Ask Language Log: -ange < ?

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From Bob Ladd:

I just drove through the general area of Luxembourg/Lorraine – one of the places where French and Germanic have been in close contact since the Middle Ages – and could couldn't help noticing dozens of place names ending in -ange (Dudelange, Hettange, Differdange, Hayange, Hagondange, Aubange, Redange, Useldange, and many more) all within a relatively small area. I've tried to come up with some Germanic town name component that could have been gallicized as -ange, but I've drawn a blank. Does any reader know the source of these names?

The Wikipedia entries for those towns give Luxemburgish -eng and German -ingen variants, e.g. Dudelange / Diddeleng / Düdelingen, Differdange / Déifferdeng / Differdingen.

And the Wikipedia article on German toponymy gives a list of suffixes that includes

20. -ing or -ingen, -ungen, -ung, -ens (meaning "descendants of", used with a personal name as the first part; cognate to the English place name suffix -ing as in Reading). Examples: Göttingen, Straubing, Esens.


  1. Vasha said,

    June 15, 2015 @ 4:24 pm

    So Düdelingen would mean "home of the descendants of Düdel", then?

  2. David P said,

    June 15, 2015 @ 7:43 pm

    Not much help, but Sweden has Jönköping, Linköping, Falköping, etc. "-köping", according to Wikipedia, is a market town, but that doesn't explain the "-ing." "Köpa", to buy, is (I'm guessing) German "kauf."

  3. Lewis said,

    June 15, 2015 @ 9:23 pm

    "der Kauf" means "the purchase", and the word is used in a HUGE number of German words that have to do with commerce. "-ing" may have the same meaning in Swedish toponyms as it does in English. They might be false cognates, as far as German to Swedish is concerned. There's a whole Bundesland (or state or province) in Germany called "Thüringen", after all. Maybe "-ingen" is better translated as "home of the", so that for example Düdelingen would mean "home of the Düdel people" in Vasha's earlier comment?

  4. Old Gobbo said,

    June 15, 2015 @ 11:20 pm

    Probably just to confuse matters, modern English "ing" from the old Norse "eng" (f), "enge" / (neuter) means meadow, especially water meadow, just like the modern Danish "eng" and Swedish "äng". OED says these are cognate with OHG "angar", MHG "angar", meadowland, grassland

  5. Old Gobbo said,

    June 15, 2015 @ 11:21 pm

    Sorry, MHG "anger"

  6. Jon said,

    June 15, 2015 @ 11:43 pm

    From 'A brief history of Nottingham'
    Nottingham began in the 6th century as a small Saxon settlement called Snotta inga ham. The Saxon word ham meant village. The word inga meant 'belonging to' and Snotta was a man. So its name meant the village owned by Snotta. Gradually its name changed to Snottingham then just Nottingham.

  7. CLThornett said,

    June 15, 2015 @ 11:49 pm

    There are many English place-names with an -ing element, such as Reading, Birmingham, Abington, and many more.

  8. Keith said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 12:10 am

    Swedish "-köping" for "market" looks to me like a root from the verb to buy (or maybe even to trade, barter, exchange, from a time before currency) with a gerundive ending, and I'm told that the pronunciation is similar to the English word "shopping" but with the first vowel changed.

    On the "-ange"/"-ingen" pair, you can see a very similar thing in toponyms in Alsace, with the French name being something like "-ville" or "-villier" and the German name "-wihr".

  9. Avinor said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 2:01 am

    The real Swedish cognate ought to be -inge:

    Kävlinge, Vellinge, Getinge, Huddinge…

    Swedish Wikipedia:

  10. phspaelti said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 2:05 am

    @Vasha: So Düdelingen would mean "home of the descendants of Düdel", then?
    Except that the umlaut is quite likely caused by the suffix so it might be the "the descendants of Dudel/Dudal".

  11. phspaelti said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 2:06 am

    @Vasha: So Düdelingen would mean "home of the descendants of Düdel", then?
    Except that the umlaut is quite likely caused by the suffix so it might be the "the descendants of Dudel/Dudal".

  12. Chris said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 2:57 am

    "Ing", meaning a water meadow, still exists as a stand-alone word in northern England. For example, Fairburn Ings is a nature reserve on low-lying land by the River Aire near Leeds.

  13. Terry Collmann said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 3:29 am

    Keith, the English equivalent of Swedish "-köping" is "Chipping", as in "Chipping Norton" in Oxfordshire and other places, from Old English cēping, 'market', which is from the same root as 'cheap', all ultimately from a Germanic adoption of the Latin word caupo, 'tradesman', which also gave German kaufen, 'to buy'

  14. Alastair said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 3:44 am

    This is explained fully in German in this Wikipedia entry –

    The "ingen" ending seems to come from the locative dative plural in Old Frankish. The preceding word component can be either a person or a place. An example of the latter is Göttingen where "gota" used to mean stream.

