Settlement names in -um – University of Copenhagen

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

Settlement names in ‑um

Danish place names ending in ‑um are most common in Northern Jutland. They can have one of two origins. Either, they are formed with an ending corresponding to Old Danish ‑hēm, in modern Danish hjem, meaning ‘home,' or, in the case of place names, 'settlement.' Such names include, Uldum and Gislum.

The ending ‑um can also be an original dative plural, preceded previously by a preposition that has caused the inflected form. This is the case with, e.g. Tornum and Husum. The dative plural names have a place marking meaning 'in or by X' where X is the thing the inflected word in the place name is referring to, e.g. Husum means '(in, by) the houses'.

The hēm-names are dated to the period of great migrations (300-600), whereas the dative plural names normally are dated to The Viking Age and the early Middle Ages. It is not always possible to see whether present day's um-names are of one or the other type,but for some of the names, it is possible to make a probable identification. It is, e.g. not very likely that place names containing animal names appear in a dative case, and for that reason a name like Tranum, containing the bird name trane, or ‘crane.' is probably a name formed with the ending ‑hēm.

A few names have a positive interpretation. In a source from 1085, it is visible that, e.g. Smørum is a hēm-name because in this source the name is written Smørhem

In Scania, the old layers of the language are preserved longer than in the more western parts of the medieval Denmark. Therefore, we can be certain that, e.g. the name Åsum is a dative plural because it is written Asum in the oldest Scanian sources. Names formed with the ending ‑hēm can also appear with endings different from ‑um. Amongst those are, e.g. Lem and Græm