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 Gloucester

Historical Forms

  • coloniae Glev' 2 CILvii,54
  • Clevo 4 AntIt 8
  • Glebon Colonia c.650 Rav 13th
  • Brittannico sermone Cair Gloiv Saxonice autem Gloecester c.800 HBcap.49
  • Cairclau c.1125 WMP
  • Kaerglov c.1150 GM
  • Gleawan ceaster 577 ASC l.9
  • ad Gleaweceasdre, of Gleaweceasdre, to Gleaweceasdre, on Gleaweceasdre 681 BCS 11th 862 ib
  • Gleawece(a)stre 804 11th 896 16th ASC 964 ASC 11th ASC 918 ASC 10 ASC 1055 11 915,940,1052,1063 1048,1085 1122 12
  • on Glæawe-ceastre 1033–8 ASChartlxxxvii 12 Saints
  • into Gleweceaster 984 KCD646 11th
  • on Gleweceastre c.1000 Saints
  • on Gleawcestre, of Gleawcestre, to Gleawcestre 577 ASC 11 ASC 1043,1052,1058 ASC 1103,1123 Saints 12 c.1000
  • to Glew cestre 1053 ASC 11
  • on Gleucestre, of Gleucestre, Gleucæstre 1124–1127 ASC 12
  • Glowecestre, Glouuecestre, Glouuecestriam 1086 DB 1113 ASC 12 Templar 1185
  • Glowcestrie 1171–83 AC
  • Gloucestr(e)', Gloucestria, Gloucester 862 BCS535 13th KCD1317 1022 17th Theok c.1050 Glouc 17th Flax 1072 WinchLB 13 ASC 1086–1337 RBE 12 Fees 12,13 M 1140 c.1150 1159,1168 1211–13 1824
  • Glocestr(i)a, Glocester 12 Glouc 1148 Theok Hy2 Ch 1318 Dep 1583 Camd 1590
  • Gloecestr(i)a Hy1 Ch 1300 AC 1109–11 P 1130 GlR 1155 P 1195 Glouc 1196–8,1277
  • Gloec' 1159 P
  • Gleochæstre, Glouchæstre 1205 Laʒ
  • Claucestre c.1300 RGl
  • Glowcetur, Gloucetur c.1165,c.1200,1289 Godstow
  • Glowcetre 1347 Glouc
  • Glowceter 1416 Pat
  • Glowcett(o)ur 1504 GlCorp 1523 Glouc
  • Glowster 1618 PR
  • Gloster 1666 ib
  • (civitas) Glaorna 1058,1085 WinchAn 1122 Theok
  • Glouernia, Glovernia 1204 P 1231 WinchLB 1232 Glouc
  • villa Glavornix 1215 Glouc


Gloucester stands on the east bank of the more easterly of the two channels of the Severn which separates it from Alney Island; it is the lowest place at which the Severn could be easily crossed to reach Wales (except by boat), and it is at the intersection of the Roman roads from Cirencester to Wales and Worcester to Bristol; it was a Roman colonia . The Romano-British name Glēvum has been derived from the Celtic stem *glaivo - related to Welsh  gloyw , gloew , Irish glē 'bright', and means 'the bright place'; on the development of *glaivo - to *glēwe cf. Jackson 327. Certainly after the Saxon capture of the city in 577, the name Glēwe was adopted by the early English settlers as Gleawe , and, as often with such transferred British names, OE  ceaster 'fort, esp. a Roman castra or fort' was added (cf. EPN i, 85); the present name therefore meant 'the Roman fort called Glēwe '.In the OE  compound the first el. was in the nominative Gleawe , in the gen.sg. Gleawan , or (as often in such early compounds) in a stem- form Gleaw -. No satisfactory explanation can be offered for the OE  form Gleawe - or for the later form Glowe - which first appears in DB.In all probability the form Gleawe is an adaptation of the British name (whatever stage it had reached by 577) to the form of the nearest OE  phonetic equivalent which was glēaw 'wise, prudent' (also in the form glēw ), a not uncommon rationalising process in such OE adoptions. No evidence exists for glēaw and other OE  words like dēaw 'dew', fēawe 'few' or hrēaw 'raw' ever taking the form -ow - in late OE  or ME  (gleoulice for gleawlice in the Lindisfarne Gospel, Mark viii, 25 is a Northumbrian variant and not relevant), and we can only suppose that later another rationalising substitution was made, this time of the stem of OE  glōwan 'to glow' for the rare glēaw (e.ME  gleu ); the Glo (u )- spellings are too early for them to be explained as a local change of -ew - to -aw - (Phonol. § 22); Förster, Themse 577, however, takes ME  -ow - to be a secondary development of OE  -ēaw -. For the most part the second el. ceaster is in the AN  form cestre as in Cirencester (i, 60supra ) and from this the later contracted forms Gloucetur , Gloster have developed.