Sunday, 19 November 2017

Welsh place names in the USA

In an unashamedly blatant plug for my book English Place Names Transferred to the USA, I thought it might be nice to look at some of the Welsh examples. This is unknown territory for me as I neither speak nor read Welsh, so I'm grateful for the help from those who do.

Bala - is a place name from bala and 'a place where a river enters a lake'.

Berwyn - another which has not changed at all since berwyn means 'snowy summit'.

Bangor - a delightful name for it describes what could be found in the early days as it describes this as the place of 'the wattled fence'.

Bryn Mawr - is Welsh for 'the big hill'.

Caernarvon - as many will know this is Welsh for 'the fort near Mon', this the Welsh name for Angelesey.

Cardiff - is the 'fort on the (river) Taff'. Origins of the river name are disputed but may mean 'craggy' or 'rocks' and describe the nature of the youthful river.

Flint - is named for the 'gravel' of the stony area on which the castle was built.

Lampeter - an Anglicised version of Llanbedr or 'church of St Peter'.

Gwynedd - is the 'land of the Venedotae', this the name of the Celtic tribe.

Montgomery - took the name of Roger de Montgomery, himself named after the town of Montgomery in the Pays d'Auge region of Normandy. THe Welsh name os Trefaldwyn means 'the town of Baldwin'.

Pembrey - simple Welsh for 'the top of the hill'.

Pembroke - is the Anglicised version of Penfro or 'amd's end'.

Radnor - is the English version and means 'red bank', while the original Welsh name of Maesyfed means 'Hyfaidd's field'.

Swansea - this is not English but an Old Scandinavian name meaning 'Sveyn's island', the Welsh version is Abertawe mouth of 'the river Tawe'

Sunday, 12 November 2017


Some years ago I posted the appalling story of the treatment of old photographs by someone I refuse to admit I'm distantly related to. You can read the Criminal Waste of History here.

For me old imagery is extremely useful when illustrating books and articles. Thus recently, having shown an interested party some of the images I had discovered, an interesting conversation followed which got me thinking when the other said how it was "amazing these photographs have survived". Well in the case of those rescued from the bonfire, this is true. But is this really the case? Remember images in those days were precious, few images were taken and those that were successfully developed cherished as these represented a significant investment. Furthermore, these images were often 'captioned' in the sense the names of those pictured were given on the reverse, often including the date and even the place. Such was the case with Maitland Kempson pictured below - indeed without the note on the reverse I would have had no idea who the man was.

Yet will old images be so easy to find in future? Will we have any notion as to who, where and when? Today's technology makes photography commonplace - we have images from cameras, mobile phones, tablets, and the many video cameras dotted around everywhere. Now 'when' is easy to as the digital record puts both the date and the time - assuming the equipment is set correctly, of course. But does anyone ever bother to caption images, except for those on social media? And are they saved and easily retrievable? No. Usually when the equipment dies the images die with them, and even those saved online will never be found again once the photographer's copyright has started to countdown from 70 years - unless passwords are known.

So, it is not surprising to find old images have survived from a century ago, but try finding an image of Jack or Lindsey a hundred years from now and recognising them when you do. Best of British!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Health and Safety

On Tuesday 23rd November 1858, Eli Meakin had been working on his father's farm at Whitgreave. Employed as a waggoner's boy, whilst driving the horses he is thought to have stepped over the horizontal shaft between them and the threshing machine. His action caused him to slip and he fell between the cog wheels. Subsequently found by a passer-by who, seeing the horses stopped and unsupervised, investigated and found the lad held quite firmly. The man released him but his chest injuries were appalling and he died shortly afterwards. Eli Meakin was just twelve years of age.

At the subsequent inquest the threshing machine was deemed to be dangerous for any driver, for the rods were secured in an improper position and the wheels unprotected. The owner of the farm promised the equipment would not be used again until the improvements had been made. Too late for young Eli whose demise was recorded as Accidental Death.

It seems unlikely the same verdict would be reached today. Further stories like this can be found in my Bloody British Histories: Stafford.

Sunday, 29 October 2017


Trees are comprised of wood, yet a wood is made up of trees. A linguistic quirk? No. If we go back far enough we find Proto-Germanic widu and Proto-Indo-European widhu, each used to refer to the both the 'timber' and also 'tree'. Hence the anomaly is the word 'tree', itself odly derived from the root (no pun intended) drew-o meaning 'be firm, solid' and for obvious reasons.

But what about the different names given to various kinds of trees? Where do these originate?

Oak - a name which is Germanic but that is where the trail ends and the etymology is a mystery. However the Indo-European root of deru, which is also the Greek and Celtic word for 'oak', is also the source of the English word 'tree'. And if that isn't confusing enough, when the Vikings arrived in Iceland and brought with them the Norse word eik or 'oak', they discovered no oaks whatsoever and thus used eik to mean simply 'tree'.

Broom - the tree gets its name from the Proto-Germanic braemaz 'thorny bush' and derived from Proto-Indo-European bherem 'to project, a point'. Such lumps and points characterise the broom tree, this also making them most suitable for being tied together to produce what we would call a besom but which is effectively still a broom for sweeping.

Elm - quite easy to trace this back to Proto-Indo-European el meaning 'red, brown'. It is also the origin of the word 'elk' and 'eland'.

Yew - a similar origin to that of the elm (see above), where Proto-Indo-European ei-wo also suggests 'reddish'.

Maple - a name of surprisingly recent origins, indeed it seems to have simply appeared in Germanic languages around 1,500 years ago. It is highly improbable to think all Germanci languages suddenly began using the name, hence there must be a common origin but that root is unknown.

Lime - or linden tree is derived from Proto-Indo-European lent-o meaning 'flexible', this a reference to the trees pliant bast, this the inner fibrous bark.

Beech - all forms across the Proto-Indo-European languages, these all from Proto-Indo-European bhago and all simply refer to the tree. The same word is also the source of the word 'book' and thus the smooth bark of the tree would be seen as being a black metaphorical page on which to make marks to send messages.

Pine - ultimately from Proto-Indo-European pi-nu and derived from peie 'be fat, to swell' and liely referring to the sap or resin pouring from the tree when it is damaged.

Alder - has exactly the same origins as the elm (see above) and simply means 'red, brown'.

Ash - a Germanic term and, while the origin is far from certain, seems to come from it being the preferred wood used in the making of spear shafts. Old English aesc plega may have been used to mean 'war' but it literally translates as 'spear play'.

Holly - easy to see why the Proto-Indo-European root here is kel meaning 'to prick'.

Willow - ultimately from Proto-Indo-European wel meaning 'to turn, revolve' and a reference to the young willow's usefulness as it is whippy and flexible.

Larch - thought to be a loanword from an Alpine Gaulish langauge which could be related to Old Celtic darik meaning 'oak' which may add to the information known for 'oak' (see above) to suggest the word 'oak' simply meant 'tree'.

Sunday, 22 October 2017


Never one to simply learn names, I have to know the origin, and having someone in the family who finds the skeleton the most fascinating part of everyone, I thought it might be interesting to see where the correct names originate. Whilst most of us would refer to it as the collarbone, I begin with the clavicle which not only comes first alphabetically but also happens to be the only bone I've broken to date which isn't in my hands or feet.

Clavicle - came to English from the French clavicule which not only meant 'collarbone' but also 'small key'. Tracing this back to the Latin clavicula, where the meaning was 'small key, bolt', it is from clavis or 'key' and shows this bone was seen as being that which fastened the shoulder together.

Coccyx - directly from the Greek kokkyx or 'cuckoo' as the Greek physician Galen believed this bone resembled the beak of a cuckoo.

Femur - a word derived from Latin, the etymology of which is completely unknown. Clearly this is an ancient term for the longest and strongest bone in the human body, for it is known as the femur in English, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese and French.

Fibula - another taken directly from Latin, where fibula meant 'clasp, brooch, bolt, peg, pin' and taken from the root figere 'to drive in, insert, fasten' which is itself related to the modern 'fix'. The bone is seen as such because it resembles what we would today call a safety pin.

Humerus - this bone of the upper arm is again taken directly from the Latin, itself derived from umerus 'shoulder' and from the Proto-Indo-European root omeso which also meant 'shoulder'.

Mandible - again from Latin where mandibula meant 'jaw' and related to mandere 'chew' and derived from the Proto-Indo-European root mendh 'chew'.

Maxilla - another directly from the Latin where maxilla also meant 'upper jaw'. It is derived from mala meaning 'jaw, cheekbone'.

Metacarpus - is also Latin but here Modern Latin derived from the Greek metakarpion. Here meta 'between' or 'next after' and derived from Proto-Indo-European me 'in the middle', together with Greek karpos 'wrist'.

Metatarsus - as above the meta element can be traced to Proto-Indo-European me 'in the middle'. Here with Greek tarsos 'ankle, sole of the foot, rim of the eyelid' and originally used to refer to 'a flat surface for drying'. Ultimately this is from Proto-Indo-European ters 'to dry'.

Patella - another Latin word with the same meaning of 'kneecap' but was also used to mean 'pan' as was the root patina. Ultimately both come from Proto-Indo-European pet-ano 'to spread', itself referring to the flattened or dished shape of the pan or kneecap.

