The history of county names in England spans centuries, with many having been altered and influenced by the many armies that have invaded Britain. Often, they would do so as a means of asserting their authority, which has provided historians with a strong insight into the history of various regions.
In general, any county with a name ending in ‘-land’, such as Northumberland, would originally have referred to a ‘tract of land’ that was significant to the county. On the other hand, counties that end in ‘-set’, such as Dorset, have an ending derived from the Old English word ‘saete’ that means sellers or inhabitants. Counties ending with ‘shire’ have an ending that derives from the Old English word ‘scir’, which means ‘administrative division’. An example would be Berkshire, which means ‘administrative region centred near a forested hill’. The name appears to have originated from a combination of Berroc (forest) and ‘barro’, which means top or summit.
Other county name origins include:
See also: Scotland and Place Names
"The History of County Names". HistoryLearning.com. 2015. Web.