Descriptive words on OS maps

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Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   Text © Copyright January 2021, David Hawgood; licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Licence.

This is a work in progress. Through the Geograph discussion forum we are collecting examples of as many descriptive words as possible used on Ordnance Survey maps, and we want examples of others. We have also worked through OS Mastermap Real World Object CatalogueExternal link . This lists anything which can be represented on these maps, as words, abbreviations, symbols or plans. In this article we have selected and illustrated those represented by words.

Note that maps may have changed since the examples were added, so words mentioned may not be on current maps.

Words on maps are of three types.
In this article we intend to list descriptive names, preferably by themselves, but also as part of a distinctive or administrative name - for example "Palace" usually appears with its name such as "St James's Palace". We intend to list under each distinctive word.

Ordnance Survey has lists of origins of place names in Britain in: WelshExternal link ScotsExternal link GaelicExternal link and ScandinavianExternal link . These webpages for each word have a couple of examples of placenames containing it, with grid references. We have added brief notes on most such words to give an English equivalent. Some words have different meanings in different languages, or in different areas of Britain.

Gaelic names are being added to anglicised versions unless there is no space on the map, see Ordnance Survey Gaelic names policyExternal link .

For the Isle of Man, there is Local place names in ManxExternal link indicating which are of Gaelic or Scandinavian origin, also a substantial 1890 book The surnames and place-names of the Isle of ManExternal link . Easier to use, As Manx as the hillsExternal link has a list, 3rd ManxscrapbookExternal link is also useful.

For Orkney, words of Old Norse origin, we have used Orkneyjar - Orkney heritageExternal link.

For Shetland there is Shetland Place Names ProjectExternal link. It says names "reflect our strong Norse heritage, with subsequent Scottish and English influences."

We have also used Archi Maps UKExternal link in which website you can enter a word or part-word and be given place names in Britain containing it. By subscription, this website has much more information on archaeological sites.

If possible we will give a link to a Geograph photograph of a feature, but until we have one we may give the grid reference at which there is an example.

Many of the words are the expansions shown in Ordnance Survey Abbreviations. Many objects are represented by symbols on 25K and 50K scale maps, with names on 10K maps.

Tourist features have a symbol and blue wording on 25K, wording on blue background on 50K. Water features have blue lettering, this is noted on some examples in this article.

Historical and archaeological features have Gothic wording if non-Roman (before or after the Romans), Sans serif wording for Roman. In this article "non-Roman" may also be described as "historic".

We will refer to map versions by the scale of the corresponding Ordnance Survey paper maps. Discovery maps 1:50,000 (50K), Explorer maps 1:25,000 (25K). LandPlan or VectorMap Local are digital, versions can be printed at scales from 1:3000 to 1:20,000, most often 1:10,000, and we will refer to these as 10K. Most words on 25K maps are also on larger scale maps, so we only note them as 25K.

On each Geograph photo page there is a map under the photo. This map is a section of 50K scale map from about 2008. Clicking on the map opens a new window with a section of current 25K map. On a zooming bar, clicking the + sign first enlarges the 25K map, then displays a 10K Landplan, then about 1:5000 with extra names and water features but the same plan. From the 25K map, clicking the - sign displays a current 50K map, then to progressively smaller scales including 1:250,000 Road Map. The 25K and 50K maps make extensive use of symbols, and show tourist information.


