The significance of the place-name element *funta in the early middle ages.

  • Jillian Patricia Hawkins

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The Old English place-name element *funta derives from Late Latin fontāna, “spring”, and is found today in 21 place-names in England. It is one of a small group of such Latin-derived elements, which testify to a strand of linguistic continuity between Roman Britain and early Anglo-Saxon England. *funta has never previously been the subject of this type of detailed study.
The continued use of the element indicates that it had a special significance in the interaction, during the fifth and sixth centuries, between speakers of British Latin and speakers of Old English, and this study sets out to assess this significance by examining the composition of each name and the area around each *funta site. Any combined element is always Old English. The distribution of the element is in the central part of the south-east lowland region of England. It does not occur in East Anglia, East Kent, west of Warwickshire or mid-Wiltshire or north of Peterborough. Seven of the places whose names contain the element occur singly, the remaining fourteen appearing to lie in groups.

The areas where *funta names occur may also have other pre-English names close by. All have evidence of rural agricultural or industrial activity in late Roman times, and were accessible overland. Some have cemetery or settlement evidence of early Anglo-Saxon presence. Twelve *funta names are mentioned in Domesday. Evidence from place-names, charters and archaeological excavation shows that *funta sites usually lay between or within areas of continued British, and early Anglo-Saxon, presence.
This accumulated evidence suggests that a place whose name contains the element *funta may have been a meeting-place at a spring of indigenous and incoming people in this period, probably to agree separate or, more rarely joint, territory. Thus the significance of the element may relate to a local early boundary agreement.
Date of Award16 Jan 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorBarbara Yorke (Supervisor) & Nick Stoodley (Supervisor)

Cite this

The significance of the place-name element *funta in the early middle ages.
Hawkins, J. P. (Author). 16 Jan 2012

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis