Every landscape has its language – the words that native inhabitants use to name its features, creatures, terrain, vegetation, soils, and weather, etc. It is often specific to a particular district or region. This vernacular land-language is all but extinct in many parts of England. As fewer and fewer people have any meaningful connection to the land, so the language of the land is forgotten, and as that language is lost, so the connection to the land is further loosened.

Moreover, landscapes are layered in language as surely as the rocks are stratified beneath their surface. They are imprinted with the languages of successive occupants over the ages. In parts of England, Celtic, Latin, Anglo-Saxon or Old English, Danish, Old Norse and Norman French words co-exist in the same district, preserved in the names of natural features, towns and villages, farms, roads and fields. Place-names, therefore, are an intrinsic part of the language of landscape. They constitute a kind of linguistic stratigraphy.

It seems important to me that we should remember and re-learn the language of the landscape we inhabit.

On this page I have compiled a glossary of some 550 landscape and topographical terms and names of flora and fauna that up until quite recently would have been spoken by natives in this part of Cambridgeshire, and the Fens in general. I have no idea how many of these words may still be in use, but some at least are preserved as elements in local place-names. Dialect information for Cambridgeshire itself is not easy to come by so I have had to spread the net a little wider than my local fen-edge patch, knowing that some words would certainly have been shared over a larger region.

To hear samples of the Cambridgeshire and Fenland accent and dialect go to the marvellous British Library Archival Sound Recordings Accents and Dialects site at

and click locations on the map around Cambridge (or go to the Home page and use Search – Cambridgeshire, limited to Accents and Dialects).


These land-words have been culled from three sources:

1. S. Egar’s ‘Fen Provincialisms’, in Fenland Notes & Queries, 1891 -1895;

2. Thomas Sternberg’s Dialect and Folklore of Northamptonshire, published in London, 1851. Although spoken somewhat to the north and west of my patch, many of these words are fenland words, and some will have been familiar to Cambridgeshire people. Besides, Sternberg’s work documents the contemporary dialect of the peasant-poet John Clare, whose own soodling-grounds lay between Peterborough and Stamford, on the edge of the fens just north of here;

3. John Clare’s words, Helpston dialect, Northamptonshire, now Cambridgeshire, mid-19th century, as interpreted by Eric Robinson, David Powell, and P. M. S. Dawson; culled from the Consolidated Glossary in John Clare, Poems of the Middle Period, Vol. V, 2003 (abbreviated as Clare, RPD)

I have organized them in several categories:

The Land: Natural and Man-Made Features of the Landscape

Names of Trees, Crops and Plants

Birds and Beasts

The Weather and Sky

Miscellaneous terms



addle, adland : the headland of a field (Sternberg)

back-side : the back yard or garden of a house (Sternberg)

balk : a division or boundary in a field; cf. Anglo-Saxon balc, Teutonic balck (Sternberg); balk, bauk, baulk : a narrow strip of grass between ploughed fields or ploughed strips (Clare, RPD)

bents : dry stalks of grass after summer grazing (Egar)

biggin : a building, cottage (Clare, RPD)

birkenshaw : a small birch wood (Clare, RPD)

birks : a coppice or small wood consisting chiefly of birches (Clare, RPD)

braes : hills, hillsides (Clare, RPD)

brake : a field after the corn has been reaped (Sternberg); brake, braken, break, breakan : bracken, fern, Pteridium aquilinum (Clare, RPD)

brent : the brow of a hill (Sternberg)

brig : a bridge; cf. Anglo-Saxon brycg; common to all the Northern dialects (Sternberg); brig : bridge (Clare, RPD)

bruik : brook (Clare, RPD)

burn, burne : stream, water; burnie : streamlet (Clare, RPD)

burr, burrow : the shade; “The burr side of the hedge”; Mr. Akerman gives as the etymon the Anglo-Saxon burh which he says originally meant a place of shelter (Sternberg)

byard : a cowshed (Clare, RPD)

cauk : limestone or chalk (Egar)

causey : a causeway; cf. Dutch kautsije (Sternberg); causae, causey : a causeway, street, footpath, pavement (Clare, RPD)

cauve or calve : a bulge in a bank (Egar)

cesspools : refers to water which gathers on the ‘cess’ or land between a river and its bank when the river is low (Clare, RPD)

chaps : the fissures into which the land is broken after a long continuance of hot weather. (Sternberg)

chizzelly : a term applied to that species of land which breaks when it is turned up by the plough into bits, in size like the chips that are usually made by the chisel of the stone-cutter (Sternberg)

close : a field, meadow, esp. for pasturing cattle (Clare, RPD)

closen : small enclosed fields (Clare, RPD)

clow or clough: a flood-gate, the gates of a sluice; so Clow’s Cross, Raven’s Clough (Egar)

clunch : a hard kind of peat, found mixed with sand, etc.; cf. German klunt, ‘massa concreta’ (Sternberg)

coat : cote, shelter for birds or animals (Clare, RPD)

coney-gree : frequently the name of a rabbit-warren; in Barret’s Dictionary (London, 1580) the word park is rendered “anie place enclosed to keepe beasts for pleasure: a cannigree, a warraine” (Sternberg)

cot, cott : cottage; cotter : cottager, farm tenant (Clare, RPD)

cops : copse (Clare, RPD)

cradge :  a small bank hastily raised to keep out a flood (Egar); also scradge

creach: the thin lamina of the limestone (Sternberg)

creachy-land: soil strewn with the above (Sternberg); see also creech land

creech land : cretaceous, light, marly soil containing stones, on a loose, stony sub-strata (Egar); see also creach, creachy-land

crew-yard : the winter yard for cattle (Egar)

croft: a small field near a house; often found connected with some other word, as corn-croft, haycroft, etc. (Sternberg)

crop : 1. a species of kealy limestone; 2. a stock or bed of quarry stone. (Sternberg)

cross-hill : the open space in the centre of a village, otherwise called the green, in the middle of which is frequently to be found the assemblage of rude steps, still known by the name of the cross, though the iconoclasm of the puritanical times has rarely, if ever, allowed its more distinguishing characteristic to remain. Forming, as it were, the nucleus of the village, it is the most frequented resort of the idlers and holiday makers. Around its base are practised the sports of May-day, and the feast, at which time it was customary to decorate the shafts with boughs, flowers, etc.; In some villages it appears to have been applied to a more useful purpose. The shaft of the cross at Irthingborough was, in the time of Bridges, “used as a standard for the pole to measure out their parts or doles in the meadows”, Vol. ii. p. 235 (Sternberg)

delf : an old stone or gravel pit; cf. Teutonic delve, ‘fovea’ (Sternberg)

delph : a drain or watercourse that has been dug or ‘delved’, which empties into a larger drain or river; ‘delve’, with its compounds, is a good old English word (Saxon delfan, ‘to dig’), and not of later Dutch origin, as some imagine; we have King’s Delph, Whittlesey Delph, Canute’s Delph, and others (Egar)

dole : a share or allotment in the common field; still retained in the names of fields when applied to fields near a river; may, perhaps, be derived from the Welsh dol (Sternberg)

donkey, donk : wet, moist, or damp;  generally applied to land; cf. Mid. Dutch donker, ‘obscure’, German tuncken, ‘damp’ Swiss Germ. dunken, ‘mucidus’ (Sternberg)

dotchel, dott(e)rel : a pollarded tree, ‘Old stumping trees in hedgerows, that are headed every 10 or 12 years for firewood’ (Clare’s note in VM Glossary, RPD); dotteril : an old tree ; one that has lost its ‘head’, as the woodmen phrase it (Sternberg)

drown : to inundate; land under water is said to be drowned, thus the Nea annually drowns the meadows near its banks; one of the fen-men’s objections to the Earl of Lindsey’s project was “That the fens in question were not drowned, and did, therefore, need no draining”; and thus Ben Johnson, in the ‘Sad Shepherd’, “Down to the drowned lands of Lincolnshire” (Sternberg)

drownings : fens, of which the eastern districts of the county formerly chiefly consisted; their state is thus described by an old writer : “The aer nebulous, grosse, and full of harres ; the water putred and muddy – yea, full of loathsome vermene; the earth spaing, vafast, and boggie; the fire noysome, turfe and lassocks – such are the inconuiniences of the drownings” (‘A Discorvse concerning the Drayning of Fennes’, London, 1629) (Sternberg)

dufhus : a pigeon-house; for. Anglo-Saxon, Swedish dufhus (Sternberg)

dyke : a dike, water-filled ditch (Clare, RPD)

dyland : a field is said to be ‘rig (or ridge) and dyland’ when it has hollows cut to raise the intervening ridges (Egar)

ea, eau : water; a drain; pronounced E or O; e.g. Southea, Popham’s Eau (Egar); see also eay

eay : a pond or pool; also a drain or artificial water-course; for Anglo-Saxon ea, ‘aqua’ (Sternberg); see also ea

edding, headland : heading, grass at the end of a ploughed field where the plough turns (Clare, RPD)

eddish : the first growth of grass after mowing, aftermath (Egar); eddish : aftermath, second crop of grass (Clare, RPD)

elt : to become soft or moist, as earth when damp (Sternberg); elting moulds : ‘the soft ridges of fresh ploughed land’ (VM Glossary, Clare, RPD)

eth : a rabbit earth ; also pronounced ‘yeth’, the Western word for earth. (Sternberg)

