Torpenhow Hill

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Torpenhow Hill
(existence unconfirmed)
Pronunciation /trəˈpɛnə/
Location Cumbria, England (?)
OS grid NY206390
Coordinates 54°44′23″N 3°14′05″W / 54.73967°N 3.23478°W / 54.73967; -3.23478[citation needed]

Torpenhow Hill is an alleged hill whose claim to fame is that its name is supposed to be a quadruple tautology: "Tor", "pen", and "how" are all said to mean "hill" in different languages (Old English torr, Welsh penn, Danish haug-r, and Modern English hill, respectively), so that a literal translation of "Torpenhow Hill" would be "Hill-hill-hill Hill".[1] It was proposed that successive residents of the area took the previous residents' name for the hill and added their own.[1] However, the name is not a tautology, and in any case the hill may not exist.

First, none of the elements of the name means "hill": Tor appears to be from British torr "peak", a word still used in English as tor, and pen (penn) from British penn "head", so Torpen may have been an ordinary British compound name, "peak-head", not British 'hill' plus Saxon 'hill'. The how, with historic variant spellings oc (Torpennoc) and oh (Torpennoh), appears to be from Old English hōh (modern northern English heugh 'steep descent'), rather than from Danish haug-r (modern English how(e) "hillock, cairn").[2] Denton, who first proposed the spurious etymology, notes that Torpenhow Hall and church, which presumably formed the nucleus of the settlement, stand on a 'rising topped hill', which may have been the source of the name of the village.[2] Mills (2011) interprets the name Torpenhow as "Ridge of the hill with a rocky peak"[3]

Secondly, while there is a village in Cumbria called Torpenhow, there does not appear to be any hill by that name in England; if there is a hill by that name near the village, it would appear to be a nonce name after the village, not a long-standing name passed down from language to language. Francis (2003) could not find the hill when he visited Torpenhow;[4] Caer Mote is located 2 km south-southwest of the village, but doesn't go by that name. However, there is a small hill located at Garswood, Merseyside, locally known as the "Turpin"; on the old OS [1898] maps the area was rendered as "Torpen Howe".[citation needed]

The local pronunciation of Torpenhow Village is /trəˈpɛnə/, though the more intuitive pronunciation /ˈtɔrpənh/ is also used.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Fenton, G. L. (12 July 1884). "Torpenhow". Notes and Queries (Sixth Series) 10 (237): 25–26. 
  2. ^ a b English Place Name Society, 1950, The Place-names of Cumberland, p. 326
  3. ^ David Mills, 2011, A Dictionary of British Place-Names
  4. ^ a b Francis, Darryl (2003). "The Debunking of Torpenhow Hill". Word Ways 36 (1): 6–8.