Hule : all probably
refer to the bittern and its haunts, the Scotch name
for that bird being butter, the Mid. Eng. bitourc, Old
Fr. butor. It ought to be noted, en passant, that
here we have several instances of names which seem to
say ' butter,' and yet have nothing whatever to do with
that useful commodity.

It is usually said that Icelandic is the nearest modern
representative of the tongue which these Viking-invaders
spake ; it would be more correct to say it was Icelandic
itself. 2 Before the year 1300 all the lands peopled by
the Northmen Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland,
the Faroes, Orkney, Shetland, and the Hebrides used
the same speech, and so did the Norse or Danish settlers
in England, Ireland, and the mainland of Scotland.
And this northern tongue, the language of the old

1 See Scottish Gcograph. Mag. for July 1885.

2 In our List will be found both 'O.N.,' i.e., Old Norse, and
1 Icel.,' but these mean almost the same thing.


Eddas and Sagas, differed as little from modern Ice-
landic as Shakspcre's English from Browning's. The
remote Arctic isle has preserved the mother-tongue
with little change. Thus in studying the Scandinavian
place-names of Scotland it is chiefly the Icelandic
dictionary on which we must rely; though the
amateur must again be warned that unless he have
some little knowledge of Norse speech, knowing to seek
the origin of a name in luh- under ILV-, and the like, he
will find himself unable, even with his dictionary, to
explicate many unquestionably Norse forms. Modern
Swedish and Danish are to Icelandic as Italian and
Spanish to Latin. They did not begin palpably to
diverge from the parent stem till the 13th century.
Yet scholars are pretty well agreed that in the Scottish
names which we are now dealing with, all of which
probably existed before 1300, there are some which
have a decidedly Danish cast, whilst the majority are
rather Norse. The Norsemen seem to have loved
mountainous regions like their own stern, craggy
fatherland ; hence it is chiefly Norse forms which we
find in the names among the uplands of Southern
Scotland and North- West England, and chiefly Danish
forms on the flat and fertile stretches of Dumfries, a
district so like the Dane's own flat homeland, where
hills are a rarity even greater than trees in

It is also pretty generally understood that the old
Norse speech was near of kin to our own Old English,
which, of course, came from the flat coast-region imme-
diately south-west of modern Denmark ; and the
Norsemen themselves emphatically recognised this
near kinship. The best living representative of Old
English is Lowland or Broad Scots, that most ex-


press! ve of tongues, so rich in vivid adjectives, whose
rapid decay is almost as much to be regretted as that
of Gaelic. Broad Scots is just the survival of
Anglian or Northern English, giving to us still, in its
pronunciations, the same sounds as fell from the lips
of the old kings and warriors of Bernicia and Deira.
And Broad Scots, both in vocabulary and pronuncia-
tion, approximates, in scores of cases, far more closely
to Danish and Icelandic than modern English does. 1
In consequence of this, when \ve have no external
evidence to guide us, it is sometimes impossible to say
whether a given name is of Anglo-Saxon or of Norse
birth. So far as history has to tell, some few names
in South-East Scotland might be either, to wit, names
containing forms common to both, such as dale and
t/iaiu, garth and holm.

In quite another direction there are proofs that the
West Highland Gaels borrowed a few words from the
Northmen, who settled so plentifully upon their bays
and lochs, without leave asked. There is the Icel.
gja or ' goe,' a chasm, which the Gael has made into
Geodha. In Colonsay there is a Hud ha Gheadha or
' red cleft,' where the Old Norse a is still preserved.
The word firth or frith, the Icel. fjorftr, and N. fjord,
is, of itself, sufficient proof that the Norse galleys sailed
round every angle of our coasts, north and south,
east and west. There are firths everywhere from
Pentland to Solway, and from Dornoch to Clyde. The
Gael has copiously adopted this word fjord, but in his
mouth the / gets aspirated, and, therefore, soon dis-
appears. Thus on the west coast we have few ' friths,'
but plenty of names ending in -ord, -ort, -ard, -art ; the

1 See "Worsaa;, The Danes and Norwegians in England, Scotland,
and Ireland ; and J. Veitch, History of Scot. Border, pp. 31-36.


usual pronunciation in modern Gaelic is arst. Such
is the origin of KNOYDART, ' Cnud's ' or ' Canute's
fjord,' ENARU, MOYDART, SNIZORT. The / remains in
BROADFORD, ' broad fjord,' and MELFORT. And if the
Gael borrowed from the Norsemen, we are told there
are traces in modern Norse of vice versa borrowing
from the Gael.