ether, edder : a hedge, and the radlings of which it is composed; cf. Anglo-Saxon eder and ether (Sternberg)

fat: land is said to be fat when subject to mildew (Sternberg)

finger post : post set up at the parting of roads, with one or more arms, often terminating in the shape of a finger, to indicate the directions of the several roads; guide-post (Clare, RPD)

flags : reeds, rushes; flaggy : reedy, rushy (Clare, RPD)

fold : ‘inclosure made of hurdles, wherein sheep are penned at night’ (RL Glossary, Clare, RPD)

footpad : footpath (Clare, RPD)

fore : 1. bank, edge or brink of a pool; 2. a ford (Clare, RPD)

forestead : literally ‘a place in front’, or possibly on the bank of a stream or ditch (Clare, RPD)

fountain : a spring (Clare, RPD)

furlong : originally the length of furrow in a common field (Clare, RPD)

galls : wet and moist patches of land (Sternberg)

gault : a blue calcareous clay (Sternberg); gaulting : from gault, ‘blue-clay’; the act of claying land, by casting the clay out of pits or dikes, called clay-dikes, and spreading it over the light, black, fen land (Egar)

gitty : an alley or narrow passage connecting one street with another (Clare, RPD)

gote, gout : an outlet of a drain or watercourse; as Tydd Gote (Egar); see also gout

gotty, gouty : wet and boggy; ‘a gouty field’; a piece of land intersected with many small streams, etc., would be called a ‘gotty piece’; in Cheshire, gueout (Sternberg)

gout, goat : a ditch or drain; cf. Belgian gouw, Flemish goot, French égout, ‘a drain’, etc. (Sternberg); see also gote

gravel : a ford; in former times it was usual in the fenny districts to fill the beds of rivers and watercourses with gravel, in order to save the expense of building a bridge, which, as it gradually wore away, was supplied with fresh materials by common day-work, at the expense of the parish in which it was situated; hence the term gravel, as applied to a fordable passage, now almost obsolete (Sternberg)

grip : a narrow ditch or furrow; cf. Anglo-Saxon grep (Sternberg); a small ditch or drain for carrying off surplus water (Egar); grip : small open furrow or ditch, especially for carrying water; a trench, drain, cart-rut (Clare, RPD)

grounds : fields (Clare, RPD)

grumpy : stiff and hard, spoken of soil (Sternberg)

gulls, gulleys : wide and deep fissures, often found intersecting a stratum of stone;  differing from ‘crick’, ‘seams’, etc. in being generally filled with earthy matter; the same words are also used to express a drain or small stream; the chasms formed by rooting up trees are also termed ‘gull-hole’; “Theyre passage sodeyneley stopped by a greate gul (ingens vorago) made with the violence of the streames yt ranne downe the mountaines, by wearing awaye of the earthe”, Brande’s ‘Quintus Curtius’, fol. 115, 1561 (Sternberg); gulls : holes that are washed out by the force of a flood, gullies (Clare, RPD)

gulled : intersected with gulls; Thus Clare, “Close by the rutgulled waggon road”, ‘Rural Muse’, p . 76 (Sternberg)

gulsh : to tear up with violence, as a stream when swollen with floods. (Sternberg)

guzzle, gudjil : a drain. (Sternberg)

hag : 1. a bog, as peat-hags; 2. deep holes, in ruts (Egar)

hain : to preserve a field for mowing, by excluding cattle from it; cf. German hagen, ‘conservare’ (Sternberg)

hards : a term applied in the fenny districts to those patches of land which, from superior elevation or other causes, remain hard and dry during the winter season; oases, as it were, upon the dreary expanse of marshes; before ‘the drayning of the fennes’, the dwellers upon these hards were oftentimes exposed to the most distressing privations; An old writer, describing the fens of this and adjoining counties, thus remarks : “In winter, when the ice is strong enough to hinder the passage of boats, and yet not able to beare a man, the inhabitants upon the hards and the bankes within the fennes, can have no help of food – no comfort for body or soule – no woman ayd in her travell – no means to baptize a child, or to administer the communion – no supply of any necessitie, saving what these desolate places can afford”, ‘Discourse concerning the Drayning of Fennes’, 1629 (Sternberg)

hassock : a tuft of coarse grass, growing in moist places (Egar); also hussock

haw, hay : a small wood or coppice, used in conjunction with some other word, as swine- haw, west-haw, etc.; cf. German hai, Anglo-Saxon haga, ‘agellus’; nearly allied to the Northern shaw, ‘a wood’ (Sternberg)

headland : the outside of a field, where the horses turn (Egar)

hen-mould : a black spongy and mouldering earth, so called, Morton thinks, from its being of that species which poultry take delight to flutter and dust themselves in. (Sternberg)

hither : nearest; used in designating fields, as hither delf, wung, etc., meaning the nearest to the homestead (Sternberg)

hoh, hoo : an elevated site : a frequent name for a field in such situations; cf. Anglo-Saxon hoh; “Hoo is a determination of many places in this shire, as Thornhoo, Cogenhoo, and many others; and it commonly appeareth to be a craggie, rockye, stonye, and thornye place. Barren for the most, and not as profitable as other places”, Nordon’s ‘Northamptonshire’, 1610. p. 17 (Sternberg)

holm : ‘a river island’, or land which was formerly covered with water (VM Glossary, Clare, RPD)

holt : a common name for a field; the Anglo-Saxon holt may, perhaps, admit of a wider signification than wood or grove (Sternberg); holt : a plantation; ‘Down by the willow holt’; Anglo-Saxon holt; used in 1435 (Egar); holt : small grove or plantation, hence osier holt, bed of osiers (Clare, RPD)

hook : a piece of land situated on a slope (Sternberg)

housen : plural of house (Sternberg)

hovel : animal shed in a field, rough shelter for cattle (Clare, RPD)

how : a mound, hillock, knoll (Clare, RPD)

hubs : large rugged stones that will not stand frost (Sternberg)

hulk : temporary hovel built in ‘lambing-time’ for the convenience of the shepherds in attending to the sheep; cf. Anglo-Saxon hulc. (Sternberg); temporary shelter used by shepherds in lambing season (Clare, RPD)

hum-closen : home closes, i.e. those fields immediately adjoining the homestead or farm-house; this must by no means be confounded with the holms or ham in the valley of the Nen and other rivers (Sternberg)

hurn : a corner in a parish or district, as Holbeach Hurn; Guyhirn is the ‘water-corner’, from gwy, ‘water’, and hyrne, ‘corner’ – formerly there was here a point of high land at the confluence of two streams (Egar)

hus : this word, the old Anglo-saxon form of house, is still retained when preceded by some other word denoting its use or character; thus duf-hus, a dove-house, hood-hus, a wood-house, etc.; also applied to the common sitting-room of a farm-house (Sternberg)

hussock, hassock : a tuft of coarse grass growing on boggy land (Clare, RPD)

huvvers : ridges separating the different holdings of unenclosed lands; the grass on them is cut for hay; grass mown on the dike banks, between the corn and the dike, is called huvvers or huvverings (Egar); see also uvvers

ing : a meadow near a brook, Icelandic einge (Sternberg); ings : low-lying grass lands, meadows; often found in names of places, e.g. Deeping (Egar)

intack, intake : a portion of the land by the roadside enclosed or taken in; cf. Danish indtak (Egar)

jump : the barrier between different occupations on the banks of navigable fen rivers (Egar)

keal, kale : pieces of stone ‘in very small masses, and uncertain and irregular shape’; this would appear to be the genuine name for such substances; Morton says, “Whether they are pieces or shreds of the limestone, of the ragg, or of our ordinary sandstone, they have all the name of keale”; in some parts of the county it is more especially applied to the scalings or fragments of the sandstone, as creach, or crash, is to the limestone; cf. Anglo-Saxon scylan, French chaille, ‘a rocky earth’ (Sternberg)

kleef : generally the appellation of a field on the steep side of a hill; Anglo-Saxon clif, clivus; Old German klief, ‘oblique’ (Sternberg)

lamb-earth : a variety of dark-coloured vegetable soil; a corruption probably of loam; cf. German lehm (Sternberg)

land : part of a ploughed field, bounded by a furrow on each side, which has been ploughed round from the centre rig or ridge (Egar); land : arable division of a furlong in an open field (Clare, RPD); see also laund

land rig : ridge of land (Clare, RPD)

land-spring : a spring of the temporary kind (Sternberg)

laun, lawn : greensward open space, small pasture (Clare, RPD)

laund : 1. a land; the space between two furrows; 2. a lawn; cf. Danish land. (Sternberg)

layer : pasturage for sheep, etc.; applied to the land on which they lie; Teutonic lægher, German læger (Sternberg)

lay-lands : arable land which has been suffered to ‘lay down’ to grass (Sternberg)

lea : land under grass, pasture (Clare, RPD)

leam : a drain or watercourse in the fenny districts (Sternberg)

lean : sterile, applied to land (Sternberg)

lease : a pasture field; cf. Anglo-Saxon læs (Sternberg)

lee : adj., untilled, fallow (Clare, RPD)

links : a tract of heath, or ‘ling’ land; cf. Danish lyng, Icelandic ling, ‘erica’. (Sternberg)

linn : waterfall (Clare, RPD)

live-earth : common vegetable mould; “Our husbandmen call it the heart of the land, and the live-earth, as it is the substance and life of vegetables”, Morton, p. 30. (Sternberg)