Pelvis - easy to see by looking at the bones of the pelvic girdle as to why it comes from the Latin pelvis 'basin'. Ultimately this is from Proto-Indo-European pel 'container', which has also given us Greek pelex 'helmet', Sanskrit palavi 'vessel', Greek pelike 'goblet, bowl', and the word full common to both Old Scandinavian and Old English and meaning 'cup'.

Radius - has the same origin as the spoke of a wheel or that part of a circle, however just what that origin may be is unknown.

Rib - a Germanic word which can be traced to Proto-Indo-European rebh meaning 'to roof, cover'. Hence if the curved bone is seen as a rafter supporting a roof, clearly the bone's shape has been likened to that and not vice versa as a certain book may suggest.

Scapula - the Latin scapula means 'shoulder'. It was also used to mean 'spades, shovels' and this suggests the bone being used as such, albeit these of animals. Such a scraping motion when using these tools can be seen in the Proto-Indo-European root skep 'to scrape'.

Sternum - comes from the Greek sternon 'chest, breast' as well as 'breastbone'. It is related to the Greek stornyai 'to spread out' which is also seen in the original Proto-Indo-European stere 'to spread'.

Tibia - the Latin tibia means not only the 'shinbone' but also used to mean 'pipe, flute'. The instrument would have been made from said bone, and the etymological trail stops here.

Ulna - Latin again where ulna meant 'elbow' and was also a measure of lenth. This cominge from Proto-Indo-European el-ina which also meant 'elbow, forearm'.

Vertebra - in Latin meant 'joint or articulation of the body' as much as it did 'backbone'. This comes from the Latin vertere 'to turn' and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European wer also 'to turn' and thus seeing the backbone as a virtual hinge for the body.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Australian Territories

To define the names of the eight territories of Australia seems a little pointless, for they are obvious. Of course, this is because they were named very recently, albeit from words often coined very much earlier. Yet these are worthwhile looking at for, unlike most names which simply developed, these were chosen.

Western Australia - obviously the westernmost part of Australia, but why 'west'? It transpires this an abbreviation of the Proto-Indo-European compound wes-pero meaning 'evening'. Australia is an abbreviation of the Latin Terra Australis meaning simply 'southern land'.

Southern Australia - from the Proto-Germanic sunthaz or quite literally 'sun side'. For the origins of Australia see Western Australia above.

Northern Territory - 'north' comes from Proto-Indo-European ner meaning 'left' as that is where north lies when facing the rising sun. Note the same word is the root of Sanskrit narakah 'hell'. Territory is ultimately from Proto-Indo-European ters 'to dry' and orium a suffix denoting place. Together this produced the Latin territorium meaning 'a place from which people are warned off'.

Australian Capital Territory - Named as such for it is home to Canberra, itself a greatly Anglicised version of an indigenous name. Tales of this being named Canberry because of the number of native Australian Cranberry bushes growing around here seems fanciful, at best. Possibly this represents an old Ngunnawal word meaning 'meeting place', although other sources point to the two mountains which dominate the skyline and thus the river running between them is the nganbira or 'hollow between a woman's breasts'. For the origins of Territory see Northern Territory above and for the origins of Australia see Western Australia, also above.

New South Wales - a word seen since Proto-Indo-European newo and thus has hardly changed in form or meaning for thousands of years. For the origins of south see South Australia above, while Wales is an Old English word, where wahl meant 'foreigner' or, more correctly, 'not Saxon'.

Queensland - named in 1859 after former monarch Queen Victoria.

Victoria - exactly as for Queensland above.

Tasmania - is named after the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, the first European to sight the island, doing so on November 24th 1642, although he called it Van Diemen's Land after the then Dutch governor-general of the East Indies. Abel's surname comes from a Germanic term meaning 'of great faith'.

What do we know of the names of regional names used by those living here for millennia prior to the arrival of the Europeans? Nothing, as while they had names for places they did not name vast areas as they simply did not need to.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Colonial Slang

Dialect terms vary greatly across England, words used in the north and east would be completely unknown in the south and west. What is more the English spoken in Scotland and Ireland has even more variations. Hence I wondered what terms had crept in English among the former British colonies, in particular the slang terms. There were hundreds, but having removed those referring to body parts, sex and those of more obvious meaning, I ended up with the following list.

Australian: Back of Bourke (a very long way away)

Australian: Bush oyster (nasal mucus)

Australian: Franger (condom)

Australian: Mystery bag (a sausage)

Australian: Zack (sixpence - actually 5 cents)

Canadian: Toque (a warm knitted cap)

Canadian: Cowtown (how the locals know Calgary, Alberta)

Canadian: Pablum (vitamin deficiencies) and named from a propietary baby food.

Canadian: Gastown (a region of Vancouver) named after Gassy Jack Deighton and refers to the area devoted to the arts, media, technology and tourism.

Canadian: Skookum (excellent)

New Zealand: Carked (death, not necessarily a person)

New Zealand: Choice (thanks a lot)

New Zealand: Hungus (someone who likes food a lot)

New Zealand: Squizz (a glace)

New Zealand: Dairy (expensive)

South African: Babbelas (a hangover) comes from the Zulu word ibhabhalazi.

South African: Braai (barbecue)

South African: Fundi (expert) comes from the Nguni tribe's language.

South African: Jislaaik (an expression of surprise)

South African: Shongololo (a millipede) and from the Zulu word ukushonga which means 'to roll up'.

If anyone wants to drop me a line and suggest others, feel free.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Christian Feast Days

With this being the first week of October and, as far as I could gather, no religious festival whatsoever, I thought I'd look at the names of Christian feast days.

Ash Wednesday - derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year's Palm Sunday, these placed on the heads of those present in the form of the cross.

Quadragesima - the first Sunday of Lent, traditionally the first of the Sundays when fasting is suspended. It is Latin for 'fortieth' as it is exactly forty days between then and Good Friday.

Palm Sunday - commemorates Christ's entry into Jerusalem, where the crowd scattered palm branches on the path before Jesus as he rode through the streets.

Good Friday - not, as is often said, a corruption of 'God' Friday but uses 'good' in an earlier sense of 'pious, holy'.

Easter Day - comes from an Old English goddess Eostre, a dawn goddess which can be traced in numerous cultures many centuries before Christianity and Easter. Her name comes from Proto-Indo-European h'ews 'to shine'.

Ascension Day - the day on which the risen Christ is said to have risen to heaven. It is always a Thursday and the fortieth day of Easter.

Whit Sunday - the eighth Sunday after Easter, the day on which the Holy Spirit is said to have descended upon Christ's disciples. It is a contraction of White Sunday and is also referred to as Whitsun and Pentecost, itself from the Greek for 'fiftieth day'.

Trinity Sunday - is the first Sunday after Whit Sunday or Pentecost, marking the Trinity of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Corpus Christi - Latin for 'the Body of Christ', it is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.

Advent - the period from the fourth Sunday before Christmas up to, but not including, the day itself. Its name comes from Latin and means 'to come'.

Christmas - literally 'the mass of Christ', where 'mass' comes from mittere 'to let go' and 'Christ' is a translation of the Hebrew mashiah to Greek khristos 'the annointed'.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Etymology for Entomologists

Recently talking to a represent of Staffordshire Wildlife Trust about the excellent work they do and offered to talk on the origins of some of the names of the animals whose habitat they help to both preserve and create. Here I take a look at the origins of the names of insects, but if you're interested in hearing how other creatures got their names, perhaps you would care to book me for a talk. And if you're missing the story behind the name of Butterflies and Moths, I covered these a few years ago.

Ant - a Germanic term, seen in Old English aemette which is why it is still known in the southwest of Britain as the 'emmet', and coming from the Germanic root ai 'off, away' and Proto-Indo-European mai 'to cut' (a word which has also given us 'maim'). Thus the ant or emmet is actually 'the biter-off', a reference to how the creatures chop up larger prey to take back to their nests.

Aphid - the gardener's traditional enemy has an odd name which has never been understood. It is unknown before 1758, the colloquial name of ant-cow from 1847, when it was apparently coined by Linnaeus as aphides, the plural of aphis. Here the trail goes cold, although it has been suggested this comes from Greek apheides meaning 'unsparing, lavishly bestowed' and a reference to its unbelievable rate of production. While this etymology seems plausible there is nothing to show it to be true. What is true is their prodigous breeding capability for, under optimal conditions and with no predation, disease. parasites, and unlimited food supplies, a single female aphid can, through asexual reproduction, theoretically produce 600,000,000,000 (six hundred billion) descendants in a single season. Now you see why insects have been suggested as the answer to the world's food problem - although it doesn't answer the question the aphids ask about their food problem.

Bee - since humanity's days as hunter-gatherers honey will have been an important natural resource. Freely available, albeit not easily gathered, nutritious, sweet (and who doesn't like sweet), and with a long shelf life, it was the answer to many needs. Hence there has been a long association with the bee and that is reflected in the name. Coming from Old English beo, Old Norse by, Old High German bia, Middle Dutch bie, Proto-Germanic bion, and Proto-Indo-European bhei, all mean simply 'bee' and thus the name of this now worryingly endangered insect has not only never changed but has always been imitative of the buzzing sound associated with it.

