Home Manx Life Place-names on the Isle of Man

Place-names on the Isle of Man

by Bernadette Weyde

(M) = Manx; (S) = Scandanavian

►ANAGH COAR (Annacur) (M) – marsh of the herons.
►BALDWIN (M) – Scand. Boldair, ‘homestead dale.’ It is tempting to derive this name from Irish Bealitaine, the Summer festival of the Celts. The Manx form is ‘Boaldyn,’ which is pronounced exactly like ‘Boayldin’ and the proximity of the ancient Tynwald Hill, Algare, etc. makes the theory all the more alluring.
►BALLABEG (M) – little farm.
►BALLABROOIE (M) – ‘Farm of the brink, river-bank, etc.’ In Ireland brugh was often used to signify a house of public hospitality, whence the term brughaidh (brooey) ‘the keeper of such a house, a farmer.’ Several farms bear this name in the Isle of Man, and they are all on, or adjoin, ecclesiastical land.
►BALLACREGGA (M) – rocky farm.
►BALLACHRINK (M) – farm of the hill, hill farm.
►BALLAHAWIN (M) – farm of the river, ‘bailey ny hawin,’ beside Colby river.
►BALLAKILMARTIN (M) – Balley Keeill Vartyn. ‘Farm of (St.) Martins’ Church.’ Ruins of ancient church.
►BALLANAHOW (M) – ‘farm of the howe or headland.’
►BALLANARD (M) – ‘Balley yn ard’, ‘farm of the height,’ or if old name Balley card, `high farm.’
►BALLALOUGH (M) – lake farm.
►BALLAMODHA (M) – ‘farm of the dogs’, balley moddey.
►BALLANASS (M) – farm of the waterfall, ‘bailey ‘n eas’. This is the waterfall that gives Foxdale its name also.
►BALLASALLA (M) – ‘Saila’ or ‘Sailach’ was the old Gaelic name of the Silverburn river; ‘the village of the sally or willow river.’
►BALLAVARKISH (M) – ‘Mark’s farm.’ Takes its name from an ancient church here dedicated to St. Mark, which has now disappeared. A fair was held here on St. Mark’s day up to 1834.
►BALTHANE (M) – Probably connected with Beltane, Mx. ‘Boaldyn’, Ir. ‘Bealitaine’, the great Summer Festival of the Celts. Many places in Ireland receive their names from the same source, showing where a fair or great gathering was annually held with its many games and feats of strength.
►BARRULE – (S) – S. Vörðufjail, ‘ward mountain.’ A name connected with the institution of ‘Watch and Ward,’ which was constantly enjoined on the inhabitants. From the statutes respecting this duty, one finds that each parish had its warden, who was responsible for ‘the dutifull and carefull observance of watch and ward,’ and this went on till the year 1815. The day-watch went to his post at sunrise, and the night-watch at sunset. The corruption of Vörðfjal to Barrule must have occurred very early, probably the evolution began soon after Norse influence ceased to exist in Mann. Literature, however, has also preserved a literary form, Warfell or Wardfell, down to the present day. We find the colloquial forms Barroole and Barrowle as early as 1645. The literary form was usually applied to the treen, and the colloquial one to the mountain.
The evolution of this Norse name through Celtic lips is interesting:
Original form Vörðfjal. Contracted form Warfell.
Vocalisation of labial (f) and attraction of stress Warool or Varool.
Change of spirant (v, w) to mute (b) Barrool, Barrule.
►BWOAILLEE FROG (M) – ‘frogs’ fold.’ At Kerroo Doo. There is no Manx name for these amphibians and although they are now plentiful, they do not seem to be indigenous to the Island.
►CASS NY HAWIN (M) – the foot of the river
►CASTLETOWN (M) – Balleycashtal (balley = town, home, farmstead, base; cashtal = castle)
►CHIBBYR DRINE (M) – thorn (tree) well
►CHIBBYR UNJIN (M) – ash (tree) well
►CLAGHBANE (M) – farm of the white fence ‘bailey ny cleigh bane’
►CLAGH VANE (M) – white stone
►CLAUGH-WILLEY (M) – Clagh-woaillee, ‘stoney fold’.
►COOILCAM (M) – crooked corner, Ir. Cúil cham,
►CORDEMAN (S) – Kverndrvað, ‘mill river ford,’ v. Coma. This was probably a ford on Santanburn at Ballahown, now spanned by a bridge.
►CORNA (S) – This was the ancient name of the Santan burn as appears by a reference to the river in the Abbeyland boundaries of Malew . Scand.Kverná ‘ Mill water or river.’ A kvern was a horizontal watermill, which the Norsemen introduced into Britain, and which are only found in those parts of Britain which were subject to Norse influence, especially in Man, the Hebrides and along the W. coast of Scotland. They are still in use in Scandinavia. v. Cardle in Maughold.
►CORVALLEY (M) – odd farm.
►CRONKBANE (M) – white hill.
►CRONK MOOAR (M) – great hill.
►CRONK NY ARREY LAA (M) – ‘hill of the day-watch.’ The 1627 form suggests that its original Manx name was Cronk Gorin, ‘blue hill.’
►CROSSAG (M) – ‘The little cross, or crossing.’ The Gaelic name of the famous bridge of the Abbey of Rushen, now known as the ‘Monks’ Bridge.’ “This is probably the oldest bridge in the Island, dating from the 13th century. Its breadth in the centre is only three feet three inches.” The neighbourhood is still called the Crossag.
