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 Wiltshire

Historical Forms

  • Sorvioduni, Sorbiodoni 4th AntonItin 8th
  • (æt) Searobyrg 552 ASC 9th
  • (to) Searbyrig 1003 ASC c.1150
  • (to) Searebyrig 1085 ASC
  • (on) Searbyrig 1096,1099,1100,1106 ASC
  • (of) Særesbyri(g) 1123,1125,1126,1130 ASC
  • (of) Searesbyrig 1123 ASC
  • (of) Seresberi 1132 ASC
  • (of) Sereberi 1137 ASC
  • Salesberia 1087–1100 Ch 1306
  • Salesberie 1142 SarumCh
  • Salesbir' 1202 P 1212 Cur 1235 Fees
  • Salesbury 1227 FF 1385 1394 Ass 1422 Pat
  • Sallesbury 1422 Add
  • Neu Salesbery 1450–3 ECP
  • Newe Salysbury 1457 Pat
  • Salsbery 1575 WMxxxvi
  • Sarisberie 1086 DB
  • Sarisbiria c.1200 RBE
  • Sarisberi 1212 Cur
  • Sarisberie 1237 Bracton
  • Saresbury 1294 Ch 1385 Trop
  • Saresbirie 1309 Sarum
  • Saresbir' t.Ed3 For
  • New Saresbury 1427 Pat
  • Nova Sarisburia 1428 FA
  • Sarrisbiriæ 1154 RBE
  • Sarrisburie 1230 Cl
  • Sarrisbiri 1232 Ch
  • Sarrisbiria 1232 Pat
  • Sarrisbyr' 1279,1289 Ass
  • Sarrisbirie 1315 Sarum
  • Cyty of Newe Sarum 1586 ADv


Forms from coins include Searber , Ser (e )byri , Serebrig , Sereb , Serbri 979–1016, Searbir , Ser , Sereb , Sere , Serebyr , Serbirge , Serbie , Serbyr , Serb 1016–66, Sear (b ), Særeb , Serbir , Serburi 1066–1135.

The name Salisbury , like that of many other Romano-British settlements, is the result of a process of folk-etymology. The name of the original settlement at Old Sarum is preserved in the Antonine Itinerary in the forms Sorvioduni , Sorbiodoni (gen. sg.).The only suggestion of any value which has been put forward with regard to this name is the very tentative one made in 1901 by Henry Bradley in the English Miscellany presented to Furnivall (15). It was that the first element Sorvios or Sorvia might be a Celtic river-name applied to the Avon as it flows just to the west of the site. It would be related to Irish soirbh , 'gentle.' He suggested that this might have become Sarva by the 8th century (cf. Sarva as recorded by the Ravenna Geographer as the name of a British river) and could then by a process of folk-etymology be associated with OE  searu , gen. searwe , searwes , 'trick,' so that we had in searoburh , 'trick-stronghold,' a name which had arisen from the old Celtic name in much the same way as OE  eoforwic , 'boar-dwelling,' from Eburācum . The second element in the old name was British dūnon , 'fort,' which would appropriately be rendered by OE  burh. A little later the first element in this name was given genitival form on the model of the numerous burh-names with a personal name in the genitive singular as their first element, and lastly in Anglo-Norman times the sequence r-r interchanged with l-r (cf. IPN 106 and see further Collected Papers of Henry Bradley 90, 106–7, 114 and WM xxxix, 28–9). See Addenda supra xxxix.

With regard to the form Sarum it is impossible to carry the matter further than the note, in the form of a query, contributed by the late Canon Wordsworth to NQ (iv, 418–19) in 1904. He notes that the earliest authoritative references for it are in a printed volume of 1460 and on tombs dated 1416 to 1418, with a form Sarum on episcopal seals from 1330 onwards. In earlier printed texts where editors now give Sarum this is only an editorial expansion of Sar ' and the like. Sarum is a late Latinised form of the common early abbreviation Sar '.

Parishes in this County Town