Attested: Ptolemy 2,3,12 Σμερται (or Μερται)
Where: A tribe in the north of Scotland, whose name persists, according to Watson (1926:17), in Carn Smeart at NH502945 inland from Dornoch Firth.
Name origin: Smer- in ancient names has been much discussed. Watson (1926) declared that the Smertae were ‘smeared folk’, from PIE *(s)mer- ‘fat, grease’. Another PIE *(s)mer- ‘to remember, to care for’ is favoured by those, such as Delamarre (2003:276), who look at a wider range of early names, especially the goddess Rosmerta.
Notes: No compelling explanation has been given why either of these two analyses should fit the Smertae, but Pokorny (1959:969) drew attention to several more appropriate descendants of *(s)mer- etc, with senses of smoky, smelly, smother, smoulder, etc such as OE smorian ‘to suffocate’. They sound like a perfect description of the typical blackhouse of the Highlands, with its ever-burning peat fire, a very ancient lifestyle, as shown, for example, by Skara Brae.
Last Edited: 18 July 2016