10 English Villages With Quirky, Quaint, or Downright Funny Names

Buckle up for a trip through the charmingly odd corners of England! From villages named after historical happenings to others inspired by, well, bodily functions, this list explores 10 places with names that will make you chuckle, scratch your head, and maybe even learn a bit about English history. Get ready for beautiful settings, quirky traditions, and some truly unforgettable village names – all revealed alongside the fascinating stories behind how they came to be.

1. Loose, Kent

Loose, Kent. Credit Ray in Manila

The name Loose, Kent, has two main origin theories, both connected to its past:

Old English “Pigsty”: this is the most widely accepted explanation. According to this theory, the name Loose comes from the Old English word “hlōse,” which translates to “pigsty.”

It’s believed the village might have been known for pig farming in Saxon times, hence the name reflecting its primary agricultural activity.
This explanation aligns with the naming conventions of many English settlements, where places were named based on their dominant features or resources.

Old English “Lost Stream”: this theory suggests the name originates from the nearby Loose Stream.

Some sources propose the Old English term “hlosan” which meant “to lose” or “be lost.” The idea is that the Loose Stream goes underground for a stretch, potentially leading to the interpretation of it being “lost.” This could have influenced the naming of the village.

2. Fingringhoe, Essex

Fingringhoe, Essex. Credit diamond geezer

The name Fingringhoe, Essex, has an interesting origin story that likely comes from Old English.

Old English Roots: Experts on place names (toponymists) believe the name Fingringhoe is derived from Old English words:

“ing”: This suffix is commonly found in English place names and often refers to “the people of” or “the followers of.”

“hoe”: This typically means a spur of land, a hill with a projecting ridge, or a heel-shaped piece of land.

Possible Interpretations:

People of the Hill-Spur: This is the most widely accepted interpretation. Fingringhoe sits on a piece of land that juts out, and the name could simply describe the community that resided on this “hill-spur.

Followers of a Man Named Fingring: This theory suggests the name might be linked to a person named Fingring. The “ingas” suffix could then indicate the descendants or followers of this individual who settled in the area.While the exact meaning is debated, both interpretations connect the name to the land itself or the people who lived there.

3. Wetwang, Yorkshire

Wetwang, Yorkshire. Credit Ian Foss

The name Wetwang in Yorkshire has a couple of possible origins, both quite interesting and not what you might expect at first glance:

Field of Law: This theory suggests the name comes from the Old Norse term “vætt-vangr” (véttvangr) which translates to “field of summons for the trial of an action.” Essentially, Wetwang could have been a designated meeting place for legal proceedings in Viking times.

Wet Field: This interpretation is a bit more straightforward. It proposes that Wetwang was named in relation to the surrounding area. Compared to drier fields nearby, perhaps Wetwang had more consistent moisture or a marshy quality, earning it the name “Wet Field.”

While the “wet field” idea seems more intuitive, the “field of law” theory holds more weight among experts. The presence of the Old Norse term and the village’s location at crossroads both support this explanation.

4. Great Snoring, Norfolk

Great Snoring, Norfolk. Credit Philip Halling

The name Great Snoring, Norfolk, while certainly amusing, has a more interesting origin than one might expect. It doesn’t have anything to do with the act of snoring!

The name likely comes from Old English and is believed to be related to a person named Snear.

“Snear” itself has multiple possible interpretations. Some sources translate it as “swift,” “bright,” or even “alert,” suggesting it could have been a nickname.

Early records from the Domesday Book (1086) mention the village as “Snaringa” or “Snarringes.” This reinforces the idea of the name stemming from an individual named Snear.

Over time, the name evolved into “Snoring,” possibly due to pronunciation changes or a folk etymology explanation (attributing a meaning based on something familiar).

The distinction between “Great” and “Little Snoring” (another nearby village) likely arose to differentiate between their sizes. Historically, “Snoring Magna” was also used for Great Snoring, with “Magna” being Latin for “greater.”

So, Great Snoring was most likely named after a resident named Snear, and the connection to snoring came about much later.

5. Nether Wallop, Hampshire

Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk

Nether Wallop is a small village in Hampshire, with a name that has a rich history. The name “Nether Wallop” is derived from the Old English and Anglo-Saxon words “neoþer” and “wealh.”
“Nether” comes from “neoþer,” which means “lower” or “below.” This refers to the village’s location in the valley, lower than the nearby village of Over Wallop.

“Wallop” is derived from “wealh,” which means “foreigner” or “stranger.” This likely refers to the village’s origins as a settlement of Britons or Celts, who were considered “foreigners” by the Anglo-Saxons.
Nether Wallop can be literally translated to “the lower settlement of the foreigners.” This name reflects the village’s history as a settlement of diverse cultures and its location in the valley.
Over time, the name has evolved from “Nether Wallop” to its current form, with the unique spelling and pronunciation we know today. Despite its small size, Nether Wallop has a fascinating history and a charming atmosphere, making it a delightful place to visit.

