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 Warter

Historical Forms

  • Warte 1086 DB
  • Wartre 1086 DB 12th Warter 1156 Meaux 1165 P 1542 NCWills
  • Wartria 12th 1144–6 YCh105 1336 Ch
  • Wartrya 1205 ChR
  • Wartra 1166,1196 P
  • Wardra 1167 P
  • Wartree 1199 Abbr
  • Wartera 1221 FF
  • Warthre 1246 Ass
  • Wartr' 1279–81 QW 1303,1349 Meaux
  • Warter 1338 FF 1614 FF


The numerous spellings like Wartria are Latinisations of Wartre . Ekwall (Studies 91) suggests that Warter is a compound of OE  wearg 'felon' and treow 'tree,' used of a gallows or gallows- tree. Worgret (Do) is a similar compound of wearg and OE  rōd 'rood, cross' and the significance of both is illustrated by the words of the Holy Cross in The Dream of the Rood (ed. Dickins and Ross, 24, 35), heton me heora werʒas hebban , 'they bade me bear aloft their felons,' where the Cross tells of being carried from the forest and of being used to crucify malefactors. In ME  waritreo is often used of the Holy Cross, but at least once in OE waritroe 706 (c. 1200) BCS 117, and several times in ME (v. NED s.v. warytree ), the meaning is clearly 'gallows.'

The only difficulty in this explanation is the total loss of g , though this can be paralleled if we suppose that it had become a voiceless fricative gh before t (cf. Brotton, PN NRY 142).If, however, this assumption is wrong, we may have an alternative and less picturesque etymology from OE  wearr 'callosity,' used in ME  particularly of 'a knot in a tree,' as in Flemish warre , weer . In this case Warter would mean 'the gnarled tree.'