Eilert Ekwall

Bror Oscar Eilert Ekwall (born 8 January 1877 in Vallsjö (now in Sävsjö, Jönköpings län, Sweden, died 23 November 1964 in Lund, Skåne län, Sweden), known as Eilert Ekwall, was Professor of English at Sweden's Lund University from 1909 to 1942 and was one of the outstanding scholars of the English language in the first half of the 20th century. He wrote works on the history of English, but he is best known as the author of numerous important books on English placenames (in the broadest sense) and personal names.

Grave of swedish professor Eilert Ekwall lund sweden
Eilert Ekwall's gravestone at the Northern Cemetery in Lund.

Scholarly works

His chief works in this area are The Place-Names of Lancashire (1922), English Place-Names in -ing (1923, new edition 1961), English River Names (1928), Studies on English Place- and Personal Names (1931), Studies on English Place-Names (1936), Street-Names of the City of London (1954), Studies on the Population of Medieval London (1956), and the monumental Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names (1936, new editions 1940, 1947/51 and the last in 1960). The Dictionary remained the standard national reference resource for over 40 years, and is still valuable even though some aspects of Ekwall's methodology and some of his ideas are no longer accepted.[1] Although not a county editor of the survey conducted by the English Place-Name Society (1923-date), his philological advice was often sought and acknowledged by scholars preparing the county volumes, such as Allen Mawer and Frank Stenton. He was competent not only in English philology, but also in Scandinavian and Celtic, making him ideally qualified as an authority on linguistic aspects of the place-names of England.

His other work on English included scholarly editions of classic early-modern works such as John Jones' Practical Phonography of 1701 (1907), the anonymous Writing Scholar's Companion of 1695 (1911), John Lydgate's Siege of Thebes (1930). Notable other book(let)s were that on modern English phonology and morphology originally published in German in 1914 and still being reprinted in 1965 (English edition finally after Ekwall's death, in 1975); and that on the genitive of groups, with much relevance for place-name studies (1943).

Ekwall also left behind an extensive body of influential academic articles and notes (many collected in the books of 1931 and 1936 mentioned above), local working papers of Lund University, and a very large number of book reviews, all published over a period of some 60 years, in English, Swedish and German, and mostly referenced in von Feilitzen's bibliography.

From 1935, Ekwall was a Fellow of the Swedish Academy of Letters and the Swedish Academy of Sciences. He and his wife Dagny founded a bursary for students at Lund University from the Småland region.

Further reading (not mentioned above)

  • Ekwall, Eilert (1924) "The Celtic element" and "The Scandinavian element", in A. Mawer and F. M. Stenton, eds, Introduction to the Survey [of English Place-Names]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (English Place-Name Survey vol. 1, part 1, pp. 15–35 and 55-92).
  • von Feilitzen, Olof (1961) The Published Writings of Eilert Ekwall: a Bibliography. Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup WorldCat catalogue record.


  1. ^ Unlike other "Concise Oxford dictionaries" it is not an abridgement, just scaled down to what Ekwall himself could bring to completion. He based it on the names in Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles, then excluded Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Ireland and the Channel Islands. Also excluded were names of late origin, or names without any record of early forms. "It is the first principle of place-name etymology that there must be early name forms on which to found the explanation." There is a supplement of Monmouthshire place-names (officially a county of England but only since the year 1535)—Concise Dictionary (1940); pp. vii, 521-524
-wich town

A "-wich town" is a settlement in Anglo-Saxon England characterised by extensive artisanal activity and trade – an "emporium".

The name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon suffix -wīc, signifying "a dwelling or fortified place".

Such settlements were usually coastal and many have left material traces found during excavation.Eilert Ekwall wrote:

OE wīc, an early loan-word from Lat vicus, means 'dwelling, dwelling-place; village, hamlet, town; street in a town; farm, esp. a dairy-farm'. ... It is impossible to distinguish neatly between the various senses. Probably the most common meaning is 'dairy-farm'. ... In names of salt-working towns ... wīc originally denoted the buildings connected with a salt-pit or even the town that grew up around it. But a special meaning 'salt-works', found already in DB, developed."

