Llan (placename)

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Llan (Welsh pronunciation: [ɬan]) and its variants (Breton: lan; Cornish: lann; Pictish: lhan; Irish and Scottish Gaelic: lann[1]) are a common element of Celtic placenames in the British Isles and Brittany, especially of Welsh toponymy. In Welsh, an (often mutated) name of a local saint or a geomorphological description[2] follows the Llan morpheme to form a single word: for example Llanfair is the parish or settlement around the church of St. Mair (Welsh for "Mary"). Whereas, Goidelic toponyms end in -lann.

The various forms of the word are distantly cognate with English land and lawn and presumably initially denoted a specially cleared and enclosed area of land.[3][4] In late antiquity, it came to be applied particularly to the sanctified land occupied by communities of Christian converts. It is part of the name of over 630 locations in Wales and nearly all have some connection with a local patron saint. These were usually the founding saints of the parish,[5] relatives of the ruling families who invaded Wales during the early Middle Ages.[6] The founder of a new llan was obligated to reside at the site and to eat only once a day, each time taking a bit of bread and an egg and drinking only water and milk. This lasted for forty days, Sundays excepted, after which the land was considered sanctified forever.[5] The typical llan employed or erected a circular or oval embankment with a protective stockade, surrounded by wood or stone huts.[7] Unlike Saxon practice, these establishments were not chapels for the local lords but almost separate tribes, initially some distance away from the secular community.[8] Over time, however, it became common for prosperous communities to either become monasteries forbidden to lay residents or to become fully secular communities controlled by the local lord.[9]

In the later Middle Ages, llan also came to denote entire parishes, both as an ecclesiastical region and as a subdivision of a commote or hundred.

Place names in Wales[edit]

Places named after saints[edit]

(All pages with titles beginning with Llan)

Place names with religious connections other than a saint[edit]

Place names without a religious connection[edit]

Place names in counties bordering Wales[edit]

Uncertain of origin[edit]

Place names in Cornwall[edit]

Places named after saints[edit]

Place names with religious connections other than a saint[edit]

Place names without a religious connection[edit]

  • Landrevik, Landrivick, originally Hendrevik (little old farm)
  • Landu, Landue, originally Nansdu (black or dark valley)
  • Landu, Lanjew (Withiel), originally Lendu (black or dark strip field)
  • Landuwy, Lantewey, originally Nantduwey (valley of the river Dewey)
  • Lannestek, Lanescot, originally Lysnestek (Nestoc's court)
  • Langarth, Langarth, originally Lenangath (the cat's strip field)
  • Langover, Langore, originally Nansgover (stream valley)
  • Lanjergh, Lanjeth, originally Nansyergh (roebucks valley)
  • Lanjiogh, Lanjew (Kea), originally Nanskiogh (stream valley)
  • Lankarrow, Lancarrow, originally Nanskarrow (stag's valley)
  • Lanlegh, Lanteague, originally Nanslegh (rock slab valley)
  • Lanlowarn, Lanlawren, originally Nanslowarn (fox's valley)
  • Lanmelin, Lamellion, originally Nansmelin (mill valley)
  • Lanmelin, Lamellyn, originally Nansmelin (mill valley)
  • Lanmorek, Lamorick, originally Nansmorek (Moroc's valley)
  • Lanmornow, Lamorna, originally Nansmornow (valley of a stream called Morno)
  • Lannergh, Lanarth, woodland clearing
  • Lannergh, Landrake, woodland clearing
  • Lannergh, Lannarth, woodland clearing
  • Lannergh, Lanner, woodland clearing
  • Lannergh, Larrick, woodland clearing
  • Lannergh, Larrick (South Petherwin), woodland clearing
  • Lannergh, Muchlarnick, woodland clearing
  • Lansewigy, Lanseague, originally Nansewigy (hinds valley)
  • Lanteglos, Lanteglos-by-Camelford, originally Nanteglos (church valley)
  • Lanteglos, Lanteglos-by-Fowey, originally Nanteglos (church valley)
  • Lantlogh, Landlooe, originally Nantlogh (valley of the river Looe)
  • Lantollek, Lantallack, originally Nanstollek (hollowed valley)
  • Lantyvet, Lantivet, originally Nantyvet (cultivated valley)
  • Lantyeyn, Lantyan, originally Nantyeyn (cold valley)
  • Lanyeyn, Lanyon, originally Lynyeyn (cold pool)
  • Lanyeyn, Lanyon (Gwinear), named after the Lanyon family from Lynyeyn (cold pool)

Place names in areas bordering Cornwall[edit]

Place names in Brittany[edit]

Place names in Cumbria[edit]

The Cumbric language was spoken in Cumbria and elsewhere in The Old North up until the Early Middle Ages and as such, some place names in Cumbria and surrounding counties have a Brythonic origin.

