Settlement names in -by – University of Copenhagen

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Names in Denmark > Place-names > Common place-name types > Names in -by

 

Settlement names ending in ‑by

Place names with the ending ‑by are well-known in Denmark, e.g. Valby and Næsby. The word by originally had the meaning 'place to live.' In Danish, though, the meaning must have turned into 'village' very early because it is extremely rare to find single farms with names in ‑by in Denmark.

There are a great number of settlement names in ‑by of Danish origin in the Danelaw. Therefore, this name type must have been very productive during the Viking Age. A few of the by-names has first elements consisting of words that disappeared from the Danish language very early. These names must, therefore, predate the Viking Age. Names with the ending ‑by were still formed in the Middle Ages, and it is actually still possible to use this ending in new place names today.

Most of the by-names that have first elements designating relative age or situation belong to the young part of the by-names, formed in the end of the Middle Ages, maybe later. This includes Nyby 'new village,' Gammelby 'old village,' and Nørreby 'northern village.'