Sunday, 27 October 2013

Sea-related etymologies - What is a 'Combe'?

From Combe Martin to Woolacombe – what is a ‘Combe’?

In my last blog post (a while ago now), I talked about how coastal features got their names. So I am continuing the sea-related word origins and thought I’d do a quick post on the etymology/origin of the word ‘Combe’ that features in many place names, usually in southern England.

‘Combe’ (variants ‘coomb’, ‘cumb’ and in Welsh ‘cwm’) refers to a deep narrow valley or hollow in a hillside or coastline, and this valley may have a stream or river that runs into the sea. The word is probably of Celtic/Old English origin, originating from ‘cumb’ which predates the twelfth century.

Many places have ‘combe’ in their name –Ilfracombe, Woolacombe, Combe Martin and Parracombe are places along a short stretch of the north Devon coast.

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