Beetle - from Old English bitela, itself from Proto-Germanic bitel 'biting', and ultimately traceable to the Proto-Indo-European bheid 'to split' and referring to the formidable mandibles of beetles.

Caterpillar - the larval stage of butterflies and moths does not have a name it can call its own for, no matter what it is known as and from what language, the creature is always alluded to as resembling something else. For example, the English 'caterpillar' came from Old French chatepelose or 'shaggy cat'. Nothing different in other tongues, Swiss German teufelskatz 'devil's cat', Milanese cagnon 'little dog', Italian gattola 'little cat', Portuguese lagarta 'lizard', and Kentish where it was either a 'hop-dog' or 'hop-cat'.

Centipede - simply unites Latin centum and Proto-Indo-European ped 'foot' - although known centipedes have anything from 30 to 354 legs (or 15 to 177 pairs) and always an odd number of pairs of legs and therefore no centipede can have a hundred legs (see also millipede).

Chafer - a kind of beetle taking its name for a similar reason. Here Proto-Germanic kabraz meant 'gnawer' and came from Proto-Indo-European geph 'jaw, mouth'.

Cricket - comes from the Old French criquet from criquer, which means exactly what it sounds like 'creak, rattle'.

Dragonfly - is a fairly modern name, dating from the early 17th century and an example of folklore more than its earlier name of adderbolt, a good description of its shape and movement.

Earwig - named because it was thought the the wicga 'beetle, worm, insect' would be likely to hide inside the human ear - French perce-oreille and German ohr-wurm give the same warning - although there is not a single recorded instance of any earwig found in any earhole throughout the entire human history. The term wicga shares an origin with 'wiggle' in Proto-Indo-European wegh 'to go, move'. Also worth noting is the old dialect term from the north of England, where it was known as a 'twitch-ballock'.

Flea - see 'fly' below.

Fly - this is from the sense of movement through air, but this comes from the word 'flee' (as is 'flea' above) as it was the fastest means of escape. Here 'flee' comes from Proto-Indo-European pleuk, from the root pleu 'to flow'.

Gnat - shares a root with 'gnaw' as this means 'biter' but understood as 'little biter'.

Grasshopper - is basically the same thing as a locust, except from time to time the locust form vast swarms. The name is obvious, unlike the locust (see below), referring to its movement and habitat.

Greenfly - obviously some are indeed green and they are capable of flight.

Grub - derived from the verb and thus 'the digging insect', in turn this is from Proto-Indo-European ghrebh 'to dig, bury'.

Hornet - there is no doubting this is from 'horn', but whether this refers to the instrument and thus the buzzing sound of the creature or to the sharp feel of its sting is unknown. Interestingly as the first instruments known as horns were likened to the shape of the animal horn, both share an origin.

Katydid - named for the sound made when the male vibrates its wings. Of more interest is the alternative name for the insect, again imitative of the males but said to sound more like "Katy didn't".

Ladybird - or in the USA the ladybug, the latter are far more sensible name as it clearly is not a bird - although better still was the earlier name of 'ladyfly'. The 'lady' here is the Virgin Mary, which can be seen better in the German Marienkafer.

Locust - shares an origin with the name of the lobster, indeed the French form is languste and the Latin locusta meaning both 'locust' and 'lobster'. Now onbviously it referred to any multi-limbed creature with an external skeleton but, other than that, the etymology is a mystery. Note the Latin lacerta is the only other word known to refer to two quite different creatures, in this case the lizard and the mackerel.

Louse - a parasitic insect and one which has been with humankind for so long its name has never changed, at least not since Proto-Indo-European lus.

Mantis - often referred to as a 'praying mantis', where the first element is superfluous as the name 'mantis' comes from the Greek mantis meaning 'one who divines, prophet'.

Millipede - as with centipede (see above) this combines Latin and Proto-Indo-European to give 'a thousand feet', although the most ever discovered had 750 feet.

Mite - can be traced to Proto-Indo-European mei 'small', something which is seen as another meaning of the word 'mite' today. And before anyone points this out, I know a mite is an arachnid, not an insect.

Mosquito - is a Spanish word, itself derived from Latin musca 'fly' and ultimately the Proto-Indo-European mu 'gnat, fly'.

Nit - little change in this, the egg of the louse (see above), since Proto-Indo-European knid which referred to exactly the same thing today.

Spider - an obvious name when we realise this can be traced back to Proto-Indo-European spen meaning 'stretch, draw, spin' and thus the spider is literally 'the spinner'. And before anyone points this out, I know a spider is an arachnid, not an insect.

Tarantula - named from the seaport city of Taranto in southern Italy where these spiders are frequently found, as a place name it is thought to come from darandos 'oak trees'. And before anyone points this out, I know a trarantula is an arachnid, not an insect.

Termite - began as the Latin terere 'to rub, erode', then termes 'woodworm, white ant', and then to Modern Latin termites, pronounced as three syllables: 'ter-mi-tees', which was mistakenly thought to be plural and the final 's' dropped to produce an apparent singular.

Wasp - no matter how far back we trace this word it, like 'bee' (see above), has only ever meant 'wasp'. It is likely related to webh meaning 'to weave' and a reference to the production of the nest.

Weevil - exactly as 'wasp' (see above) in coming from Proto-Indo-European webh 'to weave'.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Norse Gods

In my work on English place name, particularly in the north of the country, I often find names referring to Norse gods and thought it might prove interesting, especially with the new Thor film due out later this year, to see how and why they were named.

Should start with the home of the heavenly hall in which Odin receives the souls of those slain in battle. The name is from Old Norse valr 'those slain in battle' and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European wele 'to strike, wound'. This root has also given us Latin veles 'ghosts of the dead', Old Irish fuil 'blood', and Welsh gwel 'wound'.

Aegir - the Norse sea god has a name meaning 'sea' and related to Old English ieg 'island', Gothic ahua 'river, waters', Proto-Germanic akhwo 'river', Latin aqua 'water', and Proto-Indo-European akwa 'water'.

Balder - his name is related to Old English bealdor, baldor 'lord, prince, king'. This honorific likely comes from a Proto-Germanic term related to balpaz, Old English bald, and Old High German pald, all meaning 'bold, brave'.

Bragi - got his name from Old Norse bragr 'poetry'.

Buri - the first god of Norse mythology, has a name where the origin is unknown but (as always) has several suggestions. Some hold this to be from Old Norse burr meaning 'son' which, as he is the first Norse god, hardly fits. However his status as the founder of the gods does add weight to the idea this came from buri 'producer'. He came into being when the cow Authumbla released him from a salty block of ice by licking it - which is probably my favourite creation myth.

Eir - a goddess associated with medical knowledge has a name from Old Norse meaning 'help, mercy'.

Frey - a name derived from Proto-Norse frawjaz 'lord' given to a god associated with kingship, virility, prosperity, sunshine, and fair weather.

Freyja - a goddess associated with love, sex, beauty, fertility, gold, war and death has a name from Old Norse freyja meaning 'the lady'.

Frigg - a goddess who gave her name to Friday seems to come from the same root as Freyja (above) and thus simply means 'the lady'.

Hel - a female figure associated with the place of the same name, both likely coming from Proto-Germanic xaljo or haljo meaning 'concealed place' or 'the underworld'. Hel had a horse named Sleipnir meaning 'the slipper'.

Hermothr - is Old Norse for 'war spirit', he often spoken of as the messenger of the gods.

Hlin - a goddess whose name means 'protectress' and thought to simply be an alternative name for Frigg.

Loki - this god's name has never really been understood but may be related to Old Norse luka meaning 'close, shut', which would fit with Loki's role in the Battle of Ragnarok.

Nanna - Balder's wife and another whose name has uncertain origins. This may be nanth 'the daring one' or, and this seems less likely, typical baby-babbly meaning 'mother'.

Od - sometimes given as Odr, is Old Norse for 'mind, soul' and related to Proto-Germanic words meaning 'madness, furious, vehement, eager'.

Odin - has exactly the same origins as Od or Odr (see above).

Ran - a Norse goddess associated with the sea whose name means 'runner'.

Sif - a goddess associated with the earth, her name is a plural form of Msifjar and understood as 'in-law-relative'.

Sigyn - is the goddess wife of Loki whose name means 'victorious girlfriend'.

Thor - the hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, protection of mankind, and fertility has a name associated with the Germanic thunraz 'thunder'.

Tyr - a god whose name means literally 'god'.

Vidar - a Norse god whose name means 'wide ruler'.

Wotan - has exactly the same origin as Odin (see above).

Saturday, 9 September 2017


Always been interested in heraldry, although I know very little. Hence I thought if I looked at the etymology of the terms it may help me to understand more and thus interpret what I see before me.

Abatements - marks showing some dishonourable act, not actual marks but seen as several pieces removed and all of different shapes. Mostly used in a legal sense to mean 'destruction or removal of a nuisance' - the two clearly connected.

Achievement - refers to the ranks and/or titles of the family. No surprise then to find it comes from Old French meaning 'to accomplish'.

Ambulant - describes the figure as 'walking', for obvious reasons.

Anchor - used to refer to 'hope' more often than any maritime connection, this a biblical quote where one's faith is said to be an anchor through life's storms.

Baton - in earlier generations it signifies illegitimacy of the first bearer.