The stiident is well served with early forms of our
Scandinavian place-names. For all the ' Norse region,'
except Dumfries, Orkney, and Shetland, the Origines
Parockiales liberally supply us with old name-forms,
and the Dunrobin charters cited there often take us
back to c. 1220. For Orkney itself we have the curious
early rental-books of the Bishops of Orkney, which
have all been printed, the oldest dating from 1497.
For the northern counties we also have Torfa3us' His-
tory of Nonvay, dating c. 1266 ; but here, far above
all else in value, is the famous Orkneyinga Saga, so
well edited for English readers by Dr Joseph Anderson.
Its date seems c. 1225, but it embodies songs from
several earlier skalds. Of course the Norse names
have not altered nearly so much as have Celtic names
in a now English region, and thus early forms are not
so often of crucial importance ; but the names NORTH
and SOUTH RONALDSAY (q.v.) are pertinent examples to
the contrary.

No one in Scotland now speaks a Scandinavian tongue,
but it seems to have lingered on in far sequestered Foula,
away to the west of the Shetlands, till c. 1775 ; and the
local speech of Shetland and Orkney is still full of
Scandinavian words. This is little to be wondered at
seeing that, for centuries, Norwegian kings were wont
not seldom there to live, and even there to die. And
though the speech be gone the physiognomist can still


pick out the Old Norse face, with the blue eyes and fair
hair, almost all over Scotland. One usage borrowed
from a Norse source has had large influence in Scottish
place-names, viz., the measuring of land by rental, the
unit being the ounceland Old G. unga, Mod. G. unnsa,
L. uncia, as in UNGANAB in North Uist, the land for
which the abbot (&) was paid an ounce of silver as
rental. 'Oanceland' rarely is met with; but the smaller
amounts are quite common. In an ounce of silver there
were held to be 18 or 20 dwts., and 'penny' lands
(O.~Ei.penig,pening,Icel.%)enning-r, Dan. penge) abound,
e.g., PENNYGHAEL, Pennymuir, &c. ; so do all the lesser
sums down to the farthing or feorling there is a place
of this name in Skye and even to the half- farthing.
In the Orkney early rentals we read of a ' cowsworth '
of land, which was = J, \, or -J- of a mark of land. In
the same rentals (c. 1500) we find a ' Cowbuster ' or
'cow-place ' in Firth, and a Noltland or 'cattle-land' in

Though the Danes visited Ireland too, and were there
in power all along the east coast for at least a century,
having Dublin for a time as their chief seat, there are
now barely twenty names of Danish origin in all Ireland.
This is rather remarkable when we find their print so
plain and oft in Scotland. The leading place-names in
several Scottish counties are all Norse in Shetland,
STROMNESS ; in Caithness, WICK and THURSO ; in
Sutherland, GOLSPIE, HELMSDALE, and TONGUE ; in
Ross, DINGWALL and TAIN ; in Bute, ROTHESAY and
BRODICK. It has been already stated that in Orkney
and Shetland Norse names have a complete monopoly ;
in the Outer Hebrides, where now every man speaks
Gaelic, the Norse monopoly is nearly as complete.



Captain Thomas, R.N., who very carefully investigated
the subject some forty years ago, reports that in the
Lews Norse names outnumber the Gaelic ones by four to
one, and that in all Harris there are only two pre-Norse
or Celtic names. No place-name of any consequence
in the whole Long Island is of Celtic origin, unless we
call that queer name BENBECULA an exception. The
marks of the Viking grow rarer in the isles south of
Ardnamurchan, for here he dwelt about a century less.
Jura has very few, Islay has a good many Conisby,
Lanay, Nerby, Oversay, Scaraboll, &c.; Captain Thomas
says, here Norse names are to Gaelic as three
to one. But, though both JURA and ISLAY are
words with a Norse look, and commonly reputed of
Norse origin, they are not so (q.v.}. Islay 's real spelling
is He, which Dr Skene thinks an Iberian or pro-Celtic
word ; but lie has been ' improved' by some would-be
clever moderns into Islay, which would literally mean
' island-island.'

