Place and name help-notes

On the left hand side of the screen you will see all spatial and physical information about this place – its co-ordinates, a broad categorisation of the kind of site it is (settlement, ecclesiastical – there can be more than one), and a prose description. Relationships with other places are also given. For example Kilblane (former parish), Southend, Kintyre 'is within' Southend, modern parish, Kintyre. Both of these parishes 'contain' a number of places. All these related places can be reached on a click.

The description of a place often draws from Canmore, the database of sites created by the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (now HS/RCAHMS). If a Canmore ID number is given you can paste it into the search box reached by following a link to

On the right there is information about all the different names by which this place has been known (the head-names) in upper-case, and historic forms of these names in lower case. Often there will be only one head-name.

The date given beside the historic form is the probable earliest date of the source in which the name is found. A full range of dates, plus other information such as notes on the context of the name in its source, can be reached on clicking the historic form.

The historic form

  • 'historic form'

    This is the name under scrutiny.

  • 'head name'

    The historic form is a version of this name.

  • 'place'

    The head name, and any historic forms, label this geographical location.

  • 'certainty that this name applies to this place'

    The options here are 'certain', 'possible' and 'probable'. There are various reasons for not being sure if a name has been linked to the correct place. For example, the form might be too distorted for it to be obvious which name it is a version of, or the name might be transparent but it is not clear which of several places of the same name is meant. For example, in the case of Kilmichael in Argyll, a form Kelmikhel probably refers to the settlement of Kilmichael where the parish church of Glassary now is, but there are two other Kilmichaels in the parish of Glassary and it is not certain that this reference is not to one of these. Uncertainty also arises when the same name – Kilmartin, for instance – has been used for several objects: a settlement, a church and a parish. Context usually shows which object is meant, but not always.

  • 'source'

    This is where the historic form is cited.

  • 'date of citation'

    The two dates given here mark the earliest and latest probable dates for the citation of the name.

  • The head-name

    • 'head name'

      This is the name under scrutiny.

    • 'place'

      This is the geographical location which the head-name labels.

    • 'certainty that this name applies to this place'

      For OS forms this will be certain. The other two options – 'probable' and 'possible' – are employed when a name has been attached to a specific location without the evidence for the link being secure. An example is St Eunan's Well, Forglen. MacKinlay, in 1914, stated that this name was applied to a well near St Eunan's Chapel, but the only well now known near the chapel is called Chapel Well. It is probable that Chapel Well marks the site of the well reported by MacKinlay, but this cannot be stated as certain.

      Note that the rating can be 'certain' even when the exact location of a place is unknown, provided the spatial parameters are wide. For example it is 'certain' that Kildomongart is located in a vague area of Glassary Parish between Loch Awe and Loch Fyne.

    • 'the status of this name is'

      The options are

      • Current: The name is in current usage
      • Hypothetical: There are several reasons for a name to be tagged hypothetical: its orthography might not be attested ie this is a form reconstructed from one or more historic forms of the name; it might be known with this orthography but with (or without) an affix or qualifying word (Cnoc Bad Mhartein is attested, but Bad Mhartein is not though its existence is strongly implied by Cnoc Bad Mhartein); it might be a name which is in use but only with a different function (Kildavie is in use as a settlement name, for example, but not as the name of an ecclesiastical object). All names flagged hypothetical can be assumed to be obsolete
      • Obsolete: The name is no longer in use. All historic forms are obsolete.
    • 'is this a current OS form'

      Any name appearing on the OS Explorer, or on either of the two larger scale maps given Digimap web-site ( are counted as current OS names. Note, however, that a name is only counted as a current OS name if it is current in the form and use observed on the OS map. Abbey St Bathans is a current OS name as a name for a settlement, but not as the name of a parish and not as the name of an ecclesiastical object.

    • 'is this the original referent of the name?'

      In many cases a name has been transferred from the object it originally labelled, to a different object. For example Tobermory was originally the name of a well ('the well of Mary') but it now names a settlement. Thus when the name Tobermory is linked to the settlement the answer to this question will be 'no'.

    • 'is the association of this name to this object hypothetical'

      The answer to this will be 'yes' only if the status of the name is hypothetical (see above). A 'yes' reveals that the name's hypothetical status derives from the name being unattested in association with the place. For example, we know that Kildavie is used for a settlement but though we might suppose that it was used for an ecclesiastical object we do not know for certain that this was the case. The association between the name Kildavie and an ecclesiastical object is therefore hypothetical.

      If the status of the place name is hypothetical, and this association between name and object is not hypothetical, then it can be assumed that the name's status as hypothetical derives from its unattested orthography.

    Saints in this place-name

    Every hagiotoponym will have a non-specific saint attached to it (see methodology: the structure of the database: saints). If it is possible to be more specific another saint might be attached too. For example, Kilmahumaig in N. Knapdale will be associated with a non-specific saint in the Colum / Colman cluster, but because there is external evidence to suggest the presence of Colum Cille here, the place-name will also be linked with that saint.


    Columb, Colmán, Commán, Mo Cholmóc, Mo Chommóc, Mo Chumma etc (ns) (certain)

    Columb Cille m. Feidlimid (probable)

    Relationships with other place-names

    A place-name can have any of the following relationships with another name. It can have any number of relationships.


    When a document states x vel y, or x alias y, then the two will be related as aliases. A place-name and its nick-name would also be stated to be aliases eg Edinburgh / Auld Reekie. Alias relationships occur only between head-names and are used only when it is known that the two names were in use at the same time.

    Articled form of / Non-articled form of

    Name contains / Name is part of

    Derives from / Is source of

    eg. When the name of a church has given rise to that of a settlement e.g. Kilmartin.

    Formerly called / Now called

    This only applies when the order in which place-names have been used is known. It links two head-names attached to a single place.

    Has historic form / Is historic form of


    This is used when names are exact equivalents in different languages