Friday, 10 November 2017

What do Aberdeen, Inverness, Proust and Quimper have in common?

The Picts dominated eastern and northern Scotland up to the 10th century. Although we know little about who the Picts were, we can guess from place name evidence that the now-extinct Pictish language was closely related to Brittonic languages such as Breton, Cornish and Welsh. Pictish settlements, for example, often had Brittonic prefixes such as Aber and Lan, as well as Pit-, a uniquely Pictish prefix indicating a portion or share of land.


Aber is a common place name prefix in both Scotland [Aberdeen, Arbroath (Aberbrothick), Aberfeldy, Aberlour, Applecross (Aporcrosan)] and Wales [Aberdare, Abergavenny, Abertawe (Swansea), Aberystwyth]. Although it also occurs in Cornish and Breton, it is relatively rare.
Aber means either the mouth of the river or its confluence with the sea and/or other rivers. It comes from an older Brittonic form ad-ber  [ad- , 'to, together’; beru- 'flow']. So Aberystwyth (on the west coast of Wales), for example, is at the confluence of the Ystwyth and Rheidol rivers, and the Atlantic Ocean.

And what joins aber and inver is a deeper Indo-European root: *bher-, 'bear, carry' with other close linguistic cousins:
LATIN
GREEK
 SANSKRIT 
OLD WELSH
OLD IRISH
GOTHIC
OLD ENGLISH
ferre
phero
bhar
ber
bhear
bair
ber
Indo-European: *bher



Aberdeen, 500 miles away in the northeast of Scotland, stands on the Pictish site of Aberdon, at the mouth of the the river Don. Because the river Dee is only two miles away it has been suggested that the name is actually a phonetic confluence of the two rivers. It is also an unequivocally Pictish name with clear Brittonic roots.
Inverness, 100 miles further northwest, is situated at the mouth of Loch Ness. No aber here but the origin of inver is very similar to aber. Inver is the Anglicised spelling of the Scottish Gaelic/Irish: inbhir/inbhear: in, 'in or into'; bhir/bhear, 'carry'.
Place-names with inver- predominated in the Dalriada highlands and islands of northwest Scotland where Scottish tribes from Northern Ireland settled from the 6th century onwards. As the Scots expanded so too did the inver- prefix as it gradually replaced pre-existing abers. By the 10th century the Scots and Picts had merged forever and place names remain the only clues to earlier settlement patterns.
In Brittany aber is rare but not unheard of [Aber-Benoît, Aber Ildut and Aber Wrac'h] -see video Finistere- Land of the Abers

The Breton root word Breton: kemper ‘confluence/conflux’ [Gaulish: comboro; Welsh: cymer] is much more common. The 'ke' in Breton or 'co' in Gaulish became 'qui/que' in French. The root *bher is the same as for aber- and inver-  with the com- suggesting 'with, together'.
Quimper, (originally Kemper Corentin), the capital of Finistère (see Quimper), is at the mouth of the Odet and at the point where the Steir, Odet and Jet rivers meet.
Other examples in Brittany include:
QUEMPER-GUÉZENNEC Kemper-Gwezhenneg [Kemper, 1235; Quemper-Guezenec, 14th C] Quemper-Guézennec is at the point where the Leff and Trieux rivers meet. Guézennec could relate to Saint Guéthenoc, son of Saint Fragan and Saint Gwen; although this may be the name of a local Lord. Cf: Quimper, Quimperlé (Finistère).
QUEMPERVEN Kemperven [Kemperven, 1330] ‘Riversmeet’
From B: kemper ‘confluence/conflux’ and B: aon/aven, ‘river’ [Cornish: auon/awan; W: afon]. A number of rivers flow through this area but the Guindy and the Stéren meet inside the commune. Cf: Quimper, Quimperlé, Pont-Aven (29); Arrowan (Cornwall); Aberavon (Wales).
COMBRIT Kombrid [Combrit, 1223] ‘Confluence’. From Gaulish: comboro, ‘confluence’; [Welsh: cymer; Breton: kemper]; and Latin: -etum, collective suffix. Combrit is in the middle of a double confluence between estuary of the River Odet at Benodet and the natural sea harbour between Pont L’Abbé and l’Île Tudy. Cf: Quimper, Quimperlé (29); Rhydcymerau (Wales); Camborne (Cornwall); Combres (Languedoc); Combrée (Loire).
QUIMPERLÉ Kemperle [Kemperele, 1220] ‘Ellé Junction’. From Breton: kemper ‘confluence/conflux’ and the river Ellé. Quimperlé is at the junction of the Ellé and Isole rivers.


