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.

Abbots Bickington

Major Settlement in the Parish of Abbots Bickington

Historical Forms

  • Bicatona 1086 DB
  • Bechatona 1189 Oliver 1465
  • Bukyngton(e) 1291 Tax 1340 SR
  • Bukynton 1333 SR
  • Abbots Bekenton 1580 Deed
  • Bekington al. Abbotsbekington 1636 Deed


v. tun . The manor was held by Hartland Abbey already in 1189.There are a large number of names in Devon which in their early forms show a first element Bike -, Byke -, Biche - and the like, with occasional Bichen -, Byken - and (more rarely) Biching -, Byking -, the last being as a rule not found before the 13th cent. Some of these names show Buk - forms (and the like) sporadically.Others show such fairly persistently. The natural explanation of these names is to take them as containing the gen. sg. of the OE  pers. names Bic (c )a or Beocca (Biocca ), both of which are well recorded from south-western England. Beocca is on record from Dorset and is also clearly found in beoccan brycg , in the Thorndon Hall charter (infra 296, n. 1). Biche was still used as a Devon pers. name in DB. Presumably the names with persistent Buk - go back to OE  Beocca , while those with occasional Buk - go back rather to OE  Bic (c )a , the u being due to labial influence. Bek -forms (and the like) probably go back to OE  Beocca . It may be noted that the distribution of place-names with initial Bick -, commonest in Devon and then next most frequent in Somerset, Hampshire and Wiltshire, corresponds to the distribution of the pers. name as found in early documents. The ing - forms may all be late developments but it may be noted that already in the OE period we have in close proximity Bighton (Ha), Bicincgtun BCS 1045, and Bican hyrst BCS 596. Blomé's suggestion (58) for the Buk -names of a compound of bīecn , a mutated form of bēacen (probably a back-formation from the vb. bīecnan ), fits neither the forms nor the general topography of these places. There are as many in valleys as there are on hills.He suggests for the Bik -names ME  bike , 'bee-hive,' but here he has misunderstood Zachrisson's comments on that word in ZONF iv. 247. Zachrisson takes bike to be a ME  back-formation from the agent noun bikere and it cannot therefore be used in explanation of names found already in Domesday, quite apart from difficulties of form and sense involved in finding this word in so many Devon p.n.'s.

Places in the same Parish

Early-attested site

Other OS name