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 Beverley

Historical Forms

  • monasterii quod uocatur Inderauuda c.730 Bede 8th
  • (in) Beoferlic 721 ASC c.1150
  • Beoforlic 721 ASC c.1100
  • Beferlic c.1025 Saints 11th
  • Beuerlic, Beverlic c.1066 Folcard 1066–9 YCh89 1310 Saints c.1085 RegAlb 12th 1108–14
  • (æt) Beferlict 1055–64 YCh87 1310
  • Beureli, Bevreli 1086 DB
  • Beuerli 1135–47 YCh104
  • Beuerlye 13th Langtoft
  • Beverlec 1115–23 RegAlb 1202 FF
  • Beuirleg' 12th RegAlb
  • Beuerlege 1102–9 ib
  • Beverlesa 1163 YCh349 1347
  • Beuerlei(a), Beverlei(a), Beverlai(a), Beverley 1166,1167 P 1293 QW 1318 Abbr 1353 FF 1828 Langd
  • Beuerlea 1190,1194 P
  • Beuerl', Beverl' 1191–3 P 1206 OblR 1347 et freq
  • Beuerle, Beverle 1196 FF 1200 Cur 1476 et freq
  • Beverele 1409 ADii
  • Beverlac' 1200 OblR 1201 ChR 1203 Cur 1406 Nunkeel
  • Beverlac 1413 Bodl 1521 Test 1530 Bev
  • Beverlacq 1566 FF
  • Beverlee c.1279 BevDoc 1338 Hosp
  • Beverlacum 12th Malton 1164–70 RegAlb
  • Beverlaci 1136–40 ib
  • Bever Lacy 1308 Abbr
  • Beverlaco 1066–9 YCh88 12th Riev 1102–6 YCh90
  • Beverlicensis c.1066 Folcard
  • Beverlacensis, Beuerlacensis 1115–28 YCh95


The problem in this name lies in the origin of the second element, for there can be little doubt that the first element is 'beaver.' (The bones of the beaver have been found at Wawne nearby.) The various spellings of the suffix are in part to be explained through confusion with the common element leah which normally appears in ME  documents as -lay (-ley , etc.), -leg , -le , -l ', etc.; others like -lac and -lacq are due to the Latin Beverlacum . The latter is probably a piece of monkish ety- mologising, 'lake of the beavers,' and whilst there may be a traditional element of truth in the adaptation the form Beverlacum bears no relation to the oldest forms in -lic . Ekwall (Studies 58) assumes that the name is English in origin and suggests that we have a compound of beofor and an unrecorded OE  word *licc 'stream' (connected with OE  lecan 'to trickle,' lacu 'a stream,' etc.), of which another variant lecc is discussed under Leconfield supra 189. The name was presumably that of Beverley Beck. As an alternative he suggests that OE  *lecc (for which there is rather better evidence) might have become licc by the sound- change of e to i before palatals which is evidenced for Old Kentish, but this seems improbable, especially as it is doubtful whether c was palatalised in Yorkshire.

There is of course the possibility that Beverley is, like York infra 275, an OE adaptation of a British name. Professor E. V. Gordon suggests that the form might have been British *bebrolicos , meaning something like 'beaver stream.' Holder notes the Celtic river-names Licos and Līcas ; their etymology is uncertain.