    As people have already pointed out, there are variants in other countries: "ing" and "ingham" in England and "ing" and "inge" in Scandinavia.

    In Lorraine, Luxembourg and Belgium, the ending has been gallicised as "ange". In the rest of northern France is remains as "ingen".

  15. zythophile said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 3:58 am

    The same '-ing' element can be found hidden in a few placenames in the Pas de Calais in Northern France that were settled by Saxons, eg Alincthun, which also contains the common English placename element '-tun', meaning 'homestead' or 'village', and is clearly identical with Allington, the name of several villages in England, including one just across the Channel in Kent, where it means 'the tun of ÆÞelnoÞ's people'.

  16. Vilinthril said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 4:45 am

    Half of Vienna's districts end in -ing, though AFAIK they're mostly of Slavic etymology.

  17. Tom S. Fox said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 5:46 am

    @phspaelti: The umlaut is most likely meant to reflect the French pronunciation, like in “Büro.” I’m not sure why you think suffixes cause umlauts.

  18. Adrian Bailey said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 5:59 am

    In Britain, the Saxon form is usually given as "ingas".

  19. mollymooly said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 6:01 am

    The Institut grand-ducal website says

    names ending in -ingen/ange, -weiler and -dorf were founded in the early Middle Ages (5th – 9th centuries)

  20. Jin Defang said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 6:54 am

    my mother traced her ancestry to a town named Wasseralfangen, but when she tried to find it was told it had disappeared—probably absorbed into a larger city.

  21. Tom S. Fox said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 7:32 am

    Do you mean Wasseralfingen?
    Because it still exists:

  22. languagehat said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 8:05 am

    I’m not sure why you think suffixes cause umlauts.

    I’m not sure why you think they don't. Wikipedia: "As it contained an i, this suffix caused fronting of the vowel."

  23. Dan Lufkin said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 10:05 am

    The paradigmatic umlauting suffix is, of course, is the diminutive -chen. As Mark Twain pointed out, diminutives are always neuter and, if possible, umlauted. Using diminutives liberally simplifies grammar and gives your speech a charming Viennese flavor.

  24. K Chang said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 10:43 am

    And of course we have the favorite Austrian town (to English speakers), Fucking, in Tasdorf Municipality, Austria.,_Austria

  25. Rodger C said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 11:12 am

    Everyone old enough to have started their reading about language with Mario Pei knows the London suburbs, Barking and Tooting.

  26. f said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 2:17 pm

    What about the Swiss -ikon? Looking at the map of Zürich and surrounding areas, I gave up after 15 of those (Including Dietlikon _and_ Dietikon, which are notable for having the two Ikeas near Zürich and being reachable by train from the same platform — not confusing at all)

  27. CuConnacht said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 2:25 pm

    Speaking in near complete ignorance, I think the second syllable of Düdelingen might be a diminutive suffix, which would itself have unlauting effect; cf. Magd, Mädl. So Düdelingen would be "home of the descendants of the little dude."

  28. Bob Ladd said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 3:17 pm

    Thanks, everyone (and @Alastair – thanks for the pointer to the German WIkipedia article). I should have thought of -ingen as the Germanic source, and I suppose the only reason I didn't is that -ingen is so widespread and -ange is so restricted to the Luxembourg/Lorraine area.

  29. phspaelti said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 10:24 pm

    Tom S. Fox said,
    @phspaelti: The umlaut is most likely meant to reflect the French pronunciation, like in “Büro.” I’m not sure why you think suffixes cause umlauts

    Well in this case this is arguably the other way around. "Dudelange" started out as Germanic (as demonstrated by the suffix) and the French "u" reflects the German "ü" which is (probably) the result of Umlaut.

  30. christoll said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 10:53 pm

    I noticed when I was living in Saarland that the German names of towns in the region were usually written as they would be pronounced in Standard German (Hochdeutsch), but the French names frequently sounded a lot more like the way the names would be pronounced by the people actually living there. For example, "Sarreguemines" is a town on the French side of the border, labeled "Saargemünd" on German maps but actually pronounced "Saargeminn" by all the locals on both sides of the border. Saarbrücken is "Sarrebruck" on French maps, and "Saarbrücke" in local pronunciation.

    Similarly, I know that the people in that region – and also futher south, in Swabia if I recall correctly – generally pronounce the "-ingen" ending as "-inge", dropping the final "n". So again, the French/Luxembourgish names are a lot closer to the actual local names than the official German version.

