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 Selsey

Historical Forms

  • Seolesige 683 BCS 14th ASBede c.1000
  • Siolesaei 780 BCS1334
  • Seolesiae, Soelasiae c.720 Eddi 11th
  • Selæseu, Seleseu, Selaeseu 8th Bede
  • Selesie 957 BCS997 14th
  • Selesea, Sylesea c.1000 ASBede
  • Seleisie 1086 DB
  • Celeseye 1279 Ass 1314 FF
  • Silesia 1338 Ch 1427 Pat


There is probably no reason to quarrel with Bede's famous interpretation of the name, 'quod dicitur Latine insula vituli marini ,' i.e. 'the island of the marine calf,' this Latin paraphrase being used for want of a better word to describe the 'seal.'Selsey was an island down to the early years of the 19th cent., Broad Rife having an exit into the sea. The island probably gained its name from the stranding of a seal there on some memorable occasion, rather than by their common presence there. That at least is suggested by the use of the gen. sing, form. v. eg and for Bede's eu , v. PN NRY 61s. n. Lastingham.