  • Ketland. The first element is possibly equivalent to Welsh coed, "forest, wood".[11]
  • Lambert Ladd. Compare Lampert below.[11]
  • Lamplugh. The second element '-plugh' has been explained as equivalent to Welsh plwyf "parish",[12] or blwch "bare".[11]

The historic name Llan Lleenawc may have been in this region, and named for either Laenauc, a father of Guallauc, or *Lennóc, a saint-name.[11]

Place-names in areas bordering Cumbria[edit]

  • Lampert, Northumberland, also spelt Lampart. The second element has been explained as an equivalent of Welsh perth, "hedge, thicket".[11]

In addition, *landā-, the earlier Brittonic word ancestral to llan occurs in Vindolanda, the name of a Roman-era fort.[11]

Place names in Scotland[edit]

Some place names in Scotland have Pictish and Cumbric elements such as aber- and lhan- (also spelled lum-, lon- and lin-) that are cognate with those in other Brittonic languages. The Gaelic form lann ("enclosure, churchyard") also occurs, and its existence in Pictland may represent adoption into Gaelic of the Pictish usage.[13]

Places named after saints[edit]

Places with other religious connections[edit]

  • Landis, Kirkcudbrightshire. Uncertain; may be of Scots origin.[11]
  • Lincluden, Kirkcudbrightshire. The location of an abbey. The second part of the name refers to the nearby Cluden Water.[11] The first part could also be lïnn, "pool".[11][14]
  • Lindores, Fife (Gaelic: Lann Doras). An abbey is located here. The name may mean "church at the pass".[15]
  • Longannet, Fife (Gaelic: Lann na H-Annaide). Occupied by a now-decommissioned power station. The name probably meant "former church enclosure".[16]

Places with no known religious connections[edit]

  • Conland, Fife. Possibly meaning "dog-enclosure" (G conlann, W cwnllan) or "grouping of enclosures" (G cu-lann).[15]
  • Drumdratland, Fife. Exact etymology unclear, but the firs element is likely druim, "a ridge".[15]
  • Falkland, Fife. The first element in the name is unclear.[15]
  • Lumquhat, Fife. The name may mean "enclosure of the wild-cats".[15]
  • Lynchat, Inverness-shire. Meaning "wildcat's enclosure".[1]
  • Pentland, Midlothian. The first element may be pen ("head", "top") or pant ("hollow").[11]
  • Pouterlampert, near Castleton, Scottish Borders.[11] The -lampert part of the name may share an etymology with the aforementioned Lampart in Northumberland.[11] The first part of the name is *polter, an obscure[11] Brittonic suffix.

In fiction[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Watson, W.J.; Taylor, Simon (2011). The Celtic Place-Names of Scotland (reprint ed.). Birlinn LTD. p. 387. ISBN 9781906566357.
  2. ^ A number of placenames now beginning with llan owe their present form to confusion, having originated as glan ("river bank") or nant ("stream, hollow"). An example is Llanbradach, which was originally Nant Bradach ("Valley of the Bradach"). An example in Cornish is Lanteglos, from an original Nanseglos ("Church Valley").
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 1st ed. "land, n.¹". Oxford University Press (Oxford), 1901.
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 1st ed. "laund, n." Oxford University Press (Oxford), 1902.
  5. ^ a b Baring-Gould, Sabine. The Lives of the Saints, Vol. 16, "The Celtic Church and its Saints", p. 67. Longmans, Green, & Co. (New York), 1898.
  6. ^ Baring-Gould, p. 40.
  7. ^ Baring-Gould, p. 33.
  8. ^ Baring-Gould, p. 92.
  9. ^ Baring-Gould, pp. 37–38.
  10. ^ "GO BRITANNIA! Wales: Sacred Places – Llandaff (Thlan daff) Cathedral". Britannia.com. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m James, Alan. "A Guide to the Place-Name Evidence" (PDF). SPNS – The Brittonic Language in the Old North. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 August 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  12. ^ "Lamplugh". Whitehaven and Western Lakeland. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  13. ^ James, Alan G. "A Guide to the Place-Name Evidence – Guide to the Elements" (PDF). Scottish Place Name Society – The Brittonic Language in the Old North. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  14. ^ Johnston, James B (1892). Place-names of Scotland. Edinburgh, Scotland: D Douglas. p. 162.
  15. ^ a b c d e Simon, Taylor; Markus, Gilbert (2006). The Place-names of Fife (Illustrated ed.). Shaun Tyas. ISBN 9781900289771.
  16. ^ "Longannet Point – Tulliallan, Fife – Places of Worship in Scotland | SCHR".

External links[edit]