Kent Place Names Their Origins
This section is dedictated to giving visitors an incite as to what the names of the kent villages and towns really mean.
Acol is first recorded as Acholt in 1270, and the name goes back to the Old English, ac for oak and holt for wood. The name thus indicates a wood of oak-trees.
Addington is etymologically the estate of Eadda or Æddi, an Old English personal name. Kents Addington was first recorded in the Domesday Book as Eddintune, and it shares its name with at least four other Addingtons across the country.
Adisham, like Addington, traces its name back to the Old English personal name Æddi, and means much the same thing. In this case, though, the associated area has survived not as a tun but a ham both words indicating a village, homestead or estate. The name was first recorded as far back as the early seventh century, in the form of Adesham.
Aldington denotes a homestead belonging to the followers or family of Ealda. The -ing- element indicates followers or family, while the final syllable represents the Old English tun homestead, estate.
Alkham.The idea preserved in the name of Alkham is of a homestead or ham within a sheltered place, or used as some kind of sanctuary. The root is the Old English ealh, and the etymology is clearer in the towns Middle English form, Ealhham.
Allhallows was first recorded in 1285 as Ho All Hallows, and was named from the twelfth-century church of All Saints. Ho here indicates a spur of land, and is the same word as that found in St Marys Hoo.
Allington is a common place-name, and Kent has two of them. They are both derived from the Old English tun farmstead, but one, near Lenham, came to us through a thirteenth-century form Eilnothinton, and was associated with a man called Æthelnoth, whereas the second, near Maidstone, comes via eleventh-century Elentun and was connected with a man called Ælla.
Appledore is literally an apple-tree, from the single Old English word apuldore, and the town is thus a place at the apple-tree. It was first recorded back in the tenth century as Apuldre.
Ash takes its name from the tree, whose name goes back to the Old English æsc. There is more than one example in Kent alone, but the Ash near Sandwich shows its toponymy in its first recorded form, Æsce, in about 1100.
Ashford is a relatively common English name, usually denoting a ford where ash-trees grow. Ashford in Kent, however, goes back to Old English æscet rather than æsc, and thus indicates a ford near to a clump of ash-trees. It was first mentioned in the Domesday Book as Essetesford.
Ashurst, which shares its name with a village in West Sussex, derives from the Old English hyrst or wooded hill, and thus denotes a hill wooded with ash-trees. The first record of Ashurt in Kent is from around 1100, in the form of Aeischerste.
Aylesford takes its name from an Old English personal name, and literally denotes Ægels ford. Its first recorded use is from the tenth century, as Æglesforda.
Aylesham is another eponym and indicates Ægels homestead. It is not found recorded until 1367.
The mere element of Badlesmere represents an Old English word meaning pond, lake, sea, also found in the first syllable of Margate. In this case, the towns name is probably an eponym meaning Bæddels pool, and it was first recorded in the Domesday Book as Badelesmere.
Bapchild has nothing to do with kids or bread rolls. The child element is actually the Old English celde meaning spring, while the bap probably goes back to a personal name, so that we have a name meaning something like Baccas spring. The etymology is clearer in its first recorded form, Baccancelde, from the late seventh century.
Barfreston is probably an Old English eponym, denoting a tun or homestead belonging to a man called Beornfrith. It was first mentioned in the Domesday Book as Berfrestone.
Barhams final syllable indicates an Old English ham, a village or homestead. In this case, the first recorded spelling of Bioraham in 799 suggests a village belonging to Beora.
Bearsted does not, sadly, commemorate a time when bears wandered the Kentish woodlands. Its first recorded form, Berghamstyde, from 695, gives a better clue to its etymology. The first element is Old English beorg, a hill or mound, while ham, which has since disappeared from the name, indicated a settlement of some kind. The sted at the end goes back to stede, a general word signifying a place, site. The general meaning is therefore of a village or homestead on a hill.
Bekesbourne was originally just Burnes, as recorded in the Domesday Book. The name indicated an estate on the river Burna, burna being an Old English word for stream and referring in this case to the Little Stour. By 1280, though, this had become Bekesborne, the town having gained a manorial affix from the de Beche family who were here in the late twelfth century.
Benenden looks back to an Old English personal name, and denotes a denn or woodland pasture belonging to a man called Bionna. It is first found on record back in the late tenth century, as Bingdene.
The final syllable of Bethersden shows that we are looking at an Old English denn or woodland pasture. The first element is probably from a personal name, so that the town is literally a pasture belonging to Beaduric. It is first mentioned around 1100 as the somewhat less-catchy Baedericesdaenne.
Betteshanger is literally a wooded slope by a building. It looks back to the Old English hangra, a wood on a steep slope, combined with bytle house or building. It is first recorded in 1176 as Betleshangre.
Bicknor probably signifies a slope below the pointed hill. The Old English bic or bica was used to describe a pointed hill or ridge, while ora indicated a shore or the slope of a hill. Bickor is first seen on the records in 1186, as Bikenora.
The borough of Bidborough is not Old English burh, a fort or stronghold, but rather beorg, a hill. In this case we are looking back to an Anglo-Saxon personal name, giving us a literal meaning of Bittas hill, seen more clearly in the villages twelfth-century form, Bitteberga.
Biddenden, like Benenden and Bethersden, is an eponym describing an Old English denn or woodland pasture. In this case it was associated with a man called Bida. The place was first recorded back in the late tenth century as Bidingden.
Bilsington is one of the few Kent place-names to be derived from a womans name. The town literally recalls an Old English tun or farmstead belonging to someone called Bilswith, and it was first recorded as Bilsvitone in the Domesday Book.
Birchington was first recorded as Birchenton in 1240. The name comes from the Old English bircen birch-tree and tun farmstead, village, so that the underlying sense is of a farmstead where birch-trees grow.
Birling probably signifies simply Bærlas family, the ing element of its name representing the Old English -ingas family, followers. It was first mentioned on record as far back as 788, in the form of Boerlingus.
Bishopsbourne originally had the same name as its northern neighbour Bekesbourne, both towns being called simply Burnes in the Domesday Book. The name meant an estate on the Burna, which was the Old English word for stream and used for what is now known as the Little Stour. Bishopsbourne had acquired its religious affix by the eleventh century, from its possession by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The place itself is first found recorded in the form of Burnan as long ago as 799.