living: a farm or tenement; the common fields in most parishes were divided into ‘livings’ (Sternberg)

lode : a fen drain, as Salter’s Lode (Egar)

lodge : a very frequent designation of a lone farm-house (Sternberg); lodge : country house, farm-house (Clare, RPD)

market-stead : a market-place; Anglo-Saxon stead, ‘ a place’ (Sternberg)

maslin : mixture of wheat and rye (Sternberg)

medlands : meadow lands (Sternberg)

mere : a boundary; mere mark / stone : a boundary stone (Clare, RPD)

mere : a large sheet of water; Old English and Anglo-Saxon mere, ‘a sea’; also Danish meer, ‘a lake’; prob. therefore of Norse or Scandinavian origin; Whittlesey Mere was the largest in Fenland, and the last drained (1852); also Ramsey Mere, Ugg Mere, Berwick Mere, Brick Mere, and in the south-east of Fenland, Soham and Stretham Meres, all now drained and cultivated; in the old maps it is always spelt meer, which suggests a Danish origin; among the deeps of the East Fen in Lincolnshire some were called meres (Egar)

moor : a kind of peat, being a vegetable substance in a partial state of decay, formed by a congeries of the roots and fibres of many species of plants mixed with earthy matter (Sternberg)

moory-land : a black, light, and loose earth, without any stones, and with very little clay or sand intermixed (Sternberg)

moot-hill : many hills in the valley of the Welland, and other parts of the county, are thus designated; they are supposed to be the ancient Folk-mote hills to which the country people were wont to resort for consultation, etc., when any danger threatened their district; the town-house in some of our towns is called the moot-hall (Sternberg)

more : moor (Clare, RPD)

mot : a moat, or small pond; cf. French motte (Sternberg)

mould : deposit of soil scratched from a rabbit-hole (Clare, RPD)

mow or mowfen : a name formerly given to a fen which in the summer-time yielded fodder for cattle (Sternberg)

mow : 1. corn stack or hayrick; pile of unthreshed grain; loose heap of hay or straw in a barn; 2. a cow (Clare, RPD)

muir : moor (Clare, RPD)

navigable river : a river improved for commerce by dredging and straightening (Clare, RPD)

nook : an angular corner of a field (Clare, RPD)

nubbin : the stump of a tree after the trunk has been felled (Sternberg)

ollands : grazed, seed or clover sown lands; prob. a contraction of ‘old lands’, from their not being ploughed during the season (Egar)

osier-holt : an osier-bed (Sternberg)

ovver : upper, often pronounced ‘uvver’; “The ovver one of the two”; cf. German etc. ober; villages whose situation would in South Hants have procured them the prefix of ‘upper’ are in the northern and midland districts termed ‘ovver’; the Frisian island of Heligoland is divided into Unter and Ober-land (Sternberg)

pad : a path; cf. Dutch pad; also applied to the impress of the feet upon soft ground; hence to make a path; Anglo-saxon pethian (Sternberg); pad : path (Clare, RPD)

pail, pale : 1. pale, paling, stake driven into the ground to form a fence; 2. enclosed land (Clare, RPD)

pendle : a hard lumpish kind of stone (Sternberg)

pick : 1. a point, the prong of a fork, etc.; 2. the corner of a field; triangular fields are thus denominated in true Saxon phrase, ‘Threepick closen’ (Sternberg)

piece : a field or tract of land, as town-piece, David’s piece, etc. (Sternberg)

pikes : haycocks (Sternberg)

pinfold : a pound; formerly written pynde-folde; cf. Anglo-Saxon pynden, ‘to impound’; at Maxey there are Pinfold Close and Pinfold Lane (Egar); pinfold : a sheepfold (Clare, RPD)

pingle : a small enclosure of low shrubs, or underwood, or gorse; the word occurs constantly in local awards of the early part of the century; in Marshland, Norfolk, pightle is used in much the same sense, but generally there are trees in a pightle, when there need not be in a pingle (Egar); pingle : 1. a close, small meadow; 2. a small spinney; pingle close : a small meadow (Clare, RPD); cf. spightle, also pyghtle : a small grass paddock (Egar)

plack : a small plot of ground, sometimes limited, as in Leicestershire, to about five yards square (Sternberg)

plash : a puddle; or in a more extended sense, pool; Teutonic plasch, ‘palus’ (Sternberg); plash, splash : low wet land; e.g. Murrow Splash; there is a Plash Farm nr. Wisbech St. Mary (Egar)

plat(t) : a plot, flat stretch of ground (Clare, RPD)

post : a layer of stone; called also stocks and benches (Sternberg)

pudge : a puddle (Sternberg); a little puddle of water (Egar); pudge : puddle (Clare, RPD)

pull-over : a way for carriages over the fen-banks (Egar)

pulpit tree : used by Clare of a hollow tree that could be climbed inside (Clare, RPD)

quag : a bog or swamp; abbreviation of quagmire (Egar)

quick-rock : a mass of stone in strata; in other words, the ‘living rock’, there being a notion, yet far from becoming extinct, that all stones owe their formation from progressive growth; cf. Anglo-Saxon cwiccan, ‘to make alive’; quick is used by Chaucer in the same sense (Sternberg)

ramper : a raised road; prob. for ‘rampart’; in the Fens, in old days, a raised road to protect the lands from floods; originally perhaps applied to roads on the sites of the Roman roads; in the present day, ramper is generally understood to be what was once a turnpike road, when tolls were collected to keep it in repair (Egar); ramper : raised pathway through muddy ground (Clare, RPD)

raw : cold and watery ; spoken of clayey soils (Sternberg)

red-land : “A term much used by our husbandmen here, and in neighbouring counties; and though the name is expressive of no more than the colour of the soil, ’tis intended to show the nature of it too, for they always apply it to a sandy soil of a reddish hue, interspersed, for the most part, with pieces of sandstone of the same colour, or somewhat deeper”, Morton p. 40 (Sternberg)

red-well : in Morton’s time this was the designation usually given to a mineral spring; “A spring of this kind is here commonly known by the name of the red-well, or the red water”, p. 273 (Sternberg)

redoubt :  secret place, refuge (Clare, RPD)

reed shaw : a reed bed (Clare, RPD)

ride, riding : an open space or greensward road or track in a wood; ‘a broad greensward road which intersects a wood’ – Baker (Clare, RPD)

rig : a ridge, a higher part; the space between furrows on ploughed land; hence we have ‘rig and furrow’, ‘rig and dyland’, high and low lands; there being dylands or hollows cut at intervals from which the soil was cast on the ridges to raise them and make them better adapted to cultivation (Egar)

ringe : a row, line, long heap (Clare, RPD)

rock-spring : a lasting or perennial spring, “whose duct or channels are in the fissures or intervals of rocks”, Morton, p. 265 (Sternberg)

roddam : a silt ridge; the silty ridges or roddams are deposits left by the receding sea; they were formerly the lowest parts, creeks or watercourses winding towards the outfall; on old grasslands that have been little disturbed, a narrow hollow, following the line of the more elevated parts, may frequently be observed, containing black soil, once mud, which was the later deposit as the stream became more languid; land having an undulating surface is known as roddamy land or rolling land (Egar)

rode : a road (Clare, RPD)

rode land : cleared land; rode : to cleanse ditches and drains from weeds (Egar)

ruckyard : a stackyard; rucking : a heap or stack of hay (Clare, RPD)

rudge : a deep waggon-rut (Sternberg)

runnel : a brook or small stream; cf. Anglo-Saxon rinl, Icelandic rinna, ‘rivulus’ (Sternberg); runnel : a stream, brook, rill (Clare, RPD)

rye-land : a species of soil similar to the redland before described, so called from its fitness for that sort of grain, Morton, p. 54; this does away with the difficulty of accounting for the frequent recurrence of rye-hills, rye-lands, etc, as names of fields, though within the memory of the oldest persons they have never been sown with that grain (Sternberg)

sad : heavy, saturated with water; Morton informs us (p. 44) that “clay-land is called ‘sad-land’ on the Thrapstone side”; a road is said to be sad when, after much rain, its surface is muddy; cf. Anglo-Saxon sadian, ‘saturare’ (Sternberg)

sallows : Bridges supposes this word to have been used to denote, not only a plantation of willows, but a wood or thicket of any kind of trees; hence Salcey Forest is termed in old records ‘Foresta de Salceto’, vide Hist. of Northampt. vol. ii. p. 256 (Sternberg); see also sallow

screed : a narrow strip of anything, esp. land (Egar); screed : in topographical meaning, a strip of land, edge (Clare, RPD)

scoop : depression, hollow (Clare, RPD)

sess : the upper part of the turf-layer, consisting of soft arid friable earthy matter, not making such good fuel as the lower and harder formation, Morton (Sternberg)

several : frequently corrupted into everhills, errils, etc.; a field or enclosure; originally a portion of common or fen land, assigned for a term to a particular proprietor, the other commoners leaving for a time their right of commonage; cf. Old French sevrer, Italian severare, ‘to separate’ (Sternberg); severals : a portion of the Fens formerly assigned to a particular proprietor, on which the surrounding district had no right of common; parts enclosed and cultivated before the complete enclosure of the Fens; Tusser compares ‘champion’ or open country with severals, preferring the latter (Egar)

shieling : a hut, cottage (Clare, RPD)

