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Col[ne]chester (was: British Latin)

From:Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Friday, June 8, 2001, 18:26
At 9:49 pm +0200 6/6/01, BP Jonsson wrote:
>At 14:49 2001-06-06 -0400, John Cowan wrote: > >>The others are plain enough, but how did "Camulodunum" become >>the "Col" of "Colchester"? > >"chester" is from L. _castrum_ which means about the same thing as the >Celtic _dunum_ element, which itself is the cognate of English "town",
I don't think any Saxon would've concerned himself with analyzing native British toponyms; in any case, the name _Camulodunum_ had long been forgotten by the time Saxons moved into Essex ("East Saxony").
>so >it's really only _camulo_ which contracts to _col_!
'fraid not. The fact that both _Colchester_ and _Camulodunum_ begin with {c} and have an {l} somewhere along the line is pure coincidence, and nothing else. The modern name is in no way connected with the ancient Britto-Latin _Camulodunum_. In fact, the name derives from the Saxon or Old English _Colneceastre_ = the Colne fortress. Now the river which flows through Colchester is the _Colne_ and it is tempting to see the name as meaning 'the fortress on the Colne', but it is almost certain that the first element of Colneceastre derives from the Latin _Colonia_ which was the name of the town when the Saxons knew it. It may well be, indeed, that the river got its name by back-formation from the name of the town. Such instances are, in fact, historically attested, e.g. the river which flows through the town where I live is the River Mole; this got its name by back-formation from the twon of Molesley. In my native Sussex the river once called the Tarrant (from the Romano-British _Trisantona_) is now called the _Arun_, being a back-formation from the town name Arundel where the first element, Arun-, is in fact derived from Old English _ha:rhu:ne_ = 'horehand' (a plant: the Marrubium vulgare) which grew there. Anyway, let's get back to Colneceastre. Camulodunum (Camulos' fortress [Camulos was a British god]) was the original capital of Roman Britain; the Emperor Claudius had a "colonia" (i.e. settlement for retired soldiers) built on the hill above the civilan town. The colonia was termed Colonia Victricensis, but it's incertain whether the epithet was there from the start, commemorating Claudius' victory over the Brits, or whether it was added to commemorate the Roman victory over Boudicca (more commonly known by the typo 'Boadicea'), whose followers destroyed the Roman colonia & massacred its inhabitants. It was rebuilt after the defeat of Boudicca, and the provincial capital transferred to Londiniun (London). But Colonia (Victricensis) had became an important & prosperous town by the end of 1st cent. AD. The Saxons knew it under its purely Roman name of _Colonia_ and, in typical Germanic style, stressed it on the first syllable, not the second as in Latin, cf. Cologne/ Koeln, and _Lincoln_ <-- Lindum Colonia. So Old English Colne- <-- Colonia. The addition of -ceastre to Romano-British was not uncommon, cf. Winchester <--- Venta + ceastre; Manchester <-- Mamuciu(m) + ceastre; Binchester <-- Vinouia + ceastre (prob. some folk etymology at work changing expected Win- to Bin-); Branchester <-- Branodunu(m) + ceastre. ========================================= A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language. [J.G. Hamann 1760] =========================================


John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>