Blean was first recorded as far back as 724 in the same spelling it has today. Like Chartham and Chatham, Blean probably indicates a place in rough ground, although in this case the derivation is from the Old English blea rough ground.
Although Bobbing looks like a verb, its ending actually represents the Old English -ingas, used to denote family or followers. In this case the suggestion is that the town was once associated with the followers of Bobba, and its earliest form on record is the early-twelfth-century Bobinge.
Bonnington is another Old English eponym, and its final element tells us were looking here at someones tun or farmstead. In this case the sense is of Bunas farmstead, and it appears in the Domesday Book as Bonintone.
Borden is either a valley near a hill or a woodland pasture near a hill. The exact derivation depends on whether the words final syllable represents Old English denu valley, or denn woodland pasture. The first element seems certain to be bor hill, and the town was first recorded as Bordena in the late twelfth century.
Borough Green is fairly self-explanatory, assuming that borough here comes from the Old English burh meaning borough, manor, stronghold. An alternative and equally-plausible derivation is from beorg hill.
Old English boc beech-tree is the source for Boughton, a common English place-name which means literally farmstead where beech-trees grow. Kent has three examples, all with manorial affixes which record the presence of important families of the area. Boughton Aluph takes its affix from the thirteenth-century owner Alulf, Broughton Malherbe from an early possession by the Malherbe family, and Broughton Monchelsea looks back to the thirteenth-century de Montchensie family. All were first recorded in the Domesday Book as Boltune or Boltone.
Boxley takes its name from the box-tree, unchanged from the Old English box. A leah was a field or woodland clearing, and so the sense is of a field of box-trees. It was first recorded in the Domesday Book as Boseleu.
Brabourne is etymologically a place at a broad stream. The source is Old English brad broad combined with burna stream (also found in Bekesbourne and Bishopsbourne). It was first mentioned back in 860 as Bradanburna.
First recorded as Briestede in the Domesday Book, Brasted is literally a broad place. As with Brabourne, its first syllable represents the Old English brad broad, while -sted goes back to stede, meaning simply a place, site.
Bredgar is literally a broad triangular plot. It takes its name from the Old English brad broad, as with the previous two entries, this time joined with gara, a triangular plot of land. The town first appears on record around 1100 as Bradegare.
Bredhurst was not recorded before 1240, when it appeared as Bredehurst. The last syllable represents Old English hyrst wooded hill, while bred meant simply a board. The general sense seems to be a wooded hill where boards are obtained.
Brenchley is first found on record as Braencesle around 1100. It describes an Old English leah or woodland clearing, in this case one that was originally associated with a man called Brænci.
Brenzett is literally a burnt stable. The roots are Old English berned burned and set stable, fold; the place is first mentioned in the Domesday Book as Brensete.
No great shock to learn that Bridge means exactly what its name suggests, a place at a bridge. It appears in the Domesday Book as Brige, but the root is the Old English brycg.
Broadstairs is simply a broad stairway or ascent, from the Old English brad broad (found also in Bredgar and Brasted among others) and stæger stairway. Its spelling has adapted over the years to reflect its original meaning, and the town is not found on record before 1435, where it appears as Brodsteyr.
Brookland, as we might expect, indicates the cultivated land at a brook, and was first recorded in 1262 as Broklande. The roots are Old English broc brook and land land.
Broomfields name still reflects its original meaning, which comes from the Old English brom broom and feld field. It is first found, as Brunfelle, in the Domesday Book.
Burham is a typical Old English place-name meaning homestead by the fortified place. The elements are burh stronghold, fortification and ham homestead, village. It was first recorded in the tenth century as Burhham, an even clearer indication of its etymology.
Burmarsh is literally the marsh of the townsfolk, the town in this case being Canterbury. However, we have to look to older forms of the place-name to see the meaning clearly its earliest recorded spelling of Burwaramers right back in the seventh century shows that Burmarsh as it stands has lost part of its name. The missing piece is that wara, which goes back to the Old English ware dwellers. Here it is combined with burh, for a stronghold or fortified town, and mersc marsh, which are the only two elements to have survived.
Canterbury. Known as Cantwaraburg from at least as long ago as 900 and recorded in the Domesday Book as Canterburie, the name of this cathedral seat is a mixture of Celtic and Old English and means, fittingly, stronghold of the people of Kent. The first element of the place-name is etymologically the same word as Kent, while the last represents the Old English burh stronghold or fortified town. Between them was the -wara- seen in its earliest spelling, now almost disappeared, which came from the Old English ware and indicated inhabitants.
Capel le Ferne indicates a chapel in a ferny place. The first word is Middel English capel, the modern chapel, and the addition goes back to Old English ferne fern. It is first found on record in the fourteenth century as Capel ate Verne.
Chalk has changed its spelling to keep its meaning the same a place on chalky ground. It was first recorded back in the tenth century as Cealca, the word coming from the Old English cealc chalk.
Challock Lees is etymologically an enclosure for calves. It was first recorded in 824 as Cealfalocum, the derivation being Old English cealf calf and loca enclosure. Lees, from læs pasture, is a later addition.
Charing probably indicates a bend in the road, from the Old English cerring, and it first appeared in 799 as Ciorrincg. An alternative meaning may be place associated with a man called Ceorra.
Chart, like Chartham, takes its name from the Old English cert, meaning rough ground. Great Chart was first recorded in 762 with this spelling, Cert, and was not mentioned as Magna Chart until the thirteenth century. Little Chart had emerged as a separate place by the time of the Domesday Book, in the form of Litelcert.
Chartham is literally a village on rough ground, and goes back to an Old English word cert or rough ground. Its etymology is more clear in its first recorded spelling, Certham, in 871. Kent obviously had a reputation for rough ground, as seen in such other related county names as Chart Sutton and Great and Little Chart.
Chart Sutton is yet another reference to the areas rough ground, from the Old English cert. It first appears as Cært in 814, and did not acquire its affix until it was noted as Chert juxta Suthon in 1280. It simply indicates that this Chart is near Sutton, in this case the nearby Sutton Valence.
Chathams name suggests a homestead in the woods. It represents a mixture of the Celtic cêd wood and the Old English ham homestead or village, and was first recorded as Cetham as far back as 880.