The Gaulish word 'comboro', which also includes the meaning of intersecting valleys, is a common place name element in France and can be found in Combres (Eure et Loir, Haute-Loire); Combrée (Maine-et-Loire); Combrailles, Combronde (Puy-de-Dôme); Combressol (Corrèze); Escombres (Ardennes).
15 minutes' drive away from Combres (Eure-et-Loir) is the pretty town of Illiers, sitting in a valley crossed by the Loir (a tributary of the Loire) and the Thironne. Illiers was where Proust's 'Aunt Léonie' lived.
He spent a lot of his childhood here and it is is exquisitely described in his "À la recherche du temps perdu".
In honour of this Proustian connexion the town is now called Illiers-Combray. And like its name twin neighbour it has the topography to match its toponymy. It is immensely satisfying to derive meaning from a fictional place name, particularly one which reveals deep Celtic roots.




Sunday, 22 January 2017

Definitive Guide to Understanding Irish Place Names



"Venturing outside of Ireland’s best known spots can be daunting tasks for tourists faced with unpronounceable place names such as Dun Laoghaire (Done Leery), Geashill (Gee-shill), and Altmooskan.

One of the best things about visiting Ireland, however, is the beauty of these place names and the way in which they describe the area they name. No famous figures or names for us, our place names have passed down through the centuries jam-packed with geographical information.

Over the years, especially during British occupation, Irish place names became anglicized as the British attempted to map the land for tax and ownership purposes. The attempts of the British to understand the original Irish names resulted in distorted versions being recorded as English spellings were forced on Irish language place names.

There are ways, however, to retrace spellings and place name parts back to the original so as to understand the area more. We look as ten of the most common words used and dissect their meaning."

IRISH CENTRAL: Definitive Guide to Understanding Irish Place Names

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

If Breton, Welsh and Cornish towns were twinned to match their names..


ELEMENT
CORNISH
WELSH
BRETON
Arcae/argae
OB: arcae, ‘dam’ or ‘embankment’ [W: argae]

Rhyderargeau, Penyrargae, Argae Alwen
Erquy (22); Ergué-Gabéric (29)
Banadl
OB: plu/plou, ‘parish’ and B: banadl, ‘broom’ [W: banadl/banhadlog, ‘broom’/’broom patch’]. 
Bonallack
Cefn Banadl, Bronbanadl, Maesbanadlog, Banhadlog
Bannalec, Plobannalec-Lesconil (29); Plobannalec (56)
Bangor
W: ban, ‘higher’ and W: cor, ‘religious community’, ‘assembly’.

Bangor, Bangor Telfi
Bangor (56)
Beth/bedd
OB/B: bed/bez, ‘grave’, ‘tomb’ [OC: beth; W: bedd]. 
Trembethow
Beddgelert
Rospez
Bran/brain
B: bran/brain, ‘crow/s’ [W: brân/brain; C: bran/brain].
Brane, Mellanvrane
Cwm-Brân, Nant-Brân
Brest
From OB: bre(st) [W/C: brest] ‘hill-breast’.
Brea
Brest Cum-Llwd, Brestbally
Brest (29)
Broenn/brwyn
B: broenn, ‘rushes’, ‘marshland shrub’ [W: brwyn, brwynen; C: bronnen].
Brunnion
Brwynog, Brwynen, Cwmbrwyn
Broons (22)
Bu/bual
B: bu, ‘cow’, ‘cattle’ [W: bu/buw/buyn; C: buch/beuh];  B: bual, ‘ox’, ‘buffalo’ [W/C: bual].
B(u)ohortha

Beudiau, Beudy-Mawr, Builth
Bovel (35); Bohal, Bubry, Buléon (56);
Cambot/cwmwd
OB: cambot, ‘commote’ [W: cwmwd/cwmbod].


