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 Speen

Historical Forms

  • Spene 821 BCS366 c.1200 P 1208
  • Chirchespene 1445 AD
  • Churchspene 1460 AD
  • Manor of Church Spene, otherwise called Spene 1489 Ipm
  • Churchespene 1555 BM
  • Speen als Church Speen 1751 ArchJ
  • Spone 1086 DB
  • Spenes 1167etfreqto1242–3 Fees
  • Spienes 1199,1201 P
  • Spenis 1224–31 S c.1280


There is an authoritative discussion of this name by Professor K. Jackson in Britannia 1 (1970), p. 79. Speen represents the Spinis of the Antonine Itinerary, but the English form cannot be derived directly from the Latin one. The latin name means 'at the thorn- bushes'. The English appear to have confused this (or the PrWelsh version of it) with an OE word which may be related to the recorded word spōn 'chip, shaving', which occurs in a number of p.ns.

Speen is mentioned in BCS 366 as the name of a wood—'silva integra quae dicitur Spene Pohanlech et Trinlech'. If there was an OE word derived from spōn , this may have been substituted for the Latin name by popular etymology because it was appropriate to the woodland which had apparently taken the place of the Roman settlement.

Professor Jackson points out that Ekwall's suggestion of an 'Old Welsh' *spian must be disregarded; the word Ekwall had in mind was *sbiðad , which does not suit.

Professor Löfvenberg comments that if the OE name is a derivative of spōn 'chip, shaving', perhaps also 'shingle', its OE  form will have been Spēne , as is indicated by the charter form. It may have denoted a place (wood) where wood-chippings were left or shingles were made (cf. Spoonley Gl 2, 27). For the formation cf. OE  *selte , *sælte 'salt-pit, salt-working' in Salt St, OE  *sende 'sandy place' in Send Sr (Sr 146).