Vindobala

Attested:  ND Vindobala; RC Vindovala.

WhereRudchester Roman fort at NZ11276755 on Hadrian's Wall.

Name origin:  See Vindo ‘pleasant’.  For the -bala part there are 5 possibilities.  (1) Many later place names in England contain an element *ball/*balg/*bol/etc that meant ‘smooth rounded hill’ (Smith, 1956:18-19), which would be an excellent fit to the Roman fort's situation on a local high point with the ground falling away by 30 metres or so on all sides.  (2) Another meaning of Middle English ball was ‘boundary-marker mound’, which, like Welsh bâl ‘pointed summit’, might fit a hypothetical burial mound nearby that was long ago ploughed out.  (3) Cornish bal ‘mine’ and Gaulish *balma ‘cave, hole in the rock’ (Delamarre, 2003:66) might fit the rock-cut cistern known as Giant's Grave found close to the fort.  (4) If the V in RC's form is preferred to ND's B, this name might relate to the valleys on either side of the fort's location.  (5) Bailey (walled enclosure) of a castle, written ballium in mediaeval Latin, has been invoked to explain Continental place names such as Bellegem, and has no certain etymology, though Greek βαλλω ‘to throw, lay foundation’ is in the running.

Notes:  R&S, thinking along purely Celtic lines, suggested a translation ‘white peak’, which is clearly wrong, but none of the possible meanings discussed above for -bala is a runaway winner to replace it.

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Last Edited: 21 January 2017