Attested:  RC Melezo

Where:  Somewhere in Dorset near the headwaters of the river Stour, where RC is coming from the north-west towards Ibernio (probably Hod Hill).  Melbury Beacon at ST87311973 is one of the highest points in Dorset, surrounded with evidence of long habitation, such as at Melbury Abbas.  Further south is Fontmell Magna, at ST866169, an ancient village whose initial Font- probably came from Latin fontanus ‘spring’.  There is nothing obviously Roman military in this area, but a Roman road (Margary 46) runs some way to the east, and Alchester (formerly Alynchester) and Bedchester are nearby.

Name origin:  The closest parallel is French mélèze, which means a range of tree species that yield sweet sap, like the one used to make maple syrup.  English place-name dictionaries attribute many Mel- names to ‘honey’ (PIE *melit-), though they translate it as ‘variegated’ (compare German malen ‘to paint’) in Melbury.  Actually mel- in place names across Europe has an alarmingly large number of potential meanings, which include ‘bare hill’, ‘black’, ‘yellow’, ‘bowl’, ‘sheep’, ‘apple’, and ‘badger’!  As written, Melezo looks a bit Greek, possibly ending like a variant of ιζω ‘to sit down’.

Notes:  Roman army medics tended to be Greek, so that Greek Mel- signifying honey and friendship (not blackness, which would require Melan-), might make sense in an area where the army paused during the initial conquest phase.

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Last Edited: 16 May 2018