Wham (toponymy)

A wham is usually taken to mean either an angular or sloping feature in the landscape — such as a valley — or a marshy hollow.

The etymology is usually from the Old English word hwamm (variants spellings include hwomm, hwemm and hwamm).

According to Lars‐G. Hallander's "Contributions to Old English Lexicography: Hwamm/Hwemm" in English Studies (1970), the word is used in the North of England to note "land in a corner formed by a bend" or a place where two features meet, but may also represent a bend in a geographic feature such as a river. The author goes on to note the following similar words in other languages which appear to share a common ancestry:

  • hvammr — Old West Norse: "small valley"
  • hvammur — Modern Icelandic: "grassy depression in the soil or small valley"
  • kvam — Norwegian: "an out-of-the-way place, a valley or creek, surrounded by high slopes so that it cannot be seen some distance off"
  • hvambec — Swedish: "valley or depression between hills"


The instances in the Huddersfield area are all on higher ground between 1,000 feet and 1,200 feet above sea level.

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