Chattendens first recorded form, Chatendune in about 1100, suggests that its last syllable is probably Old English dun hill rather than the more obvious denn woodland pasture. The first element may be a personal name, so that the underlying sense would be Ceattas hill.
Chevening may indicate a settlement of the dwellers at the ridge, a combination of Celtic cevn ridge and Old English ingas dwellers. However, if the name were to contain such an ancient Celtic word, it is perhaps a little strange that it doesnt appear on the records until 1199 (as Chivening).
Chiddingstone is probably another eponym, in this case concerning a man called Cidda. The sense would thus be of Ciddas stone, and the town first appears as Cidingstane in about 1110.
Chilham first appears in 1032 as Cilleham. The final syllable is Old English ham, a village or homestead, and the first may represent either a personal name Cilla or a cille spring.
Chillenden commemorates Ciollas valley, Ciolla being an Old English personal name and den representing denu valley. It was first recorded as Ciollandene in 833.
Chipstead is a distortion of the Old English ceap-stede, literally a market-place. It was first recorded in 1191 as Chepsteda.
The idea behind Chislet seems to be of a settlement near a copse of chestnut trees. This derivation would look back to the Old English cistelet chestnut copse, although a few alternative interpretations have been offered. The town was first mentioned as Cistelet as long ago as 605.
Cliffe is the same word as English cliff, both having come from the Old English clif. The town was first recorded in the tenth century as Cliua.
Cliftonville is a nineteenth-century resort, and its name was a modern invention.
Cobham traces its name back to an Old English personal name, Cobba, in this case describing his ham, or homestead. Its earliest recorded form, Cobba hammes mearce in 939, also contains the Old English mearc boundary.
The idea underlying Coldred is of a clearing where coal is found, or possibly made. It goes back to Old English col coal and ryde clearing, and is first found as Colret in the Domesday Book.
Cooling is an eponym which indicates a settlement of Culs family. The last element is the Old English ingas family, followers. It was first mentioned in 808 as Culingas.
Cowden is literally a denn or pasture for cows, from the Old English cu cow. Its first recorded form was as Cudena in around 1100.
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Cranbrook is only a little disguised from its original meaning, of a brook frequented by cranes or herons. The roots are Old English cran crane, heron and broc brook. It first appears on record in the eleventh century as Cranebroca. The River Crane is a back-formation from the place-name.
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An Old English crundel was a chalk-pit or quarry, and the word has survived in the name of Crundale. It was first recorded in around 1100, when it appears as Crundala.
The X in Cuxton has slightly disguised its etymology, which would suggest a meaning along the lines of Cucolas stone. The elements are clearer in the first recorded spelling of Cucolanstan, in 880.
Darenth, first mentioned in the tenth century as Daerintan, is etymologically the same word as the river Darent, suggesting an estate or settlement on the Darent. The river-name itself is Celtic and means a river where oak-trees grow.
Dartford is literally a ford on the River Darent, first recorded in the Domesday Book as Tarentefort. The ford element goes back to Old English, but the river-name itself is Celtic and indicates a river where oak-trees grow.
Deal is a settlement at a hollow or valley, from the Old English dæl. Its earliest spelling was Addelam in the Domesday Book, where it is prefixed with the Latin preposition ad at.
Denton is a common English place-name which signifies a village in a valley, from the Old English denu valley and tun village, farmstead. The Denton near Dover was first recorded in 799 as Denetun.
The last syllable of Detling represents the Old English ingas family or followers. The first part of the place-name seems to be an old personal name, probably Dyttel, so that the town was originally associated with Dyttels family. It was first recorded in the eleventh century as Detlinges.
Ditton is literally a village by a ditch, from the Old English roots dic ditch, dike and tun village, homestead. It first appeared on the records as Dictun in the tenth century.
Doddington seems to go back to an Old English personal name, Dodda, suggesting a local landowner whose estate constituted the area of the village. The name is a common one and can be found across the country.
Dover, first recorded as Dubris in the 4th century, takes its name from a stream here, now called the Dour, an ancient Celtic name which meant simply the waters.
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First recorded as Dengenesse in 1335, Dungeness is literally a headland near Denge Marsh, from the Old English næss headland. Denge Marsh itself first appeared in 774 as Dengemersc, and may represent a marsh of the valley district, from denu valley and mersc marsh.
Dunkirk was actually named after the French town of Dunkerque and first appears on record in 1790. The name was orignally given to places considered in some way lawless or remote, and there were once Dunkirks in other parts of England.
Dunton Green was originally Dunington, or Dunns estate, from the Old English tun village, estate, farmstead. The Green was a later addition.
Dymchurch is probably the judges church. The roots are Old English dema judge and cirice church, and it first appears in about 1100 as Deman circe.
Easole Street first appeared in the records in 824 as Oesewalum, which probably indicated ridges associated with a god or gods from the Old English es ridges, banks and walu gods. The Street was a later addition.
East Barming is one of Kents mystery names. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book as Bermelinge, but where this name came from, and what it means, are still uncertain.
Eastchurch, amazingly enough, refers to an east church, from the Old English east and cirice. Its roots can be seen in its earliest recorded spelling, Eastcyrce, from around 1100.
Eastling has nothing to do with east as a direction. Etymologically, the town was originally associated with the family or followers of Esla, whoever Esla may have been, the -ing element representing Old English ingas family, followers. The town first appeared on record as Eslinges in the Domesday Book.
Eastry is toponymically the eastern region, and it is first mentioned in the ninth century as Eastorege. The derivation is the Old English eastor eastern and ge district, region.
Edenbridge which gave its name to the River Eden, and not the other way round is first recorded as Eadelmesbregge in about 1100. Its true derivation seems to be eponymic, so that the town is literally Eadhelms bridge, the root being Old English brycg bridge.
The village of Egerton probably traces its name to an Old English personal name, Ecgheard, and was recorded as early as 1100. The name was not uncommon, and there is still an Egerton Green in Cheshire, though one assumes this was the homestead of a different Ecgheard.
The animal one would expect to find in abundance at Elham, from its name, is the eel, for it is the Old English æl eel that gave the town its name. Here it is combined with ham homestead, village. The first appearance on record is in the Domesday Book, as Alham.
Elmsted is a homestead by the elm-trees. The roots are Old English elm and ham-stede homestead, and the full derivation is slightly clearer in its first recorded spelling of Elmanstede in 811.
