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.

St Albans

Major Settlement in the Parish of St Albans

Historical Forms

  • Verulamio 50 Tacitus,Annales 11th
  • Ούρυλáυιου c.150 Ptolemy c.1200
  • Verolamio, Verolamo, Virolamo 4th AntIt 8th
  • Virolamium c.650 Rav 13th
  • Verolamium quæ nunc a gente Anglorum Verlamacæstir sive Uæclingacæstir appellatur c.750 Bede
  • Verlamcestre 10th Gesta 13th
  • Wæclingaceaster c.900 OEBede
  • Uerulamium quod nos vulgariter dicimus Wætlingaceaster 990 KCD672 13th
  • æt Uueatlingaceastre 996 KCD696 13th
  • Wætlinga-ceaster c.1000 Saints
  • æcclesia Sancti Albani 792 BCS264 c.1250
  • (æt) Sancte Albane 957 BCS994,1114 11th ASC 1125 c.1150
  • (into) Sancte Albane c.1000 KCD716 12th
  • Sancte Albanes stow 1007 Crawford
  • (æt) Sancte Albanestowe 1114 ASC 12th
  • Seint Auban 1400 Pat
  • Seynt Albones 1421 AD vi


The first series of forms refer to the old Roman city to the north-west of the present one, first by its Romano-Celtic name and then by its two successive OE  names Wærlamcæster and Wætlingacæster , the second series to the new city which grew up around the shrine and abbey of St Alban.

The Romano-Celtic name of the town is derived by Holder from *veru -, 'broad, wide,' cognate with Greek ϵύρος and OCeltic lāmā , 'hand' (cf. Irish lam , Welsh llaw (from *llawf ), OCornish lau , lof 'manus'). Possibly, as in Londinion , the suffix -ion was added to an old personal or tribal name, formed from these elements. The old place-name was at first preserved by the English, who added as usual their word ceaster . As early as the time of Bede, however, the name was changed to Wæclingaceaster , i.e. 'the ceaster of the Wæclingas .' This was the name of the group of settlers who took possession of the old Roman site. From them the great road through the city came to be known as Wæclinga stræt , v. Watling Street supra 7.

After the foundation of the abbey, dedicated to the martyred saint Alban (us ) in the 8th century, a new settlement gradually grew up on the hill here, which came to be known as Albanes stow (v. stow ), and later by Norman-French speakers as la ville de Seint Alban . In DB the place is referred to as villa Sancti Albani and this is the usual official name in medieval documents, or alternatively, villa de Sancto Albano . We may note, however, the following popular forms: le Covent de Seynt Alban 1302, la dite ville de Seint Alban t. Ed 2, la ville de Seint Auban t. Ed 3 Gesta, Seint Auban 1400 Pat, Seynt Albones 1421 AD vi.

For other place-names originating in this way cf. St Ives, St Neots (PN BedsHu 265), St Budeaux (PN D 236) and Ippollitts supra 13. The old town of Verulamium in the valley below was gradually lost to sight, the present Verulamhills (infra 90) being an archaic revival. See also Ver river supra 5.

Places in the same Parish