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A Hikers Dictionary - A Guide to Our Weird and Wonderful Place Names

The UK is full of weird and wonderful place names. From Hill O' Many Stanes in the far North of Scotland to Bushy Bottom in the south of England, hilarious and daft names are dotted across our country. Words such as 'fell' and 'force' continue to be used widespread in maps, hiking guides and blogs, but where do these words originate from and what do they mean?

We've compiled a list of hilarious and useful words to give you their true meaning, to make your maps that bit more understandable and perhaps slightly less hilarious, so you never misunderstand your Bottom Inch or any Nether areas ever again.


"Aber" means river mouth or estuary (Abelour)

"Ball" is Gaelic for farm

"Bottom" is English for valley

"Burn" Gaelic for stream or brook

"Cair" or "caer" is Old English and Welsh respectively for fort

"Cheap" or "Chip" Old English for market (Chipping Norton)

"Cum" denotes two parishes combined into one e.g. Chorlton-cum-Hardy

"Cwm" or "cumb" are Welsh and Old English respectively for valley

"Dale" is Old Norse for 'valley' and comes from the original word 'dalr'. For example, Allerdale or Grizedale.

"Drum" is Gaelic for ridge e.g. Drumnadrochit

"Fell" generally refers to to the mountains and hills of the Lake District and the Pennines. Originally a fell was a grazing area on top of a hill, although these have long since been applied to hilltops.

"Force" or "Foss" comes from the old Viking word for waterfall. (Useful today where in places like Iceland you can find waterfalls at any location ending in the word Foss e.g. Skogafoss.)

"Gill", "Ghyll" or "Gil" means ravine in Old Norse

"Gowt" Old English for drain or sluice

"Ham" can mean homestead, farm, manor or a wider estate

"Howe" is Old Norse for 'hill'

"Inch" Gaelic for an island or a dry area in a marsh

"Knock" is Gaelic for hill

"Nether" is Old English for a lower area i.e. Nether Alderley

"Pant" is Welsh for a hollow or valley e.g. Pont-y-pant

"Pic" or "Pike" is Old Norse for 'peak' i.e. the peak of a mountain such as Scafell Pike

"Stain" or "stane" is Old English for stones (or an area with plenty of it!)

"Stud" denotes an area to do with horses e.g. Studley Royal

"Tarn" is used to describe a small lake (derives from the old Norse word "tjorn")

"Thong" is Old English for a narrow strip of land

"Thwait" or "Twatt" is Old Norse for a forest clearing with a home or village, or a parcel of land

"Tun" is thought to come from Old Norse for 'farm'

"Twitchen" is Old English for crossroads

"Wallop" is Old English for the middle of a stream

"Wham" is a marshy valley or hollow



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