Explanatory alphabetical list of Romano-British place-names
Part 11: V → Z
[For information as to which names are included in this list and which not, and an explanation of the abbreviations employed, click on Alphabetical List menu provided above]
Rivet and Smith follow Hamp in seeing a derivation from hypothetical British vagna, taken to mean 'marsh', with an aco suffix thought to mean 'estate of', or 'property of', or sometimes just 'place'. The name as a whole might then mean 'marshy place' or 'marshy-place estate'. Rivet and Smith add that there seem to be no other uses of vagna in ancient toponymy, which is rather odd if such a word ever in fact existed and it referred to a natural feature as common as marsh.
The mileage given in Iter II for the journey from Vagniacis to Rochester leaves no room for doubt that Vagniacis was indeed the Roman settlement at Springhead. The site of the settlement lies on the lower slopes of a hill which rises to the west and is quite steep in its upper part, just east of Stonewood. It thus seems clear that Vagniacis is a topographical name, though one which has been modified. If the initial V is correct then there must originally have beeen another hill-letter, say l, before the g, this yielding the inversion-type element valg meaning 'slope of hill steep'. If the n is not intrusive then there was probably a c or a t between the i and the a, where nic and nit are inversion-type elements respectively meaning 'hill steep' and 'hill high'. The acis part of the name is assumed to be just an ending, which may or may not have meaning. But if the initial V was a B in the original name then Bagn is an old-style element meaning 'high steep hill' (cf. the bagl of Cambaglanda at Birdoswald, this including the same element but using the hill-letter l rather than n).
[The entry for Vagniacis was last modified on 22 September 2019]
|(127)||(Iter II, V)||(Cumbria)|
Verteris is generally accepted as the correct form. Jackson, agreeing with Williams, sees a derivation from hypothetical British vertero, taken to mean 'upper part, summit'.
Valteris, however, is earlier than Verteris. Indeed Valteris appears within a group of Flavian forts in Ravenna, the other members of the group forming a nearly complete ring of forts around a sizeable piece of territory at the northern end of the Pennines. A nearly complete ring, and the fort at Brough-under-Stainmore closes that ring, so it is clear that Valteris is simply an earlier form of the name Verteris, the fort at Brough-under-Stainmore. The valt of Valteris is an inversion-type element meaning 'slope of hill high'. But the Roman fort at Brough-under-Stainmore is located at the top of a ridge with a fairly steep drop down to the Swindale Beck. It is thus clear that the name Valteris had been transferred to Brough from an Iron Age hillfort or settlement located somewhere else. The nearest hillfort appears to be that just northeast of Dike House (NGR: NY 837 141), some 5 kilometres to the east of Brough. The hillfort stands on a promontory on the southern slope of a hill apparently called Long Rigg. The summit is at 314 metres and the lowest point, on the Argill Beck down below the fort, is around 230 metres. The hillfort itself is around the 280 metre contour. The name-element Valt, meaning ‘slope of hill high’, thus seems entirely appropriate. The eris ending of Valteris is presumably the same ending as the aris of Lavaris (Bowes) and the ara of Brocara (Brougham Castle). All three forts lay on the road from York to Carlisle. But evidently the name had changed to Verteris by the date of the AI. One sees the same l → r change going from Ptolemy's Bullaeum to the Burrio of the AI (Iter XII), both names referring to Usk in South Wales.
Example of l → r
[The entry for Valteris was last modified on 16 March 2021]
Rivet and Smith take the view that this name is probably derived from hypothetical vellaun, taken to mean 'good', the place-name then perhaps meaning 'goodly (place)'. They are not quite sure which form of the name is correct, the above form or Veluniate, the latter appearing on an inscription found at Carriden. But Velunia is the earlier form and so is likely to be closer to the original Celtic name. Velunia was the name of an early Antonine fortlet built at Carriden as part of the preparations for the construction of the Antonine Wall, as explained in Chapter 22 (The Antonine Wall) of the Home menu. The name will have been transferred to the Wall fort at Carriden when this was built, though at some stage the name apparently changed to Veluniate.
Velunia appears to be a straightforward topographical name, where the inversion-type element vel means 'side of a hill, slope'.
[The entry for Velunia was last modified on 06 August 2020]
|Velurcion||Velurcion (149)||Borcovicio||first, at Grindon Hill|
Rivet and Smith discuss the generally accepted derivation from hypothetical verco, taken to mean 'work', and suggest the full name might mean 'place of the Vercovices', who were 'effective fighters'. They suggest the name might have been applied by the British to the first Roman garrison of the fort, hypothetical British Vercovices.
