A dale is an open valley. Dale is a synonym to the word valley, which entered the English language after the Norman Conquest. Norwegian towns frequently use this term: dalekvam, so dale. The name is used when describing the physical geography of an area. It is used most frequently in the Lowlands of Scotland and in the North of England, where the term "fell" commonly refers to the mountains or hills that flank the dale.
The word dale comes from the Old English word dael, from which the word "dell" is also derived. It is also related to Old Norse word dalr (and the modern Icelandic word dalur), which may perhaps have influenced its survival in northern England. The Germanic origin is assumed to be *dala-. Dal- in various combinations is common in placenames in Norway. Modern English valley and French vallee are presumably not related to dale. Currency unit dollar originates from Bohemia where joachimsthaler, simplified as thaler or daler, were manufactured.
The word is perhaps related to Welsh dol (meadow, pasture, valley), Russian dol (valley, reverse side) and Serbo-Croation dolina (basin, doliner is used geological terminology about depressions in karst areas. There is semantic equivalency to many words and phrases, suggesting a common Indo-European affinity. Vale and thalweg are also related.
Examples of dales
The following are several examples of major dales that have the name dale. The river name is usually appended with "-dale". There are also many smaller dales; this is not an exhaustive list.
- Wensleydale (valley of the Ure)
- Lonsdale (or Lunesdale, valley of the Lune)