Attested: Vectis at the end of the Ravenna Cosmography; Ptolemy 2,3,33 Ουηκτις; Pliny Vectis; Suetonius insulam Vectem
Panegyric 8 apud insulam Vectam; Maritime Itinerary Vecta; Bede Vecta
Where: Isle of Wight
Name Origin: Vectis ‘carried’ was a noun from vectus, the past participle of Latin veho ‘to carry’. That was applied to poles used for carrying litters of important people, the Ark of the Covenant, etc, and developed into a general word for any wooden pole. Romans may have applied that notion to the Isle of Wight in the sense of a bar across the doorway, as pointed out by Breeze (2019).
Wiht and other, variously spelled, forms that finally settled down as Wight, could have an essential meaning like ‘little companion’, as discussed by Durham (2011), having developed from the sense of ‘outlying’, shown by Old English wīc and its many cognates, all ultimately derived from PIE *wegh- ‘to go’, via the notion of ‘clan on the march’ explained by Szemerenyi (1977).
Notes: Traditional thinking holds that the Latin form was primary and the Old English form secondary, but the process of name (re)interpretation could have gone either way, since Vectis and Vecta were just classical writers’ way of writing *wiχt- and giving it grammatical endings. Wight seems to have been a fairly common element in later place names, particularly at river bends and river islands, and it is hard to see how they could be secondary to Latin, rather than independent developments in Germanic. The ethnicity of Wight's original name givers is uncertain, but the commonly quoted Celtic parallels and the idea of a lever are not particularly relevant.
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Last edited 7 August 2021 To main Menu