Settlement names ending in -toft and -tofte
A number of Danish settlement names end in the word ‑toft, e.g. names such as Ebeltoft and Gentofte. The ending appears either in the singular ‑toft or in the plural ‑tofte; however, in Jutland dialects today, the plural and the singular both have the form ‑toft.
In Old Danish and as an ending in place names, toft means 'area withheld from the common village community,' but as early as the Middle Ages, the specialized meaning 'area to be used for the individual villager's houses and kitchen garden and withheld from the village community' is found.
The toft(e)-names date back to the Viking age. This is confirmed by the fact that the Danes brought this name type with them to the Danelaw and Normandy. A few of the Danish settlement names in ‑toft(e) are formed with words relating to Christianity, e.g. Munktoft 'the monks toft' and Bistoft 'bishop's toft;' this means that some of the toft(e)-names must be dated to the early Middle Ages.
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.