Boudicca

AttestedBoudicca is the best consensus spelling from difficult handwriting (Williams 2009): boodicia, bouducca or bouducea in Tacitus Annals; uo adica and bouid icta in Tacitus Agricola; Βουδουικα and Βουνδουικα in Cassius Dio.  Jackson (1979) claimed that an early Celtic speaker would have spelled it Boudica.

Where:  A queen of the Iceni who led a revolt against the Romans and ultimately lost a battle in AD 60 or 61, somewhere on Watling Street, possibly at Church Stowe, as discussed here.

Name origin:  Most likely the name Boudicca was as North-Sea-Germanic as other Iceni names on coins discussed by Nash Briggs (2011).  Modern English bid and bode show how at least two originally separate verbs (possibly from PIE *gwhedh- ‘to ask, to pray’ and *bheudh- ‘to make aware’) have become confused, so it is hard to choose among meanings of (female) ‘proclaimer’, ‘commander’, and ‘priest’.  Alternatively, maybe Tacitus got the name from someone (perhaps in Legio IX Hispana) familiar with names in the Lusitanian language area like three known inscriptions that actually mention a person called BOVDICA, plus over 100 others that mention Boutus, Boutius, Boutia, etc.  In that context, the likely meaning of Boudicca would be something like ‘cowgirl’, from the root that led in English to bovine and butter (PIE *gwou-).  If Boudicca was named in Celtic, the correct parallel in modern English is probably booty.  The supposed PIE root **bhoudhi- ‘victory’ that led to Welsh budd ‘profit, gain’ is a romantic fantasy dating back to the time of Queen Victoria.

Notes:  The idea that Boudicca had red hair is another piece of fantasy.  The original Greek word meant ‘yellowest’, so she was probably a blonde.  A comprehensive survey of ancient names similar to Boudicca that has been blocked from paper publication by nationalist prejudice is available on request.

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Last Edited: 13 June 2017