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 Amesbury

Historical Forms

  • Stanenges c.1130 HH
  • Stanheng 12th GeoffreyofMonmouth
  • Stanhenge c.1200 Lay
  • Stanhenges 13th AnnMon
  • Stonheng c.1250 Lay
  • Stonheng 1297 RG
  • Stonehenge 1610 S
  • the stone hengles 1470 Hardyng,Chronicle
  • the stonege 1547 Boord
  • Stonage 1668 Pepys


This is a difficult name. So far as the form is concerned it is clear that the g must go back to OE  cg . That alone will explain the modern [hendʒ] or the earlier and more popular [edʒ] pronunciation. It is clear also that the modern pronunciation [stoun′hendʒ] is an artificial one which has replaced earlier [stɔnidʒ] in which the stress was in its natural position on the first syllable and the stressed vowel was shortened before the consonant-group nh .

The first element is clearly OE  stān , 'stone,' but the second is uncertain. The most natural association is with the common word hinge , first recorded from the 14th century in the form henge , but going back very probably to a far earlier date and probably to OE  hencg . The name would have then to be explained by imagining that the main thought in the minds of those who first applied the name to the monument was that the imposts in the trilithons 'hinged' on the uprights. That does not seem however entirely satisfactory.

An alternative suggestion has been made that the second element is really OE  hen (c )gen , used frequently in OE of an instrument first for hanging, and then for torture generally. The gaunt framework of the trilithons might well be imagined to resemble a series of great gallows or torture-racks. From the formal point of view there would be no great difficulty, for final en would, as in so many other words (e.g. clew from OE  cliewen , maid from OE  mægderi ), be early lost, leaving final henge .

The form hengle in Hardyng is interesting. It is a word found more than once in ME in the sense 'hinge.' The person who used it probably interpreted the name in the sense 'stone- hinge(s).' See Addenda supra xli.