  31. Vilinthril said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 2:07 am

    “The paradigmatic umlauting suffix is, of course, is the diminutive -chen. As Mark Twain pointed out, diminutives are always neuter and, if possible, umlauted. Using diminutives liberally simplifies grammar and gives your speech a charming Viennese flavor.”

    Oh really? That may well be, but you wouldn't be caught *dead* in Vienna using -chen as a diminutive suffix. We use -erl (which does not exist in Standard German).

  32. Alastair said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 3:07 am

    @christoll A classic example of the French having more native variants is the pair of towns a few miles north of Sarreguemines. On the German side of the Saar, there is the town of Kleinblittersdorf. On the French side, currently connected by a footbridge, lies Grosbliederstroff. Curiously, Kleinblittersdorf is now bigger than Grosbliederstroff.

    There seems to be some politics at play here. It suits the French to consider the language spoken in Alsace and Lorraine to be a native French language with Germanic roots, rather than a variant of German.

    An example of language politics in the opposite direction is a town a bit further downstream called Saarlouis. This was too French for the Nazis to stomach. So they renamed it Saarlautern, only to have this change reversed when Saarland passed into French hands.

  33. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 11:01 am

    @f: Regarding Dietikon, the Lexikon der schweizerischen Gemeindenamen ("Toponymic dictionary of Swiss muncipalities") as quoted by Wikipedia has this to say: "Der Ortsname besteht aus dem um das Suffix -ing- erweiterten althochdeutschen Personennamen Dioto und dem daran angehängten Grundwort hof im Dativ der Mehrzahl (*Diotinc-hovun > Dietikon) und bedeutet etwa ‚bei den Höfen der Sippe des Dioto‘."

    So it's personal name + ing plus "court(yard)s" in the dative. The local pronunciation, by the way, is [ˈd̥iə̯tikχə], with loss of the final n and reduction of the preceding vowel (alongside typical High Alemannic features such as devoicing of the initial lenis stop and affrication of /k/).

    Similarly, Dietlikon is named for a Dietilo (Dioto with a diminiutive suffix, the ancestor of Alemannic –le/-li), Adlikon for an Adalo (cf. PGmc *aþalaz "noble"), Atlikon for an Altilo, and so forth.

  34. Roger Whitehead said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 12:37 pm

    >"Ing", meaning a water meadow, still exists as a stand-alone word in northern England…

    There's also Far Ings, in Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire. You can imagine what the local graffitists have turned that into on the road signs.

  35. jtgw said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 5:22 pm

    So how is the -ange suffix pronounced in French? Does it rhyme with "blancmange"?

  36. David P said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 7:56 pm

    So Washington (D.C.) is a place named after a person (George) named after a place (Hwaesingatun) named after a person (Hwaesa) with the same name as the Sedish Kings (Vasa). I didn't know that. The rest of this comment is lifted from Wikipedia (,_Tyne_and_Wear ):

    The origins of the name Washington are not fully known. The most supported theory (especially amongst local historians) is that Washington is derived from Anglo-Saxon Hwæsingatūn, which roughly means "estate of the descendents (family) of Hwæsa". Hwæsa (usually rendered Wassa or Wossa in modern English) is an Old English name meaning "wheat sheaf", the Swedish House of Vasa being a more famous cognate.

    Due to the evolution of English grammar, modern English lacks the Germanic grammatical features that permeated Anglo-Saxon English. This adds an air of confusion for most in regards to the name Hwæsingatūn. It is essentially composed of three main (albeit grammatically altered) elements:

    "Hwæsa" – most likely the name of a local Anglo-Saxon chieftain or farmer.
    "ing" – a Germanic component that has lost its original context in English: ing means roughly "[derived] of/from". It can still be seen in its original context in the word "halfling" meaning "that [derived] from an half". In the name Hwæsingatūn, "ing" is conjugated to "inga" in accordance with the genitive plural declension of OE.
    "tūn" – root of the modern English "town", and is a cognate of German Zaun (fence), Dutch tuin (garden) and Icelandic tún (paddock). The word means "fenced off estate" or more accurately "estate with defined boundaries".

    The combined elements (with all correct conjugations in place) therefore create the name Hwæsingatūn with a full and technical meaning of "the estate of the descendants of Hwæsa".

    However, there has been no evidence found of any chieftain/land owner/farmer in the area by the name of Hwæsa, although any such records from the time would likely have been long lost by now.

    Although this is by no means the definite theory of origin, most scholars and historians (especially local) agree that it is the most likely."

  37. bfwebster said,

    June 19, 2015 @ 11:45 am

    You know, Language Log is one of the (sadly) very few site on the web where the comments are as informing, erudite, and entertaining as the posts themselves. Love this place.

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