«be Placenames of flit OLarbiff joistrict. By J. HOBSON MATTHEWS. Read before the Archceological Section. IT is only of late years that the attention cf thinking men has been seriously directed to the subject of the names of the places in which they live. Not very long ago, it would have been deemed sheer waste of time to puzzle out the history and origin of the time-honoured name of field, stream or hamlet; or if any eccentric antiquarian concerned himself with such trifles, he would have most likely rendered the subject more obscure than it was before-for the science of philology, and the scientific study of local history, were things as yet unrealised. Even now, that such studies are conducted in a fairly judicial and systematic manner, we cannot hope to learn all the lore that lies condensed and fossilised within the names of the rivers, hills, fields, villages and streets which are so familiar to our ears. Any one such name might be unravelled indefinitely; we might unwind layer after layer of its verbal structure, its heart would still be capable of analysis ad infinitum. All that we can do is to trace a name's history back to the earliest period of which we have documentary record, and, having ascertained its earliest written form, to deduce from philology the meaning which was borne by the root in prehistoric times. By this method we are often able to fix the signification of the name given to a river or a mountain by the first Aryan settlers. Sometimes (especially in the case of rivers and streams) we even come upon a pre-Aryan stratum which, in the present state of our knowledge, defies investigation. People at this day have at last come to recognise that, in the tracing of placenames (and, indeed, of etymologies in general), guessing is worse than useless. We can only carry a name back as far as documents and philology enable us, and there leave it, explained or unexplained.