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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

English Place-Names with Christian Associations

V Alpatov
Moscow City Pedagogical University, Russia

Religion has always been a major factor of place name coinage in Europe. Investigation of the imprint of Christianity on the English toponymy reveals that Christian place names fall into three large subgroups that can be entitled ‘Holy place names’, ‘Church place names’, ‘Biblical place names’.
The first group comprises names of holy springs (Holy Well, St. Ann’s Well) and other places that have acquired a tight link with supernatural events (cures, wonders, Eyekeld, Bishopstrow), persons (patron saints, St Michael’s Mount) or special qualities (dangerous, boundary, some Holy- and Cross- names), and also pious place names (Dieulacres, Vaudey).
‘Church place names’ form the largest group and contain references to three main overlapping semantic fields: ‘Church person’ (Abbotsbury, Preston), ‘Church object’ (Whitchurch, Chapel Wood, Candle field, Lampcroft), ‘Church event’ (Whitsun Well, Gospel Brow, Amen Corner). Such toponyms can be metonymical or metaphorical (stone circles Twelve Apostles, Sunkenkirk, ravine Lud’s Church).
‘Biblical place names’ contain personal names or geographical names of Scriptural origin and refer to them in a Scriptural context. Such place names are usually metaphorical in character, and describe various qualities or assessment of the place (Purgatory, Jacob’s Ladder, Jericho, Bethlehem). Some of them however are based on metonymy and point to ecclesiastical ownership (Jerusalem Wood), confession (Mount Tabor), buildings in Palestinian style (some Jerusalems), etc.

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