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I visited darkest Devon recently, and happened to pass through a couple of places named "Week". On studying the map I found several others, such as James Week, Mary Week, Chawleigh Week, and so on.

Does "Week" had a special meaning in place names, and if so, what is it?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

I believe it means a "specialised farm" in most of the uses in Devon. From the Old English wic, which just means a settlement, village or dwelling.

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Here's a link that seems to corroborate this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weeks_(surname)#Derivation – Kosmonaut Dec 12 '10 at 22:59
@Kosmonaut: Thanks for that. The second derivation listed there, a variant of Wick, is the one in question. Note it talks of an outlying farm or works. – Orbling Dec 12 '10 at 23:17
This -wic is also the same root that gives us Norwich and Sandwich, etc. When I took Old English we were taught to pronounce it with the "ch" sound. It varied, though: the city of York used to be called Eoforwic, pronounced something like "Ayowvorwick" — how they got to York would make an interesting study in itself. – Robusto Dec 13 '10 at 2:22
In Old English generally, 'c' before or after front-vowels tended to palatalise to (the sound we now write) 'ch', as in many other languages. In the Danelaw (North and East England), there was an influx of Danish words which were often very similar to the English ones, but did not have this palatalisation. So "kirk" vs "cirice" (=> "church") and "skirt" vs "shirt". "Vik" is seen in many Scandinavian (and Icelandic) names still. Why the vowel was lengthened in the Southwest I don't know. – Colin Fine Dec 13 '10 at 14:54
"York" has a very interesting history. Celtic "Eborac(on)" (from a root meaning "thorn-tree", IIRC) was folk-etymologised by the Anglo-Saxons to "Eoforwic" = "Boar-stead". That name was borrowed by the Danes, who rendered the English "wic" as their "vik" as elsewhere, but couldn't make any sense of the "Eofor", so it came out as "Jorvik" (where the "J" is pronounced "y"). In time this got reduced to York. – Colin Fine Dec 13 '10 at 14:58

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