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Interesting Etymologies : The Premier League Special



"Hello again Word Lovers!" To start our return to the fascinating world of words we are going to take a look at the roots of the names of the top football teams in English football.


Some names known the world over, now you can amaze your friends and colleagues with some fascinating knowledge on the origin of some of the most famous names in football history!





Check out the video or the audio podcast edition for more information, meanwhile, here we can look at the etymological details on the Premier League teams and their stadiums





ARSENAL – - Italian arzenale, from Arabic dar as-sina'ah "workshop," literally "house of manufacture," from dar "house" + sina'ah "art, craft, skill," from sana'a "he made." (Originally discussed in Interesting Etymologies 1-18)


Highbury - Bury is from the Old English byrgan to mean a borough. The name Highbury emerged after a new Manor House was built in 1271 to replace the decaying earlier version. The newer Manor was built on a hill and so was dubbed Highbury as it was at a greater height than the original. The site for Highbury Manor was possibly a Roman garrison/Summer camp.

Emirates - (Arabic: إمارة‎ imārah, plural: إماراتimārāt) is the quality, dignity, office, or territorial competence of any emir (prince, commander, governor, etc.)


ASTON VILLA - Listed in the Domesday Book in 1086 as "Estone", having a mill, a priest and therefore probably a church, woodland and ploughland. East 'east' + tun 'settlement'. from a Middle English personal name, Astan(us), which is probably a survival of Old English Æ{dh}elstan

Villa - (from PIE root *weik- "clan")


BRENTFORD - from PIE *prtu- "a going, a passage" (source also of Latin portus "harbor"), from root *per- "to lead, pass over."


RIVER BRENT - may be related to the Celtic *brigant- meaning "high" or "elevated" perhaps linked to the goddess Brigantia


Griffin Park - Named after the nearby Pub, The Griffin, which was owned by the Griffin Brewery. The ground was originally an orchard owned by the brewery. Griffin emerges from Old French grifon for bird of prey. This dates back to Latin gryphus or grypus which is believed to be an adaptation of Greek gryps to mean a mythological bird or dragon with a curved, hook nose.

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION - Beorthelm + tūn—the homestead of Beorthelm, a common Old English name associated with villages elsewhere in England.[8] The tūn element is common in Sussex. Hove has a disputed etymology, from Old Norse or Old English to mean "hall" or Middle English to mean "Anchorage". Albion : Celtic from Latin albus for White. The ancient name for Britain.


Goldstone - Old English name Goldstan, which itself probably comes from the name Golda and stan from Old English tun to mean settlement. The football ground was built on the land of Goldstone farm.


BURNLEY - Brun Lea, meaning "meadow by the River Brun

Turf Moor - Moor now means uncultivated uplands but it used to also refer to land on the edge of cultivated fields. Turf, to mean grass is part of the name because the area was where people dug up the land to burn on fires much like peat.


CHELSEA - chalk landing place, Cealc-hyð = "chalk wharf"


Stamford Bridge - is considered to be derived from Samfordesbrigge meaning "the bridge at the sandy ford". There is also a Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire which was the site of a Battle in September 1066 where Harold Godwinson defeated his brother Tostig Godwinson and King Harald Hardrada of Norway only to be defeated by the Normans just three weeks later. An inconsistent pattern of form that many football fans would be familiar with. CRYSTAL PALACE - named after the Crystal Palace Exhibition building, which stood in the area from 1854 until it was destroyed by fire in 1936.


Selhurst Park - Old English sealh "dwelling in a wood" or "dwelling where willows grow". hurst from Old English hyrst means "hillock, wooded eminence from Proto-Germanic hursti. Selherst is first recorded in use for the local area in 1229.

EVERTON - Saxon word eofor, meaning wild boar that lives in forests. Ton as established already means Settlement.


Goodison Park - Perhaps a rather unfortunate history for Everton fans. The stadium takes the name from the road on which it stands. Goodison Road was named after George Goodison, a local civil engineer who submitted a report to the local council on sewage systems in 1882. Goodison comes from Old English Godgifu to mean" God's gift" and the son suffix from Norse and Viking custom. So Son of God's Gift or Human Fecal Transportation, take your pick!


