Attested:  Pliny  Ricina (or Rignea, Riginea, Ricnea, Rhikina)   Ptolemy 2,2,11  Ρικινα; (or Εγγαρικεννα);
  Ravenna Cosmography Regaina at position 277 among islands ‘in the western ocean’.
  Adomnan Rechru & Rechrea insula c AD700;     Tigernach Annals Rechrann

WhereRathlin Island, off Northern Ireland, at NR330079.

Name Origin:  PIE *reg- ‘to move in a straight line’ was the parent (or cousin) of many words in many languages, (such as reach, rack, and irrigate in English, or rigor ‘line, course’ in Latin), which show up in many place names referring to travel or movement.  Final -na, seen on many river names, is related to Greek ναω ‘to flow’.  Presumably this all refers to Rathlin's importance as a landmark for travel (through some tricky tide races) across the North Channel to England.

Notes:  Early Irish names for Rathlin include Rechrann, which apparently ends in rann ‘part’.  An interesting parallel is Reginca, an ancient tidal-island trading point in Brittany.  A similar or related PIE root *reig- ‘to reach, to stretch out’ may be in Ρεριγονιον at the Rhins of Galloway, but the etymology there is confused by frigid and ρικηνεις ‘shrivelled with cold’. The present analysis overrules previous ideas about Welsh rhygnu ‘to saw, to cut into pieces’ (possibly conveying a sense of ‘notched’) or Greek ρηγνυμι ‘to break asunder’ (since so many ships have been wrecked around Rathlin).  Also probably wrong is a compound of ρεω ‘to flow’ and κινεω ‘to set in motion’.

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Last edited 1 October 2022     to main Menu.