Unlike Elmsted, Elmstone has no connection with elms, nor indeed with stones. In fact it is an eponym, as can be seen better in the form Ailmereston, which was the first recorded form of the town in 1203. The last element is Old English tun village, farmstead, and the underlying sense is of Æthelmærs village.
Ewell Minnis started off as simply Ewell or, in its first recorded form of 772, Æwille. The name comes from Old English æwell, which indicated the source of a river. Minnis is a later addition and comes from a word for common land, mænnes.
Eynsford is first mentioned in writing in 864, as Egenes homme. The derivation is unclear, but one possibility is that it represents Ægens river-meadow, from the Old English hamm river-meadow, enclosure.
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Farleigh denotes a woodland clearing growing with ferns. It comes from the Old English fearn fern and leah field, clearing. The first record of it appears in the ninth century, as Fearnlege, and it later split into East Farleigh and West Farleigh.
The origins of Farningham are not entirely clear. One possibility is that it came from the Old English fearn fern, -ingas dwellers and ham homestead, village. In this case the meaning would be along the lines of home of the dwellers among the ferns. The town first appeared as Ferningeham in the Domesday Book.
Old English probably included a word fæfer which was used for a smith. This is what lies behind the idea of Faversham, literally the smiths village, the other element being ham, a homestead or village. It first appears in 811 as Fefresham.
The Green of Fawkham Green is a later addition, but the first word goes back as far as the tenth century, where it appears as Fealcnaham. The ham is the Old English ham village, homestead, and the first element seems to represent a personal name, Fealcna.
Finglesham is clearly an Old English ham, a village or homestead. It was first recorded in 832 as Thenglesham, and the first element seems to be thengel prince, in which case the town would be literally the village of the prince. However, thengel may also have been used as a personal name, in which case the town would simply be another eponym, Thengels homestead. It had taken an initial F- by the time of the Domesday Book, in which it appeared as Flengvessam.
Folkestone was first recorded as far back as the late seventh century in the guise of Folcanstan. The name probably refers to the stone of Folca, Folca being a common Old English mans name. The stone probably marked a hundred meeting-place.
Fordwich seems to have started life as a trading settlement at the ford. Its final element is the Old English wic trading settlement, and it first appears as long ago as 675 as Fordeuuicum.
Frindsbury takes its name from an association with a man called something like Freond. Its last element is Old English byrig, the dative form of burh stronghold or fortified place. The etymology is a little clearer in its first recorded spelling of Freondesberiam, back in 764.
Frinsted is literally a place of protection. It comes from the Old English frithen protection and is first seen on record in the Domesday Book as Fredenestede.
Frittenden is an Old English denn or woodland pasture, in this case one associated with someone called Frith. It first appeared in the ninth century as Friththingden.
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Gillingham means a "homestead of Gylla's family", from Old English ham "village, homestead" and ingas "family, followers". First recorded in 10th century as Gyllingeham
Godmersham seems to recall Godmærs village, from the Old English ham village, homestead. It was first recorded in 822 as Godmeresham.
Goodnestone denotes Godwines farmstead, from the Old English tun farmstead, village. There are two in Kent, the one near Faversham first appearing on record in 1208, and its namesake near Aylesham a little earlier, in 1196.
Gores name is a little more pedestrian than it seems, indicating literally a place at the triangular plot of ground, from the Old English gara. It first appears on record in 1198.
Goudhurst is probably an eponym, indicating Guthas wooded hill. The final element is the Old English hyrst wooded hill, and the place is first seen on record in the eleventh century as Guithyrste.
Grain is first seen on record in about 1100 as Grean. The name represents the Old English greon, used for gravelly, sandy ground. The Isle of Grain, which was once a true island, first appears in 1610 as the Ile of Greane.
Grange is a realtively common place-name in England which tends to go back to the Middle English grange farm belonging to a religious house. Kents Grange, however, is clearly different: its first recorded spelling in about 1100 is Grenic. This suggests that it is etymologically the same word as Greenwich, indicating a green harbour, from the Old English grene and wic port, harbour.
Old English ea indicated a stream or river, and it forms the last element of Graveney. Here it is combined with grafa ditch, pit, indicating a settlement at a ditch-stream. It is first mentioned in the ninth century as Grafonaea.
Gravesend has nothing to do with graves. Its first element is the Old English graf, the modern grove, and the town is thus etymologically a place at the end of the grove. Its first mention was in the Domesday Book, in the form of Gravesham, but we already see Grauessend by 1157.
Greatstone-on-sea is a recent name taken from a shoreline feature, since eroded by coastal changes, known as the Great Stone (first recorded in 1801).
Greenhithe is an Old English hythe or landing-place, and the adjective green can be traced back to its ancestor grene, as seen in the towns first recorded spelling of Grenethe in 1264.
Groombridge takes its name from Old English grome, which originally meant simply a young man. The town is thus literally a bridge where young men congregate, and it is first recorded in 1239 as Gromenebregge.
Guston is an eponym, in this case describing an Old English tun village, farmstead. It is first seen on record as Gocistone in the Domesday Book, and the sense is of Guthsiges village.
Hadlow was first recorded in the Domesday Book as Haslow. Its name probably goes back to two Old English words, hæth heather and hlaw hill, mound, so the sense is of a hill growing with heather.
Halling seems to go back to the Old English personal name Heall, in this case describing a settlement associated with Healls family or followers. The root is Old English ingas family, followers, seen more clearly in the towns first recorded form, in the eighth century, of Hallingas.
Halstead is literally a safe place or a place of refuge. It goes back to the Old English hald refuge, shelter, here combined with stede for a general site or place. The place-name is first found on record in about 1100 as Haltesteda.
Hamstreet - The name is Saxon meaning the enclosure on the road, originally the place was simply known as Ham. The original settlement was a mile up the road at Orlestone but the population shifted due to fresh spring water being discovered in Hamstreet.
High Brooms was originally broom growing near a bridge or broom growing on a ridge. Its earliest recorded form, Bromgebrug in 1270, suggests Old English roots of brom broom with either brycg bridge or hrycg ridge. Somewhere along the way this affix was dropped, however, and replaced by the more general qualifier high.
High Halden was first recorded under a rather longer name Hadinwoldungdenne, to be precise, in around 1100. The sense is of a woodland pasture associated with a man called Heathuwald, from the Old English denn woodland pasture. The High is a later addition.