LEEDS - Loidis ‘People of the Lat’, (Lat being an earlier name of the river Aire, meaning ‘the violent one’). Loidis was originally a district name, but was subsequently restricted to the city. Elland Road - Elland is found in the Domesday Book as Elant. Old English ēa ('river') and lant (land)

LEICESTER - Legorensis civitatis and in Old English itself in an Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for 924 as Ligera ceastre (and, in various spellings, frequently thereafter). In the Domesday Book of 1086, it is recorded as Ledecestre.

The first element of the name is the name of a people, the Ligore (whose name appears in Ligera ceastre in the genitive plural form); their name came in turn from the river Ligor (now the River Soar) OF UNKNOWN BRITTONIC ORIGINS .


The club were originally called Leicester Fosse. A major Roman Road ran from Exeter to Lincoln and the original location of the club was alongside that major route. Fosse comes from Latin fossa to mean "ditch"


Filbert Street - Filbert comes from Anglo-French philber which means hazlenut. It derives from Norman dialect noix de filbert, in reference to St. Philbert, 7c. Frankish abbot, so called because the hazel nuts ripen near his feast day.

LIVERPOOL - Laver = a weed eaten by Cormorants? (liver birds?) ??? no one knows Pool = pool – NO ONE KNOWS - German Pfuhl "pool, puddle"), which is of uncertain origin, In the 1850s Liverpool was still a rural settlement with mainly open fields. The industrial revolution saw large homes owned by Liverpool’s merchants replaced by terraces for workers.


Anfield - unsurprisingly a combination of Old and Middle English which means "a field on a slope"

MANCHESTER City - Mamucium - meaning ‘breast-shaped hill’. (Originally discussed in Interesting Etymologies 1-11)

CITY - from PIE root *kei- (1) "to lie," also forming words for "bed, couch," and with a secondary sense of "beloved, dear." separated from town meaning in 1840s


Maine Road - A former brickworks the site was originally known as Dog Kennel Lane. It was renamed Maine Road after the Maine Law, which prohibited alcohol sales in Maine, USA in 1851. The United Kingdom Alliance, a part of the Temperance movement owned land on Dog Kennel Lane and petitioned the local authority to rename the road in the 1870s. Manchester City moved to that site in 1923.

MANCHESTER Utd - Mamucium - meaning ‘breast-shaped hill’. (Originally discussed in Interesting Etymologies 1-1) UNITED - unitus, past participle of unire "to unite, make into one" (transitive), from Latin unus "one" (from PIE root *oi-no- "one, unique")


Old Trafford - A crossing on the river Irwell in ancient history. It may have gained the name Old Trafford when there were two Trafford Halls and the name distinguished which was the original. Trafford Old English træppe meaning fish trap and Ford as a place to cross a river. NEWCASTLE UNITED – This one explains itself does it not? It dates from the era of the Norman conquest. William the Conqueror erected castles at strategic sites across the country to consolidate his control over his new territory.

St. James' Park - Named after the land the stadium was built on. The stadium has a metro station underneath the stands and the intimidating Gallowgate end is named after the site of the public execution site where the gallows were to be found.


NORWICH CITY - Venta Icenorum, literally "marketplace of the Iceni". The Iceni are one of the Brittoic tribes of the pre Roman era and are most well known for the uprising of Boudica against the Romans. This fell into disuse about 450. The Anglo-Saxons settled the site of the modern city sometime between the 5th and 7th centuries,[14] founding the towns of Northwic ("North Farm"), from which Norwich takes its name,[15] and Westwic (at Norwich-over-the-Water) and a lesser settlement at Thorpe. A local rhyme, the demise of Venta Icenorum, comments on the development of Norwich: "Caistor was a city when Norwich was none, Norwich was built of Caistor stone."


Carrow Road - The name of the road is taken from the Priory and Abbey of St. Mary of Carrow (Carhowe) The Abbey was founded around 1146. The name seems to be a plain description of the location, a hill by a river.

SOUTHAMPTON The name Southampton originated in the Middle Ages with the naming of a settlement on the River Itchen as Hamwic or Hamtun, names which are said to have meant 'the home settlement' or 'the settlement on the bend in the river'


The Dell - Old English dell to mean a secluded hollow or partially wooded valley. Derived from another Old English word dæl which provides the modern word Dale


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR - believed to have been named after Tota, a farmer, whose hamlet was mentioned in the Domesday Book. 'Tota's hamlet *haimaz "home" (from PIE root *tkei- "to settle, dwell, be home"); for ending, see -let. Especially a village without a church.

