What is Cockfosters meant to mean?

Picture this. You just landed in London Heathrow Airport, made it through passport control, and collected your checked baggage, if you brought some along. You now needed to make your way towards the city center (or Zone 1) because that is where your hotel is. You decided to board the London Underground because that is the cheapest and most direct option towards your destination. You get on the Piccadilly line service northbound towards the city center. And then you hear the announcer, “This is a Piccadilly line service to Cockfosters”. The juvenile intuition in you kicks in. You cannot help but to grin upon hearing it.

But what lies behind this phallic innuendo? Tourists in London might have that question lingering in their heads the moment they step into the Tube, and so this little short post will be dedicated to probably everyone’s beloved Piccadilly line station, Cockfosters.

Cockfosters is a suburb in North London, split between the boroughs of Enfield and Barnet. It is originally a hamlet, laying on the edge of a woodland. Understanding this name takes us into a history of this area. This was land granted to the chief forester of Enfield Chase, thus lending the meaning that Cockfosters is the estate of the chief forester of Enfield Chase. And this characteristic directly results in the name we see today.

But how did the word “cock” came to mean “chief” back in those days? After all, the two words do have different etymologies. Cock originally derived from the word for a male rooster (and still does so to this day), while chief derived from words along the lines of chef or boss. The chief forester might have been known as the cock forester back in the 16th century when this estate was founded, however, although reasons why might be unclear.

However, the 17th century saw a rise of the use of “cock” as a phallic innuendo, from words such as “pillicock”. Some of these words might have arisen from earlier derivatives as early as the 14th century. So imagine how much hilarity this place has sustained over the centuries since its founding.

The “fosters” component has a much more mundane origin. It was an obsolete form of the word “forester”, circling back to the etymology and meaning of the word “Cockfosters”.

Hilariously, there was an inn that opened in Cockfosters, creatively named “The Cock Inn”. Originally, it was called “The Cock” when it first opened in 1798.

Besides exploring the woodlands and nature spots around Cockfosters, it is a fairly typical suburb on the end of a Tube line. To many tourists, Cockfosters pretty much serves as a little source of amusement while the place itself is overshadowed by the numerous attractions in the city center. But perhaps this post serves to explain why Cockfosters is named this way, and for how long travelers might have had a good laugh at this name.

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