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  Orkney Placenames

Natural elements

Placenames deriving from Old Norse are usually descriptive, based on the appearance or position of the place. Within our placenames we can therefore find a number of these old descriptive Norse words.

In the following list, the Norse element is shown and beside it a rough translation.

The form in which the element can now be seen appears as a name or part of a name beneath the translation.

Land features
brattr meaning "steep"
Found today as "-brett"
hamarr meaning "rock" or "crag"
  e.g. Brettobreck   e.g. Dwarfie Hammars, Hoy
brekka meaning "slope"
Found today as "-breck"
haugr meaning "mound" Found today as "howe"
  e.g. Breck, a common farm name.   e.g. Ingashowe, Maeshowe, Howe
dalr Meaning "valley"
Found today as "-dale" or "-dall"
hlið meaning "slope"
Found today as "-lee"
  e.g. Rendall, Heddle   e.g. Lee, a farm name.
fjall Meaning "hill"
Found today as "-fell", "-fea" or "fiold"
knappr meaning "knob"
  e.g. Kringlafiold, Miffia   e.g. Knap of Howar
gíl Meaning "stream" or "valley"
Found today as "-gill"
kuml Meaning "Burial Mound"
Found today as "-cumla"
  e.g. Rennegill   e.g. Cumlaquoy
mýrr Meaning "marsh" or "bog"
Found today as "-mire"
varði Meaning "beacon" or "watch-tower"
Found today as "-wart" or "-ward"
  e.g. Mid Mire, Rossmire   e.g. Ward Hill
völlr Meaning "field"
Found today as "vel-" or "-wall"
ass Meaning "Ridge"
Found today as "-house"
  e.g. Tingwall.    
berg Meaning "rock"
Found today as "-berry" or "-ber"
grjot Meaning "gravel"
Found today as "grut-"
  e.g. Muckleber   e.g. Grutness.
kampr Meaning "ridge" or "crest"
Found today as "kame"
skal Meaning "soft rock"
Found today as "skel-"
  e.g. Kame o Corrigal   e.g. Skelbister
þúfa Meaning "mound" or "knoll"
Found today as "-too"
   

Freshwater features
brun Meaning "Well"
Found today as "-burn"
fors Meaning "waterfall"
Found today as "furs-"
    e.g. Fursbreck
kelda Meaning "spring" or "well" óss Meaning "burn-mouth"
Found today as "oyce"
    e.g. The Oyce
tjörn Meaning "a pool"
Found today as "-shun"
vatn Meaning "lake"
Found today as "watten"
  e.g. Trollashun   e.g. Trollawatten

Shoreline features
bakki Meaning "bank of stream"
Found today as "-back"
bringa Meaning "breast/chest"
Found today as "bring"
fles Meaning "flat skerry"
Found today as "flashes"
stakk Meaning "pillar rock"
Found today as "stack"
berg Meaning "a rock"
Found today as
"-ber" or "-berry"
eið Meaning "isthmus"
Found today as
"aith" or "-ay"
or "-a"
  e.g. Stromberry   e.g. Eday
ey Meaning "Island"
Found today as
"-ay" or "-a".
eyrr Meaning "sand spit"
Found today as "Ayre"
  e.g. Sanday, Fara, Ronaldsay   e.g. Ayre Mill, Ireland
gnüp Meaning "peak"
Found today as "noup"
hella Meaning "flat rock"
Found today as "-hellya"
     
hellir Meaning "cave"
Also found today as "-hellya"
hólmr Meaning "small island"
Found today as "holm",
      e.g. Lambholm, Holm
of Grimbister
klettr Meaning "a rock"
Found today as "-clett"
muli Meaning "animal snouth"
Found today as "moul"
  e.g. Faraclett, Linklet, Hunclett  
nes Meaning
"point of land".
Found today as "-ness"
oddr Meaning "sharp point"
Found today as "-od"
  e.g. Stromness, Lyness   e.g. Odiness
sker Meaning "skerry"
Found today as "skerry"
tangi Meaning "tongue"
Found today as "-taing"
  e.g. Auskerry   e.g. Linkertaing

Sea features
efja Meaning "backwater"
or "eddy"
Found today as "evie"
fjörðr Meaning "firth"
Found today as "firth" or "-ford"
  e.g. Evie   e.g. Firth, a Mainland parish.
gjá Meaning "chasm"
or "inlet"
Found today as "geo"
glúfr Meaning "chasm"
Found today as "gloup"
  e.g. Skippigeo   e.g. The Gloup
hafn Meaning "Haven"
or "harbour"
Found today as "ham" or "hamn-"
hóp Meaning "shallow bay"
  e.g. Hamnavoe   e.g. St Margaret's Hope, Longhope
straumr Meaning "tide stream"
Also found today as "strom-"
vágr Meaning "narrow bay"
Found today as "voe" or "-wall"
  e.g. Stromness   e.g. Kirkwall (Kirkjuvagr)
vað Meaning "ford" or "wading-place"
Found today as "waith"
vík Meaning "bay"
Found today as "-wick"
  e.g. Brig o Waith   e.g. Sandwick, Otterswick

Other elements
djúp Meaning "deep"
Found today as "Deep-" or "jub-"
faer Meaning "a sheep"
Found today as "far"
  e.g. Deepdale, Jubidee   e.g. Faraclett, Fara, Faray
flatr Meaning "flat"
Found today as "flot-"
Meaning "high"
Found today as "ho-"
  e.g. Flotta   e.g. Hoy
heilagr Meaning "holy"
Found today as "hellya", "helli" or "hallow"
hrafn Meaning "raven"
Found today as "ram-" or "ramn-"
  e.g. Eynhallow, Hellihowe  
hross Meaning "horse"
Found today as "russ-"
mykill Meaning "great" (as in "large")
Found today as "muckle"
  e.g. Russland   e.g. Muckle Green Holm
skalp Meaning "ship"
Found today as "scap-"
skip Meaning "ship"
  e.g. Scapa   e.g. Skippigeo
rauðr Meaning "red"
Found today as "ro-" or "ruthie"
hvít Meaning "white"
Found today as "wheeta-"
  e.g. Ruthietaing  
svartr Meaning "black"
Found today as "swart-"
   
  e.g. Swartland    

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