Norse and Saxon names sometimes give us a little
glimpse of mythology, sometimes of natural, and yet more
frequently of family, history. The Teuton was much
fonder of leaving the stamp of his name behind him
than the Celt. The Saxon was even prouder of his own
name than the Northman ; and Norse names of the
common Saxon type of DOLPHINTON and SYMINGTON
are rare. HELMSDALE may be called after some Viking
of the name of Hjalmund ; ' Hjalmundal ' is the form
we find in the Orkney inr/a Saga ; and GOLSPIE may be
from some man Gold or Goa. And from Scottish place-
names we can pick out a good many of the gods and
men oft sung in the grand Old Norse epics. Take, <?.//.,
THURSO, O.N. Thorsa, Thor, the thunder-god's river.
This is one of the cases where the river has given its


name to the later town upon it. It is almost always
so ; even ' Water of Leith ' is only a deceptive modern
instance of the reverse, for as early as c. 1145 we find
' Inverlet ' or INVER-LEITH. The mighty Thor is also
commemorated in THURSTON, and in many English
names, Thurleigh, Thurlow, &c. Ran, the giant goddess,
queen of the sea, much feared by the Icelanders, has
her name preserved in Loch RANZA, in Arran; in 1433
Ransay, i.e., ' Ran's isle.' Hero-names are seen in
HAROLDSWICK, Shetland; CARLOWAY or Carl's bay,
Lewis ; and SUN ART or ' Sweyn's fjord,' Morven. Then
there are those two Orkney isles, North and South
Ronaldsay, which everyone would naturally think must
both be called after the same man, Ronald, Rognvald,
or Reginald these names are all one. But it is not
so. SOUTH RONALDSAY was formerly Rognvalsey or
' Rognvald's isle ;' but NORTH RONALDSAY was origi-
nally Rinanscy, in which name we, following Professor
Munch of Christiania, may safely recognise the much-
commemorated St Ringan or Ninian of Whithorn. It
is popular corruption and ignorance which have assimi-
lated the two. We have been giving only northern
examples of places called after gods or men ; but they
occur, more sparsely, in the south also, e.g., PERCEBIE,
' Percy's town,' in Dumfriesshire.

Unlike Celtic, Norse yields us few prefixes for the
making-up of our place-names. They are chiefly two :

(1) Fors, which is just the Icelandic for ' water-fall,'
familiar to every tourist in the English lakes as force,
Stockgill Force, and all the rest. FORSE, pure and
simple, is the name of a Caithness hamlet, and FORRES
is probably the self-same word. As prefix we find it
in FORSINARD and FORSINAIN in East Sutherland.

(2) Toft, Icelandic and Danish for 'an inclosed field


near a house,' as in TOFTCOMBS, near Biggar ; but it is
commoner as a suffix, as in Aschantoft and Thurdis-
toft. But, if the prefixes be few, Norse has yielded us
suffixes in abundance. To garth (Icel. gar$r) and to
dale (Icel., &c., dai) we have already referred (p. xlvi.) ;
examples of the latter are easily found, as in BEKKIE-
DALE and HELMSDALE ; very often it is suffixed to some
Celtic word, as in ATTADALE and CARRADALE. Some-
times the Gael has forgotten the meaning of the dale,
and so has added his own prefix strath- ; hence that
tautology ' Strathhalladale.' An interesting set of names
is connected with the suffix -ahiel, -shiels, -shield,
-shields; all these forms appear. This, like the Scottish
shieling or shealing, a hut or bothy, comes from the Icel.
skjdl, a shelter. The O.N. deali is still used in Nor-
Avay for a temporary or shepherd's hut. The shel- in
' shelter ' is in root the same, being connected with the

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