The Hotspur part of the name comes from late Middle English: literally ‘a person whose spur is hot from rash or constant riding’. It was used to describe someone who was rash, bold and flamboyant and was the nickname for Sir Henry Percy given to him by the Scots as a tribute to his speed in advance and readiness to attack. His desire to attack was to cost him his life in a rebellion against his king, but, that, as they say, is another story. White Hart Lane - Curiously, the ground was never officially named and often referred to as the Hotspur's or Spur's Ground or the High Road Ground. It was the fans who affectionately referred to it as White Hart Lane, a road to the west of the High Road. It is believed this was because fans would gather at White Hart Lane railway station before the game or the lane leading to the ground from the White Hart pub. A White Hart was a name for a mature stag and the emblem of Richard II. It is the 5th most popular name for pubs in England. A lane was Old English lanu for a "narrow road with hedges" WATFORD THE FORDS AROUND OXFORD – just as ABER = river mouth in Welsh Old English for "waet" (full of water – the area was marshy), or "wath" (hunting), and ford. St Albans Abbey claimed rights to the manor of Cashio (then called "Albanestou"), which included Watford, dating from a grant by King Offa in AD 793. The name Watford is first mentioned in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 1007, where "Watforda" is one of the places marking the boundary of "Oxanhaege". Not mentioned in Domesday Book


Vicarage Road - A vicarage is a house or residence of a vicar and has been in use as such since the 1520s. WEST HAM UNITED - Perhaps from PIE *wes-, reduced form of *wes-pero- "evening, night" WHICH IF TRUE WOULD BE THE source also of Greek hesperos, Latin vesper "evening, west;" EAST - Old Norse austr "from the east"), from PIE root *aus- (1) "to shine," especially of the dawn. The east is the direction in which dawn breaks. "towards the dawn," from PIE *heus-tero- (source also of Sanskrit usra- "red; matutinal," usar-budh- "waking at dawn;" Greek aurion "tomorrow;" Lithuanian aušra "dawn;" Old Church Slavonic jutro "dawn, morning; tomorrow;" Old High German ostara "Easter"), from PIE root *aus- "to shine," especially of the dawn. Boleyn Ground/Upton Park - West Ham United combined with another club Boleyn Castle in 1904. They played on land rented from Green Street House which was locally referred to as Boleyn Castle due to the imposing nature of the building and the connection to Anne Boleyn (Second wife of Henry VIII) who was believed to have owned or stayed at the house. It was more commonly referred to as Upton Park, the name of the area where the stadium was located. The name is fairly easy to understand up meaning upper and ton from tun settlement or enclosure. WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS - Wulfrun, who founded the town in 985, from the Anglo-Saxon Wulfrūnehēantūn ("Wulfrūn's high or principal enclosure or farm"). WHY WANDERERS? WANDER - PIE root *wendh- "to turn, wind, weave" (see wind)


Molineux - Perhaps the most unique word to be covered in this investigation. It is in fact a Norman name from Old French moulineau. Moulin is mill and eau is water. In some cases it was an occupational name for a Miller and the anglicized form is Mulligan.


The name in Wolverhampton can be traced to Benjamin Molineux who purchased the land in 1744 to build his house, later to be hotel. The site was a pleasure park in the 1860s and then sold to Northampton Brewery in 1889 who then rented to the ground to Wolverhampton Wanderers.


The ground has a proud history. It was the first stadium built for use by a football league club, believed to be the first British ground to have floodlights installed and hosted some of the earliest European matches in the 1950s.




Our regular programme Interesting Etymologies can be explored here


The programme is available on youtube or as a podcast and is published weekly during term time.


Some of the origins for football related terms were investigated here


Some of the place names discussed in this episode are looked at in further detail here


Other articles of interest


We explored why we obsess so much about sport and the cultural need it fills here


The David v Goliath fairy tales of the FA Cup 4rd Round are discussed here


Zaragoza based British community football club Británicos homepage here




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