But Ravenna's Velurcion appears to be a straightforward topographical compound in which the inversion-type element vel, meaning 'slope of hill', is qualified by the earlier inversion-type element urc meaning 'hill steep'. Velurcion was the name of a Trajanic fortlet on that section of the Stanegate which crosses the southern flanks of Grindon Hill (this is explained in Chapter 20: Rome's frontiers in northern England). The name was later transferred to the Hadrianic Wall fort at Housesteads. Then at some point the Wall fort appears to have been abandoned, presumably during the Antonine period, though its vicus lived on as Velurcionvicus, and it is this name which was simplified, shortened, to Vercovicus. When the fort was recommissioned, at the time the Antonine Wall was abandoned, it took the name Vercovicus, and it is this name, with the initial v changed to b, which appears in the ND as Borcovicio. And of course the change of the first vowel from e to o and of the ending from us to io is of no relevance to the meaning of the name. The inscription RIB 1594, which includes the place-name abbreviation VER and is referred to by Rivet and Smith, is said by them to date from the reign of Severus Alexander, murdered in AD 225, so evidently the fort was still called Vercovicus at that time, the change to Borcovicio taking place at a later date.
Example of v → b
Example of transfer of name to different place
|(Iter II, VI)||(Leicestershire)|
Pokorny referred to a hypothetical Indo-European root ven, taken to mean 'strive' originally and 'wish, love' later. Jackson proposed a hypothetical base veni, taken to mean 'family, kindred', and Rivet and Smith suggest the name might simply mean 'place of the family/tribe'.
The posting-station/settlement called Venonis lay at the junction of Watling Street and the Fosse Way, the junction lying at the top of raised ground above the 130 metre contour, the land dropping away to the north, east and south. The name is thus probably topographical, but is then likely to have been Benonis originally, where the old-style element ben means 'high hill'. If the Vennonis of Iter VIII is closer to the Celtic name then the latter might have been Bendonis, where the old-style element bend means 'high hill summit'.
|Venta||Venta (Velgarom)||Venta||Venta (Belgarum)||Winchester|
Williams suggested that venta might be a Celtic word for 'field', perhaps with a secondary meaning 'market-place'.
Vent, however, is a straightforward inversion-type topographical element meaning 'side, slope of hill high' and seems entirely appropriate for Winchester. It seems less appropriate for the Venta at Caerwent and that at Caistor St Edmund, but these were probably new towns founded by the Romans to serve as tribal capitals for the defeated Silures and Iceni. It may simply be that the Romans looked around for a suitable name for a tribal capital and selected Venta, tribal capital of the Belgae at Winchester.
Rivet and Smith see this name as a corrupt form of the tribal name Venicones. Richmond and Crawford thought the name related to the personal name Venutius.
Ravenna appears to have reached Venutio from Chesters on the North Tyne and then uses Venutio as a node, listing Newstead, Broomholm and High Rochester. This seems to indicate for Venutio a location north of Chesters on the North Tyne and somewhere between Broomholm and High Rochester. A location in the upper valley of the North Tyne would seem suitable. There is a side valley called Wainhope, just north of the Kielder reservoir, though whether the Wain element of that name has any connection with the Ven of Venutio is not clear. As to the name itself, Venutio appears to be a topographical name similar to Venta, venut being an inversion-type element meaning 'slope of hill high'.
VERATINO see RUTUNIO
VERCOVICIUM see VELURCION
Rivet and Smith see a derivation from hypothetical Celtic ver, taken to mean 'very, great', and hypothetical leuco, taken to mean 'bright, shining, white', the name as a whole thus being taken to mean 'very bright place'.
But Verlucione appears to be a straightforward topographical name comprising the inversion-type elements ver and luc, which respectively mean 'slope/side of hill' and 'hill steep'. The precise location of the earliest fort/posting-station/settlement at Sandy Lane is not entirely clear. There are said to be traces of fortifications within Hayfield Copse and to the south and west of it. That location does lie on a steepish slope. But there have also been finds of Roman material a few hundred metres to the north, around Wans House, and the slope just east of Wans House appears distinctly steeper than that at Hayfield Copse.
