"-berry" in place names

Discussion in 'English Only' started by mateo19, Aug 9, 2009.

  1. mateo19

    mateo19 Senior Member

    Hello everyone,

    I once lived in a small town named Lewisberry. This clearly means "the _something_ of Lewis". I don't know what berry means, though. For example, Pittsburgh means "the city of Pitt" (last name of a man) and Coudersport means "The port of Couder" (another man's last name, a French explorer who founded that city). I couldn't come up with anything for berry, though. Maybe someone who lives in a berry in England might know. I think I've heard of big cities with such names, such as "Middleberry", whose etymology is surely well documented. An alternate spelling of berry might be "bury", as in the Pennsylvanian city Sunbury.

    Thank you so much for your help!

    PS. I looked in an etymological dictionary, but it only had the fruit definition for berry. :p
     
  2. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Hello Mateo. Well, as far as I know, -berry is just a variant spelling of -bury which derives from Old English burg/burh, which also gave rise to Modern English -burgh/-borough.

    There's a town about 10 miles away from where I'm sitting now, by the name of Bury. Some people pronounce it to rhyme with cherry, others to rhyme with hurry.

    :)
     
  3. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    "--berry" is very rare in place names. Much more common is "--bury" (as in Salisbury or Canterbury), "--burg" (as in Hamburg, or Harrisburg), and "--boro" (as in Birdsboro.) All are related to Germanic-language words indicating "a stronghold, a fortified place".
     
  4. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    :thumbsup: I've been racking my brains but can't think of a single -berry place-name in the UK.
     
  5. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I would also have thought that -berry was just an alternative spelling for -bury.

    This site suggests that -berry = forest. Which might be right as there's a 'Berry Hill' in the Forest of Dean, near where I live.

    But it just seems a bit unlikely, given the fluidity of spelling conventions in the past and the similarity between the pronunciations of -berry and (commonly) -bury.
     
  6. mateo19

    mateo19 Senior Member

    Thank you to everyone for their quick responses. This is a very interesting question. :)

    Let me reveal a little more of my intentions. I'm about to move to Ukraine to teach English for the next two years and I wanted to be able to explain to the Ukrainians about my home. Talking about one's home seems to be a good ice breaker. Should I tell my new friends and colleagues that Lewisberry means "The forest of Lewis" or "The town/boro of Lewis"? There are plenty of woods around Lewisberry, but no forest. Where the woods stop, the luscious farmlands of southern Pennsylvania commence. :) Thanks again for your input!
     
  7. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    Lewisberry (in York County, Pennsylvania) was named for major Eli Lewis, on whose land it was laid out in 1798. Comparing that name to other Pennsylvania town names from the same era, it is almost certainly a phonetic spelling of the same ending more commonly rendered as --bury. It is noteworthy that the town to the east of Lewisberry is Newberrytown.

    EDIT: As used in Pennsylvania, the endings -burg, -ton, -town, -ville, etc., are merely suffixes that indicate the place is a town, named for the person or thing preceding. Examples are Harrisburg (named for John Harris), Pittsburgh (named for the British statesman William Pitt, Earl of Chatham), Pottstown (named for John Potts), Pottsgrove (named for the same John Potts), Pottsville (named for an entirely different John Potts), and Shillington (named for Samuel Shilling.) Of much more interest are the Pennsylvania towns named for inn signs, including Red Lion, Cross Keys, and Blue Ball.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2009
  8. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    It does seem a bit unusual that a town founded as late as 1798 (or 1734, depending on who you believe), by which time you'd think folks would have known better, should have deliberately opted for such an unusual spelling of -bury. But then perhaps the founders just wanted to distinguish themselves somewhat from neighbouring Shrewsbury and Springettsbury (not to mention Manchester:eek: and Peach Bottom:)). Or maybe they were just poor spellers.

    EDIT (after cornflakes and more tea and ciggies): I've just remembered another British Berry place-name ~ Berry Pomeroy (Devon). Given that it's basically a castle-with-village-attached, I assume it's another burh rather than one of Loob's forest-berries.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2009
  9. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Oops:eek:, I've just realised that I misread the site I quoted, which was actually saying that
    -berry means "hill" not "forest". So according to that, "Berry Hill" is rather tautological....

    Stick with GWB, mateo:)
     
  10. mateo19

    mateo19 Senior Member

    "Berry Hill" is a rather funny redundant name, if -berry does indeed mean hill. :)

    Well, thank you very much, everyone, for your help in resolving this question. It was very interesting to explore it with you.

    Loob, what is "GWB"?

    Just a funny PS, my dad's name is Barry, which in my dialect of American English rythms with -berry, although my dad's name is of Irish origin. :p
     
  11. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    She is referring to me, mateo, using the initials of my screen name.
     
  12. mateo19

    mateo19 Senior Member

    Oops, I feel so blind to have missed that. Sorry and thank you! :)
     
  13. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    The Key to English Place Names has a search engine that might be of interest (and a map to go with it) I don't know how complete the data base is: it comes up with only 4 -berry names, all in Devon and Dorset. Berry Pomeroy, Berrynarbor, Burberry Lane and Mistleberry Wood. The entry for this last one is

    I just noticed mateo's location and remember reading that Pittsburgh was originally intended to be pronounced like Edinburgh ( -bru'h ) but it didn't catch on or changed over the years - any truth to this? This ought to be considered on topic because it relates to the evolution of the pronunciation of burh :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2009
  14. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
  15. Is the -y in bury/berry simply an example of the mutation of g(e) to y in Germanic languages?

    I'm thinking of ge- in German and OE, which became y-/i- in MidE and ModE; of the frequent Swedish pronunciation of g- as y- and -g as -i; and of German/English cognates such as gern/yearn, gellen/yell, geld/yellow etc.

    Although burh is found in OE, isn't burg at least a frequent?
     
  16. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    "Yes, Kevin," said Ewie authoritatively.
    Or at least, the OED gives the derivation as burg/burh (as I said in post #2:rolleyes:).
     

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