Chevron - one of the simplest of images and one of the earliest, hence its original usage is unknown. What we do know is it comes from the French word for 'rafter' or 'roof'.

Courant - describes an animal - such as a horse, stag, dog - running at full speed.

Crescent - not a crescent as we would think, ie in a crescent moon, but one usually elongated and lying on its back with horns uppermost.

Dexter - heraldic terminology for the righthand side.

Escutcheon - a lovely word referring to the shield, and derived from the Latin scutum meaning 'shield' and ultimately from a Proto-Indo-European word meaning 'hide, conceal'.

Gradient - a term meaning 'walking'.

Lampasse - refers to the tongue of any quadruped when of a different colour to the rest of the creature. No, neither have I.

Martlet - perhaps not an actual bird, although some sources say this is a blackbird or swallow, but is marked by its lack of legs, thighs yes, legs no.

Potent - another name for a crutch or cane.

Saltire - as many will know is a cross, the most famous that of the cross of St Andrew, but heraldically it refers to a cross not in the usual vertical and horizontal form.

Sinister - lefthand side.

Tierce - refers to the shield being divided into three.

Vorant - is a term telling us one figure is swallowing or devouring another.

Does knowing the origins of thus the meaning of the terms help me understand more of heraldry? Only time will tell.

Sunday, 3 September 2017


I did look at some basic colours in July 2015 under COLOURFUL LANGUAGE. If you want to know the origins of colours such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, black, white, gold, silver, purple, brown, beige, cerise, chartreuse, cyan, ecru, magenta, mauve, taupe, or puce, simply follow the link. For other colours, read on

Amber - the name of the colour comes from the substance ambergris, secreted in the intestines of sperm whales and used in perfumes, itself from the Arabic anbar referring to the product rather than its colour.

Amethesyt - from the same source as the gemstone, this representing Latin amethystus, itself from Greek amethustos translating as 'anti-intoxicant' as it was once believed to be a remedy for drunkeness.

Apricot - from the name of the fruit, which can be traced through Catalan aberoc, Portuguese albricoque, Arabic al-birquq, Byzantine Greek berikokkia, and ultimately from the Latin (malum) praecoquum telling us it was the 'early ripening fruit'.

Auburn - now this will confuse you, for the reddish-brown colour has only been associated with this word since the 16th century. Prior to that the English word meant 'whitish, yellowish-white' and comes from Old French auborne and Medieval Latin alburnus 'off-white' and ultimately derived from Latin albus 'white'.

Azure - a colour originally made from the stone lapis lazuli. This came from Latin lazuri and lost the initial letter when the French considered it to be the definite article. This comes from Greek lazour and ultimately the Turkestan place name Lajward. This was mentioned in the writings of Marco Polo and was where the stone was originally collected.

Burgundy - named after the administartive region of France, itself taking the name of the Gothic tribe who lived there, The baurgjans taking their name as 'the dwellers of the fortified places'.

Cobalt - from the name of the metal, itself from the German kobold meaning 'household goblin'. This was down to the ore obtained from the Harz Mountains containing arsenic and sulphur, these making the miners ill but thought to be caused by the goblin of the mountain.

Copper - takes its name from the metal, itself from Latin cuprum and Greek Kyprios meaning 'Cyprus' for this was one of the original mining sites.

Cream - the colour of the dairy product, itself from Middle French creme'chrism, holy oil' and ultimately from the Latin chrisma 'ointment'.

Crimson - came to English from Old Spanish cremeson meaning 'belonging to the kermes'. These louse-like insects were the source of the red dye. However if we trace 'kermes' we find this comes from Arabic qirmiz and ultimately Sanskrit krmi-ja meaning 'that produced by a worm'. Hence the insect game the name to a colour which gave its name to an insect which gave its name to a colour.

Emerald - came to English from Old French, Latin, Greek, Semitic, Herbrew and ultimately Arabic barq or 'lightning'.

Fawn - takes its name from the colour of the young deer, although originally it meant 'young animal' and shares its root with 'foetus' which was originally used to mean 'offspring'.

Gentian - said to be named from the plant from which the colour is named, itself taken from the king of ancient Illyria named Gentius who is said to have discovered its properties.

Ginger - a long trail through Old English, Latin, Greek and Prakrit brings us to two possible origins. Here we either have Sanskrit srngam vera 'horn body' and a description of its shape; or Malayam spice names inchi-ver 'root'.

Hazel - named from the colour of the nut, itself almost unchanged since Proto-Indo-European was spoken.

Heliotrope - a Greek term literally translating as 'the plant turning its leaves and flowers to the sun'.

Jet - originates from Greek gagates lithos 'the stone of Gages' which is where it was collcted.

Khaki - a Persian word meaning 'dust'.

Lavender - comes from the Latin lividus 'bluish, livid' and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European leue 'to wash'.

Lemon - derived from the fruit, itself traceable through a line including Old French, Arabic, Persian, Balinese and Malay where limaw probably meant 'citrus fruit' - the same as is found for 'lime' below.

Lilac - not used as a colour until 1801, this is derived from the name of the shrub introduced to Europe through Turkey, where it was known as leylak and likely derived from its native Balkan name.

Lime - see 'lemon' above.

Maroon - coming to English from the French where marron meant 'chestnut'. Here the likely origin is Greek maraon 'sweet chestnut'.

Mauve - named from the French mauve meaning 'mallow' as the colour is close to that of the mallow plant. However the dye was not obtained from that plant but was the first dye not produced from animal or vegetable matter. This process was unique, actually creating a whole new technology which formed the basis of many other processes - the whole fascinating story is told by Simon Garfield in Mauve: How One Man Invented a Colour That Changed the World - a book I can certainly recommend.

Navy - obviously the colour used by the Royal Navy, the dye obtained from what became known as the navy bean. Clearly it takes its name from the branch of the armed forces, all of which lead back to Latin navis a plural form based on Proto-Indo-European nau 'boat'.

Ochre - named from the clay soil from which the pigment was obtained. The etymological trail can be traced back to the Greek ochra but ends there and the original meaning unknown.

Olive - no surprise to find it comes from the fruit, itself named from the tree and ultimately seen in an Aegean language meaning simply 'oil'.

Peach - another named from the fruit, it is derived from Persis or 'Persia' and even once known as the Persian apple'.

Pearl - obviously from the gem, itself having two possible origins. If this refers to the pearl itself it could be likened to the shape of the fruit of the pear tree, itself referring to the tree. However it seems more likely to be derived from the oyster in which it grows, a creature known in Latin as pernula 'sea mussel', but also used to refer to 'ham' as it was seen as resembling the oyster shell.

Pink - named from the flower, itself from the Latin verb pungere and Proto-Indo-European peuk both meaning 'to prick, pierce'. The flower uses this name as the petals have a perforated appearance, and we still use the word in this sense, albeit only when cutting with pinking shears.

Ruby - from the colour of the gemstone, itself from the Latin rubeus or 'red'.

Ruddy - only used as a euphemism since 1914, a ruddy interesting fact and the start of a trail which ends with Proto-Indo-European reudh meaning both 'red' and 'ruddy' and the only word for a colour thus far known to have been used in Proto-Indo-European.

Sable - as a colour only seen in heraldry, where it is black. However the word comes from the animal, although the creatures coat is brown. It seems likely the use of this for 'black' comes from the custom where the coat of the sable was dyed black and worn when in mourning.

Sapphire - traceable to Sanskrit, where sanipriya meant 'sacred to the planet Saturn'.

Scarlet - first seen in English in the 13th century when used to mean 'rich cloth' which was often, but not always, red. This was likely from a Germanic term where scar 'sheared' joined with lachen 'cloth'.

Tan - the colour is derived from the Latin tannum 'crushed oak bark', this used as a dye. Interestingly Breton tann meaning 'oak tree' is related to German Tanne 'fir tree'. Clearly the two are quite different in shape and one deciduous the other evergreen, which almost certainly shows this colour is ultimately from a very early word, one possibly referring to 'a tree' or maybe even as simplistic as 'plant'.

Titian - named from a person, specifically the Venetian artist Tiziano Vecellio (1490-1576) and a reference to the light auburn hair colouring often found in his work.

Turquoise - as a colour first seen in 1853, this comes from Old French pierre turqueise 'Turkish stone'. Thus the name comes from the country, itself thought to come from Phrygian ank 'angled, crooked' and a reference to a gorge where these people were first identified.

Ultramarine - from Latin ultramarinus and ultimately Proto-Indo-European al mori literally 'beyond the water' and so called as the mineral was imported from Asia.

Vermilion - is from Old French vermeillon 'red lead, cinnabar', and derived from vermeil which comes from Latin vermiculus 'a little worm' and from here shares the same origins as found in 'crimson' above and began as Proto-Indo-European wer 'to turn, bend' which is the basis for the modern word 'worm'.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Cathedral Cities of England

It has been a couple of months since I looked at place names, even longer since I looked at the origins of English place names. Thus recently having popped in to look at some architecture - Pugin it was, not particularly uplifting unlike the majority I have seen - I thought it time to look at some of England's place names through the cathedral cities. This is also a thinly disguised way to remind everyone of my books on place names covering England.

Canterbury - this is 'the fortified place of the people of Kent'. Further information can be found in my book East Kent Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Bath - 'the place at the Roman baths'. Further information can be found in my book Somerset Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Wells - 'the springs'. Further information can be found in my book Somerset Place Names.

