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Yorkshire Place-Name Meanings P to S


P Pannal to Purston Jaglin


From Pan Hal or Pan Haugh a rounded pan shaped valley or piece of land.

Pateley Bridge

Path - ley - bridge. The path with a clearing near a bridge.


The Pennines are first mentioned in an eighteenth century chronicle supposedly made by a medieval monk called Richard of Cirecncester, but the work is a forgery. We have no early recorded name for the Pennines which is amazing when we consider that these hills form the most siginficant upland region in England. It is possible that the name itself is a forgery and that the name has stuck. It is worth remembering that the ancient British and Welsh word for hill was Pen, but we cannot be certain of the antiquity of the name of the Pennines.


Ingleborough, Pendle Hill and Pen-y-ghent are highest hills between Scotland and Trent, so a Pennine saying goes. This is not strictly true, Cross Fell in the Pennines is higher as are many of the Lake District Fells. Pen-y-ghent, the 2,273 feet high hill near Settle, North Yorkshire is however one of the most famous peaks of the Pennines. Its familiarity is perhaps the reason why it has one of the oldest names in the Pennines and a clue to the origin of the name may be gained by looking it up in the Atlas. Here we can find Pen-y-fan Pen y Gadair, Pen y Gaer, Pen y Parc, Pen y Rhwbyn and many other names beginning in this similar fashion. In this list Pen-y-ghent is very much the odd one out because it is found in England all the others are Welsh. Pen-y-ghents name is Welsh and is a reminder of the days of the Ancient British when most of the country we now call England spoke a language closley akin to Welsh. Pen usually means hill and y is the definite article 'the' so its name means the something hill although the order of words is different to the way it would be structured in English. The meaning of ghent is however unknown. It is known that a number of Welsh Kingdoms notably Elmet and Loidis survived in the western part of Yorkshire into early Saxon times and the name of Pen-y-ghent may be a throwback to these times. It is not unusual howver for English hills to retain the word pen howver which is wehy we have Penshaw Hill near Sunderland and Pendle Hill in Lancashire.


Pickering means the people of Picer or Picere and is either an old personal name for an Anglo-Saxon, or an unknown tribal name that could mean the dwellers at the edge of the 'pic' or hill. A place called Dickering in eastern Yorkshire is thought to mean dwellers at the edge of the dyke. The first recorded owner of Pickering as a surname was Reginald de Pickering in 1165. The surname means a man 'of Pickering'.


Pocklington means Poca's peoples farm.


The name means broken bridge and is part French part Latin. Compare with the word fracture.

Purston Jaglin

Purston is a corruption of Preston meaning the priest's settlement. Jaglin is a corruption of Jakelin, perhaps a one time owner.

R Raskelf to Ruswarp


From the Viking Raskialf meaning the headland frequented by roe deer.


The rock or scar inhabited by ravens.


is a village situated close to the A66 between Barnard Castle and Scotch Corner and was also the name of a castle which existed in the Team valley near Gateshead. Both Ravensworths belonged at one time to a person or persons called Hrafn or Hraefn. Ravensworth Castle, near Gateshead was demolished in 1953, but was a one time home of the Liddell and Gascoigne families. In earliest times it was a 'worth', or an enclosed settlement belonging to Hraefn. Most places ending in 'worth' are Anglo-Saxon in origin and refer to an enclosed settlement of some kind. Ravensworth, North Yorkshire, however does not have this meaning as Ravensworth Near Gateshead because its early recorded forms are Rafneswad, Ravenswat and Ravenswath. This name seems to mean the wath belonging to Hraefn. Wath was the Viking word for a ford and would suggest that the stream that passes through the centre of Ravensworth village was forded in Viking times. The similar Viking place name Ravensthorpe meaning Hraefn's farm occurs in West Yorkshire and Northamptonshire but some place names beginning in 'Raven' are likely to refer to the bird of that name. Ravenscar between Scarborough and Whitby means Ravensker the rock of the raven, from the Viking word Sker. Other Raven names include Ravenseat in Swaledale, the seat or hill of the raven and Ravenglass in Cumbria which derives from the Celtic Rann Glas meaning the part share of land belonging to someone called Glas.


