Tunnocelum

Attested:  ND Tunnocelo

WhereRavenglass Roman fort at SD088958 on the Cumbrian coast at the mouth of one river Esk.  Shotter (1998) corrected a previous misallocation of this name.

Name Origin:  The –ocelum part obviously meant ‘lookout’, based on Latin ocellus ‘little eye’.  The Tunno- part probably arose from the curious shape of the Ravenglass estuary.  Three rivers share one exit to the sea, which has been progressively squeezed by sandbanks advancing from both sides over the centuries.  The resulting shape looks uncannily like a mouth, complete with teeth, and with the Roman fort sitting on the tip of a tongue.  OE tunge descended from PIE *dnghu- ‘tongue’, which had a remarkably diverse range of descendants.

Notes:  This is yet another example of a Roman-era name that looks like a soldiers’ comment based on map reading: compare it with later kidney ridge, pork-chop hill, etc.  Notice how the closest parallels are Germanic, presumably reflecting the home languages of many Roman soldiers.

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Last Edited: 30 May 2016