Birmingham - 'the homestead of the family or followers of a man called Boerma'. Further information can be found in my book Warwickshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Bristol - 'assembly place by the bridge'. Further information can be found in my book Somerset Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Chelmsford - 'the ford of a man named Ceolmaer'. Further information can be found in my book Essex Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Chichester - 'the former Roman strognhold of a man called Cissa'. Further information can be found in my book West Sussex Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Coventry - 'the tree of a man named Cofa'. Further information can be found in my book Warwickshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Derby - 'the farmstead where deer are seen'. Further information can be found in my book Derbyshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Ely - 'the district where eels can be found'. Further information can be found in my book Cambridgeshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Exeter - 'the former Roman stronghold on the river Exe', this a British river name meaning simply 'water'. Further information can be found in my book South Devon Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Gloucester - 'the former Roman stronghold known as Glevum', this a Romano-British place name meaning 'the bright place'. Further information can be found in my book Gloucestershire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Guildford - ''ford by the gold-coloured hill'. Further information can be found in my book Surrey Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Ipswich - 'the trading centre of a man named Gip'. Further information can be found in my book Suffolk Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Hereford - 'the ford capable of permitting an army to cross'. Further information can be found in my book Herefordshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Leicester - 'the former Roman stronghold of the Ligore'. Further information can be found in my book Leicestershire and Rutland Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Lichfield - 'the grey wood'. Further information can be found in my book Staffordshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Lincoln - 'the Romany colony by the pool'. Further information can be found in my book Lincolnshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

London - an uncertain name but maybe 'the landing place of man named Londo'. Further information can be found in my book Middlesex Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Norwich - 'the northern trading centre'. Further information can be found in my book Norfolk Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Oxford - 'the ford used by oxen'. Further information can be found in my book Oxfordshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Peterborough - 'the borough of St Peter'. Further information can be found in my book Cambridgeshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Portsmouth - 'the mouth of the harbour'. Further information can be found in my book Hampshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Rochester - 'the former Roman stronghold known as Hrofi', the British place name meaning 'the walled town with bridges'. Further information can be found in my book East Kent Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

St Albans - 'the holy place of St Alban'. Further information can be found in my book Hertfordshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Salisbury - 'the fortified place known as Sorvio', the British place name of uncertain origins. Further information can be found in my book Wiltshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Truro - 'place of turbulent water'. Further information can be found in my book Cornwall Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Winchester - 'the former Roman stronghold known as Venta', the British place name meaning 'the chief place'. Further information can be found in my book Hampshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Worcester - 'the former Roman stronghold of the Weogora tribe', this British people taking their name from their home being at the 'winding river'. Further information can be found in my book Worcestershire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

York - ''the estate marked by yew trees'. Further information can be found in my book North Yorkshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Blackburn - 'the dark stream'. Further information can be found in my book Lancashire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Bradford - 'the broad ford'. Further information can be found in my book West Yorkshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Carlisle - 'fortified place of man named Luguvalos'. Further information can be found in my book Cumbria Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Chester - 'the former Roman stronghold'. Further information can be found in my book Cheshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Durham - 'the island with a hill'. Further information can be found in my book County Durham Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Liverpool - 'the dark-coloured pool'. Further information can be found in my book Lancashire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Manchester - 'the former Roman stronghold at the breast-shaped hill'. Further information can be found in my book Lancashire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Newcastle - 'the new castle'. Further information can be found in my book Northumberland Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Ripon - 'the territory of the Hrype tribe'. Further information can be found in my book North Yorkshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Sheffield - 'the open land on the river Sheaf', a river name meaning 'boundary stream'. Further information can be found in my book South Yorkshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Southwell - 'the southern spring'. Further information can be found in my book Nottinghamshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Wakefield - 'open land where wakes are held'. Further information can be found in my book West Yorkshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Sunday, 20 August 2017


I've gone back to school - well technically further education. One part involved studying a painting or three and I had to look deeper into it and explain ..... things. Anyway, I've never been a great fan of daubs on canvas, to me a picture is a picture and I'm certainly able to appreciate an artist's abilities - to call abstract or conceptual art 'art' is, to my mind, nothing short of a lie so we'll ignore it - but when it comes to reading hidden messages and ideas, it's not going to happen people. I sort of know what the Da Vinci Code is about and good bad or indifferent, I'm never going to read it as I won't be able to relate to it.

So I'm wandering through Birmingham Art Gallery and thinking of anything other than brushwork, colours, hues, and textures, thus getting nowhere fast. Concentrate Poulton-Smith, says I, and I did - I focused in on their names and, as always happens I begin to wonder where there names originated. Hieronymus Bosch, was he really named after a dishwasher? Let's see.....

Bosch, Hieronymus - is a Germanic name first seen as a Norse personal name in the 7th century and derived from buski meaning 'bush'.

Botticelli, Sandro - no surprise to find it is Italian and means 'little boot'.

Burne-Jones, Sir Edward Coley - has a hyphen, but I still didn't find his work overly captivating. His name, without the hyphen, has two elements with the first meaning 'the son of Bran' and the latter 'son of John'.

Canaletto - this wasn't actually his name, he was born Giovanni Antonio Canal and painted city views of Venice. His true surname means exactly what you would think it should.

Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi - we know it comes from Sicily, just outside Palermo, we also know it is a very localised name and is a variation of Caro from carus or 'beloved'.

Cezanne, Paul - his French ancestry can be traced to their long-held seat in Languedoc, their name is related to Czar, Caesar, Kaiser, and 'king'.

Constable, John - listen to old policemen, none of them will ever say the word as 'con'-stable but as 'cun'-stable. The latter is correct because it harks back to the Old French word conestable, which doesn't mean 'policeman' but refers to a 'steward' or 'governor', he the principal officer of the Frankish king's household. This is also the reason we don't say the suffix as if it were a place for horses but clip it to rhyme with 'stubble'. Yet taking the office back a stage further to the Roman Empire we find Latin comes stabuli, quite literally 'count of the stable'. John Constable's ancestors will have earned their name as one of them was chief groom of a household.

Correggio, Antonio Allegri - an Italian chap who painted some nice images, but I can't help thinking how awkward the poses he paints these semi-naked (at best) figures. If anyone had to pose for these they'd need a few days applying embrocation (now there's a word you don't hear often). His name shares its first element with Caravaggio in caro 'beloved', this time the suffix is known and is derived from the personal name Bixio, this meaning 'grey'.

Degas, Edgar - a Frenchman who takes his name from gast meaning 'untilled'.

Delacroix, Eugene - another Frenchman, with a name meaning 'of the cross' from the Latin crucis.

Durer, Albrecht - a German painter who derives his name from 'to endure'.

El Greco - as we all know is Spanish for 'the Greek'. His real name is Domenikos Theotokopoulos, whose surname translates as 'god-bearing chick'.

Fra Angelico - his real name was Guido di Pietro, the surname coming from the personal name Peter.

Gainsborough, Thomas - comes from a Lincolnshire place name meaning 'the stronghold of a man called Gegn'.

Hals, Franz - a name from als meaning 'a high cliff'.

Hogarth, William - is a place name meaning 'lamb enclosure'.

Holbein, Hans - a Germanic surname literally meaning 'hollow leg'. Either this came from the earlier sense of 'hollow bone' (ie no leg) or might have evolved from Holzbein or 'wooden leg'.

Da Vinci, Leonardo - this Italian name means comes from Latin vincere 'conqueror'.

Manet, Edouard - is a Germanic name meaning 'fierce, strong man'.

Matisse, Henri - his surname comes from the Hebrew name 'Mattathiah' meaning 'gift of the Lord'.

Michelangelo - his full name was Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, the latter from the personal name 'Simon' which comes from Hebrew name Shim'on and ultimately from the Hebrew verb sham'a 'to hearken'.

Monet, Claude - could be from one of two personal name, Hamon or Edmond. These are from the Germanic for 'home' and French for 'prosperous protector' respectively.

Munnings, Sir Alfred - a name of Scandinavian origins in maningi meaning 'valiant, strong' depending on the context.

Murillo, Oscar - a Latin origin, where murus meant 'wall'.

Picasso, Pablo - is a Spanish word, where picazo means 'magpie'.

Pollock, Jackson - a place name found in Strathclyde, Scotland which is derived from Gaelic poll 'pit', the name showing the diminutive and thus 'a small pit'. Clearly we need a larger pit to be dug to deposit his supposed art and for those who hail it as art.

Raphael - in full Raphael Sanzio da Urbino, the Italian name coming from Etruscan uruvo meaning 'limit, border'.

Rembrandt - again known by his given name, correctly this is Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, a Dutch surname meaning 'the Rhine river' - the river name simply means 'to flow'.

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste - began as the French surname Renouard, originally a personal name of Germanic origins from ragin wald 'the ruling counsel'.

Reubens, Paul - his surname can be traced to Hebrew Reuben meaning 'behold, a son'.

Reynolds, Joshua - amazingly Mr Reynolds not only shares an artistic talent with Renoir but also shares the origin of his surname.

Sisley, Alfred - his surname comes from the female personal name Cecilia, this from the Latin caecus meaning 'blind'.

