Alie 1565 RSS v no. 2327 [see ELI Introduction for context]
(burgh and port of) Elie 1599 RMS vi no. 874 [erection of burgh and port; see ELI Introduction, Elie in 1599]
villa de Elie 1599 RMS vi no. 874
lie Elie-law 1599 RMS vi no. 874
terris et baronia de Elie 1629 Retours (Fife) no. 415 [‘with the burgh of barony, harbour etc’ (cum burgo baroniae, portu &c.)]
Eliot 1642 Gordon MS Fife [apparently an error by the mapmaker; also shows Eliot C<astle>]
terras et baroniam de Elie 1643 RMS ix no. 1470
the Ellie towne 1651 Lamont’s Diary 32
Ely 1654 Blaeu (Gordon) Fife [also shows Ely C<astle>]
the Ellie 1654 Lamont’s Diary 74 [‘they came to the Ellie, (wher they dranke some wine)’]
Ellie 1654 Lamont’s Diary 75
at the Ellie Place 1661 Lamont’s Diary 138 [place of a marriage feast]
skipper in the Elly 1669 Lamont’s Diary 213
Elie 1680 Laing Chrs. no. 2790
Ealie 1680 Laing Chrs. no. 2790
terris et baronia de Elie 1695 Retours (Fife) no. 1370 [containing the lands of Wester Grangemuir (Wester Grangemuire), Carmurie (Camremuir <sic>) KCQ, Muircambus (Muircambus) KCQ, Newton of Rires (Newtoune de Rires) KCQ, Bruntshiels (Bruntsheills) KCQ, with ‘the toun, territory and the harbour of Elie’ (villa, territorio et portu lie harbour de Elie) and ‘the manor place’ (maneriei loco) of Elie and advowson of the church of Elie]
Ely 1753 Roy sheet 18, 1 [also Ely Ness]
Elie 1775 Ainslie/Fife [also Elie Law and Elie Harbour]
Ely 1790s OSA, 346 [also mentions Elie and Ellie as alternative spellings]
? G èaladh or ? G ail + – in
Lack of forms earlier than the mid-sixteenth century make any suggested etymologies tentative. Watson suggests a derivation from G ealadh ‘tomb’ (1926, 260); however, it is more likely to derive from èaladh ‘a passage for boats between two rocks’, a secondary meaning from G èaladh ‘creeping, proceeding stealthily’, found for example in Ardaily in Gigha (Watson 1926, xi). This derivation is reasonably appropriate, since there was formerly a large rocky tidal island just off the shore at Elie. Elie harbour was later built on this island and it is now connected to the mainland by a metalled road. The island’s location and extent can be clearly seen on the OS 6 inch 1855 map.
Another possibility is that the name derives from G ail ‘rock’ (see, for example, Beley DNO, above), with the common locational suffix –in ‘rock-place’, perhaps also with reference to the above-mentioned tidal island.
Local usage in the seventeenth century, as reflected in Mr John Lamont’s Diary (Lamont’s Diary), was generally to prefix this name with the definite article. Lamont’s consistent spelling of the place as (the) Ellie also suggests that at this time the first (stressed) syllable was a short, open e (to rhyme with Kellie).
The town became a Burgh of Barony in 1599 (see RMS vi no. 874) and has expanded westwards to embrace Liberty and Williamsburgh (incorporated in 1891), and also Earlsferry, with which it was united in 1929 (Pride 1990, 165–6).
For an account of the history of the port in the late sixteenth century, and of its subsequent fortunes, see Millar 1895 ii, 4.
OS Pathf. also shows Elie Ness, Elie Harbour and Elie House. This last was a convent run by sisters of Marie Reparatrice, now closed, and recently converted into several separate dwelling units.
This place-name appeared in printed volume 3