From nail + bourne (“seasonal stream or brook”). The etymology of the first part is uncertain. It may derive from ail via a rebracketing of an ailbourne as a nailbourne; compare similar cases such as English newt and nickname.
nailbourne (plural nailbournes)
- (Kent) A chalk stream that only flows intermittently.
- 1797, Hasted, Edward, “The Hundred of Loningborough”, in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, volume 8, third edition, page 81:
- Theſe Nailbourns, or temporary land-ſprings, are not unuſual in the parts of this county eaſtward of Sittingborne, for I know of but one, at Addington near Maidſtone, which is on the other ſide of it. Their time of breaking forth or continuance of running, is very uncertain; but whenever they do break forth, it is held by the common people as the forerunner of ſcarcity and dearneſs of corn and victuals. Sometimes they break out for one or perhaps two ſucceſſive years, and at others with two, three, or more years intervention, and their running continues ſometimes only for a few months, and at others for three or four years, as their ſprings afford a ſupply.
- 1893, Appendices to [the Report and] Minutes of Evidence of the Royal Commission on Metropolitan Water Supply, page 435:
- It should be understood that many small springs were not visited, and that the subject of streams and nailbournes (or occasional streams) has been only alluded to incidentally.
- 1895, Brabner, John Henry Fryden, editor, The Comprehensive Gazetter of England and Wales, Addington, page 13:
- A nailbourne spring in the parish breaks out at intervals of seven or eight years, and sends off its waters to the Leyborne rivulet.
- 2009, Kennett, Peter J., Faversham From Old Photographs:
- Ospringe Street. This was associated with a nailbourne (an intermittently flowing chalk stream) which sometimes ran from Kennaways into the lake at Whitehill and from there to Faversham Creek, via Water Lane and the Davington Ponds.