Attested: Ptolemy 2,3,2 Αβραουαννου river mouth.
Where: Probably the Water of Luce, in Dumfries and Galloway, near NX1956, according to Marx (2013).
Name origin: A compound of PIE *abhro-
‘strong, mighty’ plus *euə- ‘to
leave, abandon, lack’, describing how the Luce is a spate river, which waxes and wanes in accord with the weather.
Notes: Andrew Breeze (2001) was the first to spot this etymology for Αβραουαννου but he mistranslated it as ‘very feeble’ and pointed to the weaker Piltanton Burn. This happened partly from not thinking clearly about water in the landscape, but mainly because he focussed only on Celtic parallels (Irish abor ‘very’ and Welsh gwan ‘weak, feeble’) whereas *abhro- also had descendants in Gothic, Old Norse, and possibly other languages, and *euə-'s many descendants include wan and wane, plus Latin vanus ‘empty’. The really interesting question is who created geographical names in this region. Were the ships' crews Germanic speakers from around the lower Rhine (like so many soldiers), or Greek speakers from the eastern Mediterranean, or just a mixed bag from all over the Empire? Or were they local people, in which case had Gaelic already arrived in Roman times, or were they all Brittonic (proto-Welsh) speakers? This area was an important part of the Dark-Age kingdom of Rheged, with the Glenluce area probably a significant trade emporium. Whithorn on the Machars peninsula may be where Ninian founded his first church that Bede called candida casa.
Last Edited: 10 August 2016