English Place-name Society

Survey of English Place-Names

A county-by-county guide to the linguistic origins of England’s place-names – a project of the English Place-Name Society, founded 1923.

Harrogate, High Harrogate, Low Harrogate

Major Settlement in the Parish of Knaresborough

Historical Forms

  • Harwegate 1332,1337 Hrg
  • Harugate 1343–1460 Hrg
  • Harougat 1333 Hrg
  • Harowgate 1439 Testii 1485,1496 Hrg 1518 MinAcct
  • Harrowga(i)te, Harrowgayte 1333 Hrg 1532 KnaresWill 1546 YChant 1695 M
  • Harrogate 1512,1521 KnaresW 1554 YDiv 1635 Hrg 1807 PRAdel
  • Harrogaite 1545 TestLds
  • Low Harrogaite 1770 EnclA
  • High Harrogaite 1817 M
  • Harlowgate 1518 MinAcct
  • Harlowgayte 1558 KnaresWill
  • Harlogate, Harlogait 1522–75 KnaresWill 1531 MinAcct 1573 Hrg
  • Harrygate, Harrigate 1556 NCWills 1617 Comm
  • Haragat 1567 Visit
  • Hurrowgate 1585 PRLds
  • Herrogate 1663 Hrg


Although Harrogate is usually taken to mean 'the road to Harlow' (117infra ), the early spellings down to the sixteenth century, and especially the earliest ones, do not favour this. A further difficulty is that this explanation must assume that the name denoted the old Otley road running from High Harrogate alongside the Stray to Harlow, but this is less likely to be the road referred to than one lying in the older part of the town nearer Low Harrogate. On purely formal grounds it should be derived from ON  hǫrg 'a heap of stones, a cairn' and gata, a wholly Scandinavian p.n. denoting 'road to the cairn', but no trace of any such cairn is known or likely to be found in this urban area. Harrowgate Lane vi, 40infra is probably of similar origin.

Harrogate's growth arose from the local medicinal wells, discovered by William Slingsby about 1571 (cf. Spad 83, Thoresby xxviii, 212 ff, Grainge 111 ff, 127 ff, Cold Bath Rd, Tewit Well infra ), and it was frequently called Spaws (1715 Thoresby xxvi, 395), the English Spaw 1626 Spad 76, y e Spawe 1635 PRLds, the Spaw 1669 PRHaw, Spaws 1696 Hrg, the Spaws [at ] Harrowgate 1699 YDr, etc.The word spa , spaw 'a medicinal well, a watering-place' comes from the name of Spa , a Belgian watering-place noted for its medicinal springs.

Places in the same Parish

Early-attested site

Other OS name