Malaca

Attested:  RC malaca.  At the start of the British section of the Cosmography, in all three surviving manuscripts is this piece of text: Iterum sunt in ipso [northern] oceano [islands] quae dicitur vectis malaca insenos taniatide.

Where:  Possibly at Dungeness.  There are no modern islands off south-eastern England, between Vectis (Wight) and Taniatide (Thanet), so something has changed since Roman times.  RC's order of listing might suggest locating Malaca in the east, among the archipelago around the eastern end of the Solent, but Insenos probably claims that spot.  Name translations suggest that Malaca belongs at Dungeness.  See here for a map of how it may have looked in mediaeval times.  The map below of how the Channel coast might have looked in Roman times, with a definite island at Dungeness, is copied from page 196 of Lafaurie (1996).

Name origin:  M-vowel-L in ancient names meant ‘protruding, sticking out or up’ and began the names of many headlands across the ancient world, as discussed at length here, while -aca looks like a feminine, Latin-style adjective ending.  Even if Dungeness was smaller in Roman times than now, it was still a prominent, triangular headland.

Notes:  Difficulties with this name are well illustrated by a detailed discussion of Malaga, in Spain, by Villar (2000), who slightly favoured a river-mouth explanation, citing a word for ‘swamp’ in Slavic languagesfrom PIE *mel- ‘bad’.  An earlier preference for the Selsey location was influenced by the curious name Manhood, for the Selsey peninsula dating back before Domesday Book, which might translate Latin masculus ‘male’.  Greek μαλακος ‘soft’ possibly hints at marshes.

[Lafaurie map here]
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Last edited: 16 June 2018