London Place Names Explained

Ever wondered why your borough has such a strange name? Then you need to read Adam Aleksic's briliant guide to London place names. Peter Gray reports.

Image: @etymologynerd

Let’s face it – London place names can be weird. Some are self explanatory (Finsbury Park, Shepherd’s Bush Market), others are simply outdated (Wood Green, Turnpike Lane) while some are just wrong on every level (Cockfosters, Shepherd’s Bush – think about it).

The names of London’s boroughs are particularly intriguing. Some are named after people (Camden, Richmond, Merton) however, the thinking behind borough names like Havering and Barking & Dagenham is harder to work out.

Thankfully, a Harvard student called Adam Aleksic has come to the rescue, with a helpful map which contains all of the London Boroughs, and the meaning behind each name. Aleksic, who also goes by the name of @etymologynerd, has carried out painstaking research on every one of the 32 boroughs and the resulting map is both helpful and illuminating.

Borough names can be split into several categories:

A Boroughs which are named after people

  • Camden – The 1st Earl Of Camden
  • Haringey – Anglo Saxon Chief Hearing
  • Richmond – King Henry VII (the Earl of Richmond)
  • Merton – Walter de Merton, Lord Chancellor of England

B Boroughs which are of Anglo Saxon origin

  • Lambeth – derived from lambhythe. This old English term refers to a “place where the lambs landed”
  • Harrow – descends from the Old English word for temple, which is “hearge.”
  • Croydon – derives from the Anglo-Saxon term and means “valley of the crocus flower”
  • Hounslow – descends from the Anglo Saxon and means “the dog’s mound”.

C Boroughs which were named after prominent nearby features

  • Brent – named after the nearby river Brent
  • Islington – named after a nearby hill called Gisladune
  • Hillingdon – named after a nearby hill, hillendone
  • Wandsworth – named after a tributary of the River Thames called the river Wandle
London Place Names (Camden)

Camden – named after the 1st Earl of Camden, Charles Pratt

Aleksic’s map offers a great overview of some of London’s most important place names and a nice way of demonstrating how place names were arrived at in the past. Now, if we could just clear up the Cockfosters mystery.

More information on London place names can be found here.

If you would like more information on aspects of London’s history, please click here.



-London's Best Events-
What: London Place Names
Section:: Boroughs
Where: London and suburbs