But note that Verlucione is a compound name, and even though both elements of the compound are inversion-type it is highly likely that the name was coined at a date earlier than the arrival of the Romans. The name will thus have been that of a Celtic settlement somewhere in the vicinity of Sandy Lane and the two most likely candidates (at least as shown on the OS maps) are the promontory forts at Naish Hill and Oliver’s Castle. The Naish Hill fort, at ST935694, some three and a half kilometres WNW of Sandy Lane, is bounded by steep drops on its northern, western and southern sides, the fort itself lying on a gentler slope rising to the higher ground further east and southeast. The name Verlucion would thus be entirely appropriate in this case. The Oliver’s Castle fort, at SU001647, some five kilometres to the southeast of Sandy Lane, is also bounded by steep slopes on its northern, western and southern sides, but the fort itself appears to stand on substantially level ground at the top of those slopes, so that the element Ver of Verlucion would not be appropriate in this case. It is thus most probable that Verlucion was the name of the Naish Hill promontory fort and the name was simply transferred by the Romans to the new fort/posting-station/settlement which they built at Sandy Lane.
Rivet and Smith see the ver part of the name as being a hypothetical Celtic prefix meaning 'very, great'. They see nemet as being a Celtic word referring to sacred groves and as being derived from hypothetical nem-os, taken to mean 'heaven'. The name Vernemeto would then mean 'very sacred grove' or 'great sacred grove'.
But Vernemeto appears to be a straightforward topographical name. It will earlier have been Bernemedo, where ber and med are old-style elements respectively meaning 'high hill' and 'hill summit'. The n may be the hill-letter n but is more likely to be the surviving ending of the name when it existed in the Ber form, i.e. before the med element was added. The name refers to a place on Margary road 58a somewhere in the vicinity of Scholes Farm, to the west of Grimston in Leicestershire. Note that road 58a is a ridgeway and that the area around Scholes Farm is up on top of the ridge, hence the med element in the name. It has in the past been conventional to identify Vernemeto as a place on the Fosse Way, actually somewhere near Willoughby on the Wolds. The writer's reasons for removing the Iter VI names from the Fosse Way are explained in the entry for Ad Pontem.
Rivet and Smith see a derivation from hypothetical verno, taken to mean ‘alder’, the name thus perhaps meaning ‘aldery (place)’. Richmond and Crawford appear to see the name as a river-name meaning ‘flowing amid alders’.
The writer’s reasons for identifying Pilton/Barnstaple as Vernilis are given in Chapter 10 of the Home menu (Roman place-names in southwest England). The Celtic name will have been Bernilis and this will have been the name of the Celtic hill-fort now known as Roborough Castle (at SS 569 352), just north of Barnstaple. The old-style element ber means 'high hill'. The n will just be the surviving ending of the name when it existed in the Ber form, i.e. before the hill-letter l was added. If one changes the initial B of Bernil to P (a fairly common change in Romano-British names), and shortens the name by deleting some internal letters (another fairly common change), one obtains Pil, and this may account for the Pil of Pilton. The Roman fort, as yet undiscovered, may have been on the hill at Pilton, but is just as likely to have been on lower ground near the river Taw, presumably to guard a harbour or control a river-crossing. The Roman fort will of course simply have taken its name from the Celtic hill-fort.
VEROLAMIO see VERULAMIUM
VEROMETO see VERNEMETO
|(a river)||(Perth & Kinross)|
Rivet and Smith take the view that this name is corrupt. They appear to think that the first part of the name might be derived from hypothetical ver, taken to mean 'very, great'. Alternatively, they suggest that it might correspond to Vero or Viro, elements which, they say, occur in many names. They also suggest that the mo at the end of Veromo might stand for dono (dunum) and, combining both strands of the argument, they refer to Virodunum at Verdun. But Gallo-Roman Verdun stood on top of a hill, so the original name will most probably have been Birodunum.
