The rhyme ‘By Tre, Pol and Pen shall ye know Cornishmen’ was recorded by Richard Carew in his Survey of Cornwall in 1602, and is often referred to in discussions around Cornish place names and surnames.
Indeed, the Cornish language provides a ‘sense of place’ for those visiting and living in Cornwall with some 75% of place names having Cornish language roots. Since 2009, Cornwall Council has recognised the importance of the language in Cornish identity, and have been replacing old, worn-out street signs with new dual English and Cornish versions.
‘Henwyn Tyller’ (Place Names)
Many place names across Cornwall contain the common elements ‘tre’ (farmstead or settlement), ‘penn’ (head or end), ‘poll’ (pool), ‘lann’ (church enclosure), ‘ros’ (heath land), ‘porth’ (cove or entrance) and ‘kar’ (hillfort). Several of these relate to the sister languages of Breton and Welsh. For example, ‘tre’ is ‘tre’ in Breton and ‘tref’ in Welsh, and ‘penn’ is ‘penn’ in Breton and ‘pen’ in Welsh.
Click on the link below to download a list of some place names in Cornwall, along with their probable Cornish language counterparts and some interesting anecdotes.