Vindo-

It used to be confidently asserted that Vindo- in early place names meant ‘white’, having come from a proto-Celtic form *windo- (Matasovic, 2009:423), which led to words for whiteness in most Celtic languages, such as Welsh gwynn, Irish find, Breton gwenn, Cornish guyn, etc.  However, there is nothing obviously white about Vindo- places.

In Britain the places concerned are Vindolanda and Vindobala on Hadrian’s Wall, Vindogladia (Shapwick, Dorset), Ουινδογαρα (Irvine Bay), Vindomora (Ebchester), Vindomi (Neatham, Hampshire), and Vinovia (Binchester), plus possibly Vinion (?Lady Isle).  See the individual entries about their second elements, which on the whole do not look very Celtic.

Outside Britain, one might note:
Vindobona (Vienna, Austria) where –bona may refer to granaries, with raised-slab floors, as in German Bühne ‘stage’ or the common Roman place name Bononia.
Vindonissa (Windisch, Switzerland) where –nissa probably refers to the ness or nose of high ground where two rivers meet.
Vindocinum (Vendôme, France) where –cinum is like OE cinu ‘chink’, modern English chine, and may refer to the multiple small channels into which the river Loire divides.
Vindelici (a Germanic tribe) ‘delightful people’ with second element like OE lic ‘body’.
Ουινδεριος (?Dundalk, Ireland) with second element probably from PIE *reiə- ‘to flow’.
Ουινδινον (Le Mans, France) might perhaps have second element derived from dunum.
Ουινδια was somewhere in Galatia.

In early British place names, Vindo- (pronounced like window) probably had just the sense of ‘happy, pleasant’, and descended from PIE *wen- ‘love’.  This led to OE wynn or wyn ‘joy, delight’, which readily formed compounds, such as wyn-land ‘pleasant land’.  An analogous root existed in Celtic, so that, for example, Welsh gwyn can also mean ‘beautiful, fair, pleasant’.

Maybe whiteness developed as a secondary sense in Celtic but not Germanic languages from a primary sense of ‘pleasing’.  Compare the English word fair, and the liking for pale skin in aristocratic women and blonde hair in heroic men.  Some ancient personal names beginning with Vin- (such as those listed by Delamarre, 2007: 200-201) may well have contained the Celtic white sense, just like some modern names.  Examples from Britain include Vinda, *Vindacius, Vindalicus, Vindicianusi, and VindomoruciVindiorix was mentioned on a curse tablet from Bath in a text that is not written in Latin; his final –rix was a name element used all over Europe with no diagnostic value for his native language.  Delamarre (2003:319-320), who was generally very careful in his analysis of “Gaulish”, translated *uindos as ‘white, happy’, thereby acknowledging that in many names Vind- conveyed a sense of ‘good chap, pleasant fellow’.

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Last Edited: 4 March 2017