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A Concise Dictionary of Cornish Place-Names

Craig Weatherhill

First edition. Cathair na Mart: Evertype, 2009. ISBN 978-1-904808-22-0.
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A Concise Dictionary of Cornish Place-Names


Many people first take an interest in the Cornish language because they are curious to learn more about the distinctive and fascinating place names of Cornwall.

The key to understanding the meaning of these place-names is language. Most derive from the Cornish language primarily, but many of them have their roots in Old English, Middle English, French, and other languages which have left their mark on Cornwall. Through the tireless and exacting work of place-name specialists, the secrets of Cornish place-names are being unlocked for everyone. This dictionary offers in a concise format more than 3,300 place-names. It is the fruit of Craig Weatherhill’s many years of research, not only of the meaning of the names themselves, but of considering the question of how best to represent those names in Revived Cornish. The recommendations in this dictionary preserve the authentic and attested linguistic forms while at the same time honouring the traditional orthographic forms which have been visible on the Cornish landscape for at least four centuries.

The orthography used in this dictionary is compatible with the Standard Written Form (SWF), adopted by the Cornish Language Partnership for educational and official use. It is also compatible with Kernowek Standard (KS), a practical orthography which informed the development of the SWF. In turn, KS has been modified in light of the published SWF specifi­ca­tion, while adopting a few emendations to make the ortho­graphy more consistent and more like the spelling of traditional Cornish.

As with all such works, this dictionary will doubtless contain errors, however hard its author and editor have striven to avoid them. The book could be larger, reversed, contain maps or Ordnance Survey grid references, or be expanded in other ways. Nevertheless we have published this material in concise form to make available for the first time authentic and traditional names suitable for modern use.

Michael Everson
Westport, Co. Mayo


In my work on place-names I have proceeded on the basis of the following definition:

An historical place-name is one which was firmly established before 1904; the publication date of Henry Jenner’s Handbook of the Cornish Language, and generally accepted as the commencement of the revival of the Cornish language.

The way in which this working definition has been implemented involves making a number of choices, when evaluating the historically-attested names and normalizing them in the light of standard orthography in Revived Cornish, whilst respecting at the same time the familiar and traditional spellings even of their anglicized forms. Of course this work is not done in a vacuum, and the work of other place-name specialists has informed many of the choices made.

One major source of place-name history is the pair of un­pub­lished manuscripts The Place-Names of Cornwall compiled in 1948 by J. E. B. Gover; these being lodged at the Royal Institution of Cornwall, River Street, Truro. This valuable work has been relied upon by many over several decades.

However, Oliver Padel has been at considerable pains to point out that the Gover manuscripts are replete with error, with some historical forms attributed to wrong locations and, therefore, Gover can no longer be regarded as reliable. The task of checking each of Gover’s entries against his cited sources is a mammoth one which Padel himself has now undertaken with a view to producing a corrected edition. This work is likely to take several months, if not longer and, with this in mind, a number of names in the appended list might need to be reviewed in the future.

To prepare a dictionary of place-names suitable for the practice of translating toponyms in Cornwall and Scilly for purposes of signage, cartography and use in the Cornish language itself, prime consideration should be given to protecting the historical integrity of each name, be it of Cornish or non-Cornish origin.


Notwithstanding the departures from the Standard Written Form and Kernowek Standard orthographies detailed above, which are necessitated by the requirement to retain historical integrity, I would like to emphasize that the forms recommended for modern use remain compatible with both. I would like to acknowledge the support of the Cornish Language Develop­ment office, which encouraged me to prepare a list of recommen­dations of historic place-names for modern use.

Much of the detail in this dictionary results from discussion with a number of experts in linguistics and toponymy. In this regard, I wish to thank, in particular, Nicholas Williams, Michael Everson, Eddie Forbeis Climo, Oliver Padel, Andrew Climo, Charles Thomas, as well as the late P. A. S. Pool. For what errors may yet persist, I bear the final responsibility alone; but I trust that this book will still be useful and interesting despite any imperfections.

Craig Weatherhill
Hal an Tegen, Pensans

Table of Contents

Modern representation of Cornish place-names
Hundreds. regions, etc.
Rivers, estuaries, and lakes
Archaeological and historic sites
Hills, upland areas, and similar features
Coastal features and islands
Towns and settlements
Some common place-name elements

Also available from: Spyrys a Gernow

HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, 73 Woodgrove, Portlaoise, R32 ENP6, Ireland, 2009-01-23

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