Attested: RC Saponis
Where: Probably Little Cumbrae and/or Great Cumbrae in the mouth of the Firth of Clyde (more likely than Bute). See here about the order of listing of names in RC.
Name origin: Graeco-Latin σαπων/sapo ‘soap’ probably descends from PIE *seib- ‘to pour, to seep’, with the reference here to the tidal flows in the outer Clyde estuary, which early sailors needed to watch carefully. Many words beginng with S refer to flowing liquids (think of sap, savoury, sieve, soup, etc in English), and rivers whose names begin with Sav-, Sap-, Sau-, etc have had various etymologies proposed, with PIE *sab-/*sap ‘juice, to perceive’ often cited. The -on- part of the name refers to water, and the -is declensional ending appears on other island names. Sabrina Severn is related.
Notes: This analysis rejects the idea of R&C that the name refers to sap, and therefore meant ‘pine-tree island’, even though the use of pine-tree resin as glue is a very ancient technology.
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Last edited: 22 September 2018