Attested: Ptolemy 2,3,2 Ιτουνα estuary
Where: River Eden, Cumbria, which becomes distinct from the Solway Forth and the river Esk near NY3262.
Name Origin: PIE *wei- ‘to bend, to wind’, which led in English to withy and viticulture, evolved into Greek ιτυς ‘rim of wheel or shield’ by loss of a W. The Cumbria Eden is a notably bendy river. Four other Edens in the east of Britain are moderately bendy, but the one in Fife also has an unusual estuary with two great round “bubbles” of sandflats next to Leuchars. The -na ending signified water or river in many ancient names.
Notes: This analysis rejects what formerly seemed the best explanation, based on PIE *ei- ‘to go’, which gained a T in several language families, notably Latin itus ‘going’. Ekwall (1928:143) spelled out that logic, but then (bizarrely) swerved away to suggest an original form *Pituna, which lost its P in Celtic. Watson (1926:46) cited Irish ethaim ‘I go’ to explain the similar Ιτυος. In discussing the earliest form of Edinburgh or Dùn-éideann, Watson (pp340-2) reckoned there was a region Eidyn (Eitin in Welsh, Etin in Irish) around the Forth estuary whose meaning was “quite obscure”, but the logic offered here would link it to the great curves of the outer Firth of Forth. To explain Itu- in ancient personal names, Delamarre (2017:207-8) favoured as a parallel Celtic words for ‘corn’, such as Irish ith, while rejecting Icelandic ítr ‘glorious’. Note also Itucodon and Caesar's portus itium.
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Last edited: 17 October 2018