Γαβραντουικων κολπος

Attested:  Ptolemy 2,3,6  Γαβραντουικων Ευλιμενος κολπος

Where:  The complex estuary that formerly existed at Bridlington, on the Yorkshire coast, south of Flamborough Head, where two Roman roads are believed to converge.  Bridlington now has only a small harbour, at TA183665, near the north end of the broad sweep of sandy beach of Bridlington Bay, but in Roman times the estuary may have been navigable inland towards Rudston, while its mouth may have extended out some way before it was eroded into the North Sea.

Name Origin:  Ευλιμενος κολπος is straightforward Greek for ‘good-harbour bay’, but the Gabrantwikōn part was a puzzle before the link with Old English geáp and the Gypsey Race river became clear.  Initial Gab- came from PIE *ghe- and/or *gheu- ‘to gape’ (whose many relatives include gap, yawn, chaos, and possibly other ancient names such as Gabaglanda, Gabrosentio, Gobannio, and Selgovae).  The -rant- part is related to English rend and rant, from *rendh- ‘to tear’, whose best parallel is in Sanskrit randhra ‘split, hole, vulva’.  The -wic- part is probably from *weik- ‘to bend’, in a purely topographical sense closer to Norse vík ‘bay’ than to wic ‘trading place’, Latin vicus ‘village’ (more specifically a settlement that aspired to Romanitas).  And the final -ων part looks like a Greek genitive plural ending.

Notes:  This analysis has gone through many previous versions.  From the start, it rejected as daft the old idea, repeated by Rivet and Smith, that there was a tribe of ‘goat-fighters’, based on resemblance to Old Irish gabor ‘goat’, from PIE *kapro-, plus fichid ‘fights’.  Also rejected was any parallel with Old English brant ‘high, steep’, preceded by ge- ‘with’.  Or with gabrannjaidau ‘burned’ in Wulfila's Gothic Bible, with two similar words in other Gothic texts.  Then, it took time for weird names in the story of Hengist and Horsa recounted by old historians to get sorted out.  Ptolemy's coordinates always leave a potential distance error of tens of kilometres, so that formerly it was possible to guess that the name referred to Flamborough Head as a navigation mark and/or the narrow cove of Selwicks Bay as a landing place.  Jim Storr suggests that the huge promontory fort between by Dane's Dyke and Flamborough Head was a focus from which the kingdom of Deira developed.

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Last edited 16 August 2021     To main Menu