As well as -wich, -wīc was the origin of the endings -wyck and -wick, as, for example, in Papplewick, Nottinghamshire.

Four former "-wīc towns" are known in England as the consequence of excavation. Two of these – Jorvik (Jorwic) in present-day York and Lundenwic near London – are waterfront sites, while the other two, Hamwic in Southampton and Gipeswic (Gippeswic) in Ipswich are further inland.


*Agronā was a hypothetical reconstructed Proto-Celtic name for the river Ayr in Scotland, later applied to the river Aeron in Wales. The claim was linguistic and first appeared in William J. Watson's Celtic Placenames of Scotland (1926). Watson suggested the river Ayr in Scotland could be worked back to a hypothetical Proto-Celtic 'river goddess of slaughter and carnage', and that the deity name was *Agronā. At that time there were many questionable Scottish nationalist attempts to use the River Ayr place-name to claim Taliesin’s battle poems for Scotland, and Watson’s derivation strongly and implicitly supported such claims. Two years later Eilert Ekwall in his English River-Names (Oxford University Press, 1928, reprinted 1968) instead derived the river Ayr simply from the root *Ara. However the earlier claim that the river's name literally means 'carnage' persisted. The alleged 'goddess' even entered some encyclopaedias, and the derivation to 'carnage' has since become casually conflated with the similarly-named Welsh river Aeron. However, in historical memory the opposite meaning for the River Aeron pertained, as Pughe's Dictionary of the Welsh Language states that the Aeron name for rivers in living Welsh meant: "queen of brightness".

Alchester Roman Town

This article is about Alchester in Oxfordshire. It should not be confused with Alcester in Warwickshire.Alchester is the site of an ancient Roman town. The site is not included in any ancient references so the Roman name is not known. However, Eilert Ekwall contended that it appears as Alavna in the Ravenna Cosmography, with the addition of the Old English ceaster to signify a Roman fort.

It lies about 2 miles (3 km) south of Bicester, in the northwest corner of the civil parish of Wendlebury in the English county of Oxfordshire.Alchester had a strategic location in Roman Britain at a crossroads on the Silchester–Dorchester on Thames–Towcester road and the Cirencester–St Albans road (Akeman Street). Recent excavations have shown that it was the site of one of the earliest legionary fortresses in Roman Britain after the invasion of 43 AD.

The site has been the subject of investigation since 1996, first under the auspices of Oxford University Archaeological Society, then under those of Leicester and Edinburgh Universities.

Aldham, Suffolk

Aldham is a village and civil parish in the Babergh district of Suffolk, England. Located around 8 miles (13 km) west of Ipswich, in 2005 it had a population of 200, reducing to 175 at the 2011 Census.

According to Eilert Ekwall the meaning of the village name is Ealda's meadow/enclosure or old meadow/enclosure. The village was mentioned in the Domesday Book, at which time it had a population of 16.

The church of Aldham St Mary is one of 38 existing round-tower churches in Suffolk. It appears in the second series of the BBC Four television series Detectorists.In 1555 Aldham Common was the location for the martyrdom of Dr Rowland Taylor, the rector of Hadleigh, during the Marian Persecutions of Protestants. An unhewn stone, probably dating from the early 17th century, marks the place of Taylor's death, where the B1070 Lady Lane meets the A1071 Ipswich Road. Next to the unhewn stone, there is also a pyramidal stone monument erected in 1818, and restored by parishioners in 1882. It is a Grade II listed building.


