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.'
This overview of the most important Danish settlement names, provides a tool to place names in time. For instance it is now possible to ascertain that Hvessinge must be hundreds of years older than Glostrup although Hvessinge actually is a part of Glostup today.
However, many place names have a form in present time that does not immediately reveal from which words the name was originally formed. Some of these corrupt names look like other name types, and some have passed through independent changes. By examining the oldest written sources, it is often possible to see from which endings those names were formed originally.
Examples of this are Grænge on Lolland, which is an inge-name, and Klinting in Vestern Jutland, which is an um-name. Further to that Maglemer on Lolland is a tved-name, Gislev on Funen is originally formed from one word, and Græsted in Northern Zealand originally ended in ‑holt. In other words, a place name is never sure to consist of the words immediately obvious from the present day spelling.