🏰 Mapping British place names and other analysis
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README.md

British place names

Contents

British place name component maps

The quality of these is admittedly questionable.

loch, lake

bury, borough, burgh, brough

kirk, church, eglwys

The etymology of the word kirk is very interesting and explains why its usage stretches south not only into England but also mainland Europe. It seems less that 'kirk' is a Scottish word and mostly that 'church' is an English word. The Old Norse influenced places may be in the more Viking-riddled areas of England.

Danelaw (Source: Wikipedia)

Known Danelaw place name parts include 'holm', 'thwaite', 'toft', 'thorpe' and places ending 'by'.

holm

thorp

thwaite

toft

by, bie

rivers

sea

Few surprises here: a well-defined line is drawn around parts of the coast with place names mentioning the sea.

inver, mouth, aber

"Aber", "Mouth", and "Inver" all refer to river mouths. Interesting to note that "Aber" is shared between Scotland and Wales, while "Inver" is exclusively Scottish.

green

-worth, -worthy

Interesting that "worth" is well spread over England but does not venture into Scotland or Wales - but makes more sense when you find that its origin is Old English.

chester, cester, caster

'Cester' seems like a southern variation, and 'caster' a northern variation. Uses of 'chester' itself reach up into Northumbria.

Charlton, Carlton

combe

heath

airn

bourne

stead

cwm

nan

-cott, -cot

higher-, upper-

I have kept the version from the older dataset as the difference is much more apparent.

bister, setter

ley, ly, leigh

wald, wold, weald

Weald is Old/Middle English for "wood".

Bally

Most common dictionary words in British place names

Most common dictionary words in place names view full size

Note: this list was heavily curated for the following reasons:

  • The source dictionary list contains unhelpful (in this case) pieces like 'E', 'LL', 'ENL' which are mostly noise
  • Single and double letter variations (e.g. 'A', 'EN') are mostly noise
  • Some longer dictionary words like 'UGH' and 'EST' still don't really belong

However the raw, uncurated analysis data can be found here.

Letter frequencies in British place names

Start and end letters

Start and end letters

Occurrences of letters

Letter frequencies vs general English

Letter frequencies vs general English

Most common British place name components per n-gram size

Commonest n-grams

Commonest n-grams

Commonest n-grams

Commonest n-grams

Commonest n-grams

Commonest n-grams

Commonest n-grams

Notes:

  • Spaces and dashes were removed in the names before creating n-grams.
  • The Y axis is on different scales in each graph.

Lengths of British place names

lengths of names

Interesting links

Other maps

About place names

Miscellaneous

Data sources

The data from Mike Simpson's site was filtered for 6-digit Ordnance Survey codes which were mostly towns and villages but did have some noise. The data included Britain and the Isle of Man. It was missing some villages I looked for such as Carsethorn and Colvend.

The GeoNames UK data includes Britain and Northern Island. It also appears to have some data from other time zones (territories?) so I filtered any timezone not Europe/London. Isle of Man data was combined in from a separate GeoNames data file. The GeoNames data appears to have less omissions and less noise. However, I have noticed some flaws. I have filtered this data by feature class "P" - populated places mostly cities, towns and villages, but with some noise remaining.

Between the two data sources the maps are more or less similar, with as a general rule less positions appearing for the GeoNames data, but in the same areas and clusters.

Thanks to

Technologies used

  • Code in Python and JavaScript (Node.js)
  • Third-party libraries (Python): Matplotlib, pandas
  • Third-party libraries (JS): clipboardy
  • Graphs made using Microsoft Excel or Matplotlib