Assington is a village in Suffolk, England, 4 miles (6.4 km) south-east of Sudbury. At the 2011 Census, it had a population of 402.According to Eilert Ekwall, the meaning of the name is "homestead of Assi". The village was mentioned in the Domesday Book, when it had a 78 households. At the survey in 1086, it was held by Ranulf Peverel. Before the Norman Conquest, the village was held by Siward Barn.The parish church is dedicated to Edmund the Martyr and dates from the 15th century. It is built from flint and dressed stone. The church was restored in the 19th century. Six bells hang in the tower, with the largest weighing approximately 10cwt - 2qr. The bells, cast and rehung in 1890 by John Warner, were unringable as of 2013.The parish includes the hamlets of Rose Green and Dorking Tye.Assington Hall - which is adjacent to the church - was home of the Gurdon family for many centuries.

Barningham, Suffolk

Barningham is a village and civil parish in the St Edmundsbury district of Suffolk, England, about twelve miles north-east of Bury St Edmunds. According to Eilert Ekwall, the meaning of the village name is the homestead of Beorn's people. The Domesday Book records the population of Barningham in 1086 to be 36. It has a primary school, a pub called the Royal George, a shop with a post office, a church, a hairdresser's, a village hall and a flower shop.

The pharmaceutical company Fisons, founded by James Fison in the late 18th century, began as a flour mill and bakery in the village. The building has since been developed into terraced homes.

Boxted, Suffolk

Boxted is a village and civil parish in the Babergh district of Suffolk, England. Located around 8 miles (13 km) north of Sudbury, in 2005 it had a population of 120. From the 2011 Census the population was included in the civil parish of Somerton.

According to Eilert Ekwall, the meaning of the village name is place where box grow. The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book, at which time it had a population of 25.

Bradfield St Clare

Bradfield St. Clare is a village and civil parish in the St Edmundsbury district of Suffolk, England. According to Eilert Ekwall, the meaning of the village name is "the wide field". The Domesday Book records the population of Bradfield St. Clare in 1086 to be 76; this includes Bradfield Combust and Bradfield St George. The village is about six miles south of Bury St Edmunds. The village includes a church.

Charney Bassett

Charney Bassett is a village and civil parish about 4.5 miles (7 km) north of Wantage and 6 miles (10 km) east of Faringdon in the Vale of White Horse. It was part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred it to Oxfordshire.

The river Ock flows through it, and divides here for a mile or so. Eilert Ekwall postulates that the alternative name of the river, Charn or Cearn, may have originally applied to the northern arm only.


The Cilternsæte (or Ciltern Sætna) were a tribe that occupied the Chilterns, probably in the 6th century AD.It is unclear whether they were native Britons, Anglians, or West Saxons. Mortimer Wheeler noted the absence of Anglo-Saxon evidence from the Chilterns and suggested the area was a British enclave into the 6th Century, possibly the remnants of a Sub-Roman polity encompassing an area that included London, Colchester, and St. Albans. Earlier, J. Brownbill had suggested they were one branch of the West Saxons.The Tribal Hidage valued their territory at 4,000 hides. This assessment is relatively large compared with those of some other tribes of central England. Although the Tribal Hidage suggests the tribe gave its name to the hills, the truth must be the reverse since the toponym is of Brittonic origin. Eilert Ekwall suggested that "Chiltern" is possibly related to the ethnic name "Celt" ("Celtæ" in early Celtic). An adjective celto- ="high" with suffix -erno- could be the origin of Chiltern.

They became part of Mercia in the 7th century. Previously, they were a Middle Angle tribe.