Cefn Cwmwd, Mynydd Tir-y-cwmwd
Le Cambout (22); Cambot, Combout (29)
Coll
B: coll, ‘hazel’ [W: collen/cyll/coll].
Nancegollan, Tregolls
Cyll, Colfa, Cwrt-y-gollen

Argol
Caro
B: c/karo, ‘deer’, ‘stag’ [C: carow/kerrow; W: carw].
Kerrow, Lancarrow
Cilcarw, Gally-y-carw

Caro, Porcaro (56)
Carn
B: karn, ‘cairn’ [OC: carn; W: carn]
Carn Barra, Carn Du, Carn Euny, Carn Scathe
Aber-carn, Carn-bean, Carno, Pen-y-garn
Carnoët (22); Carnac (56)
Com/coombe/cwm
B: cum/com, ‘dale’ [C: coombe, cubm, cum; W: cwm]
Coombe; Ilfracombe (Devon)
Cwmbran, Cwmcewydd
Commana (29); Combourg
Combourtillé (35)
Croes/croaz
B: croes/ kroaz, ‘cross’ [W: croes; C: crowz, crouse].
Angrouse, Crows-an-Wra
Pen-y-groes, Ty-croes
Plougras (22); Pont-Croix (29); Le Crouais (35); Le Croisty, Croixanvec (56)
Crug
B: c/krug; OC/C : cruc/creeg ; OI : cruach ; W : crug, ‘mound’, ‘tumulus’, ‘barrow’.
Crugsillick, Crigmurrian
Bryn-crug, Crug-Hywel, Crug-y-bar, Crug-moch
Cruguel (56)
Dar/tarzh
B: tarzh, ‘spring’, ‘well’, ‘bubbling/noisy water’ [W: dar/tardden].

Aberdaron, Aberdâr
Trédarzec
Dau/dou
B: daou, ‘two’ [W: dau]
Duloe
Dulais, Y Glais, Aberdauddwr
Douarnenez, Plougastel-Daoulas (29) ; Dourdain (35)
Din
B/C: din/dun, ‘hill-fort’ [G: dunon; W: dinas; OI: dun] and B suffix: -an.
Castle an Dinas
Dinas, Dinas Mawddwy
Dinan, Dinard
Dol
OB: dôl, ‘river meadow’, ‘meander’ [C/W: dol].
Godolphin
Dol-y-bont, Dolbenmaen, Dolwen
Dolo (22); Dol-de-Bretagne (35)

Drein/draenen
OB: drein/draenen, ‘thorn (bushes)’ [W: draenen/drain; OC: drein].
Draynes
Bryndreiniog, Draenen Pen-y-graig, Ffynnon-ddrain
Rostrenen (22); Le Drennec (29)
Drez/drys
OB/B: drez, ‘brambles’ [OC/C: dreis/z; W: drys]. 
Tredrizzick, Poltrease
Dryslwyn
Trédrez (22)
Escob/escop
B: eskob/eskobien, ‘bishop/s’ [W: esgob; C: escop].
Huish Episcopi (Somerset)
Plas-yr-Esgob, Gwern Escob
Esquibien (29); Plescop (56)
Ethin/eithin
B: ethin/ethinoc, ‘gorse’ [W: eithin/eithinog].

Twyn Eithinog, Bryn Eithinog
Plouhinec (29); Plouhinec (56)
Faou/(f)faw
B: faou, ‘beech trees’ [C: faw; W: ffaw/ffawydd].
Fowey
Ffawydden, Ffawyddog
Faouët, Le (22)
Forn/ffwrn
OB: forn, ‘kiln’, ‘forge’ [W: ffwrn; C: vorn].
Park-an-Vorn
Craig Ffwrnais
Plouvorn (29); Kerfourn (56)
Guern/gwern
B: guern, ‘alder’ [W: gwern; C: guern]
Penwarne
Cilgwern, Pengwern
Vern-sur-Seiche (35) ; Guern, Le Guerno (56)
Hanveg/hafod
OB/B: hamuc/hanveg ‘summer residence’, ‘summer fallow’ [OW/W:hamod/hafod/hafoty; C: havar].
Halvosso/Hayfossou
Nant-yr-Hafod, Hafod-dywyll, Hafoty
Hanvec (29); Croixanvec (56)
Hen
B: hen, ‘old’, ‘former’, ‘ancient’ [W: hen; C: hen]
Hendra
Henllan, Brynhenllan
Hénansal (22); Henvic (29)
Hen + Coet
B: hen, ‘old’, ‘former’, ‘ancient’ [W: hen; C: hen] and OB: coët, ‘wood/forest’ [OC: cuit; W: coed; B: koad].

Hengoed
Hengoat
Heli/hili/hayl
OB/B: heli/hili(on), ‘salting(s)’, ‘salt-water’, ‘brine’ [W: heli; C: hely/hayl].
Porthilly, Hayle
Pwllheli, Y Felinheli, Rhossili
Hillion (22)
Hirel/hirael
B: hir, ‘long’ [W: hir; C: heer/hir/hyr] and W: ael, ‘top’, ‘summit’, ‘edge’, ‘ridge’.

