Ley (toponymy)

The suffix ley in a place name is usually taken to mean a clearing or an area of open ground.

The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire (1910) by F.W Moorman:

Occurs in Allwoodley, Armley, Auckley, Austonley, Azerley, Barnsley, Batley, Beamsley, Bentley, Bewerley, Bierley, Billingley, Bingley, Bordley, Bradley, Bramley, Brierley, Burley, Calverley, Cantley, Castley, Cononley, Cottingley, Drebley, Emley, Farnley, Farsley, Frickley, Grantley, Guiseley, Headingley, Heindley, Honley, Ilkley, Keighley, Kinsley, Knottingley, Leathley, Lindley, Methley, Midgley, Morley, Otley, Pilley, Ripley, Sawley, Shelley, Shepley, Shipley, Stainley, Stanley, Staveley, Studley, Tankersley, Ulley, Utley, Wadsley, Warley, Weardley, Wheatley, Whitley, Whixley, Wickersley, Winksley, Womersley, Woolley, Wortley; also in the more primitive forms of Adel, Barlow, Bawtry, Cattal, Healaugh, Idle, Nostell; perhaps, also, in Painley and Timble. The word is from O.E. léah, which, in its turn, is cognate to Lat. lucus = a grove, and is apparently from the same root as Lat. lux = light. The connection of the word with the idea of light makes it probable that its original meaning was 'a clearing,' a piece of land cleared of trees or scrub and made ready for cultivation. The word is used in O.E. for a tract of open ground, either pasture or arable land, and appears in this sense in most of the above place-names. As Prof. Skeat, and the editors of the N.E.D. have pointed out, the meaning of the word has been modified through its association with the word 'lease' = O.E. lǽs, pasture, meadowland.


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