Halstow is literally a holy place. It goes back to the Old English stow, which was used for a general place as well as a place of assembly or, as here, a holy place. It is combined and reinforced with halig holy. Kent has a High Halstow and a Lower Halstow, first recorded in about 1100 as, respectively, Halgesto and Halgastaw.
Ham is a common name found all over England, and Kent is no exception. It comes from the Old English hamm, which had a variety of meanings, essentially to do with an enclosure of land, often delimited by water or the bend of a river, or sometimes by higher ground. Kents Ham was first recorded in the Domesday Book as Hama.
Harbledown first appears in 1175 as Herebolddune. The final element is an Old English dun or hill, and the first part is probably a personal name. The sense is thus of Herebealds hill.
Harrietsham looks like it may be a river-meadow near the army quarters. The last element is Old English hamm river-meadow, enclosure, and the name also contains here army and geard yard, enclosure. Unfortunately, these two elements also made up an Old English personal name, so the town could also be simply Heregeards meadow. It first appears in the records in the tenth century as Herigeardes hamm.
There are two Hartleys in Kent, one near Cranbrook and the other near Longfield. The first has the longest recorded history of the two, first mentioned in 843 as Heoratleag, while the other is not found until the Domesday Book, in which it appears as Erclei. The name comes from Old English heorot, a hart or stag, here combined with leah field, clearing, giving a sense of a clearing frequented by harts.
Hartlip goes back to Old English hliep, which meant a gate or fence. Here we have a gate over which harts leap, hliep being combined with the word for a hart or stag, heorot. It was first seen on record as Heordlyp in the eleventh century.
Hastingleigh is immediately identifiable as a field, an Old English leah. In this case it is one associated with the followers or family of Hæsta, from ingas family, followers. It is first seen in 933 as Hæstingalege.
Hawkhurst was first recorded in 1254 as Hauekehurst. A hurst is an Old English hyrst or wooded hill, so here we have simply a wooded hill frequented by hawks. (Hawk itself comes from the Old English hafoc.)
Hawkinge, like Hawkhurst, is associated with the hawk (Old English hafoc). The final element is Old English -ing, denoting a place characterised by or associated with a certain thing. The town is first mentioned on record in 1204 as Hauekinge.
Hawley is literally a holy woodland clearing, from the Old English halig holy and leah field, clearing. It was first recorded in the Doomesday Book as Hagelei.
Headcorn is a bit of a mystery. It is first seen in about 1100 as Hedekaruna, and may be an eponym. The theory is that it goes back to Old English hruna, used for a tree-trunk and by extension, probably a bridge. In this case the town would be literally Hydecas tree-trunk.
Herne Bay is etymologically a place on a corner of land. It comes from the Old English hyrne angle, corner and was first recorded in about 1100 as Hyrnan.
Hernhill goes back to roots different from those of Herne Bay. Here we are looking at Old English har grey for the first element, the second of course representing hyll hill. It was first recorded around 1100 as Haranhylle, where we can see that har has the dative ending -an.
Hever is first seen on record in 814 as Heanyfre. The end of this word is Old English yfre, used for the edge or brow of a hill. The first element is heah high, seen here in its dative form hean. The sense is thus of a high hill-edge: a convenient place for a castle.
Higham is simply a high enclosure or a high homestead, the case depending on whether the last element is Old English ham or hamm. The first element of the place-name is clearly high, which goes back to Old English heah, and the town was first recorded in 1242 as Hegham. Higham Upshire is first found as Heahhaam in 765, and its affix means a higher district, from the Old English upp and scir.
Hildenborough was originally just Hilden or, in its thirteenth-century form, Hyldenn. The elements here are Old English hyll hill and denn woodland pasture, so the sense is of a pasture on or by a hill. By 1349 the name has become Hildenborough, having acquired the affix from burh manor, borough.
Hinxhill is etymologically the stallions hill. It comes from the Old English hengest stallion, and the town was first recorded as Haenostesyle in about 1100.
Hoath is only slightly disguised from its original meaning, indicating a place at a heath. The place-name first appears on record in the thirteenth century as La Hathe, and the root is Old Englihs hath.
Hollingbourne is a type of Old English burna, or stream. In this case the underlying sense seems to be of the stream of the people dwelling in the hollow, from hol hollow and ingas inhabitants. Alternatively, the first element could represent a theoretical personal name, Hola. The town is first seen in writing in the tenth century, as Holingeburna.
Etynologically, the name of Horsmonden conjures up arcadian images of a horse drinking at a stream in a woodland clearing. It comes from three common Old English words, hors horse, burna stream and denn woodland pasture. The first recorded form reflected this provenence rather better Horsbundenne, from around the turn of the twelfth century.
Horton Kirby is literally a muddy farmstead. It derives from the Old English horu dirty, muddy and tun settlement, farmstead; it first appeared in the Domesday Book as Hortune. By 1346 it is showing up as Horton Kyrkeby, having acquired a manorial affix from its possession by the de Kirkeby family in the thirteenth century.
Hothfield was originally Hathfelde, from the Old English hath healthy and feld field, open land.
Hucking is first recorded in 1195 as Hugginges. The form suggests that the final element is Old English ingas, indicating family or followers, and the first part of the place-name is probably a personal name. The site is thus a settlement of Huccas family.
Hunton is located literally at the hill of the hunstman. Its name comes from Old English hunta hunstman and dun hill the second element is not tun settlement, as it appears to be. The etymology is clearer in its first recorded form of Huntindone in the eleventh century.
Hythe represents the Old English word hyth, a landing-place or harbour. It first appears as the Normanised form Hede in the Domesday Book.
Ickhams name preserves the original size of the settlement the village once comprised a yoke of land. This is the Old English geoc, a measure roughly equivalent to fifty acres. Here it is combined with ham, a homestead or village. It first appears in 785 as Ioccham.
Ide Hill first shows up on record in 1250 as Edythehelle. It is an eponymic denoting Ediths hill, from the Old English hyll hill.
Ightham was literally Ehtas village, from the Old English ham village, homestead. It first appears as Ehteham in around 1100.
Ivychurch, as one might expect, denotes an ivy-covered church. Its first recorded form was Iuecirce in the eleventh century looking back to Old English ifig ivy and cirice church.
