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Place name of the week - Wicks

Published: 14 April 2020

Wick photos

This week we feature the word wick. Usually pronounced ‘week’, it comes from the Old Norse vík meaning an inlet or small, and mostly open, bay. Often U-shaped and with one or more beach, wicks would have been popular landing places for the incoming Norse settlers. Sandwick in Unst is the earliest documented in Shetland and excavations revealed two Norse farmsteads just above the sand.

Many villages take their names from the associated wick and place-names are often descriptive - Braewick is the broad bay, Burwick the bay of the broch and Rerwick takes its name from the reeds or rushes still growing in the valley. Others are named after people - Gulberwick, first mentioned in the Orkneyinga saga, is named after a woman called Gullbera.

Pronunciations vary greatly throughout Shetland. You often can work out where a person comes from by listening to how they pronounce Lerwick – do they say Lerook, Lerrik or Lerwick? Northmavine locals talk about Esook (Eastwick), Hillsook (Hillswick), Tanook (Tangwick) and Braeook (Braewick), whilst in the south mainland you find Shandrik (Channerwick), Levenik (Levenwick) and Rurik (Rerwick).

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