Cornovii

Attested:  (1)  Ptolemy 2,3,12  Κορναουιοι;  RC Utriconion (.) Cornoviorum/Cornoniorum
  (2) Ptolemy 2,3,19 Κορναουιοι, a tribe with πολεις at Chester and Wroxeter;
  inscription CIVITAS CORNOV; inscription C CORNOVIA;  ND Cornoviorum
  (3) AI iter 13 Durocornovio
  (4) RC Purocoronavis

Where:  (1) a tribe in northern Scotland, probably in Caithness
(2) a tribe in the Shropshire/Cheshire region
(3) Cirencester
(4) probably near Bude, Cornwall

Name origin:  The natural guess, spelled out by R&S, is that Corn- came from Latin cornu ‘horn’, or its Welsh or Irish cognates.  Their modern sense of ‘corner’ would certainly fit the north-eastern tip of Scotland, but it is not so obviously relevant to Chester and Wroxeter, and it is positively inappropriate to places 3 and 4.  As explained under Corinium, a meaning of ‘rocky’ is tempting, but ultimately the most likely explanation seems to be that *Coronavis meant ‘bendy river’, so that *Cornavii were people who lived in its valley, and in Roman usage a vowel A changed to O, yielding the observed Cornovii.

Notes:  The river Severn is famous for its meanders upstream from Wroxeter, much like Chester’s river Dee and Cirencester’s river Churn.  “The River Neet meanders in Bude near its estuary.”  “The River Churnet is a classic example of a misfit river meandering across its wide sediment-filled valley floor.”  As for Caithness, which is much flatter than the Scottish Highlands, its two biggest rivers, Thurso and Wick, are mildly bendy, but its third, Forss Water, does seriously meander.

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Last Edited: 22 July 2016