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.


County Town in the County of Bedfordshire

Historical Forms

  • Bedanford 918 ASC c.925
  • Bydanford c.1000 Saints
  • Bedeford 1086 DB
  • Bedford 1198 FF


'Beda's ford,' the pers. name Bēda being the same as that of the great historian and also of the Bīeda of the entry in the ASC s. a. 501. Bīeda is the West Saxon form, Bēda the Anglian one.There is a reference in the ASC s. a. 571 to a battle fought by Cuthwulf of Wessex against the British at a place called Bedcanford (v. Introduction xiv). It has often been assumed that this Bedcanford is Bedford, but it is clear, apart from any historical difficulties, that Bedcanford and Bedanford can only refer to the same place if we assume that in OE  you might have alternative names of a place, one in which you used the man's ordinary name (here Beda ) and another in which you used a pet or diminutive form of that name (here Bedca ). There is no adequate evidence of such a usage. On the phonological side it may be said that an Anglian form Bedan - is unlikely in the Parker Chronicle, s. a. 918, and to this extent we have further evidence against identifying the two names for we cannot equate WS  Bedanford and WS  Biedcanford . The Bydan - form in the Saints document is however in favour of an earlier WS  Biedan -, and in that case we must assume that Bedanford is a stray Anglian form.

Parishes in this County Town