Frederick W P Jago - English Changes of Celtic Cornish Names, 1885



DURING the long period that the ancient Cornish language was gradually decaying, many names of farms, fields, hills, valleys, etc., underwent a curious change; old Cornish names took an English form, and the original meanings of many of them have been completely lost.

Under this process the old words have assumed a phonetic disguise in English, and Celtic Cornish names, which are very descrip­tive, and were easily understood by the old Cornish people, have become quite metamor­phosed by English use and interpretation.

The following list is given as an illustration of the constancy with which names are handed down from generation to generation. It will, however, be seen that such names, permanent as they are in themselves, rapidly lose their true signification when they become a part of another language. Such has been the fate of a very large number of Celtic Cornish names of places.

In the examples given below, the definitions are mostly according to Dr. Bannister, but with some variations. (See his Glossary of Cornish Names.)

Although many names of places admit of various explanations, yet the following list will afford singular instances of the phonetic changes of Cornish names into English—a mere glance will show how utterly differ­ent the English names are from the Celtic Cornish terms and meanings. All the words in the following list have been compared with those of the Archæologia Cornu-Britannica of Pryce, and the Lexicon Cornu-Britannicum of Williams. The spelling of the latter has been generally followed.

Arrow Park.—Garow Park. The rough park or field: from garow, rough, parc, a field or close.

Bacchus Park.—Bagas Park. The bush park or field: from bagas, bush, parc, a field or close.

Bacon Park.—Bechan Park. The little park or field: from bechan, little, small, parc, a field or close.

Barbary.—Bar bre. The top of the hill: from bar, the top or summit, bre, a hill, a mountain.

Beagle Moor.—Bigal Moor. The shepherd's moor or common: from bigal, shepherd.

Bean Park.—Byhan Park. The little park or field: from byhan, little, small, parc, a field.

Billows Field.—Pilez Field. The bare field: from pilez, bare, bald.

Bliss Park.—Pilez Park. The bare or barren field: from pilez, bare, bald.

Blue Park.—Plew Park. The parish park or field: from plew, parish, parc, a close or field.

Bolster.—Bol tir. The earth pit: from bol, a pit, a hole, tir, land, earth, soil, ground.

Bony.—A Celtic Cornish word for an axe, a hatchet.

Boosy.—Boudshi. A cow-house.

Brandy.—Bran ty. The crow's house: from bran, a crow, ty or ti, a house.

Bugle inn.—Bugel Inn. The herdsman's or shepherd's inn: from bugel, a herdsman or shepherd.

Button.—Bod oon. The dwelling-house on the down or common: from bod, a dwelling-house, oon or gwon, a down, common, or field.

Camel Field.—Cammen Field. The path field: from cammen, a way, a path; or, the chamomile field. Chamomile flowers are called camels in Cornwall.

Cane Park.—Kein Park. The ridge park or field: from kein, the ridge of a hill, parc, a field.

Cavil Close.—Kevil Close. The horse field: from kevil, a horse.

Channel Croft.—Tshei an hal Croft. The moor-house croft: from tshei, house, hal, moor.

Chin Park.—Chy wyn Park. The white house park or field: from chy, house, wyn, white, parc, a field.

Coal Park.—Caol Park. The cabbage close or field: from caol or caul, cabbage, parc, a close or field.

Cod Park.—Coid Park. The wood close or field: from coid, a wood.

Cold Harbour.—Col ar burg. The narrow neck over the camp: from col, a neck, ar, over, above, upon.

Come to Good.—Cum ty coed. The wood house valley: from cum, valley, ty or ti, house, coed, a wood.

Coney Ear.—Goon y hir. The long down or common: from goon, a down, hir, long.

Cornhill.—Carn heul. The sun rock: from carn, a rock, heul, the sun.

Cotton.—Coit oon. The down or commons wood: from coit or coed, wood, oon, goon, or wôn, a down.

Cracker.—Carrag hir. The long stone: from carrag, a rock or stone, hir, long.

Cut Park.—Coit Park. The wood park or field: from coit, coid, coed, or cuit, a wood, parc, a field.

Darkey.—Dour chy. Water house: from dour, water, chy, a house.

Dice Meadow.—Diz Meadow. The people's meadow: from dis or diz, the people.

Dinah's Hill.—Dinas Hill. The fort hill: from dinas, a fort, fortress, fortified town, a city.

Dipper Park.—Dippa Park. The pit close or field: from dippa, a pit, parc, a field.

Door Downs.—Dour Downs. Water downs: from dour, water.

Dorcas.—Dor cus. The forest or wood land: from dor, land, cus, a forest.

Dower Park.—Dour Park. The water park or field: from dour, water, parc, a field.

Dry Field.—Adré Field. The home field: from adré, homewards.

Gallows Park.—Golez Park. The lowest, or bottom close or field: from golés or golez, the bottom, or lowest part.

Gold Arrows.—Gweal daras. The field by the door: from gweal, field, daras, door.

Good Grace.—Coed cres. The middle wood: from coed, a wood, cres, middle.

Goose Ford.— Cûs fordh. The way by the wood: from cûs, wood, fordh, a way.

