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 Witham

Historical Forms

  • Wit ham 913 ASC c.925 1086 et passim
  • Witham Chipping t.Eliz ChancP
  • Witanham 913 ASC c.1050
  • Hwitham c.1150 FW
  • Widham 12th Colch
  • Wiham, Wyham 1199 FF
  • Wyham parua 1250 CottCh 1346 FA
  • Viham 1274 RH
  • Wyam 1313 Fine
  • Witteham, Wyttenham 1237 Fees 1412,1496 Pat
  • Wytham a.1272 Colch 1275 RH 1327,1333 Londin
  • Wyttham 1309 Ipm
  • Wittam 1586 Harrison
  • Whitham 1344,1444 Pat 1534 Cott


This name has remained unchanged from its earliest mention in the Parker MS of the Chronicle till the present day, and there is hardly any variation from it. The variant Witanham in MS D of the Chronicle is inconsistent with all the other forms. The Hwitham of Florence of Worcester is interesting. It is difficult to attach any authority to it, but it does suggest some early hesitation as to the true form of the name. It is difficult to make any satisfactory suggestion as to its origin. It is just possible that the first element is OE  wiht , 'curve, bend,' discussed under Great Whyte (PN BedsHu 216, xli) and Witley (PN Wo 183).It is noteworthy that Witley, which was originally Wihtleage , is found in the forms Witleah , Witleag and Wittlæg in OE charters which, though only surviving in cartularies, do as a rule show reasonably good OE  forms, and it may be that the Parker MS form Witham is for Wihtham . The form in FW possibly gives some support to this suggestion. Witham lies in a well-marked bend in the River Brain. Chipping from the presence of a market here. Cf. Chipping Hill infra 301.