The majority of city centre street names have some origin from the Viking period, and the Scandinavian language roots. Many of the street names end in the word gate, of which gata was the Scandinavian word for street.
ALDWARK – The name of this street comes from the Roman “old werk”, meaning a fortified place. This street is located in what was the Roman fortress area. The street has also been known as Aldewerke.
BAGGERGATE – Although now better known as Nunnery Lane, the origins of this street name come from it being the street of bag-makers. The street has also been known as Bagergate and Beggargate.
BLOSSOM STREET – Originally known as Ploxwaingate, meaning Ploughman’s Street. It is thought that the name of the street changed gradually in the sixteenth century as the old name had become less relevant.
BOOTHAM – Originally though to have been named after the booths in a medieval market which took place on the street, later analysis has cast doubt on this explanation. The street has also been known as Bouthum, Butham and Budum.
BROAD LANE – Originally applying to two different streets in York, the name is as it suggests, for both the streets it applied to were wide.
COLLIERGATE – This street was originally known as Colyergate, meaning the street of the charcoal makers. It is thought that for some time this area was known as the Shambles, but obtained a distinct name of its own when the eastern side of the Shambles became built-up. The street has also been known as Coliergate.
CONEY STREET – This street is named after the Danish word for King, “Kunung”, with the original meaning of the street being King’s Highway. It is not clear which King the word relates to, and it is thought it might have been the first paved street which led to the name being given. The street has also been known as Cuningstrete and Cunegestrate.
COPPERGATE – Although possibly arising from the word cooper, meaning barrel makers, it is more likely that the obvious reason for the street name is the correct one, that this was a street of copper makers. A number of old Viking furnaces have been located along the street, which suggests copper making took place.
DAVYGATE – Named after Davy Hall, which was a large house situated along this street. It is thought that Davy Hall was named after David le Lardiner.
FOSS LANE – The origins of this street name are the obvious ones, this street is situated near to the River Foss. The street has also been known as Fosse Lane.
GILLYGATE – This street takes its name from St. Giles’s Church which was located along this street from the twelfth to sixteenth centuries.
GOODRAMGATE – This street takes its name from the Danish name “Guterhan”, and the street was later known as Gutherumgate.
GRAPE LANE – The origins of this street name aren’t the most polite, originally Gropecuntlane, probably because of the number of brothels on the street. The change to Grape Lane appears to be a relatively recent change. The street has also been known as Grapcunt Lane.
HOLGATE – This street is named after the road in a hollow, given its topography.
MICKLEGATE – This street is named after the Viking word mikill, meaning large or great, so the origins of this were likely to have been great street.
MONKGATE – Named after the monks who lived in the area, it had this name from at least the eleventh century. The street has also been known as Munecagate and Munkgate.
SHAMBLES – This street which is known for the number of butchers which used to trade from it takes its name from Flesh Shambles, meaning flesh benches, ie, the benches outside the shops where the meat was laid out. The street has also been known as Haymongergate.
SILVER STREET – Although the name origins might seem at first sight obvious, there is no evidence of a number of silversmiths who worked on this street, so the actual origins of this name are unclear. The street has also been known as Sylver Street.
SPURRIERGATE – Originally known as Little Conystrete (or Little Coney Street), this street takes its name from Spurmaker Street. The street has also been known as Sporyer Gate and Spurriargate.
STONEGATE – The origins of this street name are still unclear. It possibly derives either from the street being one which was used to transport stone to the Minster, or because it was the first road in the city which was paved with stone.
WHIPMAWHOPMAGATE – The longest street name in York is also the shortest street in York at just 32 metres, and it is thought that name derives from the phrase “what a street” or “call this a street”. The street has also been known as Whitnourwhatnourgate and Whipney Whapneygate.