Edinburgh - Etymology


The name "Edinburgh" appears to derive from the Celtic British place name Eidyn, mentioned in a number of medieval Welsh sources. Kenneth H. Jackson argued strongly that "Eidyn" referred exclusively to the location of modern Edinburgh, but others, such as Ifor Williams and Nora K. Chadwick, suggest it applied to the wider area as well. The name "Eidyn" may survive today in other toponyms, such as Dunedin and Carriden (from Caer Eidyn), fifteen miles to the west.

Present-day Edinburgh was the location of Din Eidyn, a dun or hillfort associated with the kingdom of the Gododdin. The modern Scottish Gaelic name "Dùn Eideann" derives directly from the British Din Eidyn; the English and Scots forms are similar, adding the element -burgh, from the Old English burh, also meaning fort. Some sources claim Edinburgh's name is derived from an Old English form such as Edwinesburh, in reference to the 7th century king Edwin of Northumbria. However, modern scholarship refutes this, as the form Eidyn predates Edwin. Stuart Harris in his, "The Place Names of Edinburgh", declares the "Edwinesburh" form to be a "palpable fake."

The first evidence of the existence of the town as a separate entity from the fort lies in an early-12th-century royal charter, generally thought to date from 1124, by King David I granting land to the Church of the Holy Rood of Edinburgh. This suggests that the town came into official existence between 1018 (when King Malcolm II secured the Lothians from the Northumbrians) and 1124. By the 1170s, King William the Lion was using the name "Edenesburch" in a charter (in Latin) confirming the 1124 grant of David I.

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