Alex Asks: What’s In A Name?


This week, I’ve had a bit of bother with a village’s name. Hambledon, in fact.

This charming wee Surrey village shares its name with a charming wee Hampshire village.

It also shares its name with a lovely hill in Dorsey, not to mention being very close in name to a charming wee Buckinghamshire village called Hambleden!

Very confusing when you’re trying to find pictures.

And that’s not even one of more common UK names. I live in a small place right outside Newport-on-Tay, which most of just call Newport.

Newport is right up there on the list of most popular place names in Britain.

Loads of Newbiggings

On the radio a few weeks ago, DJ Sara Cox told the story of how she’d headed off with the family to a festival one weekend. It was at a castle, though I can’t remember which.

They tapped the name into the satnav, and several hours later ended up in the encroaching dark in an obscure part of Wales rather than their intended destination.

Easily done. Up our way, there are loads of Newbiggings, as it means something like “new buildings”.

There’s a “Newbiggin” or two across the border in northern England as well. So you should definitely check you’ve got the right one before you set off!

Dundee is situated roughly halfway between a town called Coupar Angus and a Fife town called Cupar.

Coupar Angus was called exactly that to differentiate from the other.

Ingleton, North Yorkshire. Shutterstock.

There’s a story about an MP from County Durham who was opening a village event in a place called Ingleton.

When she arrived and made her speech, she heaped praise on the village’s caves, waterfalls and links to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sadly, the Ingleton she was thinking of was actually in North Yorkshire. Awkward! And a bit bad, considering it was her own constituency.

Pendle Hill. Shutterstock.

There are two St Ives, two Riples, two Gillinghams — the list goes on. And Brits have reused half of our place names wherever they’ve settled around the globe!

It’s fascinating, too, how some of our place names are just a pile of names added by successive languages that held sway in the area.

Pendle Hill is a combination of Cumbric, Old English and modern English — all of which mean “hill”. So Pendle Hill actually means Hill Hill Hill.

So we nearly came a cropper with our Hambleden, but have you ever had any problems with place names?

Do you live in anywhere with an interesting name? Write to us at!

Catch up with the rest of the team over on our blogs.

Read more from Alex here.

Alex Corlett

Alex is the "Friend's" Features Editor, working with the talented Features Team to bring you everything from cryptic crosswords to financial advice, knitting patterns to international travel and inspirational real life stories. Always on the hunt for a new feature idea, Alex also enjoys cycling and loves a good tea room.