Introduction to words on maps, and scales, is above
AbattoirST6879 : Entrance to the abattoir and Westerleigh Railheadon 25,50K
AbbeyTQ3079 : Westminster Abbey, LondonWith Abbey/cathedral symbol on 25K, World Heritage symbol on 50K
Abbey GroundsSP0202 : Abbey Grounds, Cirencesteron 25K
AberSH6172 : The beach at Aber Ogwenon 25K, Welsh, where river meets sea
AbhainnNM3697 : Abhainn Sgathaigon 50K, Gaelic, river
AcademyNY3584 : Langholm Academyon 25K
AcarsaidNM0847 : Carrie Anne at the jetty in Acarsaid an Duinon 50K, Gaelic, anchorage, harbour; also as Acairseid NG5600 : Houses at Acairseid an Rubha
AccommodationSJ9382 : Moggie Lane, Poyntonon 25K "Accommodation Cottages" built for miners
AchNC3762 : Allt Ach a' Chorrainon 50K, Gaelic, field etc, shortened from Achadh
AchadhNN0055 : Achadh nan Darachon 50K, Gaelic, field, agricultural holding
Activity CentreSD9036 : Coldwell Activity Centreon 25,50K
Admiralty Distance PolesNT8869 : The west-north Admiralty Distance Pole on Oatlee Hillon 25K
Adventure ActivitiesSD7912 : Burrs Activity Centreon 25K Tourist site
AditNZ6620 : Long Acres Mine Drifton 10K, horizontal access passage to mine
AerodromeNG7933 : Plockton Aerodromeon 25K
AfonSH6572 : Afon Aberon 25K, Welsh river
Agricultural CentreNJ7718 : Thainstone Agricultural Centreon 25,50K
Agricultural CollegeTL6707 : Writtle Agricultural College, Essexon 25,50K
AibhneNC5944 : Lon Achadh na h-Aibhneon 50K, Gaelic, river, as Abhainn
AifrinnNH4845 : Burn beside the trackon 25K, Gaelic from Aifrean, church land
AileanNB3022 : Peat Bog near Baile Aileanon 50K, Gaelic, enclosure, meadow
AiodNN0858 : Alltan Mhic Aoidhon 50K, Gaelic, neck of land
Air ShaftTR3243 : Ventilation shaft near Gustonon 50K
Air terminalNF6905 : Barra Airport Terminal Buildingon 25,50K by the beach airfield on Barra
AirdNC7564 : Mulloch an Àird on 50K, Gaelic, hill, promontory
AirdeNM4753 : 'S Airde Beinnon 50K, Gaelic, hill, from Aird
Airfield (disused)NJ2665 : RAF Milltownon 25,50K
AirfieldNO4998 : Gliding Competition at Aboyne Airfieldon 50K
AirfieldTG2339 : Northrepps Airfieldon 25K Airstrip on 50K
AirighNB5358 : Ruined shieling, Cuidhsiadar, Isle of Lewison 50K, Gaelic, sheiling
AirportSV9110 : St Mary's Airporton 25,50K
AirshaftSK3380 : Bradway Tunnel Air Shafton 25K
AirstripTQ1761 : Air strip, Rushett Farmon 50K, Air Strip on 25K
AiseigNG2197 : End of the Road at Aird an Aiseigon 50K, Gaelic, ferry
AisirNN1844 : Coire Chaorachon 25K, Gaelic, pass
Aisled HouseNF7320 : Aisled Houseon 25,50K Non-Roman
AisreNG7708 : Coire na h-Aisreon 50K, Gaelic from Aisir, pass
AisridhNM8978 : Ridge - An Aisridh Mhòron 25K, Gaelic, hill
AitTQ1877 : Brentford Aiton 10K
AlltNN1870 : Allt Coire Giubhsachanon 50K, Gaelic, stream
AlltanNC5167 : Alltan Riabhachon 50K, Gaelic, small stream
AlmshousesTL9863 : Almshouseson 25,50K Non-Roman
Aluminium worksNN1275 : Aluminium smelter, Fort Williamon 50K
AmarNN4171 : Amar Srath Ossianon 50K, Gaelic, trough
AmairNJ1443 : Lonesome Pine by Allt an Amairon 25K, Gaelic from Amar, trough
AMPHITHEATREST3390 : Roman Amphitheatre, Caerleonon 25,50K Tourist site, Roman
Amusement parkSO8071 : Danters Riverside Amusement Parkon 10K
Animal sanctuaryST2707 : Ferne Animal Sanctuaryon 50K Tourist site.
AnnaidNG4198 : Airighean na h-Annaid on Garbh Eilean, the Shiantson 50K, Gaelic, early church or church land
Anti-tank BlocksSN4104 : World War 2 defenceson 25K
AodainnNM9098 : Bare rock, Beinn an Aodainnon 50K, Gaelic from Aodann, (rock) face
AodannNM9982 : Aodann Chlèireigon 50K, Gaelic, (rock) face
AoidheNR9071 : Caisteal Aoidheon 25K, Gaelic, neck of land
AoineadhNM6451 : Aoineadh Mòron 50K, Gaelic, morraine, steep crags
AonachNN4574 : Aonach Beagon 50K, Gaelic, hill, plateau
ApiaryNO7299 : 'The Apiary'on 25K
Approach lightsHY4708 : Approach lights, Kirkwall Airporton 10K at HY469082
AquariumSZ0890 : Bournemouth Oceanariumon 25,50K Tourist feature
Aquatic CentreNZ3958 : Sunderland Aquatic Centreon 10K
AqueductSY0783 : Aqueduct, East Budleighon 25K, on 50K in blue letters see NN7358 : Footbridge over Tummel Bridge aqueduct
ArboretumSC2781 : The Arboretum at St.John'son 50K Tourist site
ArchNM4918 : Carsaig Archeson 25,50K
ArdSC4689 : Cashtal yn Ardon 50K, heights in Manx Gaelic
Area of Shake HolesSD9970 : Line of shake holeson 25K There are other 'Area of' entries
Arena NS6163 : Emirates Arena, GlasgowOn 25K, Sorts Arena and Velodrome
ArsenalTQ4378 : Woolwich Arsenal Stationon 50K, near former arsenal
Art gallerySJ8495 : Whitworth Park and Art Galleryon 50K
Artillery RangeSR9295 : Abandoned Farm Buildings, Artillery Range, Flimstonon 25,50K
Arts centreHY2509 : Pier Arts Centre, Stromnesson 25K Tourist site
AshSU4575 : Towards "Ash"on 25K A single tree on a parish boundary
Ash lagoonNT0085 : Valleyfield ash lagoonson 25K, ash from power station
AssartSK5869 : Assarts Farm (Meden Vale)on 50K, farmland from woodland clearance
Assault Courseat TL810851on 50K at 2008, changed later
Astronomy CentreNX4039 : Craiglemine Cottageon 25K
AthNM6673 : Ath a' Chaolaison 25K, Gaelic, ford
Attraction SO9192 : Brockswood Animal Sanctuaryon 25K as Farm Attraction
AuchNN3235 : Bridge of Auchon 50K, anglicised from Gaelic Achadh, field
Auction GroundTL3994 : Gated entrance to the auction groundon 25,50K
Auction martSD9751 : Skipton Auction Marton 25K
AultNH6742 : The Ault Na Skiahon 25K, anglicised from Gaelic Allt, stream
Avalanche ShelterNG9137 : The avalanche shelters on Lochcarron to Kyle of Lochalsh roadon 25,50K
AvenueNS5574 : Birch trees, Dougalston Avenueon 10K, tree-lined street
AyreHU3677 : Gluss Ayreon 10K, Scandinavian origin, shingle beach can form dam, Orkney & Shetland, also Isle of Man NX4303 : The Ayres Beach

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