Stubbs, George - takes the name of a village near Pontefract in Yorkshire, a place name coming from stybb meaning 'tree stumps'.

Sutherland, Graham - comes from an Old Norse word suthroen and means 'the southern land'. It is a reference to the former county of Sutherland, itself as far north as it is possible to get in Britain. So why 'southern land', I hear you ask? Well it comes down to perspective, for it is southeast of those who named it, the Norsemen.

Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri - another with a hyphen, no wonder he was considered talented. The first elemeny, Toulouse, is a place name in the Haute-Garonne region of France and of unknown origins; while Lautrec is found in the Tarn department of southern France and, listed as among the most beautiful villages of France, is another of unknown origins.

Turner, Joseph Mallord William - his surname comes from one of two equally plausible origins. If this is Old English then it comes from a craftsman, a maker of objects in wood, metal or bone which had to be 'turned' during the production process. Or if Middle English then this could represent a title, one in charge of organising proceedings in a tournament.

Van Dyke, Sir Anthony - from a Germanic word meaning 'of the ditch or dyke'.

Van Eyck, Casper - a Dutch surname meaning 'of the oak tree'.

Van Gogh, Vincent - a Celtic term related to Welsh coch meaning 'red'.

Velasquez, Diego - either Portuguese or Spanish would give the origin as 'of the crow', a reference to features and this a nickname.

Vermeer, Johannes - this Dutch painter's surname is a contraction of 'Van der Meer' or 'from the lake'.

Whistler, James - no not exactly 'one who whistles' but a reference to a player of a pipe or flute.

Sunday, 13 August 2017


Dogs last week and, for the many birds I saw on the same short break, our avian friends this. Of course no gull could ever be considered a friend, they always look very angry.

Albatross - interestingly an alteration of the Spanish or Portuguese alcatraz 'large web-footed sea bird', although originally referring to the pelican. This comes from the Arabic al-ghattas 'sea eagle' and related to Portuguese alcatruz 'the bucket of a water wheel'.

Auk - from the Old Norse alka originally imitative of its cry.

Bantam - a place name, a Dutch settlement on the island of Java.

Blackbird - it is well known the female is brown, however correctly the male is not actually black but a very dark brown.

Blue tit - again named for its colour.

Booby - the adjective referring to a person means 'stupid', this considered a reasonable description of these ungainly seabirds.

Budgerigar - a native of Australia named from budgeri 'good' and gar 'cockatoo'.

Bullfinch - a composite of 'bull', a description of its head and neck, with 'finch' a Germanic word imitative of its call.

Bunting - derived either from a Brythonic word for 'plump' or a Germanic bunt or 'speckled'.

Bustard - often said to come from Old French bistarde and itself from Latin avis tarda but this 'slow bird' does not accurately describe the creature.

Canary - named for it being found on Canary Island, itself named for the Island of Dogs.

Chaffinch - another finch, named for its call, this time the prefix points to its habit of eating the chaff from grain on farms.

Chicken - a Germanic name, the root imitative of its call.

Cockatoo - from a Malay or Austronesian word kakatua 'elder sibling' and tua 'old'.

Condor - from the Quechua cuntur, simply their name for this bird.

Cormorant - from Late Latin corvus marinus 'sea raven'.

Crane - from Proto-Indo-European gere 'to cry hoarsely'.

Crow - an Old English word, imitative of the bird's cry.

Cuckoo - again, imitative of the bird's cry.

Curlew - from Latin currere 'to run quickly', ultimately Proto-Indo-European kers 'to run'.

Cygnet - came to English from French cigne 'swan' and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European keuk 'to be white', which a cygnet isn't.

Dipper - aptly named for its repeated action in fast-moving water.

Dodo - is from the Portuguese doudo 'fool, simpleton'.

Dove - a Germanic reference to its flight as it comes from the root for 'dive'.

Eagle - named as the 'dark-coloured' bird, as it is so often seen in silhouette.

Eider - a kind of duck named from the Old Norse aethar or 'duck'.

Falcon - from the Latin falcis 'curved blade, pruning hook, sickle, war scythe'.

Finch - again the name imitative of its call.

Flamingo - from the Greek phoinikopteros literally meaning 'red-feathered'.

Goose - is from the Proto-Indo-European ghans 'goose, swan'.

Grebe - some of the species of grebe are crested, hence the name from Breton krib 'a comb'.

Gull - effectively its name means 'one who will swallow anything'. Yes, that's the gull.

Hawk - ultimately from Proto-Indo-European kap 'to grasp'.

Hen - derived from Proto-Indo-European kan 'to sing'.

Heron - from an Indo-European root imitative of its cry.

Jackdaw - both elements are imitative of the bird's cry.

Jay - again named from its harsh cry.

Kestrel - again imitative of its cry, but this time related to the Latin crepitare 'to rattle'.

Kingfisher - self-explanatory.

Kite - once again imitative of its cry.

Kiwi - named by the Maoris as what they perceived as its cry.

Lapwing - has a Germanic root meaning 'leaper-winker'.

Lark - from Proto-Indo-European leig 'to play'.

Magpie - the two syllables describe the 'chattering bird'.

Mallard - it fundamentally means 'male'.

Merganser - from Latin mergus 'waterfowl, diver' and from mergere 'to dip, immerse'.

Merlin - simply means 'small hawk'.

Nightingale - is Germanic for 'night singer'.

Oriole - named from a Latin root meaning 'gold'.

Ostrich - effectively from the Greek strouthos megale 'big sparrow'.

Owl - a Germanic origin imitative of its call.

Parakeet - thought to be from the Italian parrocchetto literally 'little priest'.

Partridge - comes from the Greek perdesthai 'to break wind' and a reference to the whirring sound made by the bird's wings in flight.

Penguin - named from the Old Welsh for 'white head' and yet look at any penguin and you will see it has a black head. What the name first referred to was the great auk, which did have a white head.

Peregrine - comprised of per ager 'away from the land'.

Pheasant - from the Greek for 'Phasian bird', the birds were particularly numerous along the river Phasis leading to the Black Sea.

Pigeon - is an Old French word meaning 'young dove'.

Plover - from the Latin plovarius 'belonging to the rain'.

Ptarmigan - of uncertain origin but likely realted to the Greek pteron 'wing'.

Raven - another Germanic name imitative of the bird's cry.

Redstart - basically means 'red tail'.

Rook - from roots such as Gaelic roc 'croak' and Sanskrit kruc 'to cry out'.

Rooster - literally 'the roosting bird'.

Shrike - from Old Norse referring to 'the bird with a shrill call'.

Sparrow - from the Greek spergoulos 'small field bird'.

Swan - from Proto-Indo-European swen 'to sing, make sound'.

Tercel - the male falcon, thought to be named from Latin tertius 'a third' as the male is a third smaller than the female.

Tit - an old word for any small animal, be a bird, rodent or anything else.

Vulture - from the Latin vellere 'to pluck, tear'.

Whippoorwill - imitative of its call.

Woodpecker - of obvious derivation as indeed is the dialect name in the East Midlands of 'nicker'.

And before anyone asks, no I didn't see all these birds.

Sunday, 6 August 2017


Never been a dog person myself, that doesn't mean I'm a cat person either. I'm not against animals, just never could relate to the idea of a pet. Anthropomorphising creatures never amused me as a child either - probably the reason I loathed Disney. Anyway I digress, back to dogs.

On a short break last week I overheard a conversation between a person with a dog and another who asked what breed it was, the answer given is it was a cross between a Shih Tzu and a Poodle - this apparently gives a Shih-poo. Now thoroughly irked by this awful creation - wouldn't Tzu-dle have been a better idea? - I thought I'd look at where other dog breeds originated. Dog people will probably enjoy this, too.

Afghan - a breed of hunting dog named in 1895, it is taken from the name of the country. I defined Afghanistan in an earlier post.

Airedale - named after a Yorkshire valley in which the River Aire flows, this discussed in an earlier post.

Alsatian - adopted as the name for the German Shepherd in 1917, well there was a war on, you know. The name comes from Alsace, itself giving a name to an undesirable area of London in the 1690s. Alsace was a region between Frrance and Germany, the place name from Old High German Ali-sazzo meaning 'inhabitant of the other (bank of the Rhine). Note in the 1690s 'Alsatian' was a term referring to 'a London criminal'.

Basenji - bred around the northeastern Congo and known in Swahili as mbwa shenzi this name means 'wild dog'.

Basset - a diminutive form of Old French bas meaning 'low'.

Beagle - Snoopy will be delighted to learn this comes from the French becguele 'noisy person' and derived from bayer 'open wide' and guele 'mouth'.

Bedlington - a weird looking thing named after the town of Bedlington in Northumberland, itself from Old English and referring to 'the farmstead associated with a man called Bedla or Betla'.

Bloodhound - of obvious origins considering its famous tracking abilities, what may be of more interest is the origin of the constituent parts in 'to swell' and 'dog' respectively.

Border terrier - known as such because of its association with the Border Hunt in Northumberland.

Borzoi - from the Russian borzoy meaning 'swift, quick'.

Boston - originally a Lincolnshire place name but better known as the capital of the state of Massachussetts and discussed in that earlier blog post.

Boxer - a dog known for its pugnaciousness, the word 'boxer' is the agent noun of 'box', itself taken to mean 'blow'.