Redcar seems to have been situated in pooorly drained land as 'car', the second part of the name derives from the Viking word Kjar meaning marshland. Neighbouring Marske, also betrays boggy origins as its name is a Scandinavian pronunciation of the English word marsh. Redcar, called Redker in 1165, Ridkere in 1407 and Readcar in 1653 means either the red coloured marshland from the red stone in the area, or reedy marsh. The second is quite likely as the word reed often occurs as 'red' in English place names. In 1510 Redcar was described as a 'Poore Fishing Toune' and was for many centuries overshadowed by its neighbour Coatham which held a market and fair from 1257. Coatham's name derives from Cot -Ham and means the shelter homestead. It was perhaps a place where fishing boats took shelter from the stormy seas. Coatham was one of the most important fishing villages in the area and in 1801 it had a population of 680 people. Comparable population figures in the district show that 993 people lived at Hartlepool, 167 at Thornaby and only 25 people lived at Middlesbrough. Redcar rose from obscurity in 1846 when an extension of the Stockton and Darlington Railway brought industry and seaside day trippers to the area. Redcar quickly expanded and soon absorbed Coatham. A further extension of the railway to Saltburn in 1861 stimulated the population growth there and although the building of Saltburn Pier in 1868 was a major attraction, Redcar's racecourse, opened in 1872 ensured that day-trippers continued to flock. Industrial growth in the late eighteenth century came in the form of ironworks and later steelworks of which the most prominent were those of Dorman and Long. In the following century Dorman and Long built a new town called Dormanstown right on Redcar's doorstep to accomodate the expanding workforce of the district and add further to the population of the Redcar area.


From an Anglo Saxon word meaning at the stream.


This means Rye Calf, Calf meaning a small island near a larger one. Islands were formed by the River Rye. A Viking army landed here in 1066


North Yorkshire's Richmond was originally called Hindrelac, an Anglo-Viking name which is thought to describe a woodland clearing frequented by a hind or female deer. The present name of this historic Swaledale town is Old French and derives from Riche-Monte a common French place name which means strong hill. It was here in 1071 that a Norman French Count called Alan the Red built a castle on the lofty hill overlooking the River Swale. The territory surounding Richmond became his land and was named Richmond Shire a Shire comprised of the former Viking wappentake districts of Gilling and Hang. Subsequent Lords of Richmondshire were known as the Earls of Richmond and included King Henry the Seventh. In 1499, four years after his coronation, King Henry, the Earl of Richmond constructed a palace at a place called Sheen in the county of Surrey. Sheen was renamed Richmond and is now the famous London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Richmond in Surrey therefore takes its name from Richmond in Yorkshire.


This means Rye Valley. See also Jervaulx


Ripon, formerly in the West Riding, but now in North Yorkshire has what is known as a 'folk name' which means it is a name of tribal origin, referring to the people who settled the area. This is quite common for counties and regions but rare for the names of villages, towns and cities, which usually take their names from a single individual or from neighbouring natural and geographical features. Records of the name Ripon include Hrypis and Hripis in 715 AD, Inhrypam in 730, Onripum in 890, Rypum in 1030 and Ripun in the Domesday Book of 1089. Historically, the place was associated with the Anglo-Saxon saint called Wilfrid who established a monastery here in the seventh century. The monastery occupied the site of the present Ripon Cathedral. Ripon, may have been a place of importance before Wilfrid's time and was perhaps a central meeting place for the Hrype tribe, from which it takes its name. The origin of this Anglo-Saxon tribal name and its exact tribal boundaries are unknown, but its area of settlement may have covered Yorkshire and the East Midlands. Nearby Ripley almost certainly means the woodland of the Hyrppes and a place called Ribston may have been a boundary stone. Repton in Derbyshire derives from 'Hyrpa dun' meaning the hill of the Hyrpe tribe, providing evidence for settlement further afield.


This village near Northallerton belonged to a Viking called Romund. It has nothing to do with the Romans. See Northallerton.

