Township: Unknown Township

Map Reference:

Name Type: fort

Meaning: This is an important location that might be expected to have had a Norse name in ON borg ‘fort’. To attempt to derive the first element, our first task is to try to reconstruct the sounds that the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Scots scribes were attempting to represent by Isel- and Isle- (Hystyl- is an outlier on the scanty evidence available). The Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700) lists the following alternative spellings for ‘isle’: ‘Ile, yle, also iill, iile, iyle, iyll, yile, yill, isle, ysle and aill’.
The word derives from the (medieval) Middle English yle or ile [i:l] (recorded in about 1290), which in turn comes from the Old French ile < Latin insula. ‘In the fifteenth century the French re-spelled ile as isle, inserting an etymologically more ‘correct’ /s/ from Latin insula’ (Webster’s II New College Dictionary 1999, 587). The word island has a different root and comes from the Anglo-Saxon ey-land ‘island land’. Isle in this context is therefore likely to be represented by [?i? ?l?], or possibly [?a?? ?l?]. Beveridge derives the name Isleborg as, ‘’Island Castle’ would be a literal rendering’ (Beveridge 1903, 118).
However, it is unlikely that the name would have a Gaelic (let alone an English) specific and a Norse generic with this word order. If Isleborg is to be identified with the fort on Loch an Eilein, a possible specific is ON íla ‘well or spring’ (Sandnes 2010a, 111), OI hylr (genitive hyljar) ‘pool’ (Zoega) or ‘a hole or deep place in a river, e.g. places where trout and salmon lie hidden’ (CV, 304).
‘ON íla fem. ‘a source’, ?la-water (Nm.) ‘a lake’.’ (Jakobsen 1936, 64)
There is a Hila and two examples of Hilan in Norway (NG); there is an Eilaster in Uig, Lewis (SP), an Ellibister in Orkney (Sandnes 2010a); there is a chambered cairn (Canmore ID 785) at Isleburgh in Sullom, Shetland; there is an Ila in Oslo derived from íla ‘well’ (NS); and Ileby is recorded as a farm name in OR.
Another possibility is ON hæll ‘heel’. Hæll occurs six times as a simplex farm name in Iceland (SAM).

Other Forms:

Related Places:

Possibly the original stronghold on the site of Island House - JH.

Local Form:

Languages : Norse, Obscure

Informants: Coll and Tiree, Erskine Beveridge, Birlinn, 2004, p112.