Attested: Pliny Natural History 4, 102 XXX Hebudes
Ptolemy 2,2,11: above Hibernia lie the so-called Εβουδαι, five in number, their western island is called Εβουδα and the next to the east is also called Εβουδα then Ρικινα (or Εγγαρικεννα) then
Μαλεος (or Μαλαιος) then Επιδιον.
gloss on Solinus Ebudes & Ebudibus; Marcian/Stephanus Αιβουδαι & Αιβουδαιος
Where: Ptolemy's coordinates map best to the Scottish islands of Islay and Jura, according to Kleineberg, Marx, and Lelgemann (2013), with the other three names belonging to Rathlin Island, the Isle of Mull, and the Kintyre peninsula.
Name origin: The natural meaning of *ebuda is something like ‘off out’, based on PIE *apo- ‘off’ plus *ūt- ‘out’, but it is hard to point to a specific language family in which the name was built. B shows up well in Germanic, for example in English ebb or Dutch buiten ‘outside’, or in Latin in the prefix ab-, while D shows up in Danish and Sanskrit, plus possibly Greek ουδος ‘threshold’. R&S could find no etymology within Celtic.
Notes: The similarity with Ptolemy's Επιδιοι people has long been noted, but that does not lead to any convincing etymology. Less likely Graeco-Roman parallels include επτα ‘seven’, ηβη ‘youth’, and ebur ‘ivory’ (probably from Egyptian), plus the Greek ending –δαι ‘sons of’ or ‘people’. Marine mammals would have been common around Scotland islands in Roman times, and it is easy to imagine travellers to the Hebrides coming back with trade goods carved from walrus or whalebone ivory, like the Lewis chessmen, or talking of a whalebone arch.
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Last edited: 4 January 2020