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Scottish Place-names


round-topped hills

The Scottish National Dictionary stub article for dod noun(4) 'a bare hill with a rounded top' contains a single quotation dated 1715, which states that 'Hills are variously named, according to their magnitude as Law…Dod'. There is also a note stating that the element is also found in the Midlothian place-name Broundod, dated 1336-37. There is no equivalent entry in A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue. This is perhaps somewhat surprising, given that there are in fact dozens of hill-names containing this element across the former counties of Berwickshire, Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire, Dumfriesshire, Galloway, Peeblesshire, Lanarkshire, Stirlingshire, Renfrewshire, the Lothians, Fife and Angus, many of which have historical forms on record throughout the Older Scots period. Modern examples include Big Dod, Black Dod, Brown Dod, Mossy Dod, Muckle Dod, Nether Dod, Upper Dod, White Dod, Windy Dod, together with Dod Fell, Dod Hill, Dod Law, Dod Rig and various instances of Dod, Dods and The Dod.

The earliest record is Brunemore super dod, 1165-75 [LSMM] referring to a moor near Dod in Roxburghshire.1 Other early records include the aforementioned Midlothian example, the now lost Broundod 1336-37 [Bain],2 and another lost Broundod name in Fife which was recorded as Brountod 1529 [RMS] and Broundod 1540 [RMS]. In Berwickshire, Dodhouse was recorded as Dodhous in 1509 [RMS], and Dods was recorded as Dodis in 1525-26 [RMS] and as Doddis in 1558 [RMS]. In Roxburghshire, there are records of Dodburne in 1569 [RPC], Dodrig in 1574 [RPC],3 and Dodhill in 1587 [RMS]. In Angus, the Dod is recorded in 1580-81 [RMS], and evidence for East Lothian includes Bentydod, which was 'Beltoun Dod alias Bentidiod' in 1660 [RMS] and as 'Bertindod alias Bentidod' 1667 [RMS]. Bentydod also appears on the Blaeu Atlas (published 1654), together with further examples including Dodhead in Selkirkshire, and Dodhouse, Dods and Dodds in Berwickshire. These toponymic records provide clear evidence that the word can be ante-dated in Scots by more than 500 years, and also demonstrate that it had a widespread geographic range.

The term is also found in names across the border in northern England, where it was first recorded in the name Restdode (now Rest Dodd) in the former county of Westmorland in the late twelfth century.4 However, dod is not attested in the Oxford English Dictionary until 1843, where it is defined as 'a rounded summit or eminence, either as a separate hill, or more frequently a lower summit or distinct shoulder or boss of a hill'. The latter part of this definition is pertinent when revaluating the interpretation of the word within Scotland. Not all of the Scottish instances refer to distinct hills with rounded tops, and it seems that a secondary meaning of 'a (rounded) lump or chunk on a larger hill' ought to be added alongside the original definition given by the Scottish National Dictionary. Additionally, examples in the historical records such as 'the lands of Dods' recorded in Forfarshire in 1653 [RMS] and as 'the four acres called Dod' mentioned in East Lothian in 1658 [RMS] may provide evidence that the meaning of dod could potentially extend as far as 'a chunk of land (detached from a larger piece)'.

In this context, it is perhaps worth re-examining another Scottish National Dictionary entry, namely dad, daud, dawd, dadd(e), daad, dod noun(2). This entry contains various senses including 'a heavy blow, a knock or thump, a thud' and 'a clapping of the hands', which have a clear connection to the related dad verb(1) 'to strike...to beat or throw with violence...to dash or thump about...etc'. However, there is a further sense given for the noun: 'a large piece knocked off, a lump of any solid matter' which is first attested in 1721 in the proverb 'Raw Dawds make fat Lads'. Whilst this sense might indeed constitute an extended meaning of 'a blow, a thump', it may also be worth considering whether the various rounded lumps and detached chunks described both within the sense itself and also in the numerous additions included in the second supplement, wouldn't find a more satisfactory home amongst the rounded hills of dod noun(4).

Alison Grant

1 Williamson, The Non-Celtic Place-Names of the Scottish Border Counties (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, 1942), p. 255
2 Dixon, The PlaceNames of Midlothian (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, 1947), p. 193
3 Williamson, The Non-Celtic Place-Names of the Scottish Border Counties (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, 1942), p. 264
4 Smith, The Place-Names of Westmorland, Vol. II, p. 217

BAIN Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland preserved in Her Majesty's Public Record Office (1108-1509) 4 vols, 1881-1888
LSMM Liber Sancte Marie de Melros, 2 vols, Bannatyne Club, 1837
RMS Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum (1306-1668), 11 vols
RPC Register of the Privy Council of Scotland (1545-1689), Series 1, 2, 3: 36 vols