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.

Hard Knott and Hard Knott Pass

Early-attested site in the Parish of Birker and Austhwaite

Historical Forms

  • Hardecnuut c.1210 Furness
  • (summitatem del) Ardechnut 1242 ib
  • Hard-knot 1610 Camden 1741 Sykes 1777 NB
  • Wynscarth, Wainscarth 1242 Furness


Wainscarth, which was the original name of Hard Knott Pass, is clearly identical with Wainscarre in Blyth (PN Nt 69). It is a compound of ME  wain , 'waggon' (from OE  wægen ) and ON  skarð, 'gap' or 'cleft,' that is 'cleft through which a waggon could go.' Cf. Wainfleet (L) (DEPN).

The name Hard Knott itself is a compound of ON  harðr , 'hard,' and knútr , 'knot,' meaning 'craggy hill.' A similar change of th to d occurs in Ward Hall supra 310, from ON  varði , and in Guards.It is remarkable that a doublet of this name is recorded in the neighbourhood of Loweswater in the 13th century. A final concord of 1230 (FF ) refers to condosium ('slope') collis qui vocatur Hardecnut .The latter hill is probably identical with Great Borne in Ennerdale (infra 385), of which no early forms have been found.