Veromo appears to be a straightforward river-compound in the river-letters b (changed to v), r and m. The Romans simply transferred the name of the river to the fort which they built at Fendoch, on the river Almond. The writer’s reasons for identifying the Fendoch fort as Veromo are given in Chapter 16: Roman place-names in Scotland. Note that the hill-letters corresponding to the river-letters r and m are m and n, both of which are present in the modern river-name Almond. The question then arises as to how the hill-letters m and n came to be included in the modern river-name. The explanation is unlikely to involve the Roman fort now called Bertha, at the confluence of the Almond and Tay, since that fort was called Tuessis during the Flavian period and is unlikely to have had a name including the hill-letters m and n during the Antonine period. Nor is the explanation likely to involve the Roman fort at Fendoch since that fort is known to have been occupied only during the Flavian period. If there had been an Iron-Age hillfort on that site prior to the arrival of the Romans then the latter will surely have applied the name of that hillfort to their new fort rather than transfer the name of the river Veromo to their fort. It seems most likely that the explanation should involve the hillfort at NGR NO 069 261, a location at the top of an escarpment on the north bank of the river Almond at a point a little to the south of Pitcairngreen, assuming that hillfort dates back to the pre-Roman period. The name of the hillfort may have included the element mon and this name may have been transferred to the river by later, Gaelic-speaking people. Indeed Rivet and Smith indicate that the river was once called the Amon (see the entry for Bertha in the Appendix to the Alphabetical List of Rivet and Smith 1979). It is then possible that the name Amon was “improved” to Almond at a much later date by people who were familiar with the Midlothian river of the same name.
[The entry for Veromo was last modified on 11 June 2020]
VERTERIS see VALTERIS
Rivet and Smith see this name as a corrupt form of Ptolemy's Antivestaeum promontory, i.e. Land's End in Cornwall.
However, the order of names in Ravenna appears to indicate that Vertevia was at Tavistock. But the name Vertevia is not entirely clear. It may comprise the inversion-type element vert meaning 'slope of hill high' with an evia ending. The place-name was in this case transferred by the Romans to the local river, now the Tavy, and the modern town Tavistock will have taken its name from the river. A second possibility is that evia was originally ebia, so that Vertevia was in fact a river-name of the kind comprising a river-suffix, here ebia, attached to a place-name Vert, where Vert was a Celtic settlement built on the side of a high hill somewhere along the course of the river. The Romans will then have transferred the river-name to a fort which they built at Tavistock. A third possibility is that the river-suffix was actually tebia, corresponding to the modern river-name Tavy with the b changed to v, and the Celtic settlement was simply called Ver. The t and b of tebia would of course be the river-letters t and b.
Richmond and Crawford thought the name might be derived from a root vert, taken to mean 'to turn', the name perhaps referring to a river with a sharp turn, or turns. Rivet and Smith think the name almost certainly corrupt, though it might include a hypothetical prefix ver, taken to mean 'very, great'.
As it stands, however, the name refers to a location on the side, the slope of a high hill (vert means, literally, 'slope of hill high'). But bearing in mind the changes that occur in Romano-British place-names the original name may have been Berdis, where berd is an old-style element meaning 'high hill summit'. Which form is correct depends on whether the earliest Roman fort, or the native settlement from which it took its name, if indeed the fort took its name from a native settlement, was built on the side of a hill or on top of the hill, and in Worcester, given the local topography, both are possible.
[The entry for Vertis was last modified on 17 March 2021]
The form of this name is uncertain. The two earliest sources, Ravenna and Ptolemy, both give the name an anium ending, so one might think the amio, ami and amo endings of the AI forms represent a later development. However, amongst the inscriptions on coins from the reign of Tasciovanus, who is thought to have ruled from about 20BC to about AD10, is one including the name Verlamio, so it may be that the anium ending of the Ravenna and Ptolemy forms indicates m/n confusion at some stage of medieval copying.
There is also uncertainty amongst scholars as to the meaning of the name. Richmond and Crawford considered the name to be derived from a hypothetical Celtic prefix ver, taken to mean 'very, great', and hypothetical lamo or ulamo, taken to mean 'slimy'. Rivet and Smith appear to favour a derivation from hypothetical veru, taken to mean 'broad'.
The initial Ver or Vir of the name appears, however, to be an inversion-type topographical element meaning 'side, slope of a hill', a meaning which is entirely appropriate for the location of Romano-British St. Albans. The l would just be the hill-letter l and the m another hill-letter.
But note that the name Verulamium is a compound in three hill-letters, so the name will have been coined before the Romans ever set foot in that part of the country. It will have been the name of the oppidum higher up the hill, in Prae Wood. The ditches of the oppidum form a somewhat complex pattern but define a generally rectangular space extending SW-NE. The northwestern boundary appears to straddle the 130 metre contour, while that on the southeast side is around the 125 metre contour. The oppidum appears, therefore, to stand on the slope of the hill, but does not extend up to the highest point. The Ver element (meaning “slope/side of hill”) of Verulamium is thus entirely appropriate. The Romans then simply transferred the name of the oppidum to the new town which they built on the lower slopes of the hill. But note that this was more probably done earlier by the Catuvellauni when they absorbed the r-people in the St. Albans area into their kingdom. The Romans did not then build a wholly new town at St.Albans, but simply romanised an already existing town of the Catuvellauni. The development of Calleva at Silchester was along the same lines.
