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 East Riding of Yorkshire

Historical Forms

  • Eβóρακον c.150 Ptolemy c.1200
  • Eύvοσoηκς 4th Holder(Mansi)
  • Eburacum, Eburaci, Eburaco 4th AntonItin 8th RavennaGeogr c.650 BedeCM 13th Bede a.725 c.730 8th
  • Eboracum, Eboraci, Eboraco 4th MGHix,7 433–55 MGHix,447 a.519 MGHix,145 a.725 BedeCM c.800 11th DB 1086 Malton 12th Pont 1154 BM 1176 FA 1428
  • Eboraca(m), Eburaca(m), Eburacae c.730 Bede 8th BCS875 949 SD c.1250 FW c.1130 13th
  • ecclesia Eburacensis, Eburacensis, ecclesia Eboracensis, Eboracensis c.730 Bede 8th
  • Evoraca urbs 10th Ethelwerd 17th
  • Eferwic 10th Ælfric 1125 ASC c.1150
  • Eforwicceaster c.893 Orosius
  • Euorwic 1138 ASC c.1150
  • Eforwicingas 918 ASC c.1050
  • Eoforwic 1053–66 ASC 923–1016 ASC c.1100 ASC 1016 ASC c.1150 1114 12th
  • Eoferwic 1041,1066,1075 ASC c.1100 ASC 189,626,685etpassimto1114 c.1150
  • Æferwic 675 ASC c.1150
  • Heofor wic 948 ASC c.1100
  • Eaforwic 1065 ASC c.1100
  • Eoforwicceastre, Eoferwicceastre 644,738,867 ASC c.895 OEBede c.1000 ASC 971 ASC c.1000 869 c.1150
  • Eoferwic stole 992 ASC c.1150
  • Euerwic(h), Everwic(h), Everwik, Everwyk 1070–80 RegAlb 13th Selby 1087–94 YCh353 1100–18 RegAlb 1118–35 P 1130–94 OEMisc 13th RG late13th Abbr 1322 Kirkstall 1332 For 1335 Ripon 1415
  • Euruic 1086 DB
  • Ewerwic' 1176 P
  • Eoboracum 1251 Ch
  • Evrewic 12th Gaimar
  • Eoverwic 13th Laʒamon 13th HH
  • ʒeorc 13th Laʒamon
  • Yerk 14th Havelok
  • ʒorc 13th Laʒamon
  • ʒork(e) c.1330 Manning 1343 Whitby early15th MetrCuthbt 1421
  • York(e) late13th RG 14th Trevisa 1344 YD t.Ed3 Riev 1381 ADi 1428 MiscEngl
  • Yhorke 1393 Test
  • Yourke 1536 NCWills
  • Yarke 1619 NRS
  • Cair Ebrauc c.800 HistBrit 11th
  • Urbs Ebrauc 866 AnnalesCambriae 12th
  • Chaer Effrawc, Kaer Efrawc 14th RedBookofHergest
  • Euroacum urbs 12th LifeofStCadoc
  • Jórvík 9th EgilsSaga 14th Knútsdrápa c.1040 Orkneyingasaga 13th Heimskringla early13th
  • Jórk early13th ib


The name of York has closely followed the history of the city.The town stands on the Ouse in the centre of the Vale of York and as regards its strategic position it commands the main route from the north to the south, besides being within easy reach of the sea: in former times the Ouse was navigable at least to this point. It was made the headquarters of a Roman legion with a colonia by Agricola in 79 a.d. and soon became the chief Roman centre in the north. After the withdrawal of the Roman legions the city was exposed to attacks by Picts, Scots and Angles, but it is possible that the city as a centre of population survived these attacks, as is suggested by archæological remains. During the Anglian period York was the capital of Deira and in the 7th and 8th centuries it became first a bishopric and then an archbishopric. With the Scandinavian invasions York retained its importance and upon its capture by the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok in 865 and the settlement of Northumbria in 876, it became a Danish kingdom under Healfdene and in the 10th century an Irish-Viking kingdom under Rægenweald. The name of York itself and the names of its streets betoken the thoroughness of the Scandinavian occupation and as in the North and East Ridings, Scandinavian names must have largely replaced the earlier British and Anglian nomenclature.

