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

Hall, A. (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

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Abstract

'Are there any Elves in Anglo-Saxon Place-names?' reassesses those place-names so far etymologised to contain elf, 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 elf 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 elf. 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
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:UNSPECIFIED
Authors: Hall, A.
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PE English
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Celtic and Gaelic
Journal Name:Nomina: Journal of the Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland
Publisher:Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland
ISSN:0141-6340
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2006 Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland
First Published:First published in Nomina: Journal of the Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland 29:61-80
Publisher Policy:Reproduced with the editor's permission

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