Place name of the week: Dunfermline - Dùn Phàrlain

Dunfermline town centre. While the first part of the town name is Gaelic, the rest is not so clear.

Dunfermline town centre. While the first part of the town name is Gaelic, the rest is not so clear.

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The name of this town (Dunfermelin in 1128) is of obscure origin. Whilst the first element is clearly Gaelic dùn ‘fort’, the meaning of the rest of the name is a matter of debate, as is the exact location of the fort.

As with several places in Fife, the Gaelic form was known by Gaelic speakers outside the area long after Gaelic was no longer productive in Fife. The name is recorded in Gaelic in 1699 as Dynfarmlyn written in Welsh orthography.

The modern Gaelic form Dùn Phàrlain appears to date from the 19th century and is a reinterpretation of the name as if it meant ‘Pàrlan’s fort’. Pàrlan is a Gaelic personal name from Old Gaelic Partholon; it is often anglicised as Bartholomew, although the two names are unrelated. The personal name also appears in the surname MacFarlane from Gaelic MacPhàrlain ‘the son of Pàrlan’.

For more information on this name visit Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba

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