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 Soham

Historical Forms

  • (æt) Sægham c.1000 ASWills 11th
  • Saham 1086 1463 FF
  • Saham juxta mariscum de Ely c.1195 Pembroke
  • Saham cum Berewey 1218 SR
  • Saham prope Ely 1285 Pembroke
  • Seham 1170 LibEl 1327 SR
  • Sigham 1198 P
  • Soham 1294 FF 1353 MinAcct
  • Some 1427 Pat 1570 Fenlandiv
  • Sohome or Some 1510 LP 1628 Cai
  • Soome 1541 PCC


This is a difficult name. If the Snail, which probably owed its name to its sluggish flow (v. Snailwell supra 195), always followed its present course along what is now Soham Lode, the first element in Soham might well be an OE  *sǣg , 'slow-moving stream,' as in Seabrook (PN Bk 97, PN D 455), Sellake (ib. 550) and possibly Seaton (R), v. DEPN. But we must note also Saham Toney (Nf), DBSaham , 1300 P Seham , and Earl and Monk Soham (Sf), DBSaham , 13th Misc Saham ad Stagnum . So long as there are no forms in Sæg -, Sag - for these names, they are best derived from OE  , * in the sense 'lake.' Ekwall derives the Cambridgeshire Soham in the same way, discounting the form Sægham (RN 284–5, DEPN). It is our oldest form, however, and is supported by Sigham . The first element was thus probably an OE  *sǣg , *sāg , as suggested by Skeat, who called attention to Bavarian saig , Tyrolese sege , söga from the stem *saig -, 'a depression or swamp.' In early times Soham was invariably associated with Soham Mere, cf. “Saham quae est ad stagnum,” “Seham quae est villa juxta stagnum” (LibEl 21, 183), “Seham quae est villa juxta stagnum, quod volentibus ire in Heli quondam periculosum navibus, nunc, facta via per palustre harundi- netum, transitur pedibus” (WMP 147, 153, 318). The first element may thus have referred to the mere and the meaning be 'swamp, inundated land, lake.' Saham and the two Sohams would then have the same meaning, 'hām by the lake.' Cf. Sealodes infra 200.