shott : a division of estate; an angle; a plot of land (Egar)

sidground : a field newly laid to grass (Sternberg)

sike : a spring or small stream; cf. Anglo-Saxon sic, Icelandic sijk; in Cheshire, according to Wilbraham, a spring in a field, which, having no immediate outlet, forms a boggy place; which is, perhaps, a more correct definition of the sense in which we use it (Sternberg)

silt : a mixture of sand and mud left on land after the subsiding of a flood (Sternberg)

shard: a gap in a hedge (Sternberg)

skradge, cradge : perhaps a corruption of ridge; a small bank raised on the old one to prevent overflow of water onto adjoining lands (Egar); see also cradge

slabby : muddy, miry; a word still retained in our dictionaries, though obsolete in composition; cf. Dutch slibbe, ‘ limus’, Gaelic slaibeach, ‘cænosus, lutosus’ (Sternberg)

slacker : a small sluice for regulating the flow of water by means of a sliding door; larger outlets were known as sluices, gowts or gotes (i.e. go outs), as in Tydd Gote and the Four Gotes; in earlier times, we have the word sasse – ‘a navigable sasse’, a sluice at Stanground (Egar)

slade : a valley; a field, the bottom of which is frequently so called; Mr. Halliwell says, “I have heard the term in Northamptonshire applied to a flat piece of grass, and to a border of grass round a ploughed field” (Sternberg)

slamp: for slump – wet, boggy earth; the strip or slipe of land at the back of the Fen river banks; the banks, haling ways, and foreshores of a river, with the slamp or floors at the back, were sometimes named when describing some fenland for letting by auction (Eger)

slang: a narrow slip of land (Sternberg)

slipe, slype : a narrow strip of land; there is one so called near Powder Blue Farm in Eye parish; compare the architectural use of the same word for a narrow covered passage leading from one part of a monastery to another (Egar)

slip-way : a road over a bank; a raised cartway at a slight angle; sometimes called a straight (Egar)

slow : 1. slough, swamp; 2. sloe, blackthorn, Prunus spinosa (Clare, RPD)

slub, slud : sludge, slush, soft mud; cf. Danish slud (Egar)

sludder, sludge : mud and dirt; more particularly applied to that which covers the roads after great rains; cf. Teutonic slodderen, ‘flaccescere’, etc. (Sternberg)

slup : wet, slippery ground (Clare, RPD)

smeeth : prononuced smee; a level plain; as Marshland Smeeth; cf. Anglo-Saxon smoeth, ‘smooth’ (Egar)

smeuse, smuise : a hare’s track through a hedge (Egar)

smock mill : a windmill with a revolving top (Clare, RPD)

snow-reek, snow-wreath : a drift of snow; perhaps equivalent to a snow rick, ‘a stack of snow’ (Egar)

sock : the boggy substratum of marshy soils; “Sock, the superficial moisture of land not properly drained off”; Anglo-Saxon socian, ‘macerare’; soc, ‘suctus’ (Sternberg); sock : the moisture in the soil; ‘The sock is high’, is commonly said when the water is near the surface of the ground; doubtless from the same root as soak (Egar)

sock-dike : a dike at the back of the bank of a main drain, to carry off the water that soaks or permeates through it in wet seasons when the water is high (Egar)

sock-pit, sock: a farm-yard drain, or hole, which forms the receptacle of the drainage; Welsh soc, ‘a drain or sink’ (Sternberg)

soke : a patch of marshy land (Sternberg)

soss, sasse : a navigable sluice or lock (Egar)

spinney : ‘a natural wood; a hedge-row thicket; a young coppice’ – RL Glossary (Clare, RPD)

spightle, also pyghtle : a small grass paddock (Egar); cf. pingle

staddle : the stone posts which support a rick; cf. Anglo-Saxon stæthol, ‘a support’; to be found in Tusser and other early agricultural writers (Sternberg); staddle, steddle : a raised mound on which to put a stack; a bed or foundation; also the mark remaining after a haycock or stook (stouk) of corn has been removed (Egar)

stam-wood : the roots of trees stubbed up; also a Rutlandshire provincialism; cf. Anglo-Saxon stamne, ‘a stump’ (Sternberg)

stanch : a stop for water in rivers and canals, substantially built with masonry, but not having the double set of gates of the ordinary locks; used on the outskirts of the Fens, as Woodston Stanch, Orton Stanch, etc. (Egar)

stane : stone (Clare, RPD)

stank : dam across a stream; also used as a verb, to stank a stream (Sternberg)

steer : steep, abrupt; cf. German steil, ‘abruptus’, Anglo-Saxon stæger, ‘gradus, ascensorium’, from the verb stigan, ‘ascendere’ (Sternberg)

stetch : a land, that is, as much land as lies between one furrow and another in ploughing, when half the land is ridged up, or gathered, and the balk split, so that the furrow is mid-way between two ridges (Egar)

stibble : stubble (Clare, RPD); also stubbs

stockins : land reclaimed from the woods; from stock, ‘to fell timber’; in the neighbourhood of Whittlebury it is frequently found as the name of a field, originally cleared from the forest; cf. German stock-raum (Sternberg)

stone-batch : a hard species of clay; Morton, p. 95; cf. Welsh baich, ‘a burden’ (Sternberg)

stone-water : a petrifying spring, of which there are several in this county; a good and expressive combination; “These waters are apply’d to by many of our countrymen for curing the fluxes of their cattel, which they commonly stop, with twice or thrice drinking”, Morton, p. 272 (Sternberg)

stool : a cluster of rushes, Morton, 154 (Sternberg)

stoop, stowp : a post; a wooden mill erected on posts is called a stowp-mill (Egar)

stouk, stowk : a stook, shock of wheat or barley (Clare, RPD)

stove, stoven : a stump of a tree; the same term is also given to a young shoot from the stump, after the trunk has been felled (Sternberg); stoven : stump of a tree (Clare, RPD); also stulp

straight : a roadway made on an incline beside a river bank so that loaded wagons can pass over without weakening the bank, is known as a straight or slipway (Egar)

strit : a street; the roads of a village are always thus designated; cf. Anglo-Saxon straet (Sternberg)

stubbs : stubble (Clare, RPD); also stibble

stulp : the stump of a tree; “A short post, put down to mark a boundary, etc.”; stoop, or stoup (with the customary omission of the l) is the pronunciation which obtains in the more Northern and Eastern counties; Ray derives it from the Lat. stupa; our form most nearly resembles the Swiss German stolpe (Sternberg); stulp : stump of a tree (Clare, RPD); also stoven

suds : floods; water mixed with sand and mud; formerly applied to the waters of the fens; “To be surrounded, or lye in the suds, as we say, three quarters or halfe a yeere, more or less, doth mischiefe, not helpe the ground”, ‘Discourse concerning the Drayning of Fennes’, 1629; in all probability the phrase, ‘to be in the suds’, i.e. difficulties, took its rise from this source (Sternberg)

swale : the shade; swaly : shady; ‘a swaly bank’ (Sternberg); swail, swale : shade, a shady place (Clare, RPD)

swallow-holes : chinks or little chasms in the surface of the earth, so called from their ‘swallowing’ up the waters of small streams, etc.;  cf. Swedish swall, Teutonic schwal, ‘inundatio’ (Sternberg)

toft : the site of a house or cottage; when the great part of the country was open field the expression ‘toft and croft’ was well-known in copyhold practice; we have the word preserved in village names, as Langtoft, Fishtoft, etc. (Egar)

thrup : this is invariably the pronunciation of the Anglo-Saxon thorp, a village; thus Chaucer “Thropes and bernes, shepenes and dairies”, in the ‘Wife of Bath’s Tale’; when in composition with some other word the th becomes t, thus Rothersthorpe is called Ros’trup, Abthorpe becomes A’trup (Sternberg)

thurrow : a furrow (Sternberg); thurrow : a furrow (Clare, RPD)

tillage : cultivated soil (Clare, RPD)

tilth : a ploughing; “ That piece must have a fresh tilth over”; ‘in good tilth’, i.e. in good farming order; Lewis, in the Glossary contained in his ‘History of the Isle of Tenet’, gives tilt, ‘a ploughing or husbandlike order’ (Sternberg)

town : every village, however small, boasts this appellation; the Anglo-Saxon tun by no means conveys the idea of a large place (Sternberg); town : used by Clare for a village (Clare, RPD)

tract : a track, path (Clare, RPD)

turf : in Ramsey Fen called casses; peat cut and dried for burning; there were turf lots in nearly every parish, allotment land set apart for turf-cutting; at Whittlesey and Eye are parts known as The Turves; the turf hovel was an important building on the farm, as can be seen in old fire insurance policies; the word is Dutch (Egar)

tusk : a tuft of grass or weeds (Sternberg)

vil, vill : village (Clare, RPD)

wad : 1. wood ; 2. way or beaten track ; 3. a line of conduct pertinaciously followed (Clare, RPD)

walsh : a lean-to building attached to a barn (Egar)

warp : a mixture of fine sand and mud left on meadow-land after the receding of floods;  not peculiar to this county (Sternberg); warp : flooded land, bed, silt (Clare, RPD)

wash pit : a dipping pool for the sheep (Clare, RPD)

wildwood : uncultivated or unfrequented woodland (Clare, RPD)

windle : a snow drift (Egar)