Eilert is a male given name and may refer to:

Edvard Eilert Christie (1773–1831), Norwegian businessperson and politician

Eilert Bøhm (1900–1982), Norwegian gymnast who competed in the 1920 Summer Olympics

Eilert Dahl (1919–2004), Norwegian Nordic skier who competed in the late 1940s and early 1950s

Eilert Ekwall (born 1877), Professor of English at Lund University, Sweden, from 1909 to 1942

Eilert Falch-Lund (1875–1960), Norwegian sailor who competed in the 1908 and 1912 Summer Olympics

Eilert Määttä (born 1935), retired Swedish professional ice hockey player and coach

Eilert Pilarm (born 1953), Swedish Elvis impersonator

Eilert Stang Lund (born 1939), Norwegian judge

Eilert Sundt (1817–1875), Norwegian sociologist, known for his work on mortality, marriage and working class subjects

Great Barton

Great Barton is a village and civil parish in the West Suffolk district of Suffolk, England, about three miles from Bury St Edmunds. According to Eilert Ekwall, the meaning of the village name is barley enclosure/demesne farm or outlying grange. The Domesday Book records the population of Great Barton in 1086 was 104.All the recorded details of burials in Great Barton Churchyard from 1563 to 1992 have been transcribed from the original registers into alphabetical order, together with cross references to the 517 gravestones, as recorded by the Women's Institute Survey in 1979.Great Barton is also home to radio transmission site, broadcasting the services of Heart East Anglia on 96.4 FM (1.8 kW) and BBC Radio Suffolk on 104.6 FM (2 kW). There is also a medium wave (AM) service on the same mast transmitting Classic Gold on 1251 kHz at 760w.

Great Bradley

Great Bradley is a village in Suffolk, England. According to Eilert Ekwall the meaning of the village name is the "wide clearing". The population is about 400 and includes Little Bradley.

There is evidence that people have lived in and around Great Bradley by the River Stour since the middle stone age over 5,000 years ago.

Great Glemham

Great Glemham is a village and a civil parish in the Suffolk Coastal District, in the English county of Suffolk. The civil parish had a population of 224 at the 2011 Census. It is a mile and a half from the A12 road. Great Glemham has a pub - The Crown Inn (the interior of which was used as a film location for the comedy series The Detectorists), a church and a village hall. It is located between the towns of Framlingham and Saxmundham.

The place-name 'Glemham' is first attested in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it appears as Gl(i)emham and Glaimham. Eilert Ekwall comments: "The first element of the names is possibly Old English glēam 'merriment'... Glem, river-name, is no doubt a back-formation." By analogy with Glandford in Norfolk, 'Glemham' could mean 'village where sports were held'.Great Glemham House, the seat of the Earls of Cranbrook, is nearby.

Little Bradley

Little Bradley is a small village and civil parish in the St Edmundsbury district, in the county of Suffolk, England. According to Eilert Ekwall the meaning of the village name is the wide clearing. The Domesday Book records the population of Little Bradley in 1086 (including Great Bradley) to be 57. It lies in the valley of the River Stour, north of Haverhill. The population at the 2011 Census was included in the civil parish of Great Bradley

The 11th century Church of All Saints is one of 38 existing round-tower churches in Suffolk. It is a grade I listed building.


Parlick (also known as Parlick Pike) is an approximately cone-shaped steep-sided hill at the extreme south of the main range of Bowland fells in Lancashire, England. Its bog-free sides make it more popular with walkers than the shallow boggy hills to its north. Paths zigzag up this hill from the south, or for the more strenuous ascent a straight path can be chosen. This hill is usually green — different from the often thorny brown to red of the northern hills. A thin neck joins Parlick onto Fair Snape Fell with well-worn paths linking the two.

Regarding the origin of the name, Professor Eilert Ekwall, in his 1922 The Place-names of Lancashire, writes:

".. (caput de) Pirloc 1228 C1R, Perlak 1228 WhC 371, Pireloke 1338 LPR, Pyrelok pyke c 1350 ib. The name cannot mean " pear orchard " as Wyld suggests. But the etymology may be correct with a slight amendment. O.E. loc means " fold for sheep or goats." A sheep fold at which grew a peartree (O.E. pyrige) may very well have been at the foot of or on the slope of the hill ; this may have been called Parlick (Pirloc) and have given the hill its name. For a probable earlier name see under Core, p. 143."

