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Are there any Elves in Anglo-Saxon place-names?

Hall, Alaric (2006) Are there any Elves in Anglo-Saxon place-names? Nomina: Journal of the Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland, 29. pp. 61-80. ISSN 0141-6340


'Are there any Elves in Anglo-Saxon Place-names?' reassesses those place-names so far etymologised to contain ælf, the Old English etymon of elf, to establish which if any can reliably be used in research on Anglo-Saxon beliefs. The key problem for identifying ælf in place-names lies in its phonological similarity to Anglo-Saxon personal names, at three levels: in place-names, etymological dithematic personal names like were sometimes reduced to forms which resemble forms of ælf; there was probably a simplex personal name Ælf which can also appear in placenames; and there was likewise possibly a simplex personal name Ælfa. Additional difficulties are caused by the possibility that some place-names which might plausibly derive from Anglo-Saxon ones containing ælf were in fact coined in the Middle English period. However, although no ælf-place-name can be identified for Anglo-Saxon England with complete confidence, two reasonably reliable examples are identified: ælfrucge ('elf-ridge') in Kent and ylfing dene('elf-place valley') in Berkshire. Moreover, other names which could plausibly derive from ælf also tend to show second elements denoting hills and valleys. In this, they are similar to place-names containing names of pagan gods, but unlike names denoting monstrous supernatural beings (which tend to be associated with bodies of water and smaller depressions). Though conclusions must be tentative, our evidence hints at wider roles for beliefs in supernatural beings in the construction of Anglo-Saxon space.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: Copyright © 2006 Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland. Reproduced (in Glasgow Eprints) with the editor's permission. Full text available from the University of Glasgow Enlighten Repository http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/3146/.
Institution: The University of Leeds
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of English (Leeds)
Depositing User: Repository Officer
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2009 11:31
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2014 09:38
Status: Published
Publisher: Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland
Refereed: Yes
Related URLs:
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/5595

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