Hirael
Pléherel/Fréhel (22); Hirel (35)
If/yw
B: ivinen/ivin, 'yew/yews' [F: if ; W: ywen/yw; G: eburo/ivos]
Llangernyw

Yffiniac, Yvignac-La-Tour
Iuch/iwrch
B: iurgch, ‘roe(buck)’ [C: iorgh/ yorth; W: iwrch].
Carnyorth
Nantiwrch, Pwlliwrch
Le Juch (29)
Glas/glaze
B: glas, ‘grey/green/blue’ [W: glas; C: glaze].
Canaglaze, Glasney
Derwen Las, Knucklas, Bryn Glas
Bolazec, Kerlaz (29)
Killi/celli
OB: killi, ‘grove/copse [W: celli; OC/C: kelli/killi]. 
Killigrew, Killiow, Killivose, Pengelly
Pencelli, Y Gelli
Le Quillio, Penguily (22); Quily (56)
L(a)uen/lowen
OB/MB louun/l(a)ouen, ‘happy’, ‘joyful’[B: levenez, OC/C: louen/lowen; W:lleuen/llawen]
Bellowall [Bolowan/Boslowen], Burlawne [Bodlouen], Trelawne [Trelouen]
Bodlawen
Poullaouen, Tréflévenez (29); Merlévenez (56)
Lean/lleian
OB: lann, ‘monastery’, ‘hermitage’ and OB: lean(où), ‘nun(s)’ [W: lleian].

Llanlleiana, Llan Lleian-wen
Lannéanou
Lech/legh/llech
OB/B: leh, legh, lec’h, slab/stone/rock’ [OC/C: lech/legh/leh; W: llech].
Bosleigh, Tre-leigh/legh, Tre-league/leh
Benllech, Harlech, Llechylched, Llechfaen, Trelech
Ploulec’h (22)
Maen/faen
B: maen, ‘stone’ [W: maen/main; OC/C: maen/men].
Tremayne, Tremenheere

Dolbenmaen, Llysfaen, Llechfaen,  Pont-faen, Rhyd-y-main
Lanfains, Tramain (22); Bonnemain (35)

Magoer/magwyr
OB/B: macoer/moger ‘(dry) stone wall/ruin’ [W: magwyr; L: maceria, ‘masonry walls’ or ‘ruins’].

Magor
Magoar, Ploumagoar (22); Ploumoguer (29);
Marc’h/marth
B: marc’h, ‘horse’ [W: march; C: marth].

Penmarth, Polmarth
Penmarc’h (29)
Mellion/meillion
W: meillion, ‘clover’ [B: melchen/melchon; C: mellyon/mellian]
Mellionnec, Rosemullion Head
Cwm Meillionen, Maes-meillion
Mellionec
Merzher/merthyr
B: merzher, ‘saint’s grave’ or ‘burial place’ [W: merthyr; C: merther].
Merther, Mertheruny
Merthyr Tudful, Merthyr Cynog
Le Merzer
Moch/mogh
B: moch, ‘pigs’ [W: moch; C: mogh]

Mochdre, Crug-moch
Motreff (29); Mohon (56)
Moroc’h/morah
B: morhoc’h/morhouch, ‘dolphin’, ‘dauphin’, ‘prince’ [F: dauphin; W: morwch, môr-hwch; C: morhoch/morah].
The Morah

Kermoroc’h (22)
Nant
B: ant/nant, ‘valley’, ‘brook’ [W/OC: nant].
Trenant
Glanynant, Nant-y-moel
Henansal (22); Fouesnant (29); Nantes (Loire-Atlantique)
(o)scal/ysgall
OB: scal/oscalloc ‘thistle’/ ‘place of thistles’ [W: ysgallog].

