The Silicon Fen-Edge Village of Cottenham, Cambridge UK

What's in a Name?

Source: Anthony Poulton-Smith

Freelance journalist and author


  • A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet but smaller than a town, with a population typically ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand. Though villages are often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighborhoods. Wikipedia


  • Cottenham is a village in Cambridgeshire, England... one of the larger villages surrounding the City of Cambridge, located around five miles north of the city. The population of the civil parish at the 2011 Census was 6095.[1] Cottenham is one of a number of villages that make up the historical Fen Edge region in between Cambridge and Ely, which were originally settlements on the shore of the marshes close to the City of Cambridge, then an inland port. Wikipedia

Ever wondered why our towns and villages are so named? Were they a deliberate creation by our ancestors or did they evolve naturally over time? Which place name can be traced back to a specific day in history, 23rd July 1638? Why does the county have a Scotland, a California, and a Klondike? Why are there so many places referring to Undertakers and Adventurers?

In these pages we examine the origins of the names with which we are otherwise so familiar. Towns, villages, districts, hills, streams, woods, farms, fields, streets and even pubs are examined and explained. Some of the definitions give a glimpse of life in the earlier days of the settlement, and for the author there is nothing more satisfying than finding a name which gives such a snapshot.

The definitions are supported by anecdotal evidence, bringing to life the individuals and events which have influenced the places and the way these names have developed.

This is not just a dictionary but a history and will prove invaluable not only for those who live and work in the county but also visitors and tourists, historians and former inhabitants, indeed anyone with an interest in Cambridgeshire.

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