AskDefine | Define firth

Dictionary Definition

Firth

Noun

1 English linguist who contributed to linguistic semantics and to prosodic phonology and who was noted for his insistence on studying both sound and meaning in context (1890-1960) [syn: J. R. Firth, John Rupert Firth]
2 a long narrow estuary (especially in Scotland)

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Etymology

From Old Norse fjǫrðr. Compare fjord.

Pronunciation

Noun

  1. An arm of the sea; a frith.

Extensive Definition

Firth is the Lowland Scots word used to denote various coastal waters in Scotland. It is usually a large sea bay, which may be part of an estuary, or just an inlet, or even a strait. It is cognate to fjord (both from Proto-Germanic *ferþuz) which has a more narrow sense in English, whereas a firth would most likely be called a fjord if it were situated in Scandinavia. Bodies of water named "firths" tend to be more common on the east coast, or in the southwest of the country, although the Firth of Lorne is an exception to this. The Highland coast contains numerous estuaries, straits and inlets of a similar kind, not called "firth", e.g. the Minch, and Loch Torridon; these are often called sea lochs.
A firth is generally the result of ice age glaciation and is very often associated with a large river, where erosion caused by the tidal effects of incoming sea water passing upriver has widened the riverbed to an estuary. Demarkation can be rather vague. The Firth of Clyde is sometimes thought to include the estuary as far upriver as Dumbarton, but the Ordnance Survey map shows the change from river to firth occurring off Port Glasgow, while locally the change is held to be at the Tail of the Bank where the river crosses a sandbar off Greenock at the junction to the Gare Loch, or even further west at Gourock point.
However, some firths are exceptions. The Cromarty Firth on the east coast of Scotland, for example, resembles a large loch with only a relatively small outlet to the sea and the Solway Firth and the Moray Firth are more like extremely large bays. The Pentland Firth is a strait rather than a bay or an inlet.

Scottish Firths

Firths on the west coast of Scotland (from north to south)

In Scottish Gaelic, the Firth of Clyde is treated as two bodies, with the landward end being called Linne Chluaidh () (meaning the same as the English), while the area around the south of Arran, Kintyre and Ayrshire/Galloway is An Linne Ghlas ().

Firths on the east coast of Scotland (from north to south)

These are connected to, or form part of, the North Sea.

Firths on the north coast of Scotland

Firths in the Northern Isles

The Northern Isles were part of Norway until the 15th century, and retain many Norse names. In Shetland in particular, "firth" can refer to smaller inlets, although geo, voe and wick are as common. In Orkney, "wick" is common.
Please note, this list is incomplete.

Other similar waters in Scotland

In the Scottish Gaelic language, linne is used to refer to most of the firths above; it is also applied to the Sound of Sleat, Crowlin Sound, Cuillin Sound, Sound of Jura, Sound of Raasay, and part of Loch Linnhe.
The following is a selection of other bodies of water in Scotland which are similar to various firths, but which are not termed such -

Firths outside Scottish waters

firth in German: Förde
firth in Scottish Gaelic: Linne (na mara)
firth in Italian: Firth
firth in Swedish: Fjärd

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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