Norwich [source of ending -wich] / pronunciation

Kirill V.

Senior Member
Russian
Hello,
I've noticed that in Britain there is quite a number of towns and cities, especially in Norfolk, with the ending -wich (Norwich, Ipswich, Harwich...). Is there any theory as to where this ending came from?
Thanks a lot!
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    No need for theory. The Old English word wic meant "village" and is used in plenty of place names, in two forms -wich and -wick reflecting two ways of pronouncing the Old English.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    the -wich suffix was originally Norse -vic (now -vik, as in Narvik, Reykjavik, etc. Also compare with Dutch '-wijk') and simply meant "town"/ "settlement" Norwich started as Norvic -> North town. You will find that most of the towns that have the -wich suffix are on the east side of Britain facing the lands of the invading Scandinavians or within their area of influence known as 'The Danelaw'.
     

    Kirill V.

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thank you! By the way, do you pronounce Norwich as Norwi[ch] or Norwi[k]?
    And another quick question, if I may - is wic of a Celtic or an Anglo-Saxon (German) origin?
    Cross-posted. The second question has been answered (Norman origin)
     
    Last edited:

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Norwich -> No-rich ('o' as in got.)
    I'm certainly not a BE speaker and my ear might be faulty, but my time in London was spent on Norwich Street and when the London cab drivers repeated the address to me, it sounded like "NOHR-itch"

    The U.K. has many accents, of course. (Sometimes I even understood what people were saying)

    As an aside, Norwich St is one block long and a testament to the London cab drivers that they all knew it.

    (Nothing at all like many New York cab drivers)
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The OED takes the history of the element wick/wich back further:
    Etymology: Old English wíc (masculine, feminine) = Old Frisian wîk (feminine), Old Saxon wîc (masculine) dwelling-place, house, Middle Low German wîk (feminine, neuter) town, place, Middle Dutch wijc (masculine) district, (Dutch wijk (feminine) quarter, district, ward, West Frisian wyk), Old High German wîch (strong masculine) dwelling-place, town, Middle High German wîch in wîkbilethe civic rights, wichbilde (German weichbild) precinct and jurisdiction of a town, wîchgrave recorder; apparently < Latin vīcus row of houses, quarter of a city, street, village (cognate with Greek οἶκος house, etc., Gothic weihs village).

    The OED makes this comment on the wick/wich issue:
    Wick Noun 2. A town, village, or hamlet. Obs. or dial. (Survives as an element of place-names in both forms, -wich and -wick, the local distribution of which presents difficulties.)

    You will find that most of the towns that have the -wich suffix are on the east side of Britain facing the lands of the invading Scandinavians or within their area of influence known as 'The Danelaw'.
    But see this from the OED about wich/wych:
    A salt-works, salt-pit, or brine-spring, in the salt-manufacturing district of Cheshire and neighbouring parts; pl. the salt-making towns of these parts.
    Etymology: apparently a differentiated variant of wick n.2; compare ditch and dike (Old English díc), lich and lyke (Old English líc). The original meaning may have been the group of buildings connected with a salt-pit. The chief names of salt-making towns in which the word occurs are Droitwich (formerly Wich) in Worcestershire, Middlewich, Nantwich, and Northwich in Cheshire....
     
    Last edited:

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I'm certainly not a BE speaker and my ear might be faulty, but my time in London was spent on Norwich Street and when the London cab drivers repeated the address to me, it sounded like "NOHR-itch"

    The U.K. has many accents, of course. (Sometimes I even understood what people were saying)

    As an aside, Norwich St is one block long and a testament to the London cab drivers that they all knew it*.

    (Nothing at all like many New York cab drivers)
    *They must have "The Knowledge" (wiki on London taxis) to be able to drive a cab.

    You will also hear Norwich rhyme with porridge - the ch being voiced somewhat.
     

    mojolicious

    Member
    English English
    I'm certainly not a BE speaker and my ear might be faulty, but my time in London was spent on Norwich Street and when the London cab drivers repeated the address to me, it sounded like "NOHR-itch"
    Norwich rhymes with, and has the same stresses as, porridge.

    Unless you're actually from Norwich, in which case it's 'NHAAARRRij'.

