As Amazon’s Rings of Power show continues to release teasers that are more like taunts, showing off how proud they are to ignore Tolkien’s worldbuilding and lore, it’s a good time to re-read LoTR and The Hobbit.
So I was thinking about Bilbo and Frodo’s neighborhood. It turns out that Bag End was also the name of a real farm in Dormston, Worcestershire, England, which was owned for about ten years by Tolkien’s kindly and eccentric maternal aunt, Jane Neave. It was called Dormston Manor Farm when she got hold of it; but she researched and found it was originally called Bag End, and then refused to call it anything else. (Of course, this is also a horrible pun, being a direct translation of “cul d’sac.”)
Dormiston was originally Deormodsealdtune, Deormod’s town. “Deormod” means “bold-mood, bold-mind.” (And you can read Tolkien’s brief essay on ofermod to learn more about mod.)
Bagshot Row, where Sam and Gaffer Gamgee live, is based on a placename in Hampshire. Bagshot is near Aldershot. Aldershot comes from Alreshate, Alder-holt, and Bagshot comes from Bagsheta, Bacga’s holt. (A holt is an Old English word for woods, a thicket, a copse. There’s another old word with the same spelling that means an otter den, but it comes from a different Germanic root.)
Baggins is an actual English surname. It’s the patronymic form of names like Bagge, Bagg, and Bag, which also may come from the Old English given names Bacga, Baecga, Bagga, Baggi.
Baecga’s meaning is unknown. It might refer to some kind of wild animal, like a wild badger (theorized to be “bagga” as well as “brocc”); a wild pig (Old Dutch bagghe, a small pig); or a wild sheep (Scandinavian bagge, ram or wether).
Later on, there’s a Middle English word “bagger” which turned into Modern English “badget,” a hawker or peddler. This seems to be talking about actual bags full of goods.