Words that end in ‑wegian (part 2)

Words that end in ‑wegian (part 2)

5. November, 2019


When I wrote the first part of this post, I had a pretty good idea what the second part would con­tain. How­ever, re­searching the more ob­scure ‑wegian words turned out to be more time con­suming than first anti­cipated, as some of them do not appear in any dictionary. Per­haps, I should have ex­pected that, since these demo­nyms are the product of linguistic creativity and not governed by any set rules.

To re­cap, in the first part, I asked my­self: How many words end in ‑wegian? Where does this ending come from? And why does it lend itself to other seemingly un­related place names so easily?

We left off half-way through the British place names, so with­out further ado:

The British and Hibernian sort (cont’d)

Place names ending in wick


One place name ending in ‑wick takes the ending ‑wegian. This is sur­prising at first, be­cause ‑wick is not the same as the ‑way of Nor­way and Gal­way. But per­haps an ex­plan­ation can be found in the history of the place.

This sign wel­comes visitors to Ler­wick, and it in­cludes the Old Norse name Leir­vík1.

Ler­wick, the biggest town of the Shet­land Islands, is a Scandi­navian settle­ment—much like Storno­way, which we dis­cussed in the pre­vious post. It was originally called some­thing akin to Leir­vík, meaning “mud bay” or “clay cove” in Old Norse2. In Scots, it is called Lerook, Lerrick among other names3. And in Scottish Gaelic, the name is Learaig or Liùra­bhaig4, which both end in a g. So per­haps it is this similarity in sound com­bined with the scandi­navian history that led to calling the in­habitants Ler­wegians5.

But again, the ending ‑vík “bay” or “cove” is not the same as ‑vegr “way”, which gave us the original ‑wegian ending. So this is another creative neo­logism.

Place names ending in gow and ow


Glas­gow was the place name that started this search. But with the Scottish Gaelic name Glas­chu6, the Scots name Gles­ga7, and the Latin name Glas­covium8 or Glas­quum9, it makes little sense to call the in­habitants Glas­wegians10. Naturally, they haven’t al­ways been called that. The earlier word was Glas­gower11, which takes a more traditional ending.

One of Glas­gow’s main attractions: The Duke of Wellington with a cone on his head in front of the Gallery of Modern Art12.

At first, I thought Glas­wegian might be the result of a meta­thesis (i.e. swapping) of the g and w of Glas­gow, giving us something like Glas­wog, which could more easily take the ending in analogy with Nor­wegian. Of course, that would be a rather radical change, but we saw some­thing similar with Gal­way, which came from Gail­limhGal­livaGal­via. And it could very well be part of the slangy word­play that seems to be pre­sent in all of these ‑wegian words. But, as it turns out, there was a transitional form: Glas­go­wegian13,14. This eliminates the need for any meta­thesis, as the end result can be ex­plained as a simple shor­tening of the word—losing the un­stressed syllable go.

A recent 2019 addition to the Ox­ford English Dictionary even gives us the word Weegie15 (also spelled Weedjie and Weedgie), which is a playful shor­tening of the word. Here, the ending has be­come such a central part of the identity that all parts of the place name can be left out entirely.


The Bow district in Lon­don can also take the ending. But it seems the word Bowegians has only been used once by George Bernard Shaw16—and he does not speak too kindly of them, so per­haps it is meant to be de­ro­ga­tory.

But a list of words that end in ‑wegian would not be com­plete with­out it, even if it is what the lexi­co­graphers of the Ox­ford English Dictionary call a nonce-word—a word made up for a par­ti­cular occasion. It also proves, along with the word Glas­go­wegian, that a place name only needs to end with the letter w to qualify for having the suffix ‑wegian appended to it.

The Australian sort

As promised, we now go to the southern hemi­sphere to look at some truly novel uses of the ‑wegian suffix. At this point, all con­sider­ations of the origin of the place name, its neo-Latin name, and even the pre­sence or lack of the letter w fail to ex­plain the choice of suffix.


You might call a per­son from Bris­bane a Bris­banian17 or a Bris­banite18. And you wouldn’t think that ‑wegian could be applicable here, seeing that the name’s ending bears no re­sem­blance to the ‑way of Nor­way or even in­cludes a w. But even then, you will some­times find the word Bris­wegian19 used in re­fer­ence to the people of the capital of Queens­land, Australia.


The usual word for a per­son from Tas­mania is Tas­manian20. But, as you can see from the dictionary entry, it can also refer to the (now ex­tinct) native population of the island. As an adjective, it is attached to a few animals and plants native to Tas­mania, such as the Tas­manian devil and the Tas­manian tiger.

Map of Tas­mania from the 1902 “Uni­ver­sity En­cyclo­pedia of twentieth century know­ledge” by Henry Mitchell MacCracken21.

For some reason or other, an in­habitant of Tas­mania can also be called a Tas­wegian22. Again, this is a com­pletely ir­regular use of the ending ‑wegian. But per­haps these two Australian demo­nyms use the ending to allude to a sense of Scandi­navian-ness or Northern European-ness.