wind-rows : hay raked together in rows that the wind may dry it; cf. Anglo-Saxon windwian, ‘ventilare’; win, ‘to dry hay by exposing it to the air’ (Sternberg)

wood-land : “A hollow, fuzzy, black earth”, Morton (Sternberg)

wung, wong : a very common name for a field; Anglo-Saxon wong (Sternberg)

yacker : an acre; fields, also, of much larger extent than an acre are called by this name, generally in composition with some other word, as Green’s yacker, Rush-yacre, etc.; cf. Anglo-Saxon accre (Sternberg)

yel-hus : an ale-house (Sternberg)



aik : oak (Clare, RPD)

airbell : the harebell or bluebell (in Scotland), Campanula rotundifolia (Clare, RPD)

a(i)riff, variant of hairiff :  goosegrass, cleavers, Galium aparine (Clare, RPD)

alm : an elm (Sternberg)

arrowhead : Sagittaria sagittifolia, a water plant with arrow-shaped leaves (Clare, RPD)

awbush : the hawthorn; also awthorn: the hawthorn, whitethorn, may-tree, Crataegus monogyna, or woodland (Midland) hawthorn, C. laevigata (Clare, RPD)

bedlam cowslip: Grigson says this name is given to the false oxlip (the hybrid between primrose and cowslip, Primula x variabilis), to show its inferiority to the true oxlip, Primula eliator, which does not grow in Clare country;  he also gives it for lungwort, Pulmonaria officinalis, which is not a native plant, but for Somerset only (Clare, RPD)

bee flower : the bee orchid, Ophrys apifera, recognized by the broad velvety lip, which looks like a bumblebee settling on the flower (Clare, RPD)

beesom : applied dialectically to heath and broom, plants used for besoms or brushes, broom made of twigs tied round a stick (Clare, RPD)

be(e)som weed : applied dialectically to heath and broom, and to rosebay willowherb, Epilobium (Chamerion) augustifolium (Clare, RPD)

bell flower : 1. harebell, Campanula rotundifolia; 2. nettle-leaved bell flower, C. trachelium; 3. great bindweed or hedge bindweed, Calystegia sylvatica (Clare, RPD)

bents : the seed-stalks of grass; cf. Teutonic bintz, ‘juncus’ (Sternberg); dry stalks of grass after summer grazing (Egar)

birk, birch : the silver birch tree, Betula pendula; birkenshaw : a small birch wood; birks : a coppice or small wood consisting chiefly of birches (Clare, RPD)

bitter sweet : woody nightshade, Solanum dulcamara (Clare, RPD)

bluecap : 1. blue cornflower, Centaurea cyanus; 2. blue tit, Parus caeruleus (Clare, RPD)

bogbean : buckbean, bog-plant, Menyanthes trifoliata (Clare, RPD)

brake, braken, break, breakan : bracken, fern, Pteridium aquilinum (Clare, RPD); but see brake under Landscape Features

brattlings : loppings from felled trees (Sternberg)

bullace tree : wild plum, Prunus domestica insititia, producing damsons and green gages (Clare, RPD)

bun : that part of the bean-stalks which is left by the scythe after mowing, i.e. the stubble; cf. Danish bund, Gaelic bun, ‘bottom’ or ‘foundation’ (Sternberg)

car(r)lock : charlock, wild mustard, Sinapis arvensis, ‘a troublesome weed amongst corn’ (Clare, RPD)

cockleflower : corncockle, Agrostemma githago, a weed once common but now extremely rare (Clare, RPD)

cocks and hens : common bird’s-foot trefoil, Lotus corniculatus (Clare, RPD)

coddled apples : codlins and cream, great willowherb, Epilobium hirsutum, common in all areas (Clare, RPD)

corn bottle/flower : 1. common field poppy, Papaver rhoeas; 2. bluecap, bluebottle, cornflower, Centaurea cyanus, formerly a common cornfield weed but now disappeared due to changing farming practices (Clare, RPD)

cornel : dogwood, Cornus sanguinea, common in hedges, scrub, and open woods (Clare, RPD)

cowslap : cowslip, paigle, Primula veris, common in grassy places (Clare, RPD)

cranesbill : name of the various species of the genus Geranium, esp. meadow crane’s-bill, G. pratense, recognized by its sky-blue flowers, frequent in most areas (Clare, RPD)

crowflower : corn buttercup, Ranunculus arvensis, once common but now rare, or meadow buttercup, R. acris, common almost everywhere (Clare, RPD)

cuckoo, cuckoo bud, cuckooflower : applied by Clare to varieties of Orchidaceae, particularly early-purple orchid, Orchis mascula, and to lady’s smock, Cardamine pratensis, and ragged robin, Lychnis floscuculi (Clare, RPD)

culver key : purple-flowered species of vetch, bush vetch, Vicia sepium, fairly common in woodland, or white-flowered wood vetch, V. sylvatica, rare, two of many plants the flowers of which suggest a bunch of keys (Clare, RPD)

cumbergrounds : a name for useless trees. Clare: “Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground.” (Sternberg)

daffadown dilly, daffodil : the wild daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, a plant of grassland and woodland, but now rare (Clare, RPD)

damsin : the damson, Prunus domestica insititia (Clare, RPD)

dewberry : a bramble, Rubus caesius, with a fruit more bluish than the blackberry (Clare, RPD)

dog tree : spindle tree, Euonymus europaeus (Clare, RPD)

dotchel, dott(e)rel : a pollarded tree, ‘Old stumping trees in hedgerows, that are headed every 10 or 12 years for firewood’ (Clare’s note in VM Glossary, RPD); dotteril : an old tree ; one that has lost its ‘head’, as the woodmen phrase it (Sternberg)

earth-quakes : Briza media, or quaker-grass (Sternberg)

eddish : the first growth of grass after mowing, aftermath (Egar)

eldern : an elder tree (Sternberg); eldern : elder tree, elderberry, Sambucus nigra (Clare, RPD)

endive : chicory or succory, Cichorium intybus, a tall perennial with vivid sky-blue flowers formerly common on roadsides and other waste areas but now reducing (Clare, RPD)

fathen : the wild orache (Sternberg)

fin-weed : rest harrow, the herb so called (Sternberg); finweed : restharrow, Ononis repens (Clare, RPD)

fir, firdale, firdeal : fir tree, Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris (Clare, RPD)

fistles : thistles (Sternberg)

flag : water or yellow iris, Iris pseudacorus, found in all wet habitats (Clare, RPD)

flags : reeds, rushes; flaggy : reedy, rushy (Clare, RPD)

flix weed : a fairly uncommon, tall, cruciferous annual with small yellow flowers, Descurainia sophia (Clare, RPD)

fog : rank and coarse after-grass (Sternberg)

foul rice, foulroyce : foul-rush, the dogwood, Cornus sanguinea, or spindle-tree, Euonymus europaeus, both used for making musical instruments (Clare, RPD)

fox fern : male-fern, Dryopteris filix-mas, common in woodland (Clare, RPD)

fox tail flags : bulrush, reed mace, Typha latifolia, common in still waters (Clare, RPD)

frez : furze (Sternberg)

furdale : fir tree (Clare, RPD)

furze : gorse, Ulex europaeus (Clare, RPD)

fuzzen : furze (Sternberg)

fuz(zy) ball : puff-ball, fungus with ball-shaped spore case, genus Lycogerdon (Clare, RPD)

ginnet : jennet or gennet, a type of early apple (Clare, RPD)

golding : the corn marigold; cf. Dutch goudt-bloem (Sternberg)

goose grass : silverweed, traveller’s ease, traveller’s joy, Potentilla anserina, found in damp grassy areas; Clare’s description of the leaves as silver green makes it unlikely that he is referring to goose grass, cleavers, Galium aparine (Clare, RPD)

goss : gorse, furze, Ulex europaeus (Clare, RPD)

gould : corn marigold, Chrysanthemum segetum, a victim of modern farming practices (Clare, RPD)

halm : stubble; straw used in thatching; cf. Danish halm (Sternberg)

harebell : used by Clare for bluebell, Hhyacinthoides nonscripta (Clare, RPD)

harvest bell : harebell, Campanula rotundifolia (Clare, RPD); also heath bell

hassack : a coarse species of grass, growing in damp places; the term hassock, as applied to foot-cushions, may possibly be traced to this source; cf. Swedish hwass, ‘juncus’ (Sternberg); hassock : a tuft of coarse grass, growing in moist places (Egar); hussock, hassock : a tuft of coarse grass growing on boggy land (Clare, RPD)

headache : the scarlet poppy (Egar); head ach(e) : common, field, or corn poppy, Papaver rhoeas, so named because of ‘their sickly smell’ (Clare, RPD)

hearts (at) ease : field pansy, Viola arvensis, or wild pansy, V. tricolor, now rare (Clare, RPD)

heath bell : harebell, Campanula rotundifolia (Clare, RPD); also harvest bell

hollyoak : hollyhock, Alcea rosea (Clare, RPD)

honey suck : 1. wild honeysuckle, woodbine, Lonicera periclymenum; 2. red clover, Trifolium pratense (Clare, RPD)

horse bleb (blob) : marsh marigold, Caltha palustris (Clare, RPD)

houseleek : possibly Sempervivum tectorum, carefully cultivated on the thatch of cottages as a charm against lightning, or less likely the hen-and-chickens houseleek, Jovibarba sobolifera (Clare, RPD)

