Pictish place names

Gaelic, Norse, Brittonic? A look into the history and origins of place names around our area

Loch Migdale © Silvia Muras

The consensus amongst scholars is that Pictish is a P-Celtic language related to Welsh, as opposed to Scottish Gaelic, which is a Q-Celtic language, although both come from an Early Celtic language. Pictish place names are rare but some of the most northerly examples are within our area.

Migdale –from the Pictish mig– has been translated as ‘moist valley’ or ‘water meadow’.

Kincardine is a combination of the old Scottish Gaelic cenn, ‘head’, and the Pictish carden, that can be translated as ‘thicket’ or perhaps ‘enclosure’.

Oykel has an unclear Pictish origin. It is speculated it may come from og, ‘lively’ and ell, ‘small’, a suffix found in many Welsh river names. Or perhaps from ogel, ‘ridge’, although the river is too long to be named after a local feature such as a promontory. Finally, it may derive from uchel, ‘high’, although it flows “low” into the North Sea and there isn’t a lower river nearby to justify such an adjective. The norse called it Ekkjall.

by silvia muras

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