►CURRAGH BEG (M) – little marsh
►EAIRY BEG (M) – ‘little shieling.’
►EAIRY MOOAR (M) – ‘great shieling.’
►FOXDALE (S) – Forsdalr, ‘waterfall dale.’
►GLION SHELLAN (M) – Glen of bees.
►GRENABY (S) – green farm.
►HANGO HILL (S) – Its name from the Norse hanga-haugr, Gallows hill. Renamed by the House of Derby as Mount Strange in honour of the Derby heir Lord Strange.
►INJEBRECK (S) – Ingabrekka, ‘Ingi’s Slope’
►KEEILL EOIN (M) – ‘John’s church.’
►KEEILL MOIRREY (M) – ‘Mary’s church.’
►KEWAIGUE (M) – This name contains a root-word which occurs extensively throughout the north of Ireland, – cabh, a ’hollow,’ cognate with Latin ‘cavus’, from whence English ’cave’. The Irish place-name form is usually cabhan, with diminutive suffix -an, as in Cavan. Our Manx place-name contains the diminutive suffix -ag, -aig, -age, etc.,(Ir. -o’g). Ir. Calihóg, Mx. Kewaig, ‘little hollow,’ or, with extended meaning, simply ‘a hollow place.
►KERROO DHOO (M) – ‘black quarterland.’
►KIONE DROGHAD (M) – head/end of the bridge, bridge end.
►KNOCK RENNY (M) – ferny hill.
►LAXEY (S) – Laxaa, Laxa = salmon bay
►LOUGH DHOO (M) – black lake
►MAGHER BEG (M) – little field
►ORRISDALE (S) – Hæringsstaðr, ‘Haering’s farm.’ Containing lost surname.
►PEEL – 1231 Bull Pope Gregory IX referred to it as ‘Holme Towen;’ 1515 Manorial Roll ‘Hulmtoun;1580 to 1662 Lib. Episc. ‘Holmetowne;’ 1655 and after ‘ Peeletowne;’ 1703 Manorial Roll ‘Peele.’ In Lib. Episc. Peel is called Holmetowne or Villa de Holmetowne up to 1662 ; after the latter date it is usually called Peeletowne, and Holmetowne only occurs in Latin material. The earliest documentary form is the Norse ‘Hólmtún’, ‘island town’; which was probably used side by side with its Gaelic equivalent, ‘Purt ny hinshey’ (Ir. Port na h-inse). It took the name Peel town, of course, from the castle. ‘Pile’ as an alternative name for this, Patrick occurs in a Bull of Pope Gregory IX in 1231, and was probably borrowed from the English by the Scandinavians of Cumberland, who introduced it into Mann. ‘Peeley’ is used in Manx with the meaning of ‘fortress.’
►PHILDRAW/FILDRAW (M) – Ir. Pal an t-sratha, ‘the fence of the holm.’ Fál, a fence dividing two estates, and sometimes the land enclosed by the fence. Srath, a holm, or meadowland beside a river, sometimes liable to be inundated On the west bank of the Awin Ruy.
►POOIL VAAISH (M) – ‘the bay of death.’ Poyll means ‘a hole, or pool’ and in an extended sense ‘a small bay.’ It is difficult to assign a reason for the name. The limestone rocks around here are fossiliferous and from the so-called black marble quarries came the steps of St. Paul’s, London, being presented by Bishop Wilson.
►PORT-E-CHEE – This is usually translated ‘Harbour of peace,’ If an old name it may be Purt ny shee, ‘the fort of the fairies.’
►PULROSE (M) – Mx. Poyll roish, ‘pool of the wood’.
►RAMSEY (S) – from the Old Norse hrams-á, meaning “wild-garlic river”.
►RENSHENT (M) – Rheynn sheaynt, Ir. Roinn séanta, ‘blessed/blest division.’ Site of an ancient church here.
►RONAGUE (M) – the ‘shieling of foxes,’ ‘Eary Shynnagh.’ Recorded in historical records thus: 1511 ‘Aryssynnok.’ 1643 ‘Arishonick.’ 1703 ‘Aronag.’ 1736 ‘Arronock.’ 1822 ‘Aronick,’ ‘Ronick.’ 1840 ‘Rhonnag.’
►RONALDSWAY (S) – Rõgnvaldsvað, ‘Reginald’s ford.’ There were several Manx kings of this name. It must have referred to the tarbert across the neck of Langness, where the boats were dragged over to the other side of the peninsula.
►SNAEFELL (S) – snow mountain.
►THIE RUNT (M) – ‘Round house’ at Ballanayre. It is said that a woman died of the cholera in this house and no one would bury her. A man hooked a chain to her and attached it to a horse and pulled her out into the Bwoaillee Cowle field adjoining, and buried her in a corner of the field. A thorn-tree now grows over the grave.
►THIE VEG (M) – the ‘little house’ i.e. the toilet
►TYNWALD (S) – written in the Chronicles of Rushen, ‘Tingualla’ is the Thingwall of Iceland, the Danish Thingvollr, (pronounced Tingveuller, the eu sounded French fashion,) the “fields of the Judicial Assembly.” The term “thing” is a Scandinavian equivalent of the Saxon mote.
►UGHTAGH BRISH MY CHREE (M) – ‘Break my heart hill.’ Tradition says that Alswith a son of Hiallus nan ord, the dark smith of Drontheim, undertook to walk round all the churches in the Isle of Man in one day. Alswith started off very early one fine summer morning, and he had almost accomplished his task, but evening overtook him as he approached St. John’s, and while going up the Starvey road leading over the Driney he fell down exhausted. If he had reached Kirk Michael, a few miles away, he would have finished his task. The hill was afterwards known as Ughtagh brish my chree.


