Thursday 6 May 2010


The village of Chideock in Dorset has been in the news recently because of an imaginative protest against the heavy goods vehicles speeding along its main street, which also forms part of a through route, the A35. Protesters are repeatedly operating the pedestrian crossing button so as to force the traffic to stop.

How do we pronounce Chideock?

The answer is ˈtʃɪdək, as if spelt “Chiddock”.

According to the village website,
The origin of the Name Chideock is uncertain; it possibly comes from an Old English word 'coediog' which means 'wooded' or 'woody'. Alternatively, it may have derived from 'Cedda's Oak' - Cedda being a common Anglo-Saxon name.

I have news for whoever wrote this. Coediog is not an Old English word. It is Welsh. It is the adjective from coed, the Welsh for ‘trees’ (Celtic *cę̄d ). If it is indeed the origin of the name of the village, it must of course have been adopted into their own language by the Anglo-Saxons who took it over. But it would have been a loanword. (Compare Eccles in Lancashire, from the Celtic word that gave us modern Welsh eglwys ‘church’, itself from Latin ecclēsia, in turn from Greek ἐκκλησία).

As an element in placenames, coed may be familiar even to those who do not know Welsh, from the placenames Betws-y-Coed in north Wales (‘chapel of the wood’) and Cyncoed, a suburb of Cardiff (= cefn coed ‘back of wood’).

In Buckinghamshire, the village of Chetwode ˈtʃetwʊd near Aylesbury shows us an OE wudu added to explain the Celtic *cę̄d. Its name means ‘wood-wood’, just as Pendle in Lancashire is ‘hill-hill’.


  1. Interestingly, I think Betws-y-Coed is a Welsh placename which seems to have a borrowing from Old English: betws is "bede-house", i.e. house of prayer.

  2. Then there's the famous Torpenhow Hill!

  3. Torpenhow Hill is a fabrication of Mario Pei. Not only is it not true that Torpenhow Hill is a name consisting of 4 elements each one meaning "hill", there isn't even a hill called Torpenhow Hill.

    Darryl Francis has debunked Mario Pei's claim in the article "The debunking of Torpenhow Hill":

  4. In Cornish the cognate of coed/coeden turns up in quite a few different guises: gwidden, widden, quidden, quite...

    We also have a few doublet names down here, The closest to where I live is Castle An Dinas = "castle the castle". And I recently did a post on my blog about Gurnard's Head, where there are the remains of a promontory fort called Treryn Dinas, which appears to mean "a castle by a farm by a castle".

  5. *cę̄d might be the correct Proto-Brythonic reconstruction, but the correct Proto-Celtic reconstruction (according to Ranko Matasović's Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic) is *kayto-. It's related to the first part of the Gaulish placename Caitobrix and more distantly to Gothic haiþi and English heath.

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