The slangy and play­ful nature of the words that end in ‑wegian makes it im­possible to make a com­plete list of them. As we have seen, only a speaker’s linguistic creativity limits the number of words that could be made of this suffix.

To sum up, this ending has its origin in one place name of Old Norse origin, trans­lated into Latin, and given the common demo­nymic suffix ‑an. That is to say: *Norð­vegrNoꞃð­ƿeᵹeNor­vegia/Nor­wegiaNor­vegius/Nor­wegiusNor­wegian. From this form, a couple of port­man­teaux were created (Scandi­wegian, Sco­wegian), but this does not make the ending pro­ductive. Then, a number of place names in the British Isles began to add the ending analogously (Gallo­wegian, Gal­wegian, Storno­wegian). At this point, the ending seems to be an accep­table, if novel, way to make demo­nyms out of place names ending in ‑way. But I am not sure I would call it pro­ductive just yet.

Both of these leaps—from one word to a couple of port­man­teaux and the formation of the analogous rule ‑way‑wegian—are great and un­usual. But in my mind, the leap from a single rule to a few rules (‑wick‑wegian; ‑gow‑wegian; ‑w‑wegian) is the largest and weirdest. This is where the ending be­gins to show signs of pro­ductive­ness.

And the Australian uses (Bris­wegian, Tas­wegian) take the ending into new territories (if you will ex­cuse the pun), appending the suffix to any place name with­out regard for its origin or spelling. Now, I am sure that you could, in in­formal con­versation, put the suffix onto any place name and be under­stood.

It has even taken on a life of its own as the words ’Wegian23 and Weegie, which are shor­tenings that leave only the ending of the word.

The reason for its popularity, I cannot know for sure, and it may be entirely co­inci­dental that it has been picked up by so many. But I think a few things have helped it along: The un­usual sound of the ending ‑wegian can have in­spired word­smiths to make amusing words out of it; and the association with Scandi­navians, and later Scots­men and Irish­men, can have brought along a mental image of a person from those areas (for better or for worse). In the case of Bowegian, Shaw stops just short of calling them un­cultured, but that meaning may lie in the ‑wegian suffix with a nod to the bar­baric Vikings. In the new world, it may serve to underline the Northern European heritage of the in­habitants. In any case, it is hard to say with these slang words for swathes of people, how many of them would proudly identify as a “some-place-wegian”, and how many would be offended by the appellation.


I will leave you with an over­view of the place names and demo­nyms dis­cussed in these two posts. The words that end in ‑wegian are in bold.

Abbreviations: ig, Irish (Gaeilge); l, Latin; oe, Old English; on, Old Norse; pg, proto-Germanic; sg, Scottish Gaelic; ∅, no meaning.

Place name Ending Demonym
Norway ‑way from on ‑vegr “way” Norwegian
Scandinavia ‑avia from pg ‑*awjō “island”24 Scandinavian, Scandiwegian, Scowegian
Galloway ‑way from sg ‑gaidheil “Gaels” Gallovidian, Gallowegian, Galwegian
Galway ‑way from l ‑via from ig ‑imh Galwayman, Galwaywoman, Galwegian, ’Wegian
Stornoway ‑way from on ‑vágr “bay” Stornowegian
Lerwick ‑wick from on ‑vík “inlet” Lerwegian
Glasgow ‑gow from sg ‑cau “hollow” Glasgower, Glasgowegian, Glaswegian, Weegie
Bow ‑w Bowegian
Brisbane ‑bane from oe ‑bàn “bone”25 Brisbanian, Brisbanite, Briswegian
Tasmania ‑mania Tasmanian, Taswegian

What’s next?

As this post shows, there is no limit to the number of place names that could gain the ending ‑wegian, and I think we will see more of them in the future. Some ex­amples could be: a Yor­wegian from York, Eng­land, which was at one point called Jór­vík; a Whali­go­wegian or Whali­wegian from Whali­goe, Scot­land; or how about a Corrin­she­go­wegian or Corrin­she­wegian from Corrin­shego, Northern Ire­land?

I am sure, we will see much more creative uses than these, and I look forward to it.

  1. Photo credits: Taken in 2005 by Flickr user arsemagic (Creative Commons license: 🅭🅯🄏🄎). 

  2. A Dictionary of British Place Names (2011, new edition) by Anthony David Mills, p. 294:

    Ler­wick Shet. Ler­wick 1625. ‘Mud Bay’. OScand. leirr + vík.

  3. Dictionary of the Scots Language at Lerook n.:

    Lerook. Also Lerrouk [...]; Ler(r)ick [...]. Local forms of Ler­wick in Shet­land

  4. The Gaelic–English Dictionary (2006, new edition) by Colin Mark, appx. 12, p. 732:

    Learaig / Liùra­bhaig Ler­wick ◻ sheòl sinn gu Learaig we sailed to Ler­wick.

  5. Dictionary of the Scots Language at Ler­wegian n.:

    Ler­wegian. A native or citizen of Ler­wick [...]

    [The form is based on Nor­wegian, Glas­wegian.]

