Learn Something New: Gretna Green

It doesn’t matter how old you get, there is always something new to learn. Sometimes these new things are words or concepts you have heard all your life, but perhaps you never understood. Learn Something New is a series that will highlight some of the things I learn, big and small in the coming days. — Douglas

Gretna Green

I have seen streets all over the country with this name, but never had any idea to what it referred or why. Recently one of my regular email subscriptions provided an answer without me even asking the question. A Word A Day is a great little email newsletter introducing you to a new word every day. Often each week will have a theme for each of the words like eponyms (word derived from people’s names), toponyms (words derived from geographic places)  and more. They also contain an audio pronunciation guide and a short bit of info on the etymology of the word.

Gretna green historical etching

For example, here is their entry on Gretna Green:

 Gretna Green


(GRET-nuh green


1. A place where couples elope to get married.
2. Such a wedding.


After Gretna Green, a village in Scotland on the English border. English couples who had not reached the age of majority eloped to Gretna Green where such a wedding was permitted. A wedding was typically performed by a blacksmith in his shop. Earliest documented use: 1813.


“They finished up with a Gretna Green elopement of a couple in a terrible old Model T Ford, with Father chasing after them all over the aerodrome.”
Nevil Shute; Round the Bend; William Morrow; 1951.


At least half the mystery novels published violate the law that the solution, once revealed, must seem to be inevitable. -Raymond Chandler, writer (1888-1959)  — A Word A Day

So for us Americans, I would liken Gretna Green to a couple eloping to Las Vegas or perhaps, Mexico for a quickie wedding. These are still within the boarder the US, but the concept of making a quick wedding get-away still applies, especially one designed to avoid a parents disapproval.

Gretna Green is a village in the south of Scotland famous for runaway weddings. It is in Dumfries and Galloway, near the mouth of the River Esk and was historically the first village in Scotland, following the old coaching route from London to EdinburghGretna Green railway station serves both Gretna Green and Gretna.[1] The Quintinshill rail crash, with 226 deaths the worst rail crash in British history, occurred near Gretna Green in 1915.

Gretna Green sits alongside the main town of Gretna.[1] Both are accessed from the A74(M) motorway and are situated near to the border of Scotland with England.[1]

Gretna Green is one of the world’s most popular wedding destinations, hosting over 5,000 weddings each year in the Gretna/Gretna Green area, and one of every six Scottish weddings.[2]

Grenta Green

More information on Gretna Green:

It has usually been assumed that Gretna’s famous “runaway marriages” began in 1754 when Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act came into force in England. Under the Act, if a parent of a minor (i.e., a person under the age of 21) objected, they could prevent the marriage going ahead. The Act tightened up the requirements for marrying in England and Wales but did not apply in Scotland, where it was possible for boys to marry at 14 and girls at 12 with or without parental consent (see Marriage in Scotland). It was, however, only in the 1770s, with the construction of a toll road passing through the thitherto obscure village of Graitney, that Gretna Green became the first easily reachable village over the Scottish border.[3] The Old Blacksmith‘s Shop, built around 1712, and Gretna Hall Blacksmith’s Shop (1710) became, in popular folklore at least, the focal tourist points for the marriage trade. The Old Blacksmith’s opened to the public as a visitor attraction as early as 1887. — Wikipedia

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