When (if ever) is it acceptable to drop "shire" from a UK county name?



This question is sparked by an amendment made to a previous question made by ColeValleyGirl (for which I thank her).

I "believed" (possibly from seeing it on birth records, but I cannot cite an example) that the county name (such as Worcestershire) was sometimes shortened (to Worcester) by dropping the suffix. As in my question about the nail-makers, this risks introducing confusion with the town of the same name.

Are there ever circumstances (such as classes of records, or even some counties) where this type of abbreviation occurs, or have I just developed a very bad habit?

(I am now about to launch a GREP search on my data to see how much correction I need to do.)


Posted 2012-11-10T01:39:26.707

Reputation: 13 238

Curious. What is GREP? – GeneJ – 2012-11-10T01:46:45.077

3grep is a command-line utility for searching plain-text data sets for lines matching a regular expression. Export a GEDCOM and find every occurrence of just about any pattern of letters and numbers you can imagine. – Fortiter – 2012-11-10T02:02:10.353


When programming and genealogy come together I have to chime in: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grep

– fbrereto – 2012-11-10T21:38:18.243



Many of the traditional counties in England are named after their county town (capital). Examples are Oxford/Oxfordshire, Worcester/Worcestershire.

It's similar for some but a lower proportion of the counties in Wales and Scotland.

When referring to Oxfordshire now, it would normally be Oxfordshire. Abbreviations are not always obvious, for Oxfordshire it's officially "Oxon", from the Latin for "County of Oxford". (The Chapman Code is the more logical OXF).

"County of Oxford" is an acceptable but rather archaic or formal usage. "Oxford County" or "County Oxford" is never acceptable in England (note: the latter version is common for Irish counties, such as County Fermanagh). And plain "Oxford" would normally refer to only the city.

Not all counties are based on a city name, for example Hampshire, which would never be county of Hamp (and has the abbreviation Hants).

Devon, Dorset, Somerset no longer end in Shire in modern usage. Some counties have never really had shire at the end, such as Cornwall.

The Wikipedia list of the historic counties of England seems reasonably accurate. The names in their "alternative names" category would mostly be considered archaic now. And many more varied abbreviations exist in historic documents.

Rob Hoare

Posted 2012-11-10T01:39:26.707

Reputation: 6 076

Hampshire actually does derive its name from a city: Southampton. So it's similar to Northamptonshire but it lost the "South" (and the "ton") some time ago. They probably washed out to sea.

– AndyW – 2017-12-19T12:16:31.580


Bear in mind also Scottish county names can be odd - the historic county of Angus was known as such until ?sometime in the 1700s? when tidy minded bureaucrats supposedly determined the county names should follow the English pattern of XXX-shire. Thus Angus became Forfarshire because its county town was Forfar. Later it reverted to Angus. As with the English counties (roughly), it was Forfarshire or the Shire of Forfar - never just Forfar, nor County Forfar. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counties_of_Scotland

– AdrianB38 – 2012-11-10T16:53:31.693


This may be an aside but I just found a useful link to some old maps listed by historic county.

– PolyGeo – 2012-11-10T20:55:00.423