Vindo- in ancient names Evidence to back up a short article in Academia Letters
Hundreds of proper names (of places, rivers, people, gods, etc) contain an element of form W-vowel-(N)-(D), where that letter W could also appear as V, U, UU, F, B, or OU; the vowel could be E, I, or A; the D could be T, Ð, or absent altogether; and sometimes the N could disappear. What did that element mean?
As will become clear, the common geographical feature associated with Vindo- and Venta in many
ancient place names is some relatively flat land liable to seasonal flooding, typically produced by a
meandering river. All rivers tend, in their lower regions, to wind around and erode a sinuous course
into soft ground, but every so often they overflow badly and jump to new courses. The end result is
a floodplain or, on a long enough timescale, a set of river terraces. The resulting landform, whether
one calls it a floodplain, meander belt, water meadows, valley floor (German Talebene), or river
terrace, was a biologically productive environment, in which people could grow crops, raise animals,
or develop an entire civilization.
The earliest clear explanation of this idea that I know is by Blanca Prosper (1998), who looked at
Vindupalis, a Ligurian (non-Celtic) name for a river in the upper Polcevera valley above Genoa,
mentioned in a legal decision from 117 BC. She concluded that “European river names from *wid-
ub/p-, *wind-ub/p- roughly meant curved river, crooked watercourse”.
A key insight came from Reiner Lipp (2020), who explained, together with Luke Gorton (2017), that
words for wine, with all their diverse spellings across European languages, descend from a word for
‘twiner, creeping plant, tendril, grapevine’ from PIE *wei- ‘to turn, twist around’. Evidently that ancient
root could also apply to winding rivers...]
this *wei- has been fertile in I-E languages; I think in the Breton gwe- verbal root which means to twist, gwi : weaving, gwial : flexible small branch -
this root seems having given birth (+suffix) to *wel- 4 to roll, to turn and to *wer- to turn, to twist,
all these meanigns close to to swing ... no obstacle concerning wind in Germanic languages; so no objection until now and here.
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