[The entry for Verulamium was last modified on 17 May 2019]
VINDOBALA see VINDOVALA
VINDOCLADIA/VINDOGLADIA see BINDOGLADIA
Rivet and Smith suggest that the first part of the name is derived from hypothetical vindo, taken to mean 'white, bright, fair, happy, fortunate'. They discuss several possible etymologies for the second part of the name but appear to favour derivation from a hypothetical pre-Indo-European root kar(r), taken to mean 'stone, rock'. The name as a whole might then mean 'white rock, bright rock'.
Vindogara, however, will originally have been Bindogara, where the old-style element gar, meaning 'steep hill', is qualified by the earlier old-style element bind meaning 'high hill summit'. It has been suggested in the past that Vindogara was the Roman fort close to Loudoun Hill, but there seems never to have been a fort or settlement on top of that hill which might have led to the coining of the bind element. It seems much more likely that Vindogara was a Roman fort/harbour at Irvine, at the end of the road coming over from Trimuntium at Newstead via Loudon Hill, the name having been transferred to the Roman fort from a Celtic hillfort called Bindogara somewhere in the vicinity. The most probable hillfort is that at Dundonald Castle (NS 364 345) to the southeast of Irvine, the hillfort standing on the summit of a steep hill (hence suitable for the gar element), the summit being some 27 metres above the base of the hill (thus suitable for the Bindo element). But there are several other Iron-Age hillforts in that area only a little further away from Irvine, so Celtic Bindogara may have been one of those other hillforts. Ptolemy’s Vindogara bay will thus have been the bay at the Roman fort called Vindogara, i.e Irvine bay. Ptolemy places Vindogara in the territory of the Damnoni. There is nothing in the place-name to indicate that that area had actually been settled by people of the Damnoni tribe, who used the hill-letter m, but it is nonetheless possible that the Irvine area was within the territory controlled by the Damnoni.
Example of b → v
[The entry for Vindogara was last modified on 12 January 2021]
VINDOLANA see VINDOLANDE
Rivet and Smith see Vindolanda as being the correct form and as being derived from hypothetical British vindo, taken to mean 'white', 'bright, fair', and even 'happy, fortunate', and hypothetical British landa, taken to mean something like 'heath, moor', the name as a whole thus meaning 'bright moor', "(with heather in flower?)", or 'fair moor'.
The name will originally have been Bindolande and this is a straightforward topographical compound in the hill-letters n1, l1 and n2. The Bind element (using n1) means ‘high hill summit’ and the and element (using n2) means ‘hill summit’. Place-names including the bind element using n1 normally refer to an Iron Age hillfort (see Home/Chapter 21, 2.4.1) so we can be quite confident that Bindolande was the name of the Iron Age hillfort high up on Barcombe Hill, just east of Chesterholm. The Romans simply transferred the place-name to the Flavian fort which they built at Chesterholm itself.
Both the Ravenna and ND forms change the initial b to v and the ND form has dropped the d in the second element of the name. This second change was probably originally ande → anna, one n having been lost subsequently.
Example of b → v
Example of omission of letter
[The entry for Vindolande was last modified on 02 April 2022]
|(a river)||(Iter XV)||(Hampshire)|
Rivet and Smith propose a derivation from hypothetical British vindo, taken to mean 'white', the name then meaning 'white place', i.e. place on chalky ground.
This name is generally accepted now as having been the name of the Romano-British settlement on the north side of the river Wey east of Alton and north of Neatham, in Hampshire. The name will originally have been Bindomi, where Bindo, meaning ‘high hill summit’, will have been the name of the large univallate contour hillfort at Dicket’s Plantation (NGR: SU 723 434), on the summit of a high hill on the north side of the river Wey. Note, however, that Bindomi is in fact a river-name of the kind having a river-suffix attached to a place-name. The river-suffix in the present case comprises the river-letter m corresponding to the hill-letter n of the place-name Bindo. Bindomi will thus have been the then name of the river Wey and the Romano-British settlement simply took the name of the river, with the common b→v change. It might even be possible that at some stage the river-name was drastically shortened to Bi, that this form changed to Vi and that this last form then changed to Wey during the Anglo-Saxon period.
