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Thread: Origins of European rivers' names

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    Post Origins of European rivers' names



    Rivers are some of the oldest geographic names, simply because they predate any human settlement, and were more important to our prehistoric ancestors (for drinking water, transport, washing...) than mountains. The origin of many rivers' name is lost in the depth of time. We nevertheless know the name (or one of the names) most of them had during the Iron Age, Bronze Age and sometimes even before.

    Celtic names

    - Danube (2,860 km) : from Celtic Dānu, meaning "to flow" (same origin for the Rivers Don, Dnieper and Dniester in Russia).

    - Dordogne (490 km) : from the pre-Celtic Durānius, derived from the Proto-Indo-European root dur- or dor-, and the suffix -onna, which means "source, river".

    - Douro (897 km) : probably from the Celtic root is *dubro- ("water"), Latinised as Durius.

    - Loire (1,091 km) : from Celtic Liga, which means "silt, sediment, deposit, alluvium". Adapated into Latin as Liger.

    - Main (524 km) : from Celtic Moin or Mogin (after the god Mogon). Latinised as Moenus.

    - Meuse (925 km) : from Mosa (also in Latin), the name of a Celtic deity.

    - Neckar (367 km) : from Celtic root Nik-, meaning "wild water" or "wild fellow", evolving into Nikros, Nicarus and Neccarus.

    - Rhône (813 km) : from the Celtic Rodo or Roto, literally "that which rolls", or "that which runs". Adapted by the Greeks into Rhodanos, then by the Romans into Rhodanus.

    - Seine (776 km) : from Sicauna, made up of Celtic sakw, which means "sacred" and from the Pre-Indo-European suffix -onna which means "source, river".

    - Thames (346 km) : from the Celtic Tamēssa, probably meaning "dark". Rendered in Latin as Tamesis and in Middle English as Temese.

    - Trent (298 km) : from the Celtic words tros ("over") and hynt ("way"), possibly meaning "strongly flooding".

    Germanic names

    - Elbe (1,091 km) : from the Old Germanic Albia, meaning "river".

    - IJssel (125 km) : from the Germanic i sala, meaning "dark water".

    - Rhine (1,320 km) : from Middle High German Rin, from the Proto-Indo-European root *reie- ("to flow, run").

    - Scheldt (350 km) : from the Old Germanic word for "thin" or "shallow" (corresponding to Old English sceald, Low German schol, Frisian skol, and Swedish skäll).

    - Weser (452 km) : from Wisara (or Wisura, Wisera, Wisora), probably meaning "meadow water", probably from the Indo-European root *ueis/*uis ("to flow").

    Latin names

    - Ebro (910 km) : from Latin Iber, probably referring to Iberia.

    - Moselle (545 km) : from the Latin Mosella ("Little Meuse").

    - Po (652 km) : from Latin Padus, related to the wild pine trees in valley. The former Greek name was Eridanus, and the Ligurian name was Bodincus, meaning "river without bottom" or "deep river".

    - Tagus (1,038 km) : from Latin taliāre, meaning "to cut (though)".


    Other roots

    - Garonne (575 km) : from the Aquitanian/Old Basque root *kʰarr-, meaning "rock", and a Pre-Indo-European suffix -unn-, -onna which means "source, river".

    - Guadalquivir (657 km) : from the Arabic al-wadi al-Kabir, meaning the "great river".

    - Oder (866 km) : from proto-Indo-European Adra, probably meaning "water vein".

    - Severn (354 km) : from Hafren (Latinised as Sabrina), name of a pre-Celtic princess or nymph drown in the river.

    - Tiber (406 km) : from the Estruscan or Italic word Tibur, possibly related to the Celtic root-word dubr, "water".
    Last edited by Maciamo; 07-02-08 at 15:00.
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    wow, interesting! :)

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    did you make an error ?

    Celtic names

    - Danube (2,860 km) : from Celtic Dānu, meaning "to flow" (same origin for the Rivers Don, Dnieper and Dniester in Russia).
    From wiki:
    During the times of the old Scythians it was known in Greek as the Tanaïs, and has been a major trading route ever since.
    Tanais appears in ancient Greek sources as the name of the river and of a city on it, situated in the Maeotian marshes. The name derives however from Scythian (East Iranian) Dānu "river", akin to Ossetic don "river", and Pashto dand (ډنډ) or dun (depending on dialect) "pond, lake".
    the name is (East Iranian) .

