I know that Sussex and Middlesex are in England. It looks to me as if there is a pattern in names.

What does the suffix -sex mean? Where does it come from?


2 Answers 2


The -sex suffix is from Anglo-Saxon / Old English, with the actual meaning being "Saxon".

  • Sussex is essentially "South Saxon".
  • Middlesex is "Middle Saxon".
  • Essex is "East Saxon".
  • Wessex is "West Saxon".​​​​​​​

Most of the wiki pages for these places will have the toponymy definition.

  • 13
    There seems to be one missing... Is there a.. hmm.. "Nosex"? ;)
    – Izkata
    Aug 16, 2013 at 16:44
  • 7
    @Izkata The Seaxe settled on the south coast, not in the north. However, there are county names on the east coast (in East Anglia, settled by Angles) which distinguish north and south populations: Norfolk and Suffolk. Aug 16, 2013 at 18:21
  • @StoneyB Unless "Saxon" means "coast" (does it?), I don't see how that's relevant to my joke/comment...
    – Izkata
    Aug 16, 2013 at 20:02
  • 2
    @Izkata: Because of the shape of England, the Saxon area had a south, centre, east and west, but no specific north; the closest equivalent was called East Anglia due to the close connection between Angles and Saxons. Aug 16, 2013 at 22:11
  • 3
    @TimLymington, that doesn’t really make sense. Even if the Saxons were spread out in an entirely V-shaped area, the ones at the top of the ‘fingers’ of the V would still be the northernmost Saxons. Any geographical distribution will always have a bit that can be considered ‘north’. It’s just that the Saxons didn’t utilise that possibility when place-naming. Aug 17, 2013 at 2:11

The suffix originates from the word Saxon, which is derived from the German state of Saxony

  • 9
    Surely the other way round. Saxony is derived in the same way as Essex etc from the Saxon tribe
    – mmmmmm
    Aug 16, 2013 at 17:29
  • 3
    Yes, the name of the German state of Saxony derives from the name of the Germanic tribe of the Saxons. It was a confederation of Angles and Saxons who settled in Britain and incidentally helped create the basis for English. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Saxony Aug 16, 2013 at 21:24

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.