Groan Field.—Grow or growan Field. The sand field: from grow or growan, sand, gravel.

Grouse Croft.—Crows Croft. The cross field: from crows, a cross.

Grumbler.—Grambla. A climbing place: from grambla, to climb.

Gull's Park.—Golés Park. The bottom close or field: from golés, the bottom, the lowest part.

Gun.—Goon. The down or common.

Gun Park.—Goon Park. The down park or common: from goon, a down, parc, a field or close.

Gun Pool.—Goon Pool. The down pool, or pool on the common: from goon, down or common, pol, pond, pool, stagnant water.

Hawkey's Praise.—Hawkey's prâs. Hawkey's meadow: from prâs, a meadow.

Kissing Close.—Kesan Close. The turf close, or field: from kesan, a turf, a sod.

Lawyer.—Lau hir. Long hand: from lau, hand, hir, long.

Laugher.—Lan veor. The great enclosure: from lan, inclosure (also, a church), veor, great.

Lostwithiel.—Les uthiel, or -uhei. The high court or hall: from les, a court, a hall, uthiel, uthell, uhel, high.

Maiden Bower.—Maen veur. The great stone: from maen, stone, veur, great.

Manacles.—Maen eglos. The church rock: from maen, rock or stone, eglos, church.

Man of War.—Maen veur. The great stone: from maen, stone, veur, great.

Men Park.—Maen Park. The stone park or field: from maen, a stone, parc, a close or field.

Merry Maidens.—Meur meyn. The great stones: from meur, great, meyn, stones.

Nine Maidens.—Naw meyn. The nine stones: from naw, nine, meyn, stones.

One and All (a place so named).—Gwon an hal. The moor field: from gwon, field, hal, a moor.

One Field.—Oon Field. The down field: from oon or goon, a down or common.

Parsley (Park).—Park isella. The lower field or close: from parc, a field, isella, lower.

Paul Pry.—Pol Pry. Muddy pool: from pol, pool, pri or pry, earth, clay.

Peach Field.—Bech field. The little field: from bechan, little, small.

Penny Ball.—Pen y Bal. The head of the mine: from pen, head, extremity, summit, bal, a mine, a parcel of Tinworks.

Penny-come-quick.—Pen y cum gwic. The head (or end) of the creek-coomb: from pen, the head or end, cum, a coomb or valley, and gwic, a creek or inlet of the sea.

Pericles Cove.—Porth eglos Cove. The church cove: from porth, a port, a bay, eglos, a church.

Pitch Park.—Bech Park. The little field or close: from bechan, little, small.

Player.—Pol heir. The battle pool; or Pol hir, the long pool: from pol, a pool, heir, battle, or hir, long.

Poll Brandy.—Pol bran ti. The crow house pool: from pol, a pool, bran, a crow, ti or ty, a house.

Poll Brown.—Pol bruin. The rush pool: from pol, a pool, bruin, a rush.

Policy.—Pol Issey. St. Issey's pool.

Poll Park.—Pol parc. The field pool: from pol, a pool, parc, a close or field.

Poll Pry.—Poll pri. Muddy pool: from pol, pool, pri, clay or mud.

Poll Quick.—Pol gwic. The village pool or creek: from pol, a pool, gwic, a village, a creek.

Poll Rose.—Pol ros. The wheel pit: from pol, a pit, ros, a wheel.

Proclaim.—Parc clam. The footbridge field: from parc, a field, clam, a footbridge.

Pull Main.—Pol maen. The stone pit: from pol, a pit, maen, a stone.

Purgatory.—Parc a dourie. The watery park or field: from parc, field, dour, water.

Purse Hill.—Parc isal. The low close or field: from parc, a field, isal, low.

Pussey.—Pos Hay. The post close: from pos, a post.

Queen Park.—Gwin Park. The white field: from parc, a field, gwin, white.

Reader.—Rid hir. The long ford: from rid or ryd, a ford, hir, long.

Red Tye.—Rid ty. The house ford: from rid or ryd, a ford, ty, a house.

Rosy.—Ros hay. The net field: from ros, a net.

Shake's Moor.—Shag's moor: from shagga, a shag or cormorant.

Skin Field.—Heskin Field. The sedge field: from hesken, sedge.

Tar Park.—Dar Park. The oak close or field: from dar, an oak tree.

Tinker's Lake.—Tan caer Lake. The fire castle lake: from tan, fire, caer, a castle.

Toddy Well.—The tadpole well: from tom-toddy, a tadpole.

Try Corner Field.—Tri Corner Field. Three corner field: from tri, three.

Turkey Park.—Dourgi Park. The otter close or field: from dourgi, an otter, parc, a field.

Turnavore.—Turn an veur. The great tower: from tur, a tower, veur, great.

Turn a Penny.—Turnupan Hay. The turnip field: from turnupan, a turnip.

Well Man.—Gweal maen. The stone field: from gweal, a field, maen, a stone.

Whistle Park.—Isel Park. The low field: from isel, low, parc, a close or field.

Extracted from The Western Antiquary; or, Note-Book for Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, Vol 4, No 10, March 1885, pp201-204.