    EDIT: beaten to porridge by one minute :-(
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    Kayve,
    You mentioned 'Normandic origin', which I take to mean 'Norman origin', but I don't see where you got that from and I cannot see the connection with what was said about Norwich, Ipswich, etc.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Kayve,
    You mentioned 'Normandic origin', which I take to mean 'Norman origin', but I don't see where you got that from and I cannot see the connection with what was said about Norwich, Ipswich, etc.
    I think the "Normandic" was a misunderstanding of the word "Norse" used in post #3.

    Norse means it came from the area currently know (approximately) as Scandinavia. Normandy is a long way away, being part of western France.
     

    Kirill V.

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Kayve,
    You mentioned 'Normandic origin', which I take to mean 'Norman origin', but I don't see where you got that from and I cannot see the connection with what was said about Norwich, Ipswich, etc.
    Thanks. Yes, it should have been "Norman".
    I think those invasions of Britain by Scandinavians, French and others that as I understood gave rise to the Norse -vic having become part of British place names are collectively referred to as "Norman conquest of Britain". I may be wrong, though.
     
    Last edited:

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    You will also hear Norwich rhyme with porridge - the ch being voiced somewhat.
    Norwich rhymes with, and has the same stresses as, porridge.(
    Yes, I was going to say that but whether the ending is /tʃ/ (as in hotch-potch) or /dʒ/ (as in hodge-podge) is not predictable. Ipswich is always /tʃ/, and the /w/ is pronounced. Sometimes both /tʃ/ and /dʒ/ are possible - the mainstream pronunciation for Sandwich (Kent) and Norwich are with with /dʒ/ but I think /tʃ/ is not unacceptable. And in the non-British Norwiches (Canada, US), I suspect the /w/ is also pronounced and the /tʃ/ mainstream!

    There is a wikipedia article on Wich towns that might be of interest.
    In Anglo-Saxon England the "-wich towns" designated by the suffix -wic identified coastal trading settlements, equivalents of emporia, provisioned from outside the protected community and characterised by extensive artisanal activity and imports, which have left material traces in excavations. The Anglo-Saxon wic signifies a dwelling place or fortified place. The wic form appears to give two endings, wich and wick (for example Papplewick in Nottinghamshire). Four are known through archaeological excavation, two on waterfront sites outside London (see Lundenwic) and York (see Jorvik) the others at Hamwic (Southampton), occupied from the end of the seventh century to the mid-ninth century, and Ipswich.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I think the "Normandic" was a misunderstanding of the word "Norse" used in post #3.

    Norse means it came from the area currently know (approximately) as Scandinavia. Normandy is a long way away, being part of western France.
    Yes, JS is right. The Norse language spoken by Norsemen and Norman French spoken by the Normans​ are different languages, although Normans and Norsemen (both words mean North men) are distant relatives - the Normans are the Norsemen who settled in France!
    Thanks. Yes, it should have been "Norman".
    I think those invasions of Britain by Scandinavians, French and others that as I understood gave rise to the Norse -vic having become part of British place names are collectively referred to as "Norman conquest of Britain". I may be wrong, though.
    The Norman conquest was in 1066, and the Normans were French speakers as mentioned above - they were no longer Norse speakers.
     
    Last edited:

    Sarden

    New Member
    Normans and Norsemen (both words mean North men) are distant relatives - the Normans are the Norsemen who settled in France!
    A little more than distant, I would say. The same Scandinavians/Vikings, especially Danes, essentially conquered territory in Eastern Britain and Northern France around the same time: late 9th century and through the 10th century. As you say, "Norsemen" and "Normans" are essentially the same words - men from the north. The Normans in France came from Scandinavia, but Anglo-Danes from "Danelaw" across the channel in Britain were also part of the invading "Norse" forces in Northern France. Eventually, in 911, Rollo (presumed Danish) established the Duchy of Normandy which expanded in the coming decades.

    The King of England was Danish up until 1042, but it is true that when the Normans invaded England in 1066, they no longer spoke Norse, so they probably wouldn't have felt a strong connection with their biological relatives in England. And in 1069 they actually fought each other when a Danish king defeated the Norman garrison at York.
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    << Mod note: This and the following 3 posts have been moved from: football fan
    where they were off-topic. >>


    The 'c' of 'City' is capitalised for a reason: 'Norwich City' is the name of the team. Norwich, the city, would never normally have 'city' appended in everyday speech.

