Place Names of West Dunbartonshire

NB This is only a small selection of place names. More will be added from time to time. The source of some of the information is John Irving's 'Place Names of Dumbartonshire' (1928). He was not a linguist, and some of his derivations, particularly the Gaelic ones, may not be accurate.

Click on a letter of the alphabet for specific place names beginning with that letter:

Farm Names (general)

Farms and other pieces of land were often (from medieval times) named after an ancient owner or occupier - e.g. Bellsmyre, Roberton; others after a description of the farm's land - e.g. Overtoun, Netherton (position), Whiteleys, Blackthird (apparently some white or pale/black or dark feature of the land); others after some religious connection - e.g. Ladyton (land/farm associated with the Lady [Chapel], or [Chapel of Our]Lady).

-ton or -toun is one of the most common place name endings in the language. In modern English the word has evolved to mean 'town', as in "the town of Clydebank"; but many centuries ago it meant 'enclosed piece of land', often a farm.

Sometimes an understanding of a class of English/Scots language place-names can be had by considering an easy one that can serve as an obvious model - e.g. Greenland. There are a number of 'Greenland Farm's around! The structure simply = descriptive or positional word + land word. Thus we have Broadmeadow, Whiteleys (= 'white leas'), Overburn, Underwood, etc., etc.

For specific farm names use the alphabetical links.

Gaelic Prefixes

Parts of West Dunbartonshire are very close to the Highlands, and the Gaelic language now mainly associated with the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, once had a huge influence further afield. Here are some of the prefixes (first elements) of Gaelic place names which feature in our area:-

  • achadh ('field')- e.g. in Auchincarroch; Auchentorlie
  • baile ('town' or 'farm') - e.g. in Ballagan
  • dail ('meadow') - e.g. in Dalreoch; Dalmuir; Dalnottar; Dillichip
  • druim ('ridge') - e.g. in Drumry
  • dun ('fort' or 'rounded hill') - e.g. in Dunglass; Duntocher; Dumbarton
  • cill ('church') - e.g. in Kilpatrick; Kilmaronock