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?


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.

  • 12
    There seems to be one missing... Is there a.. hmm.. "Nosex"? ;) – Izkata Aug 16 '13 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. – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 16 '13 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 '13 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. – Tim Lymington Aug 16 '13 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. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 17 '13 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 '13 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 – Cyberherbalist Aug 16 '13 at 21:24

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