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.


Major Settlement in the Parish of Beetham

Historical Forms

  • Biedun 1086 DB
  • Biethum 1200–15 Kendii,143,214
  • Bethum 1090–7 Ch 1308 Kendii,142 1120–30 YCh 1157 Cockers 1184–90 Lanc 1189–96 P 1202 Cur 1207 MinAcct 1534
  • Bethume 1254 Ipm
  • Beethume 1650 Ct
  • Bethome 1187–1200 Kendii,115 1376 Ipm 1411 Pap 1634 Dep
  • Bethom 1325–50 M 1348 Ipm 1396 Pap 1537 Kendi,73
  • Bethome in Kendall 1425 Pat
  • Beethome 1420 Kendi,189 1630 1707 Bthm
  • Betene 1190–5 LaCh
  • Beuthum 1198–9 Kendi,380
  • Buethum 1208 FF
  • Beithum l.12 Weth
  • Bithum 1206 Cur
  • Betum 1202 Pipe
  • Betun 1207 ib
  • Bethun 1211,1257 P 1291 Tax
  • Betham(e) 1375 Pat 1441 Richm 1754 Pococke
  • Beetham 1612,1647 Bthm 1659 WilsonL 1696 PR(Md)


This name is to be taken in conjunction with other names in the vicinity, R. Beela (i, 3supra ), the name of the river which joins the Kent in Beetham parish, with the older form of Leighton Beck (infra ), which is the southern boundary of the parish, and with the f.ns. Belleside and Bethegate (infra ). Ekwall (DEPN 35, RN 31) derives Beetham from ON  bjóðum , dat.plur. of bjóð 'a table', used, it is supposed, of 'a plateau, a piece of flat ground', and he compares the Norw  p.ns. Utbjoe , Indbjoe (NG xi, 90–1), but it would be difficult to determine what local topographical feature would conform to such an interpretation, unless it were flat river-meadows by the Beela, which seems doubtful. There is, however, another possibility in an ON  word bjǫð , which has been recognised as distinct from bjǫð by Heggstad and others, but with considerable hesitation about its origin and meaning (cf. Jóhannesson 953, J. de Vries, Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch 41, A. M. Sturtevant, Scandinavian Studies and Notes xvi (1941), 222). The word bjǫð is recorded only as a plur. form and has usually been taken to mean 'earth, land' in the poetic sources where it is found. In an excellent and detailed examination of this word in its poetic contexts and of related words in Swedish and other Scandinavian p.ns. and dialects in Arkiv för nordisk filologi lx, 38–51, Professor Lennart Moberg shows that the nom.sg. would be ON  *beð (nom.plur. bjǫð ) and its primary meaning in ON would be something like 'embankment' (as in Swed dial. bjäd neut., bjäde masc.); this would appear to be a development of the meaning of ultimately related words like Lat  fodio 'dig', fossa 'ditch', Welsh  bedd 'grave', OE  bedd , ON  beðr 'bed, flood-bed', etc. (cf. also Sturtevant, op. cit. , Pokorny 113–4).Beetham would mean 'amongst the embankments' and Beela 'the embankment river', doubtless in allusion to banks made to control its flow or overflowing. There is some ambiguity in the significance of the sporadic variant spellings Biedun (Biethum ), Beuthum , Buethum , Beithum and Bithum as against the predominant ME  Bethum forms; the two early Bie -forms could be AN spellings for ME  -, and would, if anything, favour ON  bjóðum (rather than bjǫðfum ), but it is not improbable that Bie - as well as Beu - are attempts to represent stages in the mutation and stress-shifting of PrScand  *beðum to bjǫðum (cf. also the spellings of Deepdale ii, 222infra ).The later forms Beethom (e ), etc. would represent the late ME  lengthening of -e - to -ē - in an open syllable. v. Addenda.

Places in the same Parish

Early-attested site

Other OS name

Major Settlement