horse-thyme : wild thyme; the prefix added on the same principle as in horse-radish,  horse-rennet, etc. (Sternberg)

iron weed : common or black knapweed, Centaurea nigra, found on grassy roadsides and in meadows  (Clare, RPD)

jack by the hedge : garlic mustard, hedge garlic, Alliaria petiolata, common in hedgerows and shady places (Clare, RPD)

jessamine : jasmine, shrub of the genus Jasminum with white or yellow flowers, prob. J. officinale or J. nudiflorum (Clare, RPD)

john go bed at noon, john-that-goes-to-bed-at-noon : jack-go-to-bed-at-noon, goat’s-beard, Tragopogon pratensis, or old-man’s, poor man’s, or shepherd’s weather-glass, the scarlet pimpernel, Anagallis arvensis (Clare, RPD)

kerlack : charlock; in the northern districts kedlock, as in Shropshire and Leicestershire (Sternberg); see also ketlock

ketlock : charlock or wild mustard, Sinapis arvensis (Egar); see also kerlack

kex : the hemlock; the dried stalks of the hemlock (Egar)

kingcup : used by Clare for 1. lesser celandine, Ranunculus acris, a spring flower; 2. summer or meadow buttercup, crow-foot, R. ficaria (Clare, RPD)

kit-willow : the almond-leaved willow (Sternberg)

lad’s love : southern-wood, popularly so called (Egar) [Artemisia abrotanum]; lads love : southernwood, Artemisia abrotanum (Clare, RPD)

lady’s finger : 1. kidney vetch, Anthyllis vulneraria; 2. common bird’s-foot-trefoil, Lotus corniculatus (Clare, RPD)

ladys laces :  striped ribbon grass, reed canary-grass, Phalaris arundinacea (Clare, RPD)

ladysmock : 1. lady’s smock, cuckoo flower, milkmaid, Cardamine pratensis; 2. villager’s name for wood anemone, Anemone nemorosa; 3. great (i.e. hedge) bindweed, Convolvulus sepium (Clare, RPD)

lamb-toe : the kidney vetch (Sternberg); lambtoe : 1. kidney vetch, Anthyllis vulneraria; 2. common bird’s-foot-trefoil, Lotus corniculatus (Clare, RPD)

larkheel : larkspur, Consolida ambigua, a bitter plant mainly on arable or waste ground (Clare, RPD)

ling : heather, Calluna vulgaris, now quite rare in Northamptonshire (Clare, RPD)

lintel : lentil, a kind of tare or vetch, Astragalus cicer (Clare, RPD)

long-purples : the purple loose-strife (Sternberg); long purples : purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria, common beside water (Clare, RPD)

lords and ladies : wild arum, Arum maculatum, referring to the plain leaves (lords) and spotted ones (ladies) (Clare, RPD)

love grass : floating sweet-grass, Glyceria fluitans (Clare, RPD)

major meadow daisy : ox-eye daisy, moon daisy, dog daisy, Leucanthemum vulgare (Clare, RPD); see also oxeye

majoram: wild marjoram, Origanum vulgare, found on dry grassland, hedgebanks, scrub (Clare, RPD)

mare blob : marsh marigold, kingcup, Caltha palustris (Clare, RPD)

may bush : hawthorn, quickthorn, Crataegus monogyna, or woodland (Midland) hawthorn, C. laevigata (Clare, RPD)

meadow pink : ragged robin, Lychnis flos-cuculi, found on damp fields and grassland (Clare, RPD)

mercury : a garden vegetable, the wild orache (Egar) [Atriplex hortensis]

micaelmas sloe : the fruit of the blackthorn, Prunus spinosa (Clare, RPD)

mouse ear : used by Clare for water forget-me-not, Myosotis scorpioides, or field forget-me-not, M. arvensis; nowdays refers to mouse-ear chickweed, Cerastium arvensis (Clare, RPD)

oxey(e) : ox-eye daisy, moon daisy, marguerite, dog or horse daisy, moonpenny, Leucanthemum vulgare, abundant in grassland (Clare, RPD)

paigle : cowslip, Primula veris, found in open woodland and dry grassy places (Clare, RPD)

palm : the English palm or sallow; in all probability so called from the circumstance of its having been used to decorate churches on Palm Sunday, as a substitute for branches of the real tree (Sternberg); palm : the English palm, common sallow, goat willow, Salix caprea (Clare, RPD)

palm grass : 1. common reed, Phragmites australis; 2. reed canary-grass, Phalaris arundinacea; 3. reed sweet-grass, Glyceria maxima (Clare, RPD)

penny-grass : the common yellow coxcomb ; the seed-vessels of the plant are round and flat, resembling pence, which accounts for the designation; in Sweden, from the same reason, it is called penning-gras (Sternberg)

popple : the poplar tree (Egar); poplar, popple : the grey poplar, Populus canescens, related to the aspen (Clare, RPD)

pudroom : a fungus, or toadstool; cf. Anglo-Saxon pad, ‘a toad’; swam, ‘a tuber’ or ‘fungus’; Dutch paddestoel, ‘fungus’ (Sternberg)

pulpit tree : used by Clare of a hollow tree that could be climbed inside (Clare, RPD)

quick : quickset, ‘young hawthorn plants for making live fences’, a hedge of whitethorn cuttings (Clare, RPD)

red-eye : a species of red sallow, concerning which there is a superstition that a branch hung up over the hearth preserves the cattle from disease, etc.; I have only met with this superstition in one instance ; it may, therefore, be of foreign importation (Sternberg)

red robin : common or purple bent, Agrostis vulgaris (Egar)

ribbon grass : reed canary-grass, Phalaris arundinacea, common beside streams (Clare, RPD)

ring finger : perhaps the early purple orchid, Orchis mascula, or common spotted-orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Clare, RPD)

rush-bent : a rush stalk (Sternberg)

russeting : a russet apple (Clare, RPD)

sallow : the swamp willow, Salix aquatica; the wood of this tree is frequently found in the layers of peat in the fens (Egar);  sallow : willow, genus Salix, possibly S. caprea, great or pussy willow, or S. cinerea, grey willow (Clare, RPD); sallows : Bridges supposes this word to have been used to denote, not only a plantation of willows, but a wood or thicket of any kind of trees; hence Salcey Forest is termed in old records ‘Foresta de Salceto’, vide Hist. of Northampt. vol. ii. p. 256 (Sternberg)

scratchweed : clivers (Sternberg)

sinkfoil, sinkfoin : sainfoin, Onobrychis viciifolia, rather than cinquefoil (Clare, RPD)

skeg : the wild damson (Sternberg)

slow : 1. sloe, blackthorn, Prunus spinosa; 2. slough, swamp (Clare, RPD)

smell smock : 1. wood anemone, Anemone nemorosa; 2. lady’s smock, cuckoo flower, Cardimine pratensis (Clare, RPD)

smelling briar : sweet-briar, Rosa rubignosa (Clare, RPD)

sour-grass : sour-sorrel, sow-grass, Rumex acetosa (Egar) [common sorrel]

spindle tree : a native British shrub, Euonymus europaeus, from whose fine-grained yellowish wood spindles were made (Clare, RPD)

spire-grass : a tall species of sedge, growing on fenny land, ‘Discourse concerning the Drayning of Fennes’, 1629 (Sternberg)

squitch : couch grass; Anglo-Saxon cwice, Swedish quicka; also pronounced twitch; “The ploughmen now along the doughy sloughs, Will often stop to clean their ploughs From teazing twitch, that in the spongy soil Clings round the coulter, interrupting toil”, Clare’s ‘Shepherd’s Calendar’, p. 29 (Sternberg)

stibble : stubble (Clare, RPD)

stouk, stowk : a stook, shock of wheat or barley (Clare, RPD)

stubbs : stubble (Clare, RPD); also stibble

suck-bottle : the common white flowering nettle (Sternberg)

sucklers : slips of willow, etc., used for planting, Morton (Sternberg)

suckling : a common kind of clover  (Egar)

surry : wild service-tree, Sorbus torminalis, or its fruit (Clare, RPD)

totter-grass : the name given to the Briza media in the Northern district (Sternberg); totter grass : quaking-grass, Briza media (Clare, RPD)

turf-bass : a variety of rush, growing in damp places; Belgian bies, ‘juncus’ (Sternberg)

twitch : couch grass, Triticum repens (Eger); twitch : common couch grass, Elytrigia repens (Clare, RPD)

uvvers, sometimes huvvers or huvverings : the grass mown from the dike sides, between the crop and the fence (Egar); see also huvvers

water-blobs : the meadow bught, or marsh marigold; Clare (Sternberg); water blob, water buttercup : horse blob, kingcup, mayflower, marsh marigold, Caltha palustris (Clare, RPD)

water skegg : yellow iris or yellow flag, Iris pseudacorus (Clare, RPD)

whichen : wych-elm, Ulmus glabra (Clare, RPD)

win, whin : gorse, furze, Ulex europaeus (Clare, RPD); also win bush

wheatsel : wheat seedlings (Egar)

willowflower : rosebay willowherb, Chamerion augustifolium (Clare, RPD)

wimble-straw : Cynosurus cristatus, Linn.; cf. Anglo-Saxon windel-streowe (Sternberg)

win bush : furze bush Ulex europaeus (Clare, RPD); also win, whin

wind flower : wood anemone, Anemone nemorosa (Clare, RPD)

