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Place Name of the Week - Talking Taings

Published: 12 November 2020

The Old Norse tangi, tungi means a point of land and is a common place-name in Norway, Faroe and Iceland. The names are easy to recognise and interpret because there are many parallel taing, teng, tung, tungi or tonga names in Shetland. The place-names describe the location, wildlife or buildings associated with the points. 

Skarfataing, Muckle Roe – the croft takes its name from the point


Many are associated with birds and animals. Skarfs (shags) give Skarf, Skarva and Skarvi names in Unst, Yell, Northmavine, Muckle Roe, East Burrafirth, Papa Stour, Foula, Burra, Trondra, Bressay, Quarff, St Ninian’s Isle and Boddam.  Fugl (fowl) give Fugla, Fugli or Fogli taings, with Ramnataing referring to the raven.  Animals include horses (Hestataings in East Burrafirth and Mousa), lambs (Lambataing in Sandwick) and cattle (Butaing in Lochend). 

Skeotaing, Baltasound (Shetland Museum and Archives LS01505)


Skeotaing is perhaps the most common name with examples in Unst, Northmavine, Delting, Waas, Sandsting, Aithsting, Weisdale, Lunnasting, Girlsta, Whalsay, Skerries, Sound, Bressay, Gulberwick and Fladdabister. These were once the sites of skeos – stone huts for drying fish or meat. Noosts give their names to Nestonga and Nustaing in Yell and Nistataing in Whalsay, whilst brochs were sited at Brough Taing at Colvidale, Unst, Burrataing in Westsandwick, Yell and Burgataings at Burravoe, North Roe and Burland, Brindister.

Greentaing, Olnesfirth


Gronataing, Grœnataing, Grunnataing and Greentaing  are green points in Unst, North Roe, Eshaness, Olnesfirth, Muckle Roe, Mossbank, Waas, Snaraness, Sand, Burra and South Nesting. The name Skaw means a low point of land; there are Skawtaings to the west of Fedaland, on the north tip of Calback Ness, and on the northeast point of Whalsay. Several taings take their name from nearby settlement, including Da Taing of Setter, Kelswick, Railsbrough, Helliness, Sandsayre, Sandwick, Levenwick and Maywick. Others are named after people – Barbara (Samphrey), Willie (Papa Stour), Abram (Waas), Colbin (Stavaness, Nesting) and the Orkneyman (Ollaberry).

Taing of Maywick


Da Taing and Shure Taings, Norwick


A few places are known as Da Crying Taing or Crotaing, which like the name Kalliness refer to points where folk called for a boat to cross to the other side of the voe.  Such place-names occur at Ronas Voe, Urafirth, Lunnaness and Wester Quarff, although some Crotaings are linked to crös rather than crossing points. Many taimgs are simply called Da Taing or Tungi, whilst Tonga occurs in Unst, Yell, Fetlar, Whalsay and Scatness. Interesting sounding names include Longatongas in Unst, Fetlar, and Yell, Smiddatonga and Tildrataing in Yell, Guntaings in Unst and Wena Tonga, Fetlar. There is also Tivaka Taing (Gluss), Crooknataing (Waas), Rittataing (Brunt Hamarsland), Quilsataing (Lunnasting) and Groupatong (Skerries).

Croetaing, Wester Quarff (J D Rattar, Shetland Museum and Archives R01473)


If you have knowledge or photos of any of these or further taings, please email placenames@shetlandamenity.org

Eileen Brooke-Freeman, Shetland Place Names Expert

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