Example of b → v
[The entry for Vindomi was last modified on 16 February 2021]
VINDOMORA see EBIO
Rivet and Smith see Vindobala as being the correct form of this name, the first element being derived from hypothetical British vindo, taken to mean 'white', 'bright, fair' and even 'happy, fortunate', and the second element being derived from hypothetical bal (or balma?) taken to mean 'pointed rock, peak', the name as a whole thus perhaps meaning 'white peak' or 'bright peak'.
The original name may have been Bindobala, this comprising the old-style element Bind in the hill-letter n1, and meaning ‘high hill summit’, qualifying the later but still old-style element bal in the hill-letter l1, and meaning ‘high hill’. But the name is of course Celtic and must therefore refer to an Iron Age settlement/enclosure/hillfort, the name later being transferred to Ravenna’s Trajanic fort Vindovala (see Chapter 20, 3 for an explanation as to why Ravenna’s Vindovala was a Trajanic fort), later still being passed on to Hadrianic Vindovala/Vindobala at Rudchester. There is apparently no such settlement, enclosure or hillfort in the immediate vicinity of Rudchester, the nearest being some two kilometres to the southwest at Horsley. There, just above the village and on the summit of a high hill on the north side of the river Tyne are the remains of a defended settlement roughly circular in shape and about 47 metres in diameter. The name Bindobala would be entirely appropriate for that site. The letter b would have to change twice to v to obtain Ravenna’s Vindovala and then the second v would have to switch back to b to give the Vindobala of the Notitia Dignitatum. These changes are of course possible, but the hill-letter n1 would imply that the settlement had been occupied as early as the 3rd or even 4th century BC. If the archaeologists could demonstrate conclusively that that settlement was not occupied as early as that then we could conclude that Bindobala was not the origin of Ravenna’s Vindovala.
But there is a hillfort down the hillside from Horsley, in Horsley Wood (at NZ 104 648), and an appropriate name for that hillfort would be Vintovala, this comprising the inversion-type element Vint in the hill-letter n2, and meaning ‘slope of hill high’, qualified by the earlier inversion-type element val in the hill-letter l1, and meaning ‘slope of hill’. This form would require only the change t→d to give Ravenna’s Vindovala. The t→d change is fairly common in river-names, not so in place-names, but Vinto may have changed to Vindo simply by assimilation to Vindolande at Chesterholm, some 30 kilometres to the west. Vindolande was a Flavian fort and will have been in operation for some 30 years when Trajanic Vindovala was built, so the name element Vindo would be well known. And Ravenna’s Vindovala would just require one change v→b to give the Vindobala of the Notitia Dignitatum. On balance, then, it seems better to see Vintovala as the origin of Ravenna’s Vindovala, but this point must remain undecided at present.
Example of v → b
[The entry for Vindovala was last modified on 05 March 2021]
No generally accepted Celtic derivation has been proposed for this name. It is generally accepted, however, that the Bin of modern Binchester is not derived from the Vin of the old name, being related instead to Anglo-Saxon binn meaning 'manger' or 'stall', perhaps suggesting that the fort had been used for sheltering cattle at some point during the Anglo-Saxon period.
However, the Roman fort was built on a raised terrace at the southern end of a hill which is almost isolated from the higher ground to the east. It seems unlikely that the initial v of Vinovia would appear in the original name, vin being an inversion-type element meaning 'slope or side of a hill'. There is the name Banvio, the original form of Bannio at Abergavenny, which uses a v with a hill-letter and where the fort stands on a platform jutting out of the general slope of a high hill. But the platform is fairly small. The raised terrace at Binchester is much more extensive and it seems unlikely that it would be regarded as a level platform jutting out of the general slope of the hill. It is much more likely that the Celtic name was Binovia, where bin meaning 'high hill' refers to the whole hill. The change from b in Binovia to v in Vinovia is likely to have been effected by Latin speakers, since it is not a change which Celtic speakers would be likely to make. For them the letters b and v in conjunction with a hill-letter conveyed quite different informaton - b with a hill-letter indicated that the hill was high, whereas v with a hill-letter referred to the slope of the hill, to the hillside, regardless of whether the hill was high or not. It is therefore hardly likely that the Celts would confuse matters by changing the b of Binovia to the v of Vinovia. What this means is that the name Binovia probably survived in local usage and re-emerged much later in the modern name Binchester.
