Attested: Ptolemy 2,3,3 Τοβιου ποταμου εκβολαι
Where: Mouth of the river Towy or Tywi, at about SN347078 in south Wales. The river flows through Carmarthen.
Name origin: The –οβιου part manifestly matches the endings of two other Welsh rivers named by Ptolemy, Τουεροβιος (Teifi) and Τοισοβιος (Conwy). It is presumably one more *uba/*oba/*upa ‘water, river’ of the type discussed here. Then whence came the initial T? Is it just from PIE *ta- ‘to thaw, to dissolve’, as is suggested to explain how river names like Tavy and Tay differ from *ap- ‘water’?
Notes: Medieval Irish topar or tobar ‘well, spring’ offers a possible parallel, but that hardly fits the flood plain of the meandering Towy or its wide mouth onto Carmarthen bay, which are better suited to Latin tuba ‘trumpet’ and similar words. Carmarthen was the Roman “capital” of south-west Wales and the Towy is Wales’ longest river, so maybe Τοβιοs just meant ‘the river’, with its initial T derived from the PIE demonstrative stem *de- by the process that led (in English) to words like to and that.
Last Edited: 10 August 2016