Scilly Isles

Attested:  Pliny Silumnus (or Silimnus); Solinus Siluram insulam; Sulpicius Severus Sylinancim insulam

Where:  R&S reckoned that all three names referred to Scilly, which had one main island in Roman times, before sea level rise.

Name origin:  The modern name Scilly was first recorded as Sully, probably named by Norse sailors, whose word súla ‘pillar, column’ survives in Sule Skerry and Sule Stack, two isolated small islands west of Orkney, and also formed the first element in English solan ‘gannet’.  The Roman-era forms were centuries earlier and probably independent, but Sil- and Sul- names are problematic.  Their most likely root is PIE *(s)kel- ‘to cut’, from which came Scylla, many Germanic words including skill, and Irish sceilleg ‘rock’.  However, PIE *sei- ‘to bind’, discussed under Silures, might also apply to an island that served as a link.

Notes:  Much of this is discussed in our manuscript about Aquae Sulis, which a journal has been sitting on silently for 8 months; ask if you want to see a copy.

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Last Edited: 17 July 2016