Attested:  RC Lemana (a harbour estuary) and Lemanis (place)
  AI iter 4 ad portum Lemanis (twice);  ND Lemannis (twice);  TP  Lemanio

WhereLemanis meant the Roman fort of the Saxon Shore at Stutfall Castle, Lympne, Kent, at TR11743423, which has been largely destroyed by a landslip on a changing coastline.  Lemana referred to the Roman harbour beside which the fort sat, but the whole Romney Marsh area has changed a lot since Roman times.  Cunliffe (1980:258-259) wrote that “In the early part of the Roman period the rivers Rother, Tillingham and Brede flowed into an extensive estuary which opened to the sea through a narrow outlet just to the east of the site of the Roman fort. The marshland surrounding the estuary was protected from erosion by the sea by a shingle beach ... the fort ... commanded the outlet but was provided with a protected anchorage by an ancient sand dune projecting southwards from the cliff base immediately to the east of the fort.”.  Sea-level rise, siltation, and longshore drift altered the coastline greatly so that by the AD 700s there was a river called Limen.

Name Origin:  The word liman (ultimately from Greek λιμην ‘harbour’, which diffused into various languages including Arabic, Turkish, Russian, and English) is a remarkably exact match to the fort's likely topographical situation.  There seems to be no consensus on which PIE root led to λιμην, but the top possibilities are *lei- ‘to flow, to pour’ and *lei- ‘slimy, to slip, to glide’, which led to words such as English loam and slime, or Latin limus ‘mud’.  Or else maybe Latin limen ‘threshold, entrance’ (of uncertain origin) is appropriate to a harbour entrance, especially with a bar at its mouth.  See under Λεμαννονιος for another slant on possible roots for this name.

Notes:  Nonsense Celtic elm-tree etymologies promoted by Jackson and others did not fool R&S, who wisely homed in on “water-names”.

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Last edited: 7 January 2019       Back to main menu