6. Westward Ho!, Devon

Westward Ho! in Devon. Credit Mark Robinson

Westward Ho! in Devon stands out for its unique name, an exclamation mark and all. Unlike many places with origins in the distant past, Westward Ho! has a well-documented and relatively recent origin story tied to literature and tourism.

Inspired by a Novel: The village’s name comes directly from the title of Charles Kingsley’s historical novel Westward Ho! published in 1855.

The Setting: The novel itself is set in nearby Bideford, another town in Devon. It’s a swashbuckling adventure story following English privateers in the Elizabethan era.

Capitalizing on Popularity: The novel was a bestseller, sparking a renewed interest in the area’s history and natural beauty. Local entrepreneurs saw an opportunity.

Birth of a Village: In 1863, the Northam Burrows Hotel and Villa Building Company was formed. Their aim, as stated in their prospectus, was to attract tourists to the “beautiful North Devon Coast” using the evocative name Westward Ho!

A Deliberate Choice: The exclamation mark was likely a deliberate choice to make the name stand out and pique interest, further reflecting the adventurous spirit of the novel.

So, Westward Ho! isn’t an old village with a name steeped in history, but a relatively recent creation that cleverly leveraged a popular novel to draw tourists to the stunning Devon coastline.

7. Giggleswick, North Yorkshire

Giggleswick, North Yorkshire. Credit Patrick Down

Giggleswick is a small village in North Yorkshire, England, with a name that has sparked curiosity among many. The origins of the name “Giggleswick” can be traced back to the Old English and Old Norse languages.

The name “Giggleswick” is derived from the Old English personal name “Gichel” or “Gicel,” which was a common name among the Anglo-Saxons. The suffix “-wick” is from the Old English “wic,” meaning “dwelling” or “settlement.” In Old Norse, the language spoken by the Vikings, “vík” also means “bay” or “inlet.”
Therefore, Giggleswick can be literally translated to “Gichel’s dwelling” or “Gichel’s settlement.” It is believed to refer to a settlement or farm established by someone named Gichel or Gicel, possibly a Viking or Anglo-Saxon settler.
Over time, the name has evolved from “Gichelwic” to “Giggleswick,” with the unique spelling and pronunciation we know today. Despite its unusual name, Giggleswick is a charming village with a rich history and natural beauty, attracting visitors and locals alike.

8. Upperthong, West Yorkshire

Upperthong, West Yorkshire. Credit Tim Green

The name Upperthong in West Yorkshire likely has origins in Old English, with a meaning connected to its location.

There are two main contenders for the origin of the name:

Old English “Thong”: This theory suggests the name comes from Old English “uferra” (upper) + “thwang” (narrow strip ). This makes sense considering there’s also a nearby village named Netherthong, which sits on lower ground. “Upperthong” and “Netherthong” would then designate the higher and lower strips of land respectively.

Old Norse “Thing”: Another possibility is that the name derives from the Old Norse word “thing,” meaning an assembly or court. This theory suggests Upperthong might have been a designated location for gatherings or legal proceedings in the Viking era.

9. Bell End, Worcestershire

The Bell End pub at Bell End village, Worcestershire. Credit David Howard

The origin of the name Bell End in Worcestershire is a bit of a paradox. It has a seemingly vulgar modern meaning, but it likely stems from something far more innocent in its historical context.

In modern English slang, “bell end” is a vulgar term. This has led to some amusement and even a petition to change the village name.

From a historical perspective, there’s a strong belief that the name originated from a much more practical feature:

Bell Tower: Local accounts suggest the village once had a bell tower at the end (or one prominent end) of the main road. This bell tower might have been used for various purposes, such as sounding an alarm or calling people to church.

Name Evolution: The name “Bell End” could simply be a descriptor for the location of the bell tower – the end with the bell. Over time, the name stuck.

10. Shitterton, Dorset

Shitterton, Dorset. Credit Mike Searle

Shitterton, Dorset, definitely holds the prize for one of the most unusual place names in Britain. Unlike some other funny-sounding names that might have more pleasant origins, Shitterton’s name likely reflects a rather unpleasant reality in its past.

Unpleasant Origins: Evidence suggests the name Shitterton is directly related to human waste disposal.

Early Records: The earliest recorded version of the name dates back to the Domesday Book in 1086, where it was spelled “Scetra” which is thought to mean “dung” in Norman French. Derived from the Old English “scite”, it became schitte

The Stream: Another theory points to a stream that flows through the village. This stream might have been used as an open sewer historically, leading to the name “Shitterton” – a farmstead located on the “shitter” stream. “Shiter” or “Shitter” could be an old term for such a stream used as a privy.

Name Evolution: Over the centuries, the name has gone through various spellings like Schitereston, Shyterton, and Chiterton, before settling on the current “Shitterton.”

Interestingly, the Victorians, known for their propriety, weren’t too fond of the name. In the 19th century, there were attempts to rename the hamlet to the more genteel-sounding “Sitterton.” However, the original name persisted.

Despite its rather unappetizing origins, Shitterton is a picturesque village today. The stream, of course, no longer serves its original purpose, and the village boasts a collection of historic thatched buildings.