Eburacum

Attested:  Mentioned by all the main ancient sources, including Ptolemy 2,3,17 Εβορακον, RC Eburacum, AI Eburacum and Eburaco, plus various inscriptions and early writers, some with vowel U, some with O.

Where:  York, around SE6051.

Name origin:  Latin ebur ‘ivory’, referring to boars' tusks, offers a perfect fit to the observed name.  York's later strong association with boars has been dismissed as a later reinterpretation based upon Germanic words such OE eofor ‘wild boar’, in order to support a theory that the name originated in a Celtic word for ‘yew’ ancestral to Irish ibar ‘yew, etc’, Breton evor ‘black alder, etc’, Welsh efwr ‘hogweed, etc’.  These words come from PIE ei- ‘bright, red’, which has descendants throughout Europe, and is neither distinctively Celtic nor uniquely associated with yew trees.  Long before Romans lost control of York, a traveller from there set up a stone altar in Bordeaux with a detailed image of a boar on one side, securely dated to AD 237.  The –acum part was a common adjectival ending seen in early place names, especially in Gaul.

Notes:  Roman legion XX Valeria Victrix used a boar badge and was active in Britain, but is not known to have been based at York, though it did leave an inscription with a boar image that was found at the likely site of Eburocaslum.  Ancient people may have obsessed about yew trees (with poisonous berries and wood used for making longbows) but they certainly obsessed about boars (as food, and as a model of fierceness among Indo-European male teenagers).  Many Germanic personal names, such as Eberhard and Erwin, incorporate a boar element.

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Last Edited: 5 February 2017