[NB The brief explanation given below has been drafted on the assumption that the reader is already familiar with the basic building-blocks used in Celtic topographical place-names (Chapter 1 of the Home menu), with the structure of compound place-names (Chapter 2) and with the structure of Celtic river-names (Chapter 19)]
The tribal name Ordovices is referred to by both Tacitus and Ptolemy.
The name appears similar to the tribal names Trinovantes, Novantae, Taexali and Atrebates in being based on a river-name of the kind comprising a river-prefix, including one or more river-letters, attached to a land-name, i.e. a place-name including one or more hill-letters. The river-letters in the case of the name Ordovices are r and t (changed to d). Note that these river-letters correspond to the hill-letters m and l in the place-name Mediolano (Whitchurch), said by Ptolemy to be in the territory of the Ordovices. We can thus see that the Ordovices used the hill-letter l1 and river-letter t. In the case of the four other tribal names mentioned above the land-name element in the compound river-name is an old-style element, so this is presumably also true of the name Ordovices. The element vic was thus most probably bics originally (cf. Becsa at Cockleroy in West Lothian). The hill-letter s in bics corresponds to the river-letter b seen in the river-name Sabrina, the Severn, which river flows through the territory of the Ordovices. The river-name upon which the tribal name Ordovices is based will thus have had a form such as Ortobicsion (or perhaps Ortobicsena), the people of that region then being called the Ortobicses. This form, with t→d, b→ v and loss or omission of the first s, gives us the tribal name Ordovices. For a more detailed account of the development of the tribal name Ordovices see the entry for Mediolano in the Alphabetical List.
[This page was last modified on 21 May 2021]