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 Skiddaw

Historical Forms

  • Skythou 1260 Rental
  • Skythowe 1363 GDR
  • Sketho, Skethow 1539 MinAcct
  • Skedowe 1539 MinAcct
  • Skedo 1544 NB
  • Skyddowe 1570 ExchKR
  • Skiddow 1666 Terrier


It is certain that Skiddaw is a Scandinavian name, of which the second element is ON  haugr. But the meaning, and even the original form of the first element, are doubtful. Medieval forms, of which none is very early, are equally divided between skid - and skit -. On the other hand, if skid - is original, it is hard to suggest any line on which an interpretation could be found. Of the possible senses which might lie behind skit -, ON  skit , 'filth,' is obviously inadmissible in the name of this great hill, skyti , 'archer,' sometimes found as a personal name, is possible, though such an element could hardly appear in this context unless it arose from some story or figure of mythology connected with the hill. It is more probable that, as suggested by Ekwall (DEPN), the name contains a word related to Norwegian skut , skuta , 'projecting crag.' The difficulty here is that the recorded forms of Skiddaw seem to imply a first element with a mutated vowel y , and no such word has hitherto been found. But a formation of this kind might naturally arise from the recorded ON  skúti , which is the origin of the word scout , often applied to hills in the north, as in Kinder Scout (Db). On the present evidence, this explanation seems the most probable. The meaning of Skiddaw in this case would be 'craggy hill.'

Places in the same Parish