Thursday, January 31, 2008

What's in a name

Although I was the last to post on this blog, I thought it would be a shame to let this journal slip into oblivion, so I'm picking up the baton. What's in a name in my neck of the woods. An exercise in etymology.

Here in the Scottish islands, names are not predominantly of English origin. It is a mish-mash of Norse, Gaelic and English. The name of the Isle of Lewis, where I currently reside, is a corruption of the Gaelic Leòdhas. This in turn is a corruption of the Norse male name Leod. Completing the circle, I think the closest name in English would be Ludovic. Bearing in mind that in Gaelic, the word for "son" is "Mac", it won't come as a huge surprise that the name MacLeod occurs in abundance round here.

Names of hills are usually of Norse derivation. The suffix "val" means "hill", so you get loads of mountains whose names end in -val. Three of the hills I have climbed, or tried to climb in some instances, were called Teileasbhal (699 m), Roineabhal (218 m),  and Stulabhal (550 m). Oh, in Gaelic the "bh" is pronounced as a soft "v".

Beaches and bays also carry Norse names. The name of my hometown, Stornoway, has a Gaelic name of Steòrnabhagh. The suffix -bagh (or bhagh where lenited) means bay. In the case of Stornoway, it means anchorage.

The Vikings had farms, and the name of many a village in Lewis bears witness to that, with a suffix of -shader or -bost. The tiny hamlet of Grimshader lies 5 miles south of Stornoway, along a beautiful inlet. The village of Leurbost a few miles south of that again.

Norway occupied these parts until 1296, when it lost the battle of Largs. The Vikings have long gone, as has their culture. Only in their names do they live on.


gdireneoe said...

So fascinating!  I'm so glad I found this journal.  I love language and languages.  Thanks so much for picking up that baton.  Maid D' last Viking. ;)  C.

malagutigrrl said...

I was wondering what y'all were up to over here.  I thought you were having a party I wasn't invited to!

xaymacagirl said...

Thanks for this etymology/history lesson.

helmswondermom said...

Very, very interesting.  My maiden name is Dowell (of the Clan MacDougall), and it comes from the Gaelic words DHU, "dark", and GHAILL, "stranger", which was used as a descriptive name for an individual, or to refer to the Danes.  I am very interested in Scottish surnames and their origins.
I'm glad you posted today.  I was actually working on something for today, just to round out the month.  I don't think you have to wait for a "turn", just post whenever you feel like it.  I do think this is a good idea for a journal, and I don't want it to fall by the wayside either.  So if I get something together I'll try to get it in today.

specialadyfink said...

That was interesting.I have Scottish heritage but know little if anything about my ancestry.I enjoyed reading this very much....

manda2177 said...

This has to be the most intelectual thing i have read in a LONG time.  I think I am actually smarter now.

If you are looking for topics... I have a TON of things to do wrong.  How to properly give a book title its due recognition, (underline or commas or what????) how to properly do speech in writing.
She said, "I would love to."
She said,

"I would love to."

can I put it on the next line?  Is that a horrible thing to do if I want to emphasize it?

lol  there are too many more to count...(I am sure that VERY SENTENCE is a mess)

God bless-