Iwade first appears on record in 1179 as Ywada. The roots are Old English iw yew-tree and wæd ford. The general sense is of a crossing-place where yew-trees grow the crossing, in this case, being to the Isle of Sheppey.
J - NO Js
Kemsing is an Old English ing, or place, associated with someone called Cymesa. It is first recorded in 822 as Cymesing.
Kenardington is also an eponymic, this time suggesting an Old English tun farmstead, village connected with a man called Cyneheard. The middle element is Old English ing, denoting simply a place. It first shows up on record as Kynardingtune in the eleventh century.
Kennington unlike its namesake in Greater London is literally a royal manor, from the Old English cyne royal (from cyning king) and tun estate, manor. It first shows up in the Domesday Book as Chenetone.
Kindsdown, near Deal, and West Kingsdown both look back to Old English cyning king and dun hill, and thus denote the Kings hill. The latter appears first on record as Kingesdon in 1199; the former in 1318 as Kyngesdoune.
Kingsgate has one of the most directly historical place-names in Kent: it was at this gate, or gap in the cliffs, that Charles II landed in 1683.
Kingsnorth has nothing etymologically to do with North as a compass direction. It goes back to Old English snad, used to denote a detached piece of land or woodland. Here the sense is of a detached piece of land belonging to the King, and it first shows up on record in 1226 as Kingesnade.
Knockholt is etymologically a town at an oak wood, from the Old English ac oak and holt woodland. It first appears as Ocholt in 1165; it acquired an initial N- from the Old English definite article (appearing as Nocholt by 1353).
Knowlton is literally a farmstead by a hillock. It comes from Old English cnoll hillock, knoll and tun farmstead, settlement. Its first recorded form, from the Domesday Book, is Chenoltone.
The hurst of Lamberhurst is Old English hyrst wooded hill. The first element is essentially the modern word lamb, in its Old English genitive plural form of lambra the sense is of a wooded hill where lambs graze. It first appears on record as Lamburherste around 1100.
East Langdon and West Langdon go back to an Old English compound meaning long hill or long down, from lang long and dun hill, down. When they first show up on record, in 861, there was simply one Langandune, but by 1291 there is reference to Estlangedoun and Westlangedone.
Langley, a common English place-name, represents the Old English lang leah or long field or woodland. Kents Langley first turns up in the records in 814 as Longanleag.
No surprises with Larkfield, which indicates a field frequented by larks. The Old English roots are lawerce and feld, and its first recorded form was Lavrochesfel in the Domesday Book.
Leaveland probably meant originally Leofas land. It first shows up in the Domesday Book as Levelant.
The Leeds in Kent probably has no etymological connection with that in West Yorkshire, although its derivation is not certain. It may come from an inferred Old English stream name hlyde, meaning the loud one. It first appears as Esledes in the Domesday Book.
Leigh, like the modern lea, comes from Old English leah field, clearing. It is a common name; Kents Leigh first appears on record around 1100 as Lega.
Lenham, which gave its name to the River Len rather than vice versa, goes back to Old English ham homestead, village. It seems originally to have indicated Leanas village Leana being a mans name. It first appears in the records in 858 as Leanaham.
Leybourne was first recorded in the tenth century as Lillanburna. Burna is the Old English word for stream, so the sense is probably of Lyllas stream
Leysdown on Sea is clearly a kind of down, or hill (from the Old English dun). The first element seems to be Old English leg, used to denote a beacon-fire. The place is first recorded around 1100 as Legesdun.
The name Linton normally indicates a place where flax is grown. Kents Linton, though, is an eponymic from the Old English tun village, town, suggesting Lillas village. Its first recorded form is Lilintuna in around 1100.
Littlebourne is literally a little (settlement) on the river, the river (Old English burna) in this case being the Little Stour. It is first found on record in 696 as Littelburne.
Littlestone-on-Sea acquired its name in the nineteenth century from a headland called Little Stone, formerly a nearby coastal feature.
Longfields name, of course, indicates a long field. Its first recorded form, Langafelda in the tenth century, shows its Old English roots of lang and feld.
Loose is etymologically a place at a pig-sty, from the Old English hlose. It is first found in the eleventh century as Hlose.
Luddesdown probably indicates Hluds hill. The down represents Old English dun down, hill. The place first appears on record in the tenth century as Hludesduna.
Lullingstone, which appears as Lolingestone in the Domesday Book, is not in fact a type of stone but a type of tun, the Old English word for farmstead or estate. The sense is of Lullings farmstead or Lullings town.
Luton is another Old English eponymic, indicating Leofas town, from tun town, estate. It first shows up on record in 1240 as Leueton.
Lydd may literally be a place at the gates. Its first recorded form of Hlidum in 774 suggests a root in the dative plural form of Old English hlid gate.
Lyddens name seems to be etymologically unrelated to that of Lydd. It comes from the Old English hleo shelter and denu valley, suggesting a sense of sheltered valley. Its first recorded form is Hleodaena from around 1100.
Lyminge first appears on record in 689 as Liminge. The town is literally a district around the River Limen. The end of the word represents Old English ge district, region, while the first is a Celtic river-name (cognate with Lympne) indicating elm river or marshy river Limen was the old name for the East Rother.
Lympne first appears as Lemanis in the fourth century. The word is Celtic and means elm-wood place or marshy place.
Lynsted is literally a place where lime-trees grow, from the Old English lind lime-tree and stede site, place. Its first recorded form is Lindestede, from 1212.
Maidstone is literally a stone of the maidens, most likely indicating a place where they were known to gather. Its Anglo-Saxon form was Mægthan stan. Kents county town isnt the only town to take its name from an association with maids or maidens in other parts of the country we have a Maidwell, a Maidford and a Maidenhead.
East Malling and West Malling were originally (around 942) recorded as Meallingas. The name probably indicates a settlement associated with Meallas followers, from the Old English ingas family, followers. (South Malling, in East Sussex, was recorded slightly earlier, in 838.)
Manston is literally Manns town, referring to some now-unknown local figure. The root is Old English tun settlement, village, and it first shows up on record in 1254 as Manneston.
Marden may indicate a woodland pasture for mares, from the Old English mere mare and denn field, woodland pasture. It first appears on record as Maeredaen around 1100.
Margate was not recorded until 1254, in the form of Meregate. The name probably indicates a gateway to the sea, from Old English roots mere sea, water and geat gate.
