Penyghent or Pen-y-ghent?


NC and NFTFH have Penyghent, whilst OS has Pen-y-ghent. Is there a definitive spelling?

gus horsley

New member
There's no definitive spelling as far as I'm aware.  The older version is Pen-y-ghent which, if you want to be pendantic, is closest to the Welsh "Pen" meaning hill or head, "y" meaning "of" and "ghent" is a bit more obscure and could mean either "border" or "wind", both of which would apply.  It's a bit like Gaping Gill (or is it Ghyll?).


Well-known member
Penyghent has, apparently little to do with Welsh language (although it's often thought to be related). I read somewhere a while ago that the "hill of the winds" meaning is actually wrong as well. (This was written by one of those people who know a great deal about word origins - it might have been David Johnson but I can't remember.) The general principle of following the Ordnance Survey is usually (but not exclusively) the best approach.

It's definitely Gill (not "Ghyll"). The latter was an embellishment attributed to William Wordsworth. Gill has Norse origins and they'd not have spelt it that way - those who could spell in those days that is). Don't use "Ghyll" as it perpetuates a deliberate attempt to corrupt the English language.


Well-known member
gus horsley said:
The older version is Pen-y-ghent

The older spelling is not Pen-y-ghent. That is the more modern spelling.

John Hutton referred to it as Penegent in 1780. The first edition of the Ordnance Survey in 1860 spelled it Pennegent, but it was spelt as Penyghent in the Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales in 1870, and also as Penygent in David and Lees West Yorkshire in 1878.

In 1902 the Ordnance Survey were referring to as Pen y ghent, and by 1945 were spelling it as Pen-y-ghent. They continue to spell it that way.

Personally, I prefer Penyghent.


Well-known member
Further to the older spellings of Penyghent, Eckwall refers to a 1307 spelling of Penegent in the 4th Edition of The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names, which is probably more useful for establishing the toponymy of the word rather than the correct spelling. However, Thomas Fenwick refers to Penegent in his diary of 1782 which together with John Hutton's same spelling in 1780 goes some way to implying that it was a common spelling for the late eighteenth century.


Well-known member
I am interested in how it will be spelt in a 100 years time would it be
Penny-ghent or Pen-ee-ghent?


Active member
toponomy of placenames is discussed in the history of the ordnance survey i am currently reading. the ordnance survey generally aimed to record the contemporary spelling - and of course when they started up there was much variation. this was done by checking historical records, enquiring locally, checking lists of spellings with estate owners and clergymen, and by responding to comments on draft maps. they did of course also make many, many errors.

as you refer, the first edition spelling of pennegent matches (ish) the contemporary spelling of penegent and it is interesting to note that their spelling changed in later editions. it seems likely this would be a response to contemporary usage which correlates with your late 19th century spellings, though where the spaces and hyphens come from is unclear!

i had heard the h's and hyphens were an influence of the romantics (as in gaping ghyll etc) but perhaps in this case it is a victorian invention?


Thanks all for the replies. We've made a decision to follow OS, it will be Pen-y-ghent. CNCC Rigging Guide Volume 2 has now gone to the printers.


New member
The toponymy may be from the Cumbric language.

pen y gaint

hill of the border country

perhaps when it was on the border of an older Cumbria ?

Cumbric is considered a Western Brythonic language closely related to Welsh and much more distantly to Cornish. Hence the similarity with Welsh terms. However it could stem from even earlier times before the Brythonic language split into Western and Southwestern versions which is considered to be AD577.

Whilst the current OS map has "Pen-y-ghent". The 1851 OS map has "Pennegent Hill".


Active member
'Pen' for hill is somewhat widespread.

Pendle Hill (= Hill hill Hill) Lancs

Pen Hill Somerset....


New member
marysboy said:

Wookey Hole Cavern? :doubt:

Following the OS doesn't always work. Certainly in Ireland they phonetically anglicised the names that they heard the locals say in Gaelic and wrote that down. I suspect similar things happened in other areas with different languages and strong dialects.

This lead to a great deal of inconsistency in spelling of cave names, where you can see "pol", "poll" or "poul" used fairly indiscriminantly. Back in 1980 when the UBSS's second book on Co. Clare was being produced, Oliver Lloyd wanted to rationalise all the names and only use "poll". This idea was, to put it mildly not taken seriously by the rest of us and produced some excellent micky takes.

I suspect I could find a reference from that time where the cave on the hill about which this thread speaks was referred to as "Peneghent Poll".