Names of places ending in ick, or wick, from the Norse vig, “a cove” abound. On the eastern coast we have Perwick, Sandwick, Dreswick, Greenwick, Saltrick, Soderick, Garwick; and on the west, Aldrick, Portwick, and Fleshwick, small coves.

So also ending in ey, or ay, from the Norse vagr, “a bay” we have Ronaldsway, (anciently Rognvaldsvagr,) Laxey, (anciently Laxaa, Laxa, or Laxay, i.e., Salmon Bay,) Coma, or Kennay, and Ramsey (Ramsoe).

On the other hand, names ending in by, (from the Dansk bie, “a village,”) indicate the older occupation of the Isle by the Danes. Thus on the western coast there is Dalby (dale, “village”) and Jurby (anciently Ivorby, or Ivarby), Ivar’s village; inland, we meet with Colby, Crosby, Grenaby, Kirby, (Kirk-by,) Rheaby, Regaby, Sulby, (Sale-by,) and Trollaby.

So the names of mountains are often Scandinavian, as Snaefell, (Norse, Snee-fjeld, “snow mountain,”) Brada, (broad,) Mull, (Norse, Myl, “a promontory”). We trace to the same origin the names Stack, Thousla, Kitterland, Langness, (Langneese,) Niarbyl, Holme, Garth, Orrysdale, and Tynwald (Thing vollr).

In the old Chronicle of Rushen are many names of places evidently Norwegian, which have since been altered,such as Trollotoft, Oxwath, Totmanby, Ros-fell, (Ros-fjeld,) Thorkel, Herinstad, Ankonathway, Hescana-Keppage, Skemestor, Gretastad, Orms-hous, Toftarasmund. South Barrule was called Ward -fell and Warfield (Warr-fjeld). The lakes Myreshaw (Myroscoe) and Malar have disappeared.

(source: Kneen’s Place-names of the Isle of Man (1925); photograph is of Round Ellan, Andreas by Bernadette Weyde)

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