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Swiss town names ending in 'ikon' and 'wil'

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JohnYorks
JohnYorks
80 posts
active member
Jul 29, 2020 - 10:13 AM

Hello MySwissAlps, and greetings from the UK.

I last visited in spring 2018, spending the best part of a month with a round-Europe Interrail ticket almost entirely in Switzerland! It was so good.

I planned a return in 2019, and twice this year, but each time frustrated by family illness or Covid. I'm hoping it won't be too long before this old-timer can be shuffling up and down those wonderful friendly valley branch lines again, especially in the less well-known regions. Bliss.

During lockdown I've been entertaining myself by poring over Swiss maps, especially the superb Swissmobility free online maps, and the astonishing variety of Swiss railway videos on YouTube - almost every line must be covered. Using the two resources together is so interesting.

This brings me to my question about Swiss place names, one that's intrigued me for years. I notice so many that have the suffix ‘-ikon’ - Pfäffikon, Oerlikon, etc - especially around Zürich, and wonder if it has a specific meaning and etymology. The same applies to ‘-wil’ - Wattwil, Rapperswil, etc. (Perhaps a teutonic version of Ville?) In England we have hundreds of places ending ‘-ton’, ‘-by’, ‘-combe’ etc, each term with a specific derivation. It would be great to find out about these Swiss endings - I asked at a few places in Switzerland but nobody could help.

Many thanks

John

JaneEB
JaneEB
124 posts
active member
Jul 29, 2020 - 1:28 PM

Hi John

If you google 'What does wil mean in Swiss place names' it will come up with the answer plus an explanation. In the case of the suffix wil it means hamlet. Ikon means yard, court, landed property. Egg means mountain ridge.

Hope this is of help.

Jane

JohnYorks
JohnYorks
80 posts
active member
Jul 29, 2020 - 1:32 PM

Thank you so much, Jane. One of life's perpetual queries solved in an instant!

John

1960man
1960man
2748 posts
top member
Jul 30, 2020 - 10:35 PM

-ikon stems from the German -hof via an intermediate '-ig-hof', so -ikon is related to the -hof or -hofen suffix as well. The reason there are so many around Zurich is just its proximity to where the Alemannic tribes arrived form the north to settle.

Like dozens of placenames, -ikon and -wil come from the same origin as other suffixes across Europe, related also to -iken, -ken, -gen and even -eben (interestingly there is a cluster of the latter in the Harz region of central Germany).

A lot of placename suffixes in all languages, not just German speaking territories mean much the same thing - a home of some sort, be it an actual dwelling or a yard, court, farmstead, hamlet, manor (think of the East London phrase 'my manor' in the UK), field, garden etc etc - but end up being what they are today by 'human laziness' - not in a rude sense but in the sense that humans will make things easier if they possibly can - including simplifying placenames and words to make them easier to say.

Wil is equivalent of -weil (Rottweil, Weil am Rhein) and is prevalent across southern Germany hence it stretching across the northern Swiss border.

Last modified on Jul 30, 2020 - 10:36 PM by 1960man
JohnYorks
JohnYorks
80 posts
active member
Jul 31, 2020 - 12:05 PM

Thank you, 1960man. That's interesting and helpful

John

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