Matfield is etymologically Mattas field, with roots in Old English feld field, open land. Its first recorded spelling, around 1230, is Mattefeld.
The River Medway, that dividing point between the Kentish Men and the Men of Kent, was first recorded in the eighth century as Medeuuæge. The ending of the word can be traced back to the ancient pre-English river-name Wey, though its meaning is unclear. It may be compounded here with the Old English medu mead, in some reference to the colour or sweetness of the water.
Meopham goes back to Old English ham, a village or homestead. The first element is probably a personal name, so the sense is of Meapas village. It first shows up on record in 788 as Meapaham.
Mereworth first recorded in 843 as Meranworth refers to Mæras enclosure. It comes from the Old English worth enclosure, enclosed settlement.
Mersham is another eponymic, commemorating Mærsas village. This comes from the Old English ham village, settlement. The place-name first appears on the records in 858 as Mersaham.
The derivation of Milstead is not certain, but one likely theory is that it means the middle place, from Old English middel middle and stede site, place. It is first recorded in the late eleventh century as Milstede.
There are two Minsters in Kent, one near Ramsgate and one near Sheerness. The first has by far the longer history on the records, appearing as Menstre in 694; the latter shows up with that same spelling in 1204. Both represent the Old English mynster, a monastery or large church.
Great Mongeham and Little Mongeham were first recorded in 761 as Mundelingeham. The roots are Old English ingas family, followers and ham village, homestead. The first element is a personal name, so the general sense is of the village of Mundels family.
Monkton, first recorded as Munccetun in 960, is literally a town of the monks. The roots are in Old English munuc monk and tun settlement, farmstead.
Nackington is literally a hill at a wet place, from the Old English næt wet and dun hill, down, also with the suffix ing, signifying a general place. It first appears on record in the late tenth century as Natyngdun.
Nettlestead, as might be imagined, goes back to the Old English netele nettle, and just means a place where nettles grow. Its first recorded form is Netelamstyde, from the ninth century.
New Church is fairly self-explanatory. Its first appearance on the records, as Nevcerce in the Domesday Book, indicate the Old English root of cirice.
Newenden appears as Newedene in the Domesday Book. The sense is of a new woodland pasture, from the Old English denn woodland pasture and niwe new, with the dative ending an.
Kent has two Newingtons, one near Hythe and the other near Sittingbourne. Neither show up on record before the Domesday Book, the former as Neventone and the latter as Newetone. Both simply indicate a new farmstead, from the Old English tun farmstead, village.
Newnham, from Old English ham homestead, denotes a new homestead. It first appears on record as Newenham in 1177.
Noahs Ark is a fairly late name which appeared on the first Ordnance Survey map of 1819 apparently transferred from a house so called built around the turn of the eighteenth century. It may orihinally have alluded to an abundance or diversity of animals in the vicinity.
Nonington is probably literally Nunnas estate, from the Old English tun estate, farmstead. It first appears on record in around 1100 as Nunningitun.
Northbourne is literally a northern stream. It first shows up on record in 618 as Nortburne, and derives from the Old English north and burna stream.
Northfleet first shows up in the tenth century as Flyote, representing the Old English fleot stream. The affix north was added to distinguish it from Southfleet.
North Foreland is simply a promontory, from the Old English roots fore and land. It was first recorded as Forland in 1326, and South Foreland near Dover has the same origin.
Orpington, according to Bernard Deeprose of Arizona, was originally 'Orpin's Tun'. Orpin was chosen by the Romans to oversee a tun or 'hundred' originally centered in the area of Goddington.(another tun?)
Otford means literally Ottas ford, in this case over the River Darent, and was first recorded as long ago as 832 in the form Otteford. Dartfords name also reflects the fording of the Darent.
The final syllable of Pluckley is the same word as lea, a woodland clearing or field, which comes from the Old English leah. The first syllable is probably the Anglo-Saxon personal name Plucca.
Q NO Qs
Ramsgate - once Ruymsgate, meaning the 'mud-gate'. As opposed to Meregate (Margate) the 'sea-gate'
Rochester.Unlike its namesake in Northumbria, Kents Rochester goes all the way back to eighth-century Hrofaescaestir, which probably indicated a Roman fort called Hrofi. Hrofi itself goes back to an ancient Celtic name Durobrivis, which means a walled town with bridges.
St Margarets at Cliffe was mentioned in the Domesday Book in the Latin form of Sancta Margarita. The implication is of a church dedicated to St Margaret at a place previously called simply Cliffe, which is the same word as English cliff and goes back to the Old English clif.
St Marys Hoo is an Old English hoh or spur of land, and this is how it appears in its earliest form, as Hoge right back in 687. By 1272 it had become Ho St. Mary, having acquired an affix from the dedication of its church.
St Peters takes its name from the dedication of its eleventh-century church, and was first recorded in 1254 as Borgha sancti Petri, the Borough of St Peter.
Sandwich is an Old English name, Sandwicæ, which literally meant a sandy harbour or sandy trading centre.
Sevenoaks.No surprises with Sevenoaks, which indicates seven oak-trees. It is interesting, though, that unlike many place-names its spelling has changed with the language to make continually clear its meaning. The Old English roots, seofon and ac, are more apparent in the first recorded mention of the town, in about 1100, as Seouenaca.
Shorne is literally a steep place, from the Old English scoren, taking its name from what is now called Shorne Hill. Its was first mentioned in about 1100 as Scorene.
Smarden. From an etymological point of view, one would expect to go to Smarden for the butter, since that is what its name indicates. The Old English smeoru means butter, and the -den is the Old English denn or woodland pasture. It was first recorded in about 1100 as Smeredaenne.
Smeeth is etymologically the same word as smithy and derives from the Old English smiththe. It was recorded as early as 1018 as Smitha.
Temple Ewell, like Ewell Minnis, originally came from the Old English æwell river-source. Temple was a later addition, alluding to its possession by the Knights Templar from the twelfth century. The place first appears on record as Æwille in 772.
Tonbridge was recorded in the Domesday Book 1087 as Tonebrige, It may indicate a bridge belonging to the estate or manor (from the Old English tun), or alternatively a bridge belonging to Tunna, a common Anglo-Saxon mans name. Tonbridge Castle was once owned by Richard de Tonebridge.