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    The name Dnieper is derived from Sarmatian Dānu apara "the river on the far side"

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    EBRO is NOT LATIN. It is pre-roman. It is discussed between the Basque "Ibar" which means "River", or the Greek "Ebros" which means "wide". But not Latin.
    The basque word ibai (ibáy; "river") converts to the word ibar (ibár; "vega") and this roots are found in different rivers of Europe.
    In Serbia we found the river Ibar.
    In Hessen the river Ibra. In southern Germany two rivers Ebrach , and many rivers Eberbäche. Ebesberg in the Alps. In Austria the river Ybbs. In Francia we find Ivergny, Iverny, Yvré-l'évêque, Ébréon, Évrune, Ebersheim, Yvry-en-montagne in the Basque Country Ibarra, Ibarrola, Ibarrekolanda, Ibardin, Aranibar. And obviously the river Ebro which comes from the prerroman Iber , that eventually became the name of the Iberians and the Peninsula

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    Actually we also have a river in Greece called Ebros (Έβρος) at the North
    It took its name after the Prince Hebrus of the area and as you said it means wide.

    http://www.greeceindex.com/About_Gre...ers_Evros.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wilhelm View Post
    EBRO is NOT LATIN. It is pre-roman. It is discussed between the Basque "Ibar" which means "River", or the Greek "Ebros" which means "wide". But not Latin.
    The basque word ibai (ibáy; "river") converts to the word ibar (ibár; "vega") and this roots are found in different rivers of Europe.
    In Serbia we found the river Ibar.
    In Hessen the river Ibra. In southern Germany two rivers Ebrach , and many rivers Eberbäche. Ebesberg in the Alps. In Austria the river Ybbs. In Francia we find Ivergny, Iverny, Yvré-l'évêque, Ébréon, Évrune, Ebersheim, Yvry-en-montagne in the Basque Country Ibarra, Ibarrola, Ibarrekolanda, Ibardin, Aranibar. And obviously the river Ebro which comes from the prerroman Iber , that eventually became the name of the Iberians and the Peninsula
    Thanks for the feedback. I think you are right, "Ebro" probably comes from Basque "Ibar", and could ultimately be related to many pre-Indo-European languages in Europe. The question is : Is Basque mostly a Cro-Magnon-descended language (hg I) or a Neolithic language from the Near East or North Africa (related to the La Almagra Pottery) ? If "Ibar" also shows up in Greece, Serbia, Austria and South Germany, it seems more likely to be of Near Eastern origin.

    The Basque may belong to Y-haplogroup R1b, but Prehistoric Basques had a lot of mt-haplogroups J, T and K, which are thought to have been the main maternal lineages of Near-Eastern farmers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marianne View Post
    Actually we also have a river in Greece called Ebros (Έβρος) at the North
    It took its name after the Prince Hebrus of the area and as you said it means wide.

    http://www.greeceindex.com/About_Gre...ers_Evros.html

    Interesting info, thanks Marianne.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Celtic names


    - Douro (897 km) : probably from the Celtic root is *dubro- ("water"), Latinised as Durius.
    Interesting, didn't know about this one.

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    Volga is from Mari, means "bright".

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    Quote Originally Posted by iann_allein View Post
    did you make an error ?



    From wiki:
    During the times of the old Scythians it was known in Greek as the Tanaïs, and has been a major trading route ever since.
    Tanais appears in ancient Greek sources as the name of the river and of a city on it, situated in the Maeotian marshes. The name derives however from Scythian (East Iranian) Dānu "river", akin to Ossetic don "river", and Pashto dand (ډنډ) or dun (depending on dialect) "pond, lake".
    the name is (East Iranian) .
    Scythian and Celtic might both have had the same word for river. Both are Indo-European languages. Why would the Scythians have named the Danube when they never lived there ?

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    Many thanks for these interesting messages!
    Who did hear about Krahe's theory "Alt Europa (ancient Europe)?
    According to him a lot of river names in Europe (Italy, Francy, Germany,
    Scandinavia) have arisen about 2000 BC. Sre google "Krahe".

    For example:it is not certain if the name of river IJssel is germanic.
    See the name Weichsel, Wisla, Isla, perhaps an old-european name.
    And some onomotologists thought that the name of the German river
    Weser (Visurgis in Latin) was celtic or old-european.

    But I believe that the name of the river Schelde is purely germanic.
    Is it a prove the Germanic tribes have lived in Belgium and north of
    France from 500 BC?

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    Shannon, the longest river in the British Isles.

    The origin of the name is presumably that of the name of the Goddess associated with the river, "Sionna". Celtic in origin.

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    In Balkans, the origins are either Slavic or Roman

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heber View Post
    Shannon, the longest river in the British Isles.
    .....Sigh.

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    I remember reading about the origins of the Celts in an Irish book. It was referring to 3 "D" rivers that the auther was suggesting linked them to Danube, Don, and Dan, or somthing. Do you know which these are and what their Celtic names were, and if they represented Gods or what?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post

    Other roots

    Severn (354 km) : from Hafren (Latinised as Sabrina), name of a pre-Celtic princess or nymph drown in the river.
    Hafren is the Welsh for the Severn from the Brittonic Sabrina, it’s not Latin.
    Last edited by Maciamo; 30-04-10 at 10:41. Reason: tags

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brennus View Post
    Hafren is the Welsh for the Severn from the Brittonic Sabrina, it’s not Latin.
    That's what I wrote.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    That's what I wrote.
    I misread your post, sorry!

