Our guest speaker, Mr Watson gave the Mothers’ Union a fascinating talk about the origins of street names. Using his in-depth knowledge he told us…

A street name is an identifying name given to a street or road. In toponymic terminology, names of streets and roads are referred to as odonyms or hodonyms.The street name usually forms part of the address (though addresses in some parts of the world, notably most of Japan, make no reference to street names at all). Odonymy is the study of road names.

Names are often given in a two-part form: an individual name known as the specific, and an indicator of the type of street, known as the generic. Examples are “Main Road”, “Fleet Street” and “Park Avenue”.

However, the type of street stated can sometimes be misleading, for example a street named “Park Avenue” need not have the characteristics of an avenue. Some street names have only one element, such as “The Beeches” or “Boulevard”.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was common when writing a two-part street name (especially in Britain) to link the two parts with a hyphen and not capitalise the generic part (e.g. Broad-street, London-road). This practice has now died out.

A street name can also include a direction (the cardinal points east, west, north, south, or the quadrants NW, NE, SW, SE) especially in cities with a grid-numbering system like New York. Examples include “E Roosevelt Boulevard” and “14th Street NW”. These directions are often used to differentiate two sections of a street. Other qualifiers may be used for that purpose as well.

Hob Lane, Toad Lane, Coffin Lane, Finkle Street. These names originate from Anglo-Saxon, Roman & Viking times.

Piccadilly took its origins from the name of the street in London, which itself is believed to have been named after the piccadill, a large, stiff lace collar popular in the late sixteenth century and likely produced in that area.

Pall Mall was derived from pall-mall, a ball game played there during the 17th century, which in turn is derived from the Italian pallamaglio, literally “ball-mallet”. The area was built up during the reign of Charles II with fashionable London residences.

Soho derives from an English 16th-century hunting cry “so-hoe” when the area was open fields and grazing land. There are also places in the West Midlands, New York and Hong Kong called Soho, but none have the same meaning behind the name. Soho in New York is actually an acronym for South of Houston Street.

Mincing Lane is a corruption of Mynchen Lane, so-called from the tenements held there by the Benedicten mynchens or nuns of the nearby St Helen’s Bishopsgate church (from Minicen, Anglo-Saxon for a nun; minchery, a nunnery).

A fascinating talk through! Thank you Mr Watson!!