We’re fascinated by names, personal names and place names, and we happened to wonder what the ‘try’ part of places such as Coventry and Daventry means. Is it different from the Tre- prefix from Cornwall in Cornish names which means settlement? I can’t find a definitive answer – I must ask the leader of a group I attend about Anglo-Saxon English, because not only does he know a great deal about Anglo-Saxon, he knows a great deal about other languages and the origin of language too!

The suffix ‘try’ might mean simply ‘tree’; trees were important in the past as markers and pointers and also in their own right for an ancient religious significance. There are place names such as Braintree, Manningtree and Elstree (trees or markers associated with people, Brain/Brian/Bran, Man/Mann, Elle) in the south-east of England, as well as Appletree and Appletreewick, and Plumtree and a Faintree in Shropshire. There are also other ‘tree’ places names such as Rattery (red tree) in Devon and Warter (gallows-tree) in Yorkshire. Maybe the ‘tree’ was not an actual living tree but a wooden cross, or beam a, maybe on the site of an original ‘holy’ tree. This may suggest that there was a significance going back before the Saxons, and as some trees can live for hundreds of years, I don’t think it is too fanciful to suggest that the significant tree in a place might be pre-Roman!

This is so interesting, that I must investigate further!

Dare I go further?

 

Dark Hedges, the road to Armoy

 

10 thoughts on “Coventry, Daventry, Oswestry

  1. Interesting. Could it be Welsh which predates English by many centuries? The word tref means town. The ‘f’ is usually silent when spoken and the word is normally pronounced ‘tray’ or ‘treh’ as in Treforrest, Trecynon. An anglicised version might well put the ‘tray’ at the end and over the years mutate it to ‘try’. Just a thought.

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      • That’s right, cartref means home and pentref is village. Coventry and Oswestry are certainly in the right area for Welsh to be a possibility, although I’m not sure where Daventry is, I’m afraid. There are quite a lot of mixed place names in England, showing the different nationalities overlaid on a place. Like the River Avon, from the Welsh Afon, meaning River River 😀

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      • What’s now England and Wales and also Brittany – Brythonic. The Scots and Irish had their own Celtic language – Goedelic. Quite a lot of similarities but the Brythonic evolved into Welsh, Breton and Cornish when the Romans arrived,so I guess that Welsh is a patois of Latin and Brythonic. Fascinating stuff. I can recognise the Welsh element of place names all across England.

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      • Place names are so interesting… I love finding out about the origins of them… There’s a book whose title and author I have forgotten which is about how you can ‘read’ the landscape by understanding place names… The assistants in the book shop are really knowledgeable and helpful… I might ask them!

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