Index of Celtic and Other Elements

Index of Celtic and Other Elements

in W.J.Watson’s ‘The History of the Celtic Place-names of Scotland’

by A.G.James and S.Taylor
incorporating the work of A.Watson and the late E.J.Basden


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Index of Celtic and Other Elements in W.J.Watson’s ‘The History of the Celtic Place-names of Scotland’

In the field of Scottish place-name studies, William J. Watson’s The History of the Celtic Place-names of Scotland (1926) still holds a canonical status: it is the starting-point for any serious study of the toponymy of almost any part of the country. In it, Watson discusses a multitude of place-names, but, perhaps even more important for the modern researcher, he exemplifies the bulk of the Scottish Celtic ‘onomasticon’, the body of Celtic vocabulary from which place-names have been formed over the past two millennia, and he raises important questions concerning the formation and interpretation of names which, even where his answers have to some extent been superseded by more recent scholarship, can still stimulate research and provide agenda for debate.

But CPNS is not, it must be admitted, as user-friendly as it might be: given the importance to researchers of the evidence for the ‘onomasticon’, the lack of an index of placename elements has been a serious impediment.

In 1999, Alan James, with help from Simon Taylor, brought together two indexes that then existed in manuscript or typescript, of Celtic elements by Eric Basden, and of anglicised forms of those elements by Angus Watson. The resulting, combined, Index, has been on the SPNS website for several years, its usefulness perhaps rather overlooked. It has now been transferred to a downloadable pdf, with a number of addenda (chiefly additional location references) and corrigenda (mainly minor or cosmetic).

It remains a very useful resource, enabling any researcher to find what Watson had to say about any of several hundred place-name elements, or to find examples of place-names that may contain those elements, and also providing an invaluable list of possible clues to the, often baffling, forms that those elements may assume in Scots/ anglicised forms of Celtic-origin names.