Parlick is a popular venue for foot-launched gliders, because it produces good ridge lift in an unusually wide variety of wind directions. The extensive west-facing bowl allows paraglider pilots to fly to Fair Snape Fell and beyond without leaving reliable ridge lift and as far forwards as Beacon Fell. Local pilots use this arena for club competitions, such as the 'Parlick Grid Challenge'

The summit consists of little more than a cairn, leaving the walker to look at the view, south to Preston and Winter Hill near Chorley, east toward Pendle Hill, and west towards Blackpool and the Irish Sea.

The boundary between the boroughs of Wyre and Ribble Valley passes very close to the summit, with half of the hill lying within each borough.

"Parlick Fell" is the name of a cheese made in Longridge from sheep's milk from the area.The hill and its environs are the location of the legend of the enormous Dun Cow, which was reputed to wander freely across the moorland, and to be in the habit of quenching its thirst at "Nick's Water-Pot", a well on the summit of Parlick.


The Spaldingas ("dwellers of the Spald") were an Anglian tribe that settled in an area known as the spalda. This divided the fens and marshes of East Anglia in what is now the South Holland part of Lincolnshire. As well as establishing the town of Spalding, first mentioned in a charter by King Æthelbald of Mercia to the monks of Crowland Abbey in 716, they also gave their name to the village of Spaldington in East Yorkshire.A tribe living in "Spalda" are mentioned in the Tribal Hidage (7th century). Eilert Ekwall regarded this name as etymologically obscure. He suggested that the tribe may have brought this name (Spaldas) from the Continent where there may have been a corresponding place-name. It would presumably be related to the unrecorded Anglo-Saxon spaldan (to cleave) (OHG spaltan) so the meaning of the noun would be "cleft" or "ravine". However, as there are no ravines in the fenland, all of the above should be treated with caution.

The Spaldingas may have retained their administrative independence within the Kingdom of Mercia into the late 9th century, when Stamford became one of the Five Boroughs of the East Midlands under Danish control.


Tysoe is a civil parish in the Stratford-on-Avon district, in the county of Warwickshire, England, 9 miles (14 km) north-west of Banbury. The three main settlements in the parish, Upper, Middle and Lower Tysoe are on a hill, hence the respective village names. Upper and Middle Tysoe have now merged, whereas Lower Tysoe is still separate, a little further north. The estimated population of the parish is 1,050, based on the 2001 UK Census.

The name of the parish is derived from the Old English Tīwes hōh = "spur of land belonging to the god Týr", who was the god who gave his name to Tuesday. The place-name 'Tysoe' is first attested in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it appears as Tiheshoche. Eilert Ekwall comments: "The etymology suggested is rendered likely by the fact that at Tysoe was a cut figure of a horse, after which the Vale of the Red Horse was named. The horse may have been a monument to a victory won by the Anglo-Saxons dedicated to the war-god."The parish church is dedicated to St Mary and dates back to the 11th century. All three of the villages contain several 17th-century buildings, especially Middle Tysoe, which was once the main village of the parish. The local village primary school was opened in 1859 and has been extended in the 1980s and 2005. Compton Wynyates country house is just half a mile south of the village. Joseph Ashby, the agricultural trade unionist, was born in the village in 1859; his biography was written by his daughter Kathleen Ashby, teacher and historian.

As mentioned above, the parish once contained a hill figure, the Red Horse of Tysoe, which was recorded as early as 1607 but which is now lost.Tysoe Parish & Community website can be found at: http://www.tysoe.org.uk

Woolfardisworthy, Mid Devon

Woolfardisworthy (pronounced "Woolfarsworthy") is a village and civil parish in Mid Devon. It is situated about 9km north of Crediton.

According to the Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names (Eilert Ekwall, 4th ed., 1960), the origin of the name is probably 'Wulfheard's homestead'. The element 'worthy' is from Old English worþig, one of several words for a homestead or small settlement found in English place names.

The civil parish also contains the village of Black Dog.


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