The 'Tonbridge' name, in the Late 1800's was actually known as Tunbridge, old maps prior to this date show it as such. A 1871 map shows the name Tunbridge. In the late 1890's/early 1900's this was apparently changed by the Royal Mail as it caused confusion with Tunbridge Wells (see below). The latter has always spelt its name that way - taking its name from the Wells near Tunbridge.
Tunbridge Wells is named after Tonbridge, acquiring a U instead of an O somewhere along the line to fit with pronunciation. The Wells refers to the medicinal springs discovered here in the seventeenth century, and the town was made Royal by King Edward VII. Locally made Wooden Boxes known as Tunbridge Ware were produced in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Upper Hardes.The Hardres of Upper Hardres is the plural form of Old English harad woods, woodland. In fact the Upper is a much later addition, the town first appearing on record as Haredum in 785 and as Hardes three hundred years later in the Domesday Book. The sense is simply of a place in or at the woods.
Despite its proximity to the Medway, Wateringbury probably has nothing to do with water from an etymological point of view. It was first recorded in the late tenth century under the delightfully complicated name of Uuotryngebyri and its original meaning is unclear. The -bury is likely the Old English burh or stronghold, and -ing- may well come from an Old English word indicating followers or family, suggesting a meaning along the lines of stronghold of Ohtheres family. Other possibilities put forward include stronghold of the swine pasture.
Westerham is a village which has been recorded at least as early as the ninth century and was mentioned in the Domesday Book in a Norman form, Oistreham. Ham is an Old English word meaning a village or homestead, and so Westerham is literally a westerly homestead.
Yalding is first mentioned in the Domesday Book as Hallinges. The name literally indicates the family or followers of a man called Ealda.
DOOMSDAY - Place Name Origins
Virtually all of the place names decided on up to around the 14th Century were due to the environment of the area. For example, Doncaster would probably have originated as a Roman fort on a hill, from the Roman 'Caster' and Celtic 'Don'.
Roman Celtic Saxon Viking
Roman Terms: 50BC - 410 AD
Caster: Fort; Camp; Later town
Cester: Fort; Camp; Later town
Chester: Fort; Camp; Later town
Fos (s): Ditch
Port: Harbour; Gate
Street: Paved way
Celtic Terms: 800BC - 400 AD
Aber: River mouth or ford
Avon; Esk; Eye; Dee: River
Bre-; Drum; Don: Hill
Glan: River Bank
Hamps: Dry stream in Summer
Pen; Bryn: Hill; Head
Pont; Bont: Bridge
Tre: Hamlet; Village; Town
Saxon Terms: 350AD - 1000AD
Burg: Large village
Croft: Small enclosure
Cot: Small hut
Delph: Ditch, dyke or stream
Den(n): Pig pasture
Eg; Ey; Ea; Eig: Island
Fall: Area cleared of trees
Ley; Lea: Clearing
Riding; Rod: Cleared land
Stoc: Summer pasture
Stoke: 'Daughter' settlement
Stow: Holy Place
Ton; Tun: House; Farm
Weald; Wold; High Woodland
Wic; Wike: Farm; Group of huts
Worth: Fenced land
Worthy: Enclosed land
Viking Terms: 750AD - 1100AD
Booth: Summer pasture
By: Farm; Village
Fell; How: Hill or mound
Gardr: Yard; landing place
Gill: Ravine or valley
Ings: Marsh; meadow
Kelda: Spring, stream
Slack: Stream in a valley
Stakkr: Rock in the sea
Thorp: Daughter settlement
Thwaite: Forest clearing; meadow
Wray: Remote place
What's in a name?
Most of us who have wandered through the Kent Downs whether on foot, by horse, bicycle or car will have, at one time or another, pondered over the meaning of place names of towns , villages or hamlets that we normally take for granted in our everyday lives. Places such as Pett Bottom, Bigbury and Bobbing conjure up all manner of intriguing images as to the activities of former inhabitants, while others such as Whatsole Street, Smersole or Hartlip appear completely baffling. Indeed when a recent travelling companion of mine enquired into the female population count of the villages of Womenswold and Old Wives Lees I decided it was high time to dispel his belief that these places were rural retreats for eligible women and instead decided to investigate..............
Although most place names may appear at first sight to be random elements of words thrown together in no particular order, most are surprisingly easy to decipher with some elementary grounding in Old English. Over the centuries most of the Old English words have themselves corrupted and changed to appear as we know them today.
Unsurprisingly many place names stem from geographical features such as woods, springs, fords, hills and valleys that could be used to identify a particular place. The suffix bourne obviously denotes the presence of a bourne or small stream as in Bekesbourne while wald or wode would denote wood. Old Wives Lees for example first appears in 1278 as Ealdewode meaning old wood. By 1610 it had become Old Wyves Lease and from then its present form as Old Wives Lees.
Other places are derived from names for settlements or property frequently combined with personal names. Paddlesworth for example started life as Pellesorde in 1086 meaning Paeddels enclosure. The suffix ham as in Alkham or Lenham on the other hand derives from the Old English for settlement.
Similarily the suffix inge or ing commonly found in Kent Downs place names such as Lyminge , Ottinge, Selling and Charing usually indicates a tribe or people belonging to an individual. Thus Ottas people is Ottinge and Ceorras people is now Charing.
One of the commonest elements in Kentish place names is the suffix stead. This is thought to derive from the Old English for stock farm. Kent has a particularly high number of Steads or Steds when compared with other counties and what is all the more surprising is that most of these steads are situated in the Downs area. Some believe that the reason for this lies in the pattern and phases of settlement in Kent that occurred in the past. Take a good look at many of these steads or steds and youll notice that many of these villages often comprise simply a church , manor house or courtlodge and a scattering of houses. There is reason to think that many of these characteristically small parishes simply evolved as outlying stock farms of primary settlements elsewhere in river valleys for example. They were probably established in clearings of the Downland wooded landscape and then at a slightly later date became independent holdings perhaps worked by the younger sons of the old community driven to seek a separate livelihood of their own. Rather than being founded as settlements of a community they were simply farmsteads of a single family or landowner and in this sense were manorial in origin, with their churches standing isloated by the court lodges or manor houses as at Elmsted for example.
Next time you travel around the Kent Downs see if you can work out the meaning and the history of the places you visit.