The name York is, as many scholars have shown (e.g. D'Arbois de Jubainville in Revue Celtique viii, 112, 134), of British origin.Ptolemy's 'Eβóρακον represents the OBrit  name *Eborācon .This type of name is well evidenced in Gaulish place-names, such as Afriacus (now Friac, dép. Lot) from a pers. name Afrius , Caniacus (Canach, Luxembourg; Cheny, dép. Yonne; Chagny, dép. Ardennes, etc.) from a pers. name Canius , Carnacus (Carnac, dép. Lot) from a pers. name Carnos , Floriacus (Fleury, dép. Côt d'Or) from Latin Florius , Severiacus (Civray sur Cher, dép. Indre-et-Loire) from Latin Sēverius , etc. (v. Holder passim ).Most place-names of this type appear to be derived from pers. names, and it is not improbable that York itself derives from a Brit  pers. name Eburos (Holder), with the suffix āco as in these Gaulish names. This suffix became British –ōc -, subsequently OWelsh  auc , MedWelsh  awc , Modern Welsh  og (cf. Ekwall, RN lxxviii), as may be seen in the Welsh forms of York. The pers. name Eburos is identical with OIr  Ibar , OWelsh  Ebur , Middle Welsh  Efwr , and may enter into some of the Gaulish place-names in Ebur - cited by Holder; it is worth noting that a Celtic bishop of York present at the Council of Arles in 314 was called Eburiws or Eborius (Haverfield, EHR xi, 417), though this, of course, only indicates the existence of the pers. name in northern England.

On the other hand it is to be noted that not all the place-names with this suffix -āco contain pers. names. Ekwall (RN lxxviii) derives the English river-names Cam Beck, Crummock, Savick and Wheelock from significant British words, and Holder records Betuliacum (Büdlich, from Budeliacum ) from betula 'birch,' Ligniacum (Ligny, Amiens) a derivative of lignum 'wood,' and Silvacus (La Selve, dép. Aisne) from silva 'wood.'We must therefore reckon with the possibility of York being a direct formation from the British word eburos 'yew-tree' (which is actually the origin of the pers. name Eburos already referred to). The common noun eburos probably enters into Eburones , the name of a tribe between the Maas and the Rhine (Caesar, De Bello Gallico ) and Eburomagus , the name of a Roman station Languedoc, whilst Eburovices , the name of a Gaulish tribe (Caesar, op. cit .) no doubt means 'warriors of the yew-tree.'Such tree-names are not uncommon in place-names and river- names of British origin (cf. RN li): the Isle of Avalon, for example, was named from Brit  *aballōn 'apple-tree.' The yew was one of the five sacred trees mentioned in the Irish geographical work Dindsenchus , whilst Tomnahurich (Stirling) contains a Gaelic  word iubhrach cognate with eburos (MacBain, Place -Names ; the Highlands and Islands of Scotland 124).

The British name survived in the Latin form Eburacum and this became Eboracum under the influence of a later British form that had undergone British ā -mutation after the ending -ōn had been lost. The Welsh  forms are regular developments of the original Eburācōn . To judge by the OE  spellings Eferwic , etc., British lenation of b to v had also taken place before the British element in York was finally ousted or absorbed by the Anglian invaders. The form of the name at this time would be *Evorōc or the like.

The subsequent history of the name starts from an Anglian adaptation of the later British form *Evorōc , with the substitution of OE  wic for the last syllable or the simple addition of that element, as in other British names taken over by the English, such as Ilkley (WRY), Manchester (PN La 33) and Lichfield (St). The substitution of eofor 'wild boar' has no etymological significance, but is simply an attempt to bring the name within the speech habits of the Angles. Eoforwic survived locally till the 12th century, in southern writings until the 14th, and in French documents until the 15th, but from an early date the Scandinavian Jórk must have been current.

During the Scandinavian settlement the name underwent a further change and OE  Eoforwic was adapted to OScand  Jórvík : medial f before u (OScand o ) was lost as in OScand  bjórr 'beaver' (= OE  beofor ), sjú 'seven' (= OE  seofon ), and during the Viking period there was a shifting of stress to the second element of the diphthong (cf. Noreen, Geschichte der nord. Sprache § 85, 8). This would result in an early OScand  Eórvík , and later, as evidenced in the Sagas, Jórvík and Jórk .

The form York is not found before the 13th century because the use of Latin Eboracum was almost universal in documents of the 12th and 13th centuries. An independently developed ME  Yerk seems to lie behind the spelling in Havelok: this problem is discussed in Anglia xxxiv 293 ff., and clear parallels to this phonetic development are found in Yearsley (PN NRY 193), Jervaulx (ib. 251), etc.

Parishes in this County Town