Bulldog - unknown as to whether this was a reference to its bull-like stance or it may have been used to bait bulls. Now 'bull' itself comes from Proto-Indo-European bhel which is exactly the same root as found for 'blood' (above) in 'to swell'.

Cairn - named as it was bred specifically to hunt down quarry between the cairns of the Scottish Highlands. Incidentally 'cairn' shares a root with 'horn' in meaning 'the highest part of the body'.

Chihuahua - named after the state of Chihuahua in Mexico, a name often disputed but the majority tend to favour a Nahuatl origin meaning 'the place where the water of the rivers meet', a rather long definition when 'confluence' will suffice.

Clumber - named from Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire, which seems to be a combination of an old British river name Clun (never understood) and bre 'hill'.

Clydesdale - another from a place name, or rather a river name and discussed under an earlier post.

Chow - known in China as songshi quan or 'puffy lion dog', which will undoubtedly please owners of this, one of the ancient breeds, more than the meaning of the name chow 'food'.

Cocker spaniel - comes from its original use to hunt woodcock.

Collie - shares an origin with the sheep term colley 'sheep with black face and legs'. Middle English referred to this as a colfox 'coal fox', while colley is a Somerset dialect term for the blackbird.

Corgi - is from the Welsh 'dwarf' and ci 'dog'.

Dachschund - is German for 'badger dog'.

Dalmatian - said to be named from the Croatian area of Dalmatia, itself from Proto-Indo-European dhal 'to bloom' and used to refer to the young animals seen on the mountain pastures.

Dandy dinmont - named after a character in Sir Walter Scott's novel Guy Mannering, one James Davidson.

Deerhound - of obvious meaning but of interest is the origin of 'deer' in Proto-Indo-European dheu 'cloud, breath' and ultimately simply referring to something that was alive but not human.

Dingo - is from the language Dharruk, this spoken by those found resident in the area around modern Sydney when Europeans first arrived, where din-go simply means 'tame dog'.

Dobermann - German for 'fox terrier'.

Elkhound - another of obvious derivation, with the name 'elk' derived from the root el 'red, brown'.

Foxhound - another of obvious origin, the word 'fox' derived from Proto-Indo-European puk 'tail'.

Fox terrier - (see above)

Golden retriever - another obvious name, although we could add 'golden' comes from a root meaning 'shine' and 'retriever', for its ability to return game undamaged, from a root meaning 'to turn'.

Great dane - comes from Denmark, where the people of the mark 'border' were the Danes, themselves named for the den or 'low ground'. Ironic considering the size of the dog.

Greyhound - as many will realise, a greyhound is not grey (well very rarely), and colour is not the origin. Here the origin is grig 'bitch', it is common to find a creature named for the female.

Griffon - an alternative spelling of 'griffin', likely used to mean 'hybrid' as the mythological griffin had features of the eagle and the lion.

Harrier - uncertain but this hunting dog could be from the Middle French errier 'wanderer' or from the verb 'harry' (which is the origin of the bird known by the same name) and thus derived from a root meaning 'war, army'.

Husky - was known as the hoskey until the early 19th century, a word also used to mean 'eskimo', itself from the Proto-Algonquian language where ask 'raw' and imo 'eat' described their diet.

Irish setter - clearly named from its associated with Ireland, a place name meaning 'the land of the Irish' and the people taking their name from the root peie 'to be fat' - not a reference to their waistline but the productivity of the land. The word 'setter' is the agent noun of 'set', a reference to being 'set' on the game when hunting.

Kelpie - little is understood of this name but it may come from Gaelic colpach 'heifer, steer, colt', possibly as it was used much as a sheepdog would be.

King Charles spaniel - obviously named after the monarch, his Christian name meaning 'man, husband' while the term 'spaniel' comes from its assocation with Spain, a country thought to speak of itself as 'the land of the rabbits'.

Labrador - named after the Canadian province, itself from the Portuguese explorer Jaoa Fernandes Lavrador, whose family name was Fernandes, the term lavrador meaning 'farmer' or 'plougher'.

Maltese - clearly named from the island of Malta, itself possibly from the Greek name for the place Melita 'honey-sweet' for the islands native bees produced a unique honey.

Mastiff - from the Old French mastin 'great cur', itself from Latin mansuetus 'tae, gentle' and probably showing this was bred to be a house dog.

Mongrel - from the Old English gemong 'mingling' and ultimately Proto-Indo-European mag 'to knead, fashion, fit'. Hence the original idea of a mongrel was to interbreed other creatures to produce a new breed, exactly the opposite of the negative ideas of the modern era.

Otterhound - well no need to explain anything but the origin of 'otter', this began as Proto-Indo-European udros 'water creature'.

Pekinese - named after the city, now known as Beijing, and itself simply meaning 'north capital'.

Pointer - from its posture when used in hunting.

Pomeranian - named after the former province of Prussia, inhabited by a Slavic tribe who were known in Polish as po morze 'by the sea'.

Pug - named for its pug nose appearance, the word was earlier seen in a negative light and is derived from 'puck' 'devil, evil spirit, sprite'.

Rottweiler - named after the town of Rottweil in Germany, itself has the suffix for 'village' and the first element likely a personal name.

Saluki - two Sumerian words combine here to mean 'pluge earth', although what that ever denotes is a complete mystery.

Schnauzer - the literal translation is 'snout' but colloquially used to mean 'moustache'.

Sealyham - bred at and named after Sealyham House in Permbokeshire, this place name comes from the River Sealy, a name of unknown origin.

Sheepdog - no need for any comment here at all.

Skye terrier - takes its name from the Scottish island of Skye, this thought to be an early Celtic word skitis meaning 'winged', a resaonable description of the peninsulas radiating from the mountainous centre.

Staffordshire - taken from the name of the county and ultimately the county town, I looked at this a couple of years ago with looking at English Place Names and my books.

St Bernard - named after two hospices offering aid to travellers in the Alps, they coming from the name of the Great St Bernard Pass and Little St Bernard Pass, itself named from a saint whose name means 'bold as a bear'.

Terrier - comes from the Old French chien terrier 'earth dog', derived from the Latin terra 'earth' and ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European ters 'to dry'.

Whippet - a diminutive of 'whip' as in 'to move quickly'. The term 'whip' comes from Proto-Indo-European weip meaning 'to turn, vacillate'.

I wonder if any of these derivations will give any dog owners ideas as to potential names for their pet? Oddly the subject of names for a dog came up in a recent episode of my favourite podcast, episode number 175 of No Such Thing as a Fish, entitled No Such Thing As A Rice Krispie With Feelings. Enjoy!

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Solar System Etymologies

Having looked at the names of constellations and then individual stars, I thought perhaps having a look a little closer to home and examining the origins of the name of the bodies of the Solar System. Here the list covers the planets and their respective satellites working out from the sun. As an afterthought I've added a few of the dwarf planets. Note the list is not definitve.

MERCURY - the innermost planet and named by the Romans. Originally Mercurius was a the god of tradesmen and thieves, his name derived from merx or 'merchandise' and thus related to the modern 'market'.

VENUS - another from Roman mythology, she the goddess of beauty and love, particularly the physical variety. Indeed her name is derived from Proto-Indo-European wen meaning 'to desire'.

EARTH - considering this is our home, it has only been known as such since around 1400. This comes from the Proto-Indo-European er 'earth, ground' and comes from a time when our home was considered the centre of all things.

Luna - our moon, the name coming from Proto-Indo-European leuksna and its root leuk meaning 'light, brightness'.

MARS - another Roman god, although here the origins are questioned some think it derived from an Etruscan child god Maris while others point to Mawort ta war god. The name was also given to the red planet as it would have reminded them of the god of war. The Greeks knew the planet as Pyroeis 'the fiery'. It seems improbable to think the original name meant anything other than 'rage, anger, battle'.

Deimos - the smaller and out moon of Mars, named from the mythological son of Mars and Venus (or Ares and Aphrodite if looking at the Greek version) and the twin brother of Phobos. Demos is the Greek word for 'dread' and was the Greek god of terror.

Phobos - like his twin brother Deimos a mythological god and from the Greek phobos or 'fear'. Etymologically the sense had previously been 'flight', later as 'panic, fright', and all based on the Proto-Indo-European root bhegw 'to run'.

JUPITER - this can be traced to Proto-Indo-European dyeu-peter 'god father'. We can take this back further to dyeu 'to shine, heaven, god' along with peter 'father, male head of the household'. Similar meaning is seen in the Greek Zeus pater and Sanskrit Dyaus pitar

Amalthea - in mythology the foster-mother of Zeus, her name from the Greek for tender goddess.

Ananke - until 1975 this mon had been known as Jupiter XII. To confuse matter further for the previous years it was sometimes known as Adrastea, this name now given to another satellite and discussed below. Ananke, with a little help from Zeus, was the mother of the Moirai or Fates and her name comes from the Greek anankaie 'force, constraint' and most often 'necessity'.

Adrastea - formerly known as Jupiter XV and only discovered in 1979 when photographed by Voyager 2, thus making it the first natural satellite discovered by a spacefraft and not a telescope. Its name comes from the mythology foster mother of the Greek god Zeus, Adrasteia the Greek for 'inescapable'.

