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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) a copse or small patch of woodland home to a great many birds

A small area of woodland with a noticeable population of birds can be known as a bindhome, or bindholm.

That’s a word recorded in a handful of nineteenth century dialect dictionaries—including the monumental English Dialect Dictionary, which prefers the –home spelling we posted on Twitter. Others (including an 1883 Glossary of the Dialect of Almondbury and Huddersfield) either use or suggest the –holm spelling instead.

It’s likely that the L spelling is the more etymologically sound one. As a word in its own right, a holm is usually an island (as in Incholm, in the Firth of Forth), and in that sense it has been in recorded use in English since the eleventh century at least. Before then, holm was an Old English word for a wave on the surface of an area of water (the sense you’ll find it used in Beowulf); after then, it was used in several looser senses, typically to describe anywhere similarly isolated in or by its surroundings. By the 1400s, for instance, holm was being applied to isolated hilltops—and it’s perhaps along similar lines, in the sense of an isolated area of forest, that it crops up in bindholm.

The confusion with home is probably a later development, based on the word’s apparent attachment specifically to areas of woodland inhabited by (i.e. ‘made home’ by) noticeable numbers of birds. Is that the accurate etymology? With scant textual evidence to go on, it’s about as good as we can get.


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