|Suggested Meaning:||W. afon ‘water-course ‘|
|W. afon ‘water course’|
|Element:||SSE Water ‘WATER|
|SS G. abh ‘water course’ + G. don ‘brown|
|Blaeu Coila (1654):||Afton R.|
|OS Names (1855-1857):||Afton Water|
|Location:||OS Map Six-inch Scotland 1888-1960|
|Other Early Forms|
|Achtoun flu. (Blaeu Atlas, Nithia 1654)|
The Ordnance Survey Name Book (1855-57) entry for Afton Water reads –
A rapid stream rising on Alhang Hill, the Boundary between Galloway and Ayrshire, and flowing in a northerly direction through Glen Afton, unites with the River Nith at the village of New Cumnock.
Immortalised by Robert Burns as ‘Sweet Afton’, the Afton Water flows gently down the picturesque Glen Afton and on through the heartof the village of New Cumnock before joining with the River Nith.
Flow gently, sweet Afton! amang thy green braes,Robert Burns
Flow gently, I’ll sing thee a song in thy praise;
My Mary’s asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.
The name afton simply means ‘water-course, river’ and derives from one of the common Celtic forms as summarised by W.F.H Nicolaisen .
- afon (Welsh, Cumbric)
- abhainn (Gaelic)
- abann (Old Irish);
- auon (Cornish, Breton)
- abona (Gaulish)
The name Afton appears to be of Welsh, Cumbric origin as opposed to Gaelic that tends to yield the harder sounding ‘v’ containing names such as Avon in Avondale, now Strathaven (i.e. an equivalent of Glen Afton) .
The element water when applied to a water-course, as in Afton Water, is in Scotland indicative of a water-course that is smaller than a river but grander than a burn or ‘pol-‘. However, the element is little used locally and the river is simply known as ‘the Afton’ and Glen Afton is simply ‘up Afton’.
The Rev. James Johnston  suggests Afton Water, New Cumnock is probably Gaelic abh donn ‘brown stream‘, far removed from Burns ‘crystal stream’ but perhaps relective of the stream in spate.
| W.F.H. Nicolaisen |Scottish Place-names (1976)|
| James B. Johnston |Place-names of Scotland 3rd Edition (1934)|
|Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland|
|Map 1 | Armstrong’s Map of Ayrshire | Afton Water|
|Ordnance Survey Names Book|
|Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) | Afton Water|