Callisto - discovered by Galileo Galilei it is the third largest moon in the solar system. Again a figure from mythology, she was a nymph or the daughter of King Lycaon, depending on which story you read, and takes her name from the Greek for 'most beautiful'.

Carme - named after the mythological Carme, mother of Britomartis (Zeus again playing a part), and named from the Greek word for 'shearer'.

Elara - known as Jupiter VII until 1975 and, for the previous twenty years, also known as Hera. It is named after the mother of the giant Tityos, she also the lover of (surprise, surprise) Zeus. The name means either 'angel' or 'messenger' depending upon which mythological story is read.

Europa - in mythology the daughter of the king of Tyre who, yes you guessed it, was another of Zeus' lovers but on the plus side she did give a name to the continent of Europe and a moon. Her name is comprised of two Greek words: eurus 'wide, broad' and opt 'eye, face, countenance'. Take from that whatever you like.

Ganymede - a Greek mythological character who did not father children with Zeus, although this was probably only because Ganymede was male. Yet Zeus, disguised as an eagle, did kidnap Ganymede and took him to Olympus where he served as cup-bearer. Mythology does record an erotic relationship between Zeus and Ganymede, this leading to the Latin form of Catamitus, itself the origin of the word 'catamite'. His name comes from the Greek ganymai 'to be glad' and medomai 'to think, to plan'.

Himalia - named after the nymph who bore three sons of ..... guess who? .... yes, by Zeus! Another not named until 1975, previously this was Jupiter VI. The name of Himalia probably comes from the Greek himalia meaning 'abundance of wheat meal'.

Io - no prizes for guessing who was sleeping with Io ...... yes, that Zeus fellow again Although he didn't seem overly grateful for the sexual favours as he turned her into a cow. Ancient Greek would have pronounced the name as EE-AW, although just where this name originates is unknown.

Leda - and known as Jupiter XIII until 1975, albeit not for long as it was only discovered the previous year. Greek mythology had her as, In what is becoming a somewhat monotonous mantra, a lover of Zeus. What Zeus (or Jupiter) lacked in commitment, he more than made up for in chat up lines for he appeared to Leda as a swan, falling into her arms to escape pursuit by an eagle (an everyday occurrence in Morrisons' car park). Her name is possibly an early Greek word for 'woman'.

Lysithea - named in 1975, previously known as Jupiter X or even Demeter. It is named after daughter of Oceanus who grew up to become one a lover of Zeus. Nothing is known of the origin of her name.

Metis - not named in 1975 but in 1983 as it was not discovered until 1979. It is named after Metis, the first wife of Zeus, whose name means 'wisdom, skill, craft'.

Pasiphae - named in 1975, formerly known as Jupiter VIII or Poseidon, it was discovered in 1908. It is named after the wife of Minos in Greek mythology, she also the mother of the Minotaur. Pasiphae is Greek from pas phaos and understood as 'wide shining'. (Note no Z-word here.)

Sinope - named in 1975, previously known as Jupiter IX or Hades, it was discovered in 1914 and the origins of her name are unknown. However we do know she was abducted by none other than Zeus. As the chief of the gods and all-powerful he was not stretching the truth when he promised to grant her anything she desired. She said she wished to remain a virgin all her life and Zeus was forced to grant her wish and ensure he failed at least once.

Thebe - named in 1983 after discovery by Voyager 1's flyby four years earlier, it had previously been known as Jupiter XIV, and named after a lover of Zeus. The origin of the name is unknown.

SATURN - takes the name of the Roman god of agriculture, whose name has variously been defined as from satu 'sowing', satis 'satisfaction', and stercus 'dung, manure'. Saturn's official moon count is 62, all but nine have names but we will content ourselves with a few examples.

Atlas - named after the figure from Greek mythology who holds the Earth on his shoulders for this moon also appears to support the rings of Saturn. The name has several suggested origins including Latin durus 'enduring'and Berber adrar 'mountain', and Proto-Indo-European telh 'uphold, support'.

Calypso - etymologically this is from Greek alypto 'to cover, hide, conceal', which fits with the myth of this nymph of Greek mythology detaining Odysseus for several years on the island of Ogygia.

Dione - named after the Titanesse of Greek mythology, this is essentially the feminine form of Zeus, itself from Djeus the Proto-Indo-European god of the daytime sky and also known as Dyeus ph-ter or 'sky father'.

Enceladus - ma,ed after the giant of Greek mythology, the name from the Greek enkeleuo meaning either 'to urge on' or 'to sound the charge'.

Epimetheus - named after the Greek mythological figure, brother of Prometheus, their names meaning 'hindsight, afterthinker' and 'foresight, fore-thinker' respectively.

Hyperion - named a character from Greek mythology, one of the twelve Titans. The name is from the Greek Huperion or 'high one'.

Iapetus - another Titan of Greek mythology, this from the Greek Iaoetos 'the piercer'.

Janus - the Roman god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. Unusually there is no Greek equivalent of this two-faced god. Etymologically there are three distinct suggestions for this name: hiantem 'to be open'; det 'to shine'; and ire 'to go'.

Mimas - another of the giants born of Gaia and the blood of the castrated Uranus (ah, so that explains it) although the etymology of the name is unknown.

Phoebe - another of the Titans, this name coming from the Greek Phoibe 'shining'.

Rhea - another named after a Titan, Rhea in Greek mythology was 'the mother of the gods' although her name probably originates in rheo 'flow'.

Titan - aptly named as this is not only Saturn's largest moon but the second largest in the solar system, indeed it is larger than the planet Mercury. This is named after the Titans, a race of giants and a world probably be from an early word tito meaning 'sun, day'.

URANUS - a Greek name originally Ouranos 'heaven, the sky'.

Ariel - named after a character in A Midsummer Nights Dream a play written by a chap named Shakespeare, apparently.Ariel is derived from the Herbrew word for 'altar'.

Miranda - named after a character in A Midsummer Nights Dream whose name is derived from the Latin mirari 'to admire'. The playwright's first name was William.

Oberon - named after the king of the fairies in A Midsummer Nights Dream and probably an Old French Auberon and an early loan word from a Germanic source meaning 'elf'. I'm told old Bill Shakespeare was born and died in Stratford-upon-Avon and on the same date in April.

Titania - named after the queen of the fairies in A Midsummer Nights Dream and is of Greek origin meaning 'daughter of the Titans'. The play was written by a man named Shakespeare who, so we hear, created a lot of English words.

Umbriel - named after a character in A Midsummer Nights Dream and a name derived from the Latin umbra or 'shadow'. Little old Billy the Bard went on to annoy a lot of people after his death and for centuries, too. Well let's get our own back by revealing that he, labelled the greatest wordsmith of all time, couldn't spell his own name and used a number of different spellings.

NEPTUNE - is the god of the sea in Greek mythology, hence the moons being named after minor Greek water deities. The name shares a root with 'nebula' in coming from Proto-Indo-European nebh 'cloud' and here used in a sense 'moist, wet'.

Nereid - named after the sea nymphs of Greek mythology and translates as 'nymph'.

Triton - is a Greek word related to Old Irish trethan 'the sea'.

Neso - not included because of its etymology, which is unknown, but because it has the longest orbital period of any moon known. It takes 26 years and 8 months and, to put this into context this means that since Neptune was discovered in 1846 the moon has been around the planet just over six times while our moon has been round us over two thousand times.Looking at it a different way, when Neso was last in this position in orbit around Neptune, Tony Blair had yet to be elected as a Member of Parliament, George Bush Snr was President of the United States, Saviour's Day by Cliff Richard was the UK number one single, Manchester United still hadn't won a title under Alexander Chapman Feguson, a first-class stamp cost 24p (18p for second-class), a loaf of bread would have cost you 50p, a pint of beer 99p, 80 tea bags for 46p, a pint of milk for 30p, and the essential Mars Bar 15p.

PLUTO - the Roman god of the underworld whose name comes from Proto-Indo-European pleu 'to flow'.

Charon - the ferryman of the dead over the river Styx, from the Greek Kahron and derived from the root chaopos 'of keen gaze'.

Hydra - is the name of the nine-headed serpent of Greek mythology killed by Heracles as the second of his twelve labours. Its name is the feminine version of hydros 'water snake'.

Nix - is the name of the Greek goddess of darkness and night, mother of Charon although strictly speaking the classical spelling is Nyx. She has few mentions in surviving mythology but what little is known suggests she was a goddess of incredible power and beauty and even Zeus himself feared her. The name Nix (or Nyx) comes from the Greek nykto 'night'.

Kerberos - this is the Greek version of the hound of Hades usually known as Cerberus in English. Etymology is uncertain but may be from Proto-Indo-European meaning 'spotted', albeit no depiction or writing of the three-headed hound ever mentions spots. Other suggestions include creoboros 'flesh-devouring', Ker berethrou 'evil of the pit', and the wondrous idea this comes from Proto-Indo-European ger 'to growl'

Styx - the river crossed to reach Hades, or so Greek mythology would have us believe. Its name comes from the Greek stygos 'hatred', stygnos 'gloomy', or stygein 'to abominate'.

Ceres - once the largest asteroid, it is now considered a dwarf planet. It is named after the Roman goddess of agriculture, Ceres comes from the Proto-Indo-European root kerh meaning 'to satiate, feed'.