winweed : restharrow, Ononis repens (Clare, RPD)

witchen : the quicken-tree, a species of wild ash; Clare (Sternberg)

woodbine : wild honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum (Clare, RPD)

yellows : dyer’s weed (Sternberg)



bag : the smallest of the titmouse species; it probably receives its name from the peculiar manner in which it forms its nest, bearing a fancied resemblance to a bag; it is sometimes called the puddin-bag, and in Suffolk has the name of puddin-poke, which in the phraseology of that county is synonymous (Sternberg)

bell-ringer : the long-tailed titmouse was so called (Egar)

black cap: 1. Clare’s March nightingale, one of the earliest warblers, Sylvia atricapilla; 2. great tit, Parus major; 3. coal tit, Parus ater; 4. marsh tit, Parus palustris; 5. willow tit, Parus montanus (Clare, RPD)

black cock : the male of the black grouse, Tetrix tetrix (Clare, RPD)

blue hawk : 1. peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus; 2. hen harrier, Circus cyaneus (Clare, RPD)

blue more buzzard : prob. hen harrier, Circus cyaneus or Mantagu’s harrier, C. pygargus, but with blue-grey colouring and favouring moorland and open areas (Clare, RPD)

bluecap : 1. blue tit, Parus caeruleus; also 2.. blue cornflower, Centaurea cyanus; (Clare, RPD)

bottle tit : long-tailed tit, Aegithalos caudatus, the nest being bottle-shaped (Clare, RPD)

brock : a badger; cf. Anglo-Saxon broc (Sternberg)

bumbarrel : long-tailed tit, Aegithalos caudatus, the nest being barrel-shaped (Clare, RPD)

butter bump : the bittern; now a great rarity in the Fens; once very common in the Mere and neighbourhood (Egar)

calion : carrion crow, Corvus corone corone, that will eat almost anything (Clare, RPD)

cawdymawdy : 1. the herring gull, Larus argentatus; 2. lesser black-backed gull, L. fuscus; 3. black-headed gull, L. ridibundus; the variant coddy moddy refers to the lesser black-backed’s predation on shoals of young cod; Baker identifiers this with the Royston crow (Clare, RPD)

chaffer : the chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs, an early Spring songster, also known as pink or spink (Clare, RPD)

chipichap : pettichap, chiffchaff, Phylloscopus collybita (Clare, RPD)

churn, churn or fern owl : nightjar, Caprimulgus europaeus (Clare, RPD)

clod-hopper : the weat-ear or fallow smicht; according to Morton, so called from its clod-hopping propensities (Sternberg); clothopper : clodhopper, wheatear, Oenanthe oenanthe (Clare, RPD)

coddy-moddy : according to Morton, a species of sea-gull, flocking to the Northampton-shire lowlands, in great numbers, during the autumn and winter months (Sternberg); see also cawdymawdy

coney : a rabbit (Clare, RPD)

crane : grey heron, Ardea cinerea (Clare, RPD)

daw : jackdaw (Clare, RPD)

develing : swift, Apus apus, calles devil birds in places all over England (Clare, RPD)

didopper : the dobchick, or small diver, Podiceps minor (Egar) [the Little Grebe, or Dabchick]

dobbin : a farm horse (Clare, RPD)

eekle : the woodpecker; this bird may be said to be the countryman’s barometer : when dead, he hangs it up by the legs, and judges of the weather by the state of its tongue; before rain it expands so much that it protrudes from the mouth, while in mild weather it remains shrivelled up in the head; cf. Ak. yuckel, Anglo-Saxon wigol fugelas, ‘oscines aves’ (Sternberg)

Egypt bird : spotted flycatcher, Muscicapa striata, so named ‘by the common people from their note which seems to resemble the sound of the word Egypt’ (Clare’s Journal, 10th June, 1825, RPD)

fen sparrow : prob. the reed warbler, Acrocephalus scirpaceus (Clare, RPD)

felt : the fieldfare (Sternberg)

fern owl : the nightjar, Caprimulgus europaeus (Clare, RPD)

furze-lark : uncertain, but possibly whinchat, Saxicola rubetra, or linnet, Carduelis cannabina (Clare, RPD)

gad : gad-fly, horse-fly, Tabanus bovinus, troublesome to cattle (Clare, RPD)

goldspink, goud spink : goldfinch, Carduelis carduelis, recognized by its pretty colours and the light tinkling sounds it makes in flight (Clare, RPD)

gow : cow (Clare, RPD)

grey owl : tawny owl, Strix aluco (Clare, RPD)

ground lark : corn bunting, Miliaria calandra (Clare, RPD)

hackle : local name for the three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus (Clare, RPD)

hay chat : possibly the blackcap, Sylvia atricapilla, or less likely, the lesser whitethroat, S. curruca (Clare, RPD)

hedge-chat : the common hedge-sparrow (Sternberg); hedge chat : hedge sparrow, dunnock, Prunella modularis (Clare, RPD)

hermit swallow : the swallow, Hirundo rustica, hermit because it was traditionally believed that swallows either disappeared under the water or hid in holes in the ground until the spring (Clare, RPD)

hern-shaw : the heron; in the northern part of the county it is known by no other name (Sternberg); hernshaw, heronshaw, herringshaw : the heron; shaw is a shaded, sequestered place frequented by herons; Palmer says, “Shaw is really the place where herons build “ (Egar)

hobby : a roadster or hack; a small hardy horse, bred in the Fens; as in ‘Wildmore Hobbies’ (Egar)

hoolet : an owl (Sternberg)

hors(e) bee : horse bot-fly, Gasterophilus intestinalis, troublesome to horses and cattle (Clare, RPD)

kittty wren : jenny wren, the common wren (Egar)

knave : a familiar name for the blackbird; the children’s gloss on its cry being “Draw the knave a cup of beer; Be quick, quick, quick! “ – Clare (Sternberg)

kine : cows, cattle (Clare, RPD)

pp. 671 – 676 missing

kye : cows, cattle (Clare, RPD)

lady cow : ladybird, beetle of genus Coccinella (Clare, RPD)

lady-lock : the ladybird (Sternberg)

landrail : corncrake, Crex crex (Clare, RPD)

long legged shepherd : harvestman, easily mistaken for a spider and often called harvest spider, one of many species which abound in fields in harvest time, for example the long-legged Leiobunum rotundum and Phalangium opilio, ‘long-legged shepherds like spiders on stilts’ (Clare, RPD)

march nightingale : blackcap, one of our earliest warbler migrants, Sylvia atricapilla (Clare, RPD)

may bee : may-bug, cockchafer, Melolontha melolontha (Clare, RPD)

mavis : the singing thrush; cf. French mauvis (Sternberg); the missel thrush (Egar); mavis : song thrush, Turdus philomelos (Clare, RPD)

millar, miller(‘s) thumb : a small freshwater fish common in brooks, Cottus gobio (Clare, RPD)

mole wharp, mouldywharp : the mole, Talpa europaea (Clare, RPD)

muircock : red grouse, moorcock, Lagopus lagopus scoticus (Clare, RPD)

nettle-monger : the reed-sparrow; so called from its frequenting nettles (Sternberg)

night hawk : fern owl, nightjar, Caprimulgus europaeus (Clare, RPD)

oxeys : popular name  for the great tit, big ox-eye, Parus major (Clare, RPD)

partraik, patridge : the grey or common partridge, Perdix perdix, running bird rather than a flyer (Clare, RPD)

pen-thrush : the largest species of thrush, Turdus viscivoras, called in the northern districts the mist or mizzle-thrush; in the ancient British and modern Welsh languages, pen signifies ‘head’, or ‘chief’; the Welsh call this bird pen y llwyn, ‘the head’, or ‘master of the coppice’, an epithet which he is fully entitled to from his pugnacious propensities. Here we have a still surviving relic of the ‘Wealh cynne’ (Sternberg)

pettichap : the long-tailed titmouse (Sternberg); pettichap : the chiffchaff, lesser pettichap, Phylloscopus collybita, referring to its two-note song; 2. garden warbler, greater pettichap, Sylvia borin (Clare, RPD)

pewet, pewit : lapwing, Vanellus vanellus, a wader but now associated more with farmland (Clare, RPD); see also pute

pink : the chaffinch; struck off on the onomatopoetic principle (Sternberg)

pis(s)mire : an ant (Clare, RPD)

poddock, puddock : a frog; cf. Anglo-Saxon pad; Danish padd, ‘bufo’, though never applied to that animal in England (Sternberg)

poot, poot(e)y : pooty, girdled snail shell, landsnail, genus Cepaea, particularly C. nemoralis (Clare, RPD)

puddock : the kite or fork-winged buzzard; Anglo-Saxon pud (Sternberg); puddock : red kite, Milvus milvus, but also used by Clare of the ‘fork-winged’ buzzard, Buteo buteo, although the buzzard is not fork-winged (Clare, RPD)

pussey : also used for a hare (Clare, RPD)

pute, pewit : the lapwing, so called from its peculiar cry (Sternberg); see also pewet

pye, pie, mag pie: the magpie, Pica pica, noted for chattering and thieving (Clare, RPD)ranny : the small red field mouse, or shrew (Egar)

rail : a landrail, corncrake, Crex crex (Clare, RPD)

redcap : goldfinch, Carduelis carduelis; see also goldspink (Clare, RPD)

