The following bibliography is intended for the general reader

J. Spittal & J. Field, 1990 A Reader’s Guide to the Place-Names of the United Kingdom: a bibliography of publications (1920-89) on the place-names of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands.

The following books or parts of books provide an excellent introduction to the subject from a non-Scottish angle, but with much that is relevant to Scotland:

Cameron, K. 1996 English Place Names: new edition of book which first appeared in 1961; unfortunately the important chapter ‘Place-Names and Archaeology’ found in the earlier editions has been omitted from the new one.

Gelling, M. 1978 Signposts to the Past: Place-Names and the History of England: described by the author herself as a sequel to Cameron’s book (latest edn. 1988).

Gelling, M. 1984 Place-Names in the Landscape: an analysis of topographical settlement-names i.e. names of settlements which derive from landscape features e.g. Longridge. Although about England, the points she makes in her Introduction regarding the importance and age of such names are very relevant for Scotland, too (paperback edn. 1993).

Gelling, Margaret, and Cole, Anne, 2000, The Landscape of Place-Names (Stamford).

Padel, O.J. 1988 Cornish Place-Names: the Introduction (pp.1-48) is a good summary of the methods and problems of place-name studies in general , as well as discussing Cornish place-names in particular.

Stewart, G.R. 1975 Names on the Globe, New York, Oxford University Press: detailed introduction to place-names and place-naming throughout the world, and throughout history. Refreshing non-European view (out of print).

Crawford, B.E. 1987, Scandinavian Scotland: a good chapter on Scandinavian place-names in Scotland.

Dorward, D. 1995, Scotland’s Place-names (Expanded Edition): non-academic introduction to the subject. Its lack of early forms of names limits its usefulness as a reference work.

Nicolaisen, W.F.H. et al., 1970, Names of Towns and Cities in Britain, compiled by Margaret Gelling, W.F.H. Nicolaisen and Melville Richards, ed. W.F.H. Nicolaisen.

Nicolaisen, W.F.H. Scottish Place-Names, 1976: this remains by far the best general introduction to Scottish place-names, and is the bench-mark for all subsequent work on the subject, although in need of revision on several fronts (slightly revised edn. with new bibliography, Edinburgh, 2001).

PLACE-NAME ELEMENTS: There is a series of Ordnance Survey web-based publications for three of the languages which have made an important contribution to the place-names of Scotland: Gaelic, Scandinavian (Norse) and Scots. Each consists of an Introduction, which includes some basic grammar as it relates to place-name formation, and a Glossary of common place-name elements.

The pdfs with Introductions, can be downloaded as follows:


For Gaelic Place-Names (Introduction by Simon Taylor):

For Scandinavian (Norse) Place-Names (Introduction by Anke-Beate Stahl):

For Scots Place-Names (Introduction by Simon Taylor):

There is a fourth such site concerning Welsh Place-Names:
The Welsh origins of place names in Britain | OS GetOutside (

Although each of these four sites includes the word ‘Britain’ in its title, in the first three read ‘Scotland’ for ‘Britain’, in the fourth read ‘Wales’.

Taylor, S. (ed.), 1998,
The Uses of Place-Names. Based on the conference of that name held in St Andrews, Feb. 1996. Looks at place-names as a tool for for various disciplines, including language (Scottish Gaelic – R. Ó Maolalaigh), history (Scotland – G.W.S. Barrow), historical geography (England – M. Gelling), archaeology (Wales – T. James, and Shetland – S.S. Hansen & D. Waugh), literature (Gaelic ballads – D. Meek) (Scottish Cultural Press, forthcoming) & environmental politics (Wales – H. James).

Watson, W.J. 1926Celtic Place-Names of Scotland: for individual names, by far the best book ever to be written on Scottish place-names. Although not easy to use, it always repays the effort (latest edn. Birlinn 2004 with introduction, some addenda and corrigenda, and full Watson bibliography, by Simon Taylor; reprinted Birlinn 2011 with Taylor’s introduction, expanded addenda & corrigenda and expanded Watson bibliography).

*Online here Introduction , General Survey of Dumfries and Galloway, General Survey of Lothian, General Survey of Scotland North of Forth and General Survey of Ayrshire and Strathclyde *

Watson, W.J. 2002, Scottish Place-Name Papers, London and Edinburgh, Steve Savage. Collection of papers by Watson, ed. Nicolaisen; an invaluable supplement to ‘Celtic Place-Names of Scotland’.

Note also Index Of Celtic Elements In W.J. Watson’s ‘History Of The Celtic Place-Names Of Scotland’ compiled by Eric B. Basden, 1978 (published 1997 in a new edition by Alan James). An essential companion to Watson’s classic work on Scottish Place-Names, containing some 5,000 different entries (73 A4 sides) plus a seven-page Subject Index, with a preface by Simon Taylor, a brief User’s Guide by Alan James, and a note on Eric Basden by his son, Nicholas Basden.
Copies are available from the Scottish Place-Name Society, price £7 including p. & p.

Note also Scott, Maggie 2003.Scottish Place-Names’, in John Corbett et al. (eds.),The Edinburgh Companion to Scots, pp.17-30. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.