Celtic toponymy

Celtic toponymy

Celtic toponymy is the study of placenames of celtic origin, that is of placenames wholly or partially of Celtic origin. These names are found throughout continental Europe, the British Isles, Asia Minor and latterly through various other parts of the globe not originally occupied by Celts.

Continental Celtic


*Alzenau/SpessartFrom Celtic alisa, s.f., "Alder". (Compare the modern German Erlenbach) and Old High German (OHG) aha, s.n., "Flowing water."

*Amerbach near Groß- and Klein-Umstadt, Harpertshausen, Langstadt, Ober-Ramstadt *Ammergraben near Harpertshausen
*de Amarahe (?), a lost river name near Fulda c800CE
*Amorbach, a stream near Mümling and the village named after it.

Perhaps from Celtic ambara, s.f., "channel, river." Compare Indo-European *amer-, "channel, river" > Greek ἀμάρη (amárē), "channel." Or, from Celtic amara, s.m., "spelt, a type of grain."

*Annelsbach a suburb of Höchst
*Ansbach in Mittelfranken originally Onoltesbah 837CEFrom Celtic *onno-, s.m., "ash tree" plus a OHG bach, "small river."

*Bonn From Gaulish Bonna, s.f., "Foundation."

*Boppard From Gaulish Boudobriga, s.f. "Hill of victory." Containing the elements boudo-, "Victory" and briga, s.f., "Hill."

*TübingenSome have seen this toponym as a hybrid form comprising a Celtic form and a Germanic suffix -"ingen". [Bahlow, Hans. 1955. "Namenforschung als Wissenschaft. Deutschlands Ortsnamen als Denkmäler keltischer Vorzeit". Frankfurt am Main.] This may be so since in the area between the second and fourth centuries the area around the present day German university town of Tübingen was settled by a Celtic tribe with Germanic tribal elements mixed in. The element tub- in Tübingen could possibly arise from a Celtic dubo-, s.m., "dark, black; sad; wild." As found in the Anglo-Irish placenames of Dublin, Devlin, Dowling, Doolin and Ballindoolin. Perhaps the reference is to the darkness of the river waters that flow near the town; if so then the name can be compared to the English Tubney, Tubbanford, Tub Mead and Tub Hole in England. Compare the late Vulgar Latin tubeta, s.f., "morass" from Gaulish. The root is found in Old Irish dub > Irish dubh, Old Welsh dub > Welsh du, Old Cornish duw > Middle Cornish du, Breton du Gaulish dubo-, dubis, all meaning "Black; dark"

*MeggingenFrom the Celtic mago- , m.s., "Plain, field."

Insular Celtic

Great Britain

Linguistic evidence for celtic placenames in present-day England can be found in place names, such as those including the Old English element, 'wealh', meaning 'foreigner', 'Briton' or 'stranger'. A smattering of villages around the Fenland town of Wisbech hint at this: West Walton, Walsoken, and the Walpoles indicate the continued presence of an indiginous population, and Wisbech, King's Lynn and Chatteris retain Celtic topographical elements. Saxon Etheldreda's 'Liber Eliensis' documents the Fenland tribe of the Girvii (Gywre), who are cited elsewhere as being an independent people with dark hair and their own (Brythonic?) language. It is entirely possible that the Girvii were formed in part by migrating Britons, displaced by Saxon settlers after the Roman legions left the British Isles.



ee also

*Aber and Inver as place-name elements

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