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.


Early-attested site in the Parish of East Down


The first element is very common in Devon p.n.'s. It is found seventeen times with dun, thirteen times with wudu and occasionally with bearu , clif , cumb , dic , hyll , mor , weg 1 . It is noteworthy that in every case the second element is some word denoting a natural feature, not a place of habitation, so that we should look for a descriptive term rather than a pers. name as the source of this first element. Bow (infra 315) and Bow (Mx, Wo) clearly contain the OE  boga , 'bow, arch, curve,' probably with reference in each case to an arched bridge.Probably we have this word also in most or all of the above-noted compounds, the meaning being 'curved, well rounded, or arched' according to the significance of the following word. The frequency of the element in Devon place-names need not be surprising to those acquainted with the topography of the county. There are interesting Celtic parallels to the Bowood series of names. In Cornwall we have Stephen Gelly in St Neot, earlier Stengelly , Tamsquite in St Tudy, earlier Stumcoyt in which we have the Cornish equivalent of Welsh ystum , 'bend, curve,' compounded with Cornish coit and celli , 'wood' or 'grove.' Cf. the similar frequency of byge in Devon p.n.'s as compared with those of other counties. v. infra 658–9.