Reynold : Reynard, the fox (Clare, RPD)

ring dove : woodpigeon, Columba palumbus, so named from its white collar (Clare, RPD)

royston crow : from Royston, a town on the borders of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, the hooded or grey crow, Corvus corone cornix (Clare, RPD)

sea dog : common seal, Phoca vitulina (Clare, RPD)

sniggle : a snail; also the shell; cf. Gothic snigill, Swedish snigel, Danish and Anglo-Saxon snægl (Sternberg)

sphinx : privet hawkmoth, Sphinx ligustri (Clare, RPD)

spider catcher : spotted flycatcher, Egypt bird, Muscicapa striata (Clare, RPD)

starnel, sturnel : starling(s), Sturnus vulgaris, today one of the most widespread of birds in the British Isles (Clare, RPD); starnel : a starling; cf. Anglo-Saxon stærn, Italian stornello (Sternberg)

stock : livestock, cattle (Clare, RPD)

suck, suck-egg : the cuckoo; also applied to a stupid fellow; similar to the Scotch gowk (Sternberg)

swift : lizard, the swift-running variety which frequents hedges and dry places (Clare, RPD)

thack-sparrow : the common house-sparrow, so called from its building in the thatch (Sternberg)

thread brake : traditional name for a fox (Clare, RPD)

throstle : the song thrush, Turdus philomelus (Clare, RPD)

toot, tooty : pooty, landsnail, Cepaea nemoralis (Clare, RPD); also poot

whaddon organs : frogs; also called fen nightingales (Egar)

willow-biter : the blue tit, Parus caerulens (Egar)

winter-mew : a bird of the gull kind; Morton (Sternberg)

wood sear : woodseer, cockoopint; ‘Insects that lie in little white knots of spittle on the backs of leaves and flowers… they are always seen plentiful in moist weather, and are one of the shepherd’s weather-glasses; when the head of the insect is turned upward, it is said to betoken fine weather; when downward, on the contrary, wet may be expected’ – Clare’s note in VM Glossary (Clare, RPD)

writing lark : yellowhammer, Emberiza citrinella, derived from the irregular black, zigzag lines upon the eggs, resembling writing (Clare, RPD)

yoe, yow : a ewe (Clare, RPD)



burr : the burr or halo round the moon, said to be a sign of rain; “The burred moon foretells great storms at hand”, Clare (Egar); burr : haziness or mist, covering or encircling the moon (Clare, RPD)

butchers cleaver : the Pleiades (Clare, RPD)

charleses wain : the seven bright stars of the Plough (Clare, RPD)

dale-mist : a valley, or lowland mist (Sternberg)

dropple : to rain in large drops, as in a storm (Sternberg)

duck-shower : a shower of short continuance (Sternberg)

folding star : a star rising at folding-time, evening star (Clare, RPD)

glut : a long continuance of wet weather (Sternberg)

lay’the, lythe : contraction of ‘lay of the’, as ‘lay’the wind’, a calm or absence of wind (Egar)

lift : the air, the sky, the heavens (Clare, RPD)

mizzle : small rain (Egar)

muggy-weather : dull, misty weather; cf. Welsh mwg, ‘smoke, fume,’ etc. (Sternberg)

noahs ark : streaks of cloud in the shape of a boat, supposed to portend floods (Clare, RPD)

poddock-moon : in, or very near, the month of August, in the hottest part of the year, for about four weeks together, frogs very rarely or never open their mouths, are never heard to croak, and their bodies appear very much swell’d; upon which account the time wherein this usually happens has, with our country people, the name of poddock-moon; “This a thing observ’d by almost every body here, and the matter of fact is indisputable; but ‘tis generally looked upon as very strange and unaccountable”, Morton, p. 441 (Sternberg)

poothy-weather : a close and hot state of the atmosphere (Sternberg)

rack : a thin cloud; to rack : to drive before the wind, of clouds (Clare, RPD)

raw, rawky : used of a cold, damp, chilly day, dull and overcast (Egar); rawkin, rawky : misty, foggy, damp and cold (Clare, RPD)

red-wind : an easterly wind, to which the blight was formerly (and is still) attributed; Morton, p. 331 (Sternberg)

roak : a thick mist or haze; cf. Danish rögg, ‘smoke, vapour’

scud : gust – of rain (Clare, RPD)

shepherd’s lamp : the first star that rises after sunset, the evening star, Jupiter (Clare, RPD)

skat : a shower of rain of short continuance (Sternberg)

starm : a storm (Clare, RPD)

starn : stars (Clare, RPD)

sunday-moon : there is a pretty generally received idea that a new moon on a Sunday will bring a flood before it is out; thus the proverb, “Sunday moon floods ‘for ’ts out” (Sternberg)

suthering : noise of the wind through trees (Clare, RPD)

Swithin, St. : rain on this day is looked upon as presaging a good crop of apples; the saint is then said to be christening his fruit; I cannot find any incident in the life of this saint which will serve to hang a conjecture on (Sternberg)

wool pack : the rack of high clouds (Clare, RPD)

wrack : thin cloud (Clare, RPD)



burnt arse fire : will-o’-the-wisp, ignis fatuus (Clare, RPD); see also jinny-buntail

commins : commonage, the right of commins (Sternberg)

Giles : traditional name for a farmer (Clare, RPD)

hobby : a roadster or hack; a small hardy horse, bred in the Fens; as in ‘Wildmore Hobbies’ (Egar)

jack a lanthorn, jack a lanthern : ignis fatuus, will-o’-the-wisp (Clare, RPD)

jenny burnt arse : will-o’-the-wisp, ignis fatuus (Clare, RPD)

jenny wisp : jack-a-lantern, will o’ wisp (Egar); see jinny-buntail

jinny-buntail : the ignis fatuus, or Will with the wisp; believed in Northamptonshire to proceed from a dwarfish spirit, who takes delight in misleading ‘night-faring clowns’, not unfrequently winding up a long series of torments by dragging his victims into a river or pond; the word is evidently a corruption of ‘Jinn with the burnt tail’, ‘Jild burnt tail’; “Will with the wisp, or Gyl burnt tayle”, in Gayton’s ‘Notes on Don Quixote’, London, 1654. p. 97; “An ignis fatuus, or exalation, and gillon a burnt tayle, or Will with the wispe”, Ibid, p. 268 (Sternberg); see also burnt arse fire

Lammas : 1st August, ‘Loaf Mass’ or ‘Bread Mass’, a feast of thanksgiving for the first fruits of corn (Clare, RPD)

packman : pedlar, hawker (Clare, RPD)

poy-staff, poise-staff : the latter is prob. the correct form; a jumping-pole; a long staff with a small block of wood at the lower end, used for jumping the dikes (Egar)

skerry : a small boat, formerly much used in the fenny districts; in an old road-book Crowland is said to be “so remote from pasture that ye inhabitants are obliged to goe a milking by water in little boats, called skerrys, which carry two or three persons at a time”, ‘Britannia Depicta or Ogilby Improved’, 1724; cf. Lat. scaphula, scapha, Gothic veerje (Sternberg)

star-shot, star-jelly, star-falling : masses of clear viscid and tenacious matter, often found in fields, or on the tops of hedges, etc., so called from its being supposed by the country people to fall from the stars; Morton (who is followed by Pennant) thus speculates as to its real formation: “As to the origin of this body, it has, in many particulars, a near analogy with animal substances: it appears to me to be only the disgorge or casting of birds of three or four sorts; of those sort or fowl in particular that at certain seasons do feed very plentifully upon earthworms, and the like”; “Amongst ourselves, when any such matter is found in the fields, the very countreymen cry, it fell from heav’n and the starres; and, as I remember, call it the spittle of the starres”, ‘White’s Peripateticall Institutions’, 1056, p. 148 (Sternberg)

stuff : opium, and preparations of opium, are euphemistically known as ‘stuff’; Holbeach and Wisbech did an immense trade in stuff; I have heard from one retailer that he sold over the counter 14 lbs of opium in a week, and sometimes more (Egar)

thack, theek: thatch; and as a verb, to thatch; cf. Anglo-Saxon thac, theccan, Icelandic thikia;  the constant use of this word, and that of dike (Anglo-Saxon dic), has given rise to the proverb, “Thack and dyke, Northamptonshire like” (Sternberg); thack : thatch; theaked : thatched (Clare, RPD)

troll : a ramble, a walk (Clare, RPD)

wain : farm-waggon (Clare, RPD)

9 responses to “land-words

  1. Buscando por internet informacion sobre baules, ha salido mucha informacion de esta web ¿Alguien ha comprado en este sitio?

  2. Paul

    I have been reading about Clare and started wanting to know more about local Dialect. A few searches later and I come to your beautiful sight. I can’t wait to read through a few each day and hopefully commit some to memory and use. Thank you for taking the time to compile this. A lovely thing.

  3. Pingback: A Twopeny Portfolio: #7 Forestead and Island, Little Casterton | Sublime Sites

  4. Pingback: KW 3 #IchHabNurMeineWörter | M i MA

  5. Pingback: Suthering – The Long Drove

  6. Many thanks for your interesting word-list. I found it very useful when compiling an ebook of John Clare’s Selected Poems, and have cited it at the end of the book, which is downloadable free from:
    I hope this is ok with you.

  7. phil

    Do you have any musings on the origins and use of the word Landscape

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s