Hogus Again and How(e)


Photo credit: Tim Bekaert. The image is in the public domain.

In the light of what follows the idea that the word hogus has a Cornish derivation must be abandoned, I think.

Mr. Pengelly refers the name ” Hogus,” now applied to the rocky ledge between Marazion and the Mount, to an old Scandinavian derivation, meaning “a rock in or near a wood adjacent to water, and used for sacrificial purposes.”

Mr. Peacock takes exception to this determination on the ground that Hogus (in Guernsey hougue, French hogue, neo-Latin hoga) sometimes denotes a quarriable knoll, of which he gives examples.

This is a quote from page 11 of a work entitled The Recent Geology of Cornwall by W.A.E.Ussher. It was first published in the Geological Magazine in 1879.

In a sense Mr Pengelly and Mr Peacock were both right. Mr Pengelly’s rather fanciful notion is correct inasmuch as it identifies the word as old Scandinavian. Mr Peacock’s words derive from this, presumably via Norman French. The word in question is the Old Norse haugr, which according to the OED means ‘mound’ or ‘cairn’. It has descendants or cognates in many languages including English, where it turns up as how, howe, hough, or houe. This means ‘a hill’ or ‘a mound’.

What you can see in the picture above is Maeshowe, a Neolithic chambered cairn on Mainland Orkney. It is mentioned in The Orkneyinga Saga, where it is called Orkhaugr – ‘great tomb’.

4 thoughts on “Hogus Again and How(e)

  1. ‘haug’ is the modern Norwegian word for ‘hill’, and is the origin of the great American-Norwegian linguist Einar Haugen’s name (-en, of course, being the common gender definite article in Norwegian).

  2. Thank you, Graham. The normal German word for ‘hill’ – Hüɡel – is a diminutive of the Middle German word haug. It became the normal word because Martin Luther used it in his translation of the bible.

  3. Keith — the OED says

    ‘A projecting ridge of land, a promontory’ (Sweet); ‘originally a point of land, formed like a heel, and stretching into the plain, perhaps even into the sea’ (Kemble); a height enduring abruptly or steeply: cf. heugh n. Now only in the names of particular places, as The Hoe at Plymouth, The Hooe near Chipping Camden, Hoo in Kent, Bedfordshire, etc.; and frequent as a second element in place-names, as Martinhoe, Morthoe, Pinhoe, Trentishoe, in Devonshire, Aynho, Ivinghoe, Stanhoe, Wyvenho, elsewhere.

    Old English hó would normally give hoo /huː/, which it has given in some of these cases. The hoe /həʊ/ in other parts, may be derived from the Old English dative hóge, giving Middle English hoȝe, howe, how, pronounced like grow, stow. Of this hawe may have been a dialectal form: cf. the phonology of hoe n.2, where we have also howe, haw, hoe. In the north of England, there is sometimes confusion between -hoe and -how from ON. haugr: see how n.2

    Etymology: Old English hóh , hó , strong masculine (genitive hós , dative hóge , hó , plural hós ) the same word as the northern heugh n. (and apparently the same as ho n.1 heel) < Old Germanic type *hanho- , from ablaut stem of hang v.

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