    PS. It rhymes with 'porridge', the 'w' is silent.
    Is that a sort of dialect, or standard British English. I am pretty confident an American English speaker would say Norwich to sound like "Nor-Witch".
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    Susan Y

    Senior Member
    British English
    Dadane means that Norwich, the city in Eastern England, is pronounced as "Norritch" (doesn't quite rhyme with porridge for me, but close). This is the correct pronunciation for that place. No doubt there are other places in the world also called Norwich but pronounced differently. There's not much logic in proper nouns!
     

    dadane

    Senior Member
    English (London/Essex)
    No, that's the standard BE version. The local pronunciation is extremely hard to explain, but even there the 'w' is so unstressed you'd never hear it.

    A London equivalent would be 'Southwark', there is no 'w'... I only mention this because I have witnessed an American trying to get directions to "South - Wark" and getting very blank looks.

    Cross-posted. PS. It's definitely 'idge' not 'itch' to me. What is your native dialect Susan, I'm curious?
     
    Last edited:

    Susan Y

    Senior Member
    British English
    No, that's the standard BE version. The local pronunciation is extremely hard to explain, but even there the 'w' is so unstressed you'd never hear it.


    Cross-posted. PS. It's definitely 'idge' not 'itch' to me. What is your native dialect Susan, I'm curious?
    Hi, Dadane. I would say I speak RP - no particular dialect . I did spend some of my childhood in East Anglia, though, and so was forced to follow the fortunes of the Canaries (Norwich City) - so it's not that I haven't heard Norwich said much...

    I note that Wikipaedia has the option of either: ˈnɒrɪ/norr-ij, also /ˈnɒrɪ/norr-ich. Yours comes first, so you win! :)
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Thank you! By the way, do you pronounce Norwich as Norwi[ch] or Norwi[k]? ...
    This general question has evolved into a focused discussion of how to pronounce the name of one of the many Norwiches in the world, that in England. It was the original after which all the others were named, but most of the others were named centuries ago and their pronunciation has evolved separately since that time. Of the two in my part of the U.S., Norwich, Connecticut retains (more or less, and allowing for AE-BE pronunciation differences) the original "Norr-itch" pronunciation, but Norwich, Vermont, is usually pronounced "Norr-witch" by locals.
     

    mauricehalton

    New Member
    English - England
    This general question has evolved into a focused discussion of how to pronounce the name of one of the many Norwiches in the world, that in England. It was the original after which all the others were named, but most of the others were named centuries ago and their pronunciation has evolved separately since that time. Of the two in my part of the U.S., Norwich, Connecticut retains (more or less, and allowing for AE-BE pronunciation differences) the original "Norr-itch" pronunciation, but Norwich, Vermont, is usually pronounced "Norr-witch" by locals.
    I live in Horwich near Manchester. The Old English version (hoh hrycg) means 'High Ridge'. It is traditionally pronounced "Horridge". The topography of the area suggests that the name comes from the ridge above a valley, and there is also a Ridge-way which runs just above the tree-line and may have been used since prehistoric times. Anyway, the point is that some place names suffixed 'wich' may be to do with ridges. I believe the spelling depends a lot upon who first wrote it down; Anglo Saxon monk, Norman cleric etc.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    . I am pretty confident an American English speaker would say Norwich to sound like "Nor-Witch".
    You need to read Bill Bryson's The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America. He refers to one of the towns called Norwich in the USA where born-and-bred locals pronounced it the British way and newcomers pronounced it perpend's way. Sorry I can't find the text at the moment.
     

    Luly Legg

    New Member
    British English
    the -wich suffix was originally Norse -vic (now -vik, as in Narvik, Reykjavik, etc. Also compare with Dutch '-wijk') and simply meant "town"/ "settlement" Norwich started as Norvic -> North town. You will find that most of the towns that have the -wich suffix are on the east side of Britain facing the lands of the invading Scandinavians or within their area of influence known as 'The Danelaw'.
    they are not mainly on the east coast - there are lots of places in what is now northwest England ,eg Northwich, Middlewich, Nantwich, Horwich etc which were all in the anglo saxon Mercia. Mercia covered the area from east to west coast of what is now England. There is also Warwick, Droitwich, Greenwich. The word also means a salt spring.The anglo saxons were germanic speakers and predate the Vikings. King Aethelston united the 7 anglo saxon and the North Sea Empire of King Knut united Denmark, Norway & England for a short time, prior to the Norman invasion in 1066
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top