Corinium

Attested:  Ptolemy 2,3,25 Κορινιον (or Κοριννιον), a πολις of the Δοβουνοι;    RC Cironium Dobuno

WhereCirencester, Gloucestershire, around SP025017, was briefly important militarily as a hinge point of the Fosse Way, where it crossed the river Churn and was intersected by the road from Silchester to Gloucester (later known as Ermine Way), before settling down to be a prosperous Roman market town and possibly an administrative capital of Britannia Prima.

Name origin:  The name survives in modern Cirencester and its river Churn (Cyrnea in about AD 800), as recognised by Ekwall (1928:78-9) and by R&S (pp 321-2), but both got sidetracked by Durocornovium, which was a different place altogether, and various unsatisfactory etymologies.  However, Ekwall did produce the best explanation when discussing the river Churnet, which “would mean ‘the winding river’, a singularly apt name for the river”.  The Churnet is noticeably wiggly, and the Churn still meanders a lot even though it has been straightened since Roman times.  Ekwall drew attention to Irish cern ‘angle, corner’.  That is presumably cognate with OE hyrne ‘little horn, corner’, and maybe Latin circino ‘to make round’, plus Greek κιρκος ‘circle’.  This pulls the root into company with all the other circle words discussed by Allcroft, which seem more likely to derive from PIE *(s)ker- ‘to bend, to turn’ than from *gher- ‘to enclose’.  Churning milk can involve rotary motion as well as more random agitation.

Notes:  There was an exact parallel in Ptolemy's Κορινιον = Pliny's Corinium, at modern Donji Karin, Croatia, in ancient Liburnia, while Corinth in Greece and the Corinenses people in Italy come close.  AI's iter 13 missed out one line around Cirencester, suggesting that an ancient scribe found two similar names, referring to two consecutive river crossings, as puzzling as any modern analyst.  Maybe the river being crossed both times was a *Coronavis meandering river.  Rejected explanations include: a tribal assembly place or Coria with the name transferred from Bagendon hillfort of the Dobunni; a parallel with words like grain and corn, from PIE *ger-, which developed to *grə-no and then to OE kyrin ‘churn’ and kyrnel ‘kernel’, plus Dutch koren; being in the cor ‘heart’ of Roman Britain; and a river that was PIE *kar-/*ker- ‘hard’, which Nicolaisen invoked to explain rivers with names like Carron; .

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Last edited: 21 October 2018.  Back to main Menu.