Example of b → v
Example of old name surviving locally and re-emerging in modern name
Various suggestions have been made by scholars as to the derivation of this name. Ellis Evans thought the first part of the name might be from hypothetical Celtic viro, taken to mean 'man' or 'true'. Rivet and Smith appear to favour a derivation from a hypothetical British personal name Virico, so that the place-name would mean 'town of Virico'.
The initial Vtr of Ravenna's form is presumably simply a spelling or copying error - it should be Vir. The name thus comprises an element of the form Viric or Viroc (the vowels are not important) meaning 'slope of hill steep' with a Celtic onion ending. It seems more likely, however, that the name originally contained the element Biric, Biroc or Bric, and this, no matter which vowels are used, is a transitional topographical element meaning 'high hill steep'. The element may simply refer to the high, steep embankment on the east side of the river Severn at that point. It is perhaps more likely, however, that the name was originally that of the hill-fort on the Wrekin, even though this is some four miles distant, the inhabitants being resettled by the Romans in a new town built adjacent the fortress at Wroxeter.
VIROCONIUM see VIRICONION
VIROLANIUM see VERULAMIUM
Rivet and Smith appear to suggest, following Ellis Evans, that the vir element might possibly be derived from hypothetical viro which, as a noun, is taken to mean 'man', and as an adjective to mean 'true', or there might be, they think, another hypothetical viro of unknown meaning. They take the view that the second element of the name might be a variant or miscopying of hypothetical sed, taken to mean 'sit', the sense being perhaps 'seat' or 'place'.
But Virosido as it stands appears to be a straightforward topographical name in which the inversion-type element vir, meaning 'slope of hill', is qualified by the old-style element sid meaning 'hill summit'. The name is thus wholly inappropriate for the fort at Bainbridge, the identification suggested by Rivet and Smith. But it is appropriate for the fort at Brough-on-Noe. Note that the ND list comes down the western side of England through Watercrook and Burrow-in-Lonsdale to Ribchester, goes over to Castleshaw and ends with Virosido. Brough-on-Noe is thus in a suitable geographical position to be Virosido. Note, further, that the river-name Navione, the river at Brough, will originally have been Bavione, a river-name in the river-letter b, which corresponds to the hill-letter s, as in Virosido. Furthermore the fort at Brough, assuming the OS maps are correct, was built on a slope - the fort is aligned NE-SW and the SW defences are some 10 metres higher than those at the NE end of the fort. Much of the hill appears to have been quarried away, but there is apparently a Bronze Age tumulus at the top of the hill, presumably the structure referred to in the sid element of the name (see the entry for Habitanci for another example of a name or name-element apparently referring to a Bronze Age structure). The element sid presumably came to apply to the hill itself, so that Virosido means 'slope of a hill called sid'.
It is alternatively possible that Sido had been the hillfort on the summit of Mam Tor, towering high above the river Noe at a point a little upstream from Brough. Then, at some time after 120BC, an r-people founded a new settlement on the lower slopes of that hill, the name of that new settlement being Virosido, where the Vir element means ‘slope of hill’. Even if the archaeologists are right when they say that the hillfort had been abandoned centuries earlier, it is possible that Sido lingered on as the name of the hill itself. The Romans will then have transferred the river-name, Navione, to their Flavian fort at Brough-on-Noe, this fort being thought to have been abandoned around AD120, but when they built their later fort around AD154 they transferred to Brough the name and presumably the inhabitants of that settlement on the lower slopes of Mam Tor.
There can be no objection to the two forts at Brough having different names - other examples are Lagentium and Morbio, respectively early and later forts at Castleford, and Duabsissis and Certisnassa, respectively Flavian and Antonine forts at Berwick-on-Tweed. Likewise Flavian Cramond was called Rumabo, whereas Antonine Cramond was called Lamond or Almond, this name being transferred to the river now called the Almond. Finally, there was an early fort called Alavna at Ravenglass, whereas a later fort, presumably Hadrianic, had a name including an element of the isca-family, this name being transferred by the Romans to the river now called the Esk.
[The entry for Virosido was last modified on 16 March 2021]
Rivet and Smith make no suggestion as to the derivation of this name, or as to its identification, other than saying that it was an unlocated Roman fort in Cornwall or Devon.