Pantysgallog, Dolysgallog

Aucaleuc, Plusquellec (22)
Pen + celli/gelli
OB: penn [OC: pen/pedn; W: pen], ‘head’, ‘end’ or ‘top’ and OB: killi, grove’, ‘copse’ [W: celli; OC: kelli]. 
Pengelly
Pencelli
Penguily
Penpol
OB: penn, ‘head’, ‘end’ or ‘top’ [OC: pen/pedn; W: pen] and B: poull, ‘cove’, ‘creek’, ‘bay’ [W: pwll; OC: pol].
Penpol
Pen Pwll
Paimpont (22)
Pen + rhos/ros
OB: penn, ‘head’ [OC: pen/pedn; W: pen], B: ros/roz [W: rhos; OC: ros], ‘promontory’, ‘coastal slope
Penrose
Penrhos
Perros-Guirec
Poull/pwll
B: poull, ‘pool’, ‘pit’, ‘cove’, ‘creek’ [W : pwll ; OC : pol]
Paul; Poole (Dorset)
Pwllheli
Paule
Prad/praze
OB/B: prad/praze, meadow [C: pras/praze]. 
Praze

Prat (22)
Reden
B: reden, ‘fern’, ‘bracken’ [W: rhedyn; C: reden].

Rhedyn-coch, Brynrhedyn
Rédené (29); Rannée (35); Radenac (56)
Rin(n)/r(h)yn
B: rinn, ‘spur’, ‘ridge’, ‘point’ [W: rhyn; C: ryn].
Penryn
Penrhyncoch
Plourin (29)
Rit/rhyd
B: red/ret, 'ford' [W: rhyd; OC: rit]
Penrith (Cumbria), Redruth
Penrhyd, Rhydlydan, Pont-rhyd-y-fen
Perret (22); Plouray, Rieux (56);
Riw/rivou
B: riw/rivou, ‘slope/s’ [W: rhiw; C: riw].
Trefrew

Rhiwlas, Plas yn Rhiw, Y Rhiw, Troed-y-Rhiw
Plourivo (22); Le Rheu, Rimou (35);
Rod/rhod
B: rod/rot, ‘circle, ‘wheel’, ‘the sun’ [W: rhod; C: rôs].

Rhod Isaf, Rhodmad
Lanrodec (22); Irodouër (35); Roudouallec (56);
Ros
B: ros/roz [W : rhos; OC : ros], ‘promontory’, ‘coastal slope’ 
Roskennals, Penrose
Penrhos, Rhosgadfan
Perros-Guirec, Rostrenen (22); Roscanvel, Roscoff (29)
Saeson, sauzon
B: saozneg, ‘Saxon’ [W: sacson, saesneg, saeson]

Coswinsawsin, Tresowes
Nant-y-saeson, Rhiw-saeson
Sauzon (56)
Sarn/sorn
B: sorn/sarn, ‘causeway, ‘stepping stone’, ‘(paved) road’ [W: sarn].

Pensarn, Tal-y-sarn, Sarnau, Sarn
Le Sourn (56)
Scaw/scaw
OB: skaw/ieg, ‘(place with) elder trees’ [W : ysgeifiog; C : scaw/en]. 
Boscawen; Tresco/Trescau (Scilly Is.)

Ysgeifiog, Llanfihangel Ysgeifiog

Squiffiec
Tourch
B: tourc'h, ‘boar’ [C: torgh; W: twrch].

Twrch Vechan, Blaen-Twrch
Tourch (29)
Tre + brith
OB/B: tre/treb/trev, ‘hamlet’ or ’settlement’ and C/B/W: brith, brec’h, brych, ‘mottled’, ‘a hilly place’. 
Trebrith
Brithdir, Cefnbrith
Trébry (22)
Tre + castell
OB/B: tre/treb/trev, ‘hamlet’ or ’settlement’ and OB: castell, ‘castle’ [W/C: castell]. 

Trecastell
Trégastel (22)
Tre + crom
OB/B: tre/treb/trev, ‘hamlet’ or ’settlement’ and OB/B: crom/kromm, ‘curved’, ‘crooked’ [W: crwm/crym; C: crom]. 
Trecrom

Trégrom (22)
Tre + Maen
OB/B: tre/treb/trev, ‘hamlet’ or ’settlement’ and B: maen, ‘stone’ [W: maen/main; OC/C: maen/men]. 
Tremaine
Tremain 
Tramain
tre/treb/trev, ‘hamlet’ or ’settlement’ and B: meur, ‘great’, ‘large’ [C: maur; W: mawr]. 
Tremawr

Trémeur (22); Trimer (35)
Tricorii
L: pagus tricurius, ‘land of the three battalions’.
Trigg, Tregor

Trégor, Tréguier (22); Trégourez (29)
Uhel/uchel
B: uhel, ‘high’ [W: uchel]

Bonuchel, Gelli-Bonuchel
Uzel, Canihuel, Gurunhuel (22); Huelgoat (29)