Roseberry Topping

There is an old saying When Roseberry Topping wears a cap, let cleveland then beware of a clap which is a recognition that the cloud-topped summit of this famous landmark could result in a heavy clap or shower of rain. Roseberry Topping is sometimes known as The cleveland Matterhorn because of its distinctive shape and is steeped in local legend. In olden times the hill was closely associated with the Vikings and the word Topping comes from Toppen an Old Danish word for a hill. Roseberry is a corrupted name which derives in an unexpected way from the nearby settlement of Newton-under-Roseberry. It is known that the original Old Norse name for Roseberry Topping was Odins-Beorg meaning Odins Hill. Odin was the most important Viking God and it is possible that Roseberry was a centre for his worship in Pagan times. Over the years, the name Odinsberg gradually changed to Othensberg, Ohenseberg, Ounsberry and Ouesberry. Association with the village then called Newton-under-Ouseberry at the foot of the hill led to the modern name Roseberry when the final R of under produced the initial letter of the modern name. Newton under Ouseberry is now called Newton under Roseberry. Incidentally the Norse God Odin is still remembered by his alternative Saxon name of Woden from which the name of Wednesday (Wodens Day) derives.


Ruswarp is situated near Whitby on the northern bank of the River Esk. Early forms of the name include Risewarp and Rysewarp in the twelfth century, Riswarp in the fourteenth century and Ruswarpe in the seventeenth century. The first part of the name derives from the Anglo-Saxon word 'Hris' which means brushwood. The change from Hris to Rus has resulted from the influence of local dialect. Warp, the second part of the name derives from the Old Norse word Varpa meaning to throw and cast. It is thought to refer to silt thrown up by the River Esk. This word also occurs in the Norwegian place name Varpet. The word 'warp' is known in Yorkshire dialect to specifically refer to sediment formed by a river, or to mud which checks the flow of a river. It is thought that Ruswarp's name, (the w is not pronounced) refers to silty land overgrown with brushwood.

S Saltburn to Swale River

Saltburn by the Sea

Saltburn can trace its history to at least 369 AD when the Romans built a watchtower at Huntcliff overlooking the sea. This was in the later days of the Roman Empire, when there was a serious danger of barbarian coastal raids and Huntcliff was one of a series of watchtowers protecting the Yorkshire coast. By 410 AD the Romans had deserted Britain, which was left to the mercy of raiding Anglo-Saxons from Germany and Denmark. Saltburn's Roman tower was defended by a group of Romanised Britons, who met with a sad end. The raiders brutally murdered them all and dumped their bodies in a nearby well, where they were finally discovered in an excavation in 1923. The skeletons of fourteen people, men women and children were found and were clearly the victims of murder. The responsible Anglo-Saxons, or another group like them, settled the Cleveland coast and named a local stream 'Sealt-Burna' meaning the salty stream, perhaps from its salty water or because of the salt-like alum found in the neighbourhood. Vikings came three centuries later and changed the names of all the local burns to becks. The settlement on the Salt Burn retained its name, but the stream became the Skelton Beck. The little fishing village of Saltburn grew beneath the prominent Cat Nab. It was a small place, famed for smuggling and fishing until 1860, when the Stockton and Darlington Railway was extended to the site and Henry Pease of Darlington set about the development of the Victorian coastal resort of Saltburn-by-the-Sea.


This means the farm or Thorpe belonging to a Viking called Skali.


Scarborough is a Viking place name mentioned in Viking sagas. In the 'Kormakssaga, Flateyjarbok' Scarborough is called Skarthborg and in the 'Orkneyingasaga' it is referred to as Skarthabork. In the case of Scarborough, the word 'borough' derives from the Viking word 'Borg' meaning 'stronghold' and Scarborough means Skarthi's stronghold. According to the 'Kormaksaga' two Viking brothers called Thorgils and Kormak went harrying in Ireland, England and Wales and established a stronghold called Scarborough on the English east coast. Thorgils was known to his brother by the nickname 'Hare Lip', or in the Viking language 'Skarthi' . It is probable that 'Hare-Lip' gave his name to Scarborough. The brothers Kormak and Thorgills were in the service of King Harald Grafeld, who was king of Norway from 960-965AD. This dates the Viking foundation of Scarborough to the mid tenth century. Kormak and Thorgils accompanied the king's expedition to Bjarmaland or Permia in northern Russia in 966AD. It is known that the expedition to England immediately followed this and that Kormak died in the year 967AD. This dates the Viking foundation of Scarborough more precisely to 966 or 967 AD. The Vikings were not the first to settle at Scarborough. There may already have been an Anglo-Saxon settlement on the site and there was certainly a Roman signal station here.