Voliba appears to be a river-name of the kind comprising a river-suffix, here the river-letter b, attached to a place-name, here vol. The element vol may be correct, this being an inversion-type element meaning 'slope of hill'. But it may originally have been the old-style element bol meaning 'high hill'. The Romans will simply have transferred the river-name to a fort which they built on the banks of the river concerned. No suggestion can be made here as to the identification of the river or the fort, unless Voliba is a shortened version of Ravenna's Bolvelaunio, originally possibly Bolvelabnio, the development perhaps being Bolvelabnio → Bolabnio → Bolabio → Bolibao → Voliba. But it seems preferable to regard Voliba as a quite separate place, as yet unidentified.
Richmond and Crawford saw a derivation from hypothetical British vo, taken to mean 'rather, somewhat', and hypothetical litan, taken to mean 'broad', the name as a whole thus meaning 'rather broad place'. Rivet and Smith see this name as a corrupt form of the tribal name Votadini.
But Volitanio is a straightforward topographical name, the element volit meaning 'slope of hill high'. It will have been the name of an early Antonine fortlet built a little to the east of Nether Kinneil as part of the preparations for the construction of the Antonine Wall, as explained in Chapter 22 (The Antonine Wall) of the Home menu. When the Wall was built the name Volitanio was most probably transferred to the Wall fortlet at Kinneil.
[The entry for Volitanio was last modified on 06 August 2020]
VOREDA see BEREDA
|Yboscessa||Epocessa (59)||Y Gaer, west of Brecon|
Ravenna includes two adjacent names, Epocessa and Ypocessa, and Rivet and Smith rightly see them as two slightly different forms of the same name. They take the Epocessa form to be correct and see a derivation from hypothetical epo-s, taken to mean 'horse', and hypothetical sessa, taken to mean 'seat'. The meaning of the name might then be 'horse-place', or perhaps 'horse-stalls' as suggested by Richmond and Crawford.
There are, however, about ten Romano-British place-names with an essa-type ending. The ending was employed by the people who used the hill-letter s. Indeed, the first part of such a name is either a place-name including the hill-letter s or a river-name including the corresponding river-letter b (which may be changed to v). Ypocessa includes the letter c which means 'steep' in topographical names and the letter p, which may be a modified b, which means 'high' in topographical names. It thus seems quite clear that the first part of Ypocessa is a place-name with the hill-letter s, but the hill-letter is missing. It would be either before the c or after it. However, since this name was transferred by the Romans to the river now called the Yscir, it seems reasonable to assume that the letter s was before the c, so that the name originally included the transitional element bosc meaning 'high hill steep'. The fort stood an a high, steep hill at the confluence of the Yscir with the Usk, the latter river having taken its name from Isca at Caerleon. It is, however, likely that Yboscessa was the name of one of the hill-forts in the vicinity and was simply transferred by the Romans to their fort. There are four hill-forts near the Roman fort - Fenni-fach (the nearest), Pen-y-crug, Slwch Tump and Twyn y gaer - and the name Yboscessa would be appropriate for all of them.
Example of missing internal letter - s
Example of b → p
|Cerdodalia||Zerdotalia (108)||Melandra Castle|
Richmond and Crawford see Ardotalia as being the correct form, the first part of the name being derived from hypothetical British ardu, taken to mean 'high' or 'height', and the second part from a British word from which Welsh tal is derived, tal meaning 'brow, edge, end'. Ardotalia would thus mean 'high brow' or 'brow-height'.
There can be no doubt that the initial Ze should not be present in the name - it appears to be an erroneous repetition of the final two letters of the previous Ravenna name, Aquis Arnemeze. But the Celtic name cannot have been Ardotalia. There is no difficulty with the ard element - this is an old-style topographical element meaning 'hill summit'. But the tal element is impossible, since the letter t meaning 'high' comes after its hill-letter. The talia part of the name must therefore have been dalia originally, where dal is an inversion-type element meaning 'summit of hill' (elements of this kind, e.g. duno, damo, daron, almost always appear at the end of place-names). It seems most likely that the original name was Cerdodalia, where cerd is an old-style element meaning 'steep hill summit'. The name may have changed to Serdodalia (cf. Gabrocentio → Gabrosenti), or may have been pronounced like Serdodalia, and then much later some inattentive copyist, who had just written down Arnemeze, wrote Zerdotalia instead of Cerdodalia/Serdodalia. Note that the river-letters corresponding to the hill-letters r and l in Cerdodalia are s and t, both of which are present in Ptolemy's river-name Seteia. It thus appears that the name Seteia was applied to today's rivers Etherow (flowing past Melandra Castle) and Mersey, so that Ptolemy's Seteia estuary was indeed the Mersey estuary.
Example of d → t