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Parish names

St Ola "St Ola" derives from the church of St Olaf, in Kirkwall, which lies at the heart of the parish.
Holm Pronounced "Ham" - a corruption of the Old Norse homn - a "haven" or "good anchorage".

The current spelling is likely due to a clerical error at some point in the past, which confused homn with holmr.
Orphir From the Old Norse orfiri or orfjara - meaning "an outgoing" or "ebbing" . This is found applied to islands joined to the mainland by a reef at low tide. In this case, it refers to the Holm o' Houton, which was probably known at one time as Orfirisey
St Andrews A "recent" name, stemming from the parish church in Tankerness. The parish of St Andrews gathered together a number of geographical units. Today, it is split into two distinct areas - Toab and Tankerness.
  • Tankerness - early references give the names Tannskaraness, Tannskaarunes, Tanskernes and, in 1595, Tankerness. It has been suggested that the name refers to the Ness of a man called Tannskári. But this is open to debate.
  • Toab: The earliest forms of the name, Tollop, tohope etc, point to the Old Norse toll-hóp - a harbour where visiting ships had to pay toll on arrival or departure.
Deerness Old Norse Dyrnes - "animal ness".
Firth Fjorðr - fjord. The parish stretches out along the shores of the Bay o' Firth, which was originally known as Aurridafjoðr.
Rendall Renna is a name used for streams by severeal Norwegian placenames. Rennu-dálr - literally the "vallery of the Renna".
Evie From the Old Norse efja - which in this case refers to the bight inside the strong tidal current of Evie Sound - Efjusund as it was known in Orkneyinga Saga.
Harray The saga records that the area covered by the modern parishes of Birsay and Harray as Byrgisherað - which translates roughly as the fortress district.

Harray took its name from the last element of that name - herað
Birsay From Byrgisey, meaning "fortress island", referring to the Brough of Birsay. See Harray above.
Sandwick From Old Norse sand-vik meaning "sand inlet". The bay in question is undoubtedly the Bay o' Skaill.
Stromness From the Old Norse straum-nes, meaning "point protruding into the tidal stream". This "rapid stream" is undoubtedly the turbulent waters of Hoy Sound.
Stenness From the Old Norse Stein - nes. Literally meaning "stone point", this probably refers to the prehistoric megaliths around the Ring of Brodgar and Stones o' Stenness.
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