  6. The Concise Dictionary of World Place Names (2018, 4th edition) by John Everett-Heath at Glas­gow:

    Glas­gow, [...] originally Glas­gu, the Gaelic name is Glas­chu or Glas­cho ‘Green Hollow’ from glas ‘green’ and cau ‘hollow’.

  7. Dictionary of the Scots Language at Gles­ca n.:

    Gles­ca. Also Gles­ga(e), Glais­go, etc. Glas­gow.

  8. Johann Huͤbners Kurtze Fragen Aus der Neuen und Alten Geographie (1746) ch. 6, p. 191:

    glas­quo oder glas­cow, Lat. Glas­quum, oder Glas­covium, am Fluſſe Glotta, hat einen Ertz-Biſchoff, eine Uni­verſi­taͤt ſeit 1453, und ſonſt eine ſehr luſtige Situation; wie denn Glas­cow ſchoͤner iſt als Eden­burg, die Haupt-Stadt.

    My trans­lation:

    glas­quo or glas­cow, Lat. Glas­quum, or Glas­covium, on the river Glotta [i.e. Clyde], has an arch­bishop, a Uni­versity from 1453, and other­wise a very funny situation; that Glas­cow is more beautiful than Edin­burgh, the capital.

  9. The New Latin and English Dictionary (1782, new edition) by John Entick at Glaſ­covium, sig. c2verso:

    Glaſ­covium vel Glaſ­cuum, Glaſ­gow in Scot­land.

  10. Ox­ford English Dictionary at Glas­wegian n. and adj.:

    Etymology: < Glas­gow, after Gal­wegian adj. and n., Nor­wegian n. and adj.

  11. Dictionary of the Scots Language at Glas­gower n.:

    Glas­gower, n. An in­habitant of Glas­gow.

  12. Photo credits: Taken in 2013 by Tony Webster (Creative Commons license: 🅭🅯

  13. Dictionary of the Scots Language at Glas­go­wegian n.:

    Glas­go­wegian, n. An in­habitant or native of Glas­gow, a Glas­wegian. [...]

    [See note to Glas­wegian and cf. Gallo­wegian.]

  14. Dictionary of the Scots Language at Glas­wegian n.:

    Glas­wegian, n. An in­habitant or native of Glas­gow. Gen.Sc. Cf. Glas­go­wegian. [...]

    [A re­duced form of Glas­go­wegian.]

  15. Ox­ford English Dictionary at Weegie n. and adj.:

    Etymology: Shortened < Glas­wegian n. + ‑y suffix6.
    Popularized by the writer Irvine Welsh [...]

    Scottish colloquial. [...]
    A native or in­habitant of Glas­gow; a Glas­wegian.

  16. London Music in 1888–89 (1937) by “Corno Di Bassetto” (i.e. George Bernard Shaw), 21 Feb. 1889, p.64:

    Then I dashed away to Broad-street, and asked the booking-clerk whether he knew of a place called Bow. He was evidently a man of extra­ordinary nerve, for he handed me a ticket with­out any sign of sur­prise, as if a voyage to Bow were the most common­place event possible. [...] When I got into the con­cert-room I was per­fectly dazzled by the appear­ance of the or­chestra. [...] Dido and Eneas is 200 years old, and not a bit the worse for wear. I dare­say many of the Bowegians thought that the un­inten­tional quaint­ness of the ama­teurs in the or­chestra were Pur­cellian anti­quities. If so, they were never more mis­taken in their lives.

  17. See Wiktionary.org, Bris­banian n. and adj. 

  18. See Wiktionary.org, Bris­banite n. 

  19. I haven’t been able to find this in any dictionary, but see, for ex­ample, this article from Travel Wire Asia (18 Jan. 2014) Bris­bane named Australia’s hippest city by Lonely Planet guides:

    Per­haps one of the best things about Bris­bane is that it doesn’t take it­self too seriously. Brissie, Bris­Vegas, Brisso, Bris­lantis, Bris­wegian, Bris­bogan and Bris­ney­land are just some of the nick­names its own re­sidents give the city and help form some of the laid-back and friendly nature to the place.

  20. Oxford English Dictionary at Tas­manian adj. and n.:

    a. A member of the aboriginal people of Tas­mania, now ex­tinct. [...]

    b. A native or in­habitant of Tas­mania.

  21. Image credits: Digi­tized in 2014 by WorldIslandInfo.com and made available through Flickr (Creative Commons license: 🅭🅯

  22. Green’s Dict. of Slang at Tas­wegian n.:

    [abbr. + play on SE Glas­wegian/Nor­wegian etc.]

    (Aus.) a per­son from Tas­mania.

  23. The rugby team of Gal­way is called Gal­wegians, and this name is some­times shor­tened to ’Wegians. For example, see Connacht Tribune (2 Oct. 2015) ‘Wegians pay the price for failing to take their chances

  24. Source: The Cambridge History of Scandinavia: Prehistory to 1520 (2003) by Knut Helle, p. 1. 

  25. Source: Houseofnames.com


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