Derives from the Viking word Skali meaning a shieling.


This name drives from the Anglo-Saxon word scraef, a cave.


This means the Sallow village.

Sheriff Hutton

Once held by Bertram Bulmer, the Sheriff of York who died in 1166. See also Hutton Rudby for explanation of Hutton


See Skipton.


In ealier times called Skytheby. This was the village or farm belonging to a Viking called Skithi.


See Marske by the Sea


A corruption of Skog's by. A village near a Scrog or wood.


This Viking influenced name is though to mean Skinners grove or pit.


Shipton and Skipton, both in Yorkshire are another example of Viking and Saxon place names living side by side in the same region. These two places have nothing to do with either ships or skips, but both mean sheep farm. They are simply Saxon and Viking versions of names with the same meaning.

Slape Wath

This is a combination of the Anglo Saxon word Slaep meaning mud, mire or marshy and the Viking word Wath, a ford. Thus muddy or marshy ford.


This derives from the Viking word Sletta, a flat field


A Viking name meaning Slengr's village.


An Anglo-Saxon name thought to mean pasture.

South Bank

Situated on the south bank of the Tees


This derives from Saur-by meaning muddy village.


A spen or spenni was a kind of hedge.

The place name Spennithorne , along with High Spen in North West Durham and Spennymoor in County Durham, are all thought to contain an Anglo-Saxon word 'Spen', but its exact meaning is not certain. An early reference to a fox jumping twice over 'a spenne' has led to the suggestion that a spen was a hedge or something similar. Attempts to relate the word to the Anglo-Saxon 'Spannan' meaning to clasp or fasten or the Old High German Spanan meaning to entice, simply add to the mystery. Early records of Spennymoor's name include Spendingmor in 1381 and Spennyngmore in 1446, but the only certainty is that 'mor' or 'more' referred to the open moorland of the area that existed before enclosure. The form Spendingmor contains the element 'ing' which often signifies a family or kinship group, making it possible that Spen was someone's name. Spennithorne near Leyburn in Wensleydale is likely to have a similar meaning to Spennymoor. This place was recorded in the Yorkshire section of the Domesday Book as Speningetorp in 1086 and as Spenithorn in 1150. Later variations included Spennigthorn in 1289 and Spenythorne in 1285. The thorne in Spennithorne, is likely to be a thorn tree found in the area although the early spelling 'torp' could be 'thorpe' the Danish word for a small farm. High Spen in Durham and the Spen valley in western Yorkshire seem to be the only other places in the country to contain the mysterious word or name spen.


An area of land or an acre belonging to a Viking called Stein


This was the village or 'by' belonging to a Viking called Stein.


Situated in a deep coastal creek formed by the Roxby Beck, Staithes has a Viking name meaning landing place. This may be one of the places on the eastern coast where Vikings landed at the beginning of their conquest of Northern England. Not all Norsemen landed on the eastern coast however, as some like the Vikings Croc and Toc sailed into the Mersey estuary where their staithes are remembered in the place names Croxteth and Toxteth. In the North Eastern coalfield the word staithes was later used to describe wooden piers from which ships were loaded with coal on the Rivers Tyne, Wear and Tees.


Thought to derive from the Viking Stong-how meaning pole hill.

Stanwick St John

From the Viking Stan Weggs meaning stone walls. It was the site of a stone walled fortress in pre-Viking times. See also Aldbrough St John.


A myseterious name which is often compared to the ancient name of Whitby. See Whitby

Sutton on the Forest

The southern farm on the forest.


The southern farm near the white stone cliff. It claims to be the longest place name in England, but should perhaps be discounted because it is hyphenated.

Swale, River

A river name of Anglo-Saxon origin. It is thought to mean whirling, swirling swallowing river.

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