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    I see no British Isles pre-Celtic name survivals mentioned. Have none been identified?

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    Hi Maciamo!
    I believe basque must be linked with the Cro-Magnon language (Hg I), not with the Neolithic non-european population. I found some fossil words in romanian that are not linked with i-e or asian languages, but has connections with basque.
    One very important word is the word for watter in Basque -URA that formed a lot of related word in basque: eURi - rain, elURRa - snow, itURRia-spring, lURRun-steam etc. Also in romanian we have a lot of words related with water that contain the stem UR. I personally believe that it was a word for water of onomatopoeic origin from very old Hg I population (pre-indo-european, pre-neolitic farmers). I also believe that the original form was something like "URR" and mimic the sound of the water flowing with great speed (maybe in a period when ice was melting). At some point the second R shifted into L. The same cognat has given in the german languages (v.sax) hurlen -throwing with force, (eng.) to hurl - throw with great force, to move with speed, (n.g.j) hurreln - to throw. In romanian language we have a lot of words related to water that are formed from original URR and from pregermanic URL. In the oficial romanian dictionary for most of them it is written "unknown origin" Ex: URLoi - pipe, tube; țurțur - icicle, for some of them, they try reconstructing possible latin words. Ex: lătURA - dirty water, food scraps soaked in water as food for pigs - from latin ''lavare'' and presumed *lavaturae, ciutURA - bucket for water from latin "situta"(hard to believe), for others they try explain by slavonic. Ex: izVOR - water spring. slavs seem to have taken the word from dacians. basqueITURRIA - romanian, vlach IZVOR T<D<Z (like dia-zi, deus-zeu ) u<uo<vo
    There are a lot of names of rivers, lakes, waterfall and citys near water in Romania with those names: Urloi river in Urloii Valey near Urlati city, some lakes named URLoi, URLui; , CeptURA, Urlesti, URLatoarea waterfall (one of the most representativ for the romanian meaning)
    I want to ask please:
    1. Is this URR/URL root word related to water in other european languagers? Are there river, or places related to water with this root in the name?
    2. How old can it be? is it pre-indo-european, pre neolitic farmers (as i think) or just a very early indo-european
    3. Is there a link between mesopotamian UR , URuk, NippUR, assUR (places near water) or is just a coincidence?

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    Dr. Cyril Hroník is Slovakian scientist historian and linguistic expert with very rich and world academic career in his scientific work say, about ethymology of Slovak rivers and mountains. All of rivers and mountains in Slovakia have dravidian tamil language ethymology. Tamil is the oldest language of world and Slovakian/Slavic language has the most tamilic words. Tamilic words use other european languages too
    large.jpg
    Dr. Cyril Hromník

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Dravidians in Slovakia? Good luck with that one...

    Also the statement that "tamil is the oldest language in the world" is a very dubious one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sloven-Vened View Post
    Dr. Cyril Hroník is Slovakian scientist historian and linguistic expert with very rich and world academic career in his scientific work say, about ethymology of Slovak rivers and mountains. All of rivers and mountains in Slovakia have dravidian tamil language ethymology. Tamil is the oldest language of world and Slovakian/Slavic language has the most tamilic words. Tamilic words use other european languages too

    Dr. Cyril Hromník
    Quote Originally Posted by Sloven-Vened View Post
    Dr. Cyril Hroník is Slovakian scientist historian and linguistic expert with very rich and world academic career in his scientific work say, about ethymology of Slovak words. O lot of words in Slovakia have dravidian tamil language ethymology. Tamil is the oldest language of world and Slovakian/Slavic launage has the most tamilic words. Tamilic words use other european languages too)


    Dr. Cyril Hromník

    Quote Originally Posted by Sloven-Vened View Post
    Cyril Hroník is Slovakian historian and linguistic expert with very rich and world academic career is skeptical to "Celts" in middle Europa too: Ethymology of word "Celt" (or Gals or Gaels) is "outlaw / bandit, gangster"


    Dr. Cyril Hromník
    What is it with this repetitive behaviour of making a similar post over and over, are you some kind of shill? As a moderator, I'm hereby issuing an informal warning for you to cease that.

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    Taranis tranquilize you please. You are full of emotions. Peace please. I am not perfect in English language

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    It it only approximately up 50 tamil words in Slovak language, it is not large number. Connection betwen Europa and India was via trade road, via traders. It is theory of scientist Cyril Hromník, it isnt infallible and unerring truth
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamil_language

    In English wikipedia write, that in European languages is small number of tamilic (dravic) words too. It it not anything overblown.
    And trading between Europa and India before Christ, is not anything overblown too.
    Last edited by Sloven-Vened; 09-09-16 at 16:47.

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