Δηουα

Attested:  (1) Ptolemy 2,3,2 Δηουα river mouth;  (2) Ptolemy 2,3,5 Δηουα river mouth
  (3) Ptolemy 2,3,19 Δηουα with the 20th Legion Victrix among the Κορναουοι;
  Antonine Itinerary iter 2 Deva Leg. XX Vici, iter 11 Devam, iter 11 DevaDeva victris at position 86 in the Ravenna Cosmography;
  tile stamps LEG XX V DE V;  possibly DEVAS in various inscriptions.

Where:  (1) River Dee through Kirkcudbright, with mouth around NX6745;  (2) River Dee through Aberdeen, with mouth around NJ9606;  (3) Chester, on the river Dee around SJ404662.

Name Origin:  Rivet & Smith stated a theory that is widely accepted: these rivers were named after a goddess *Deva, cognate with Latin divus, from PIE *dyeu- ‘to shine (like the sky)’.  From that root descended words such as day and probably Latin dives ‘rich, fertile’ in the sense of ‘blessed by the gods’.  However, there is no evidence for such a goddess in early Britain on anything like the scale in Hinduism and the whole concept of continuity between Iron-Age religion and mediaeval superstition is now considered mistaken: see, for example, chapter 7 of Hutton (2013).  At least four alternative roots for river names beginning with D (such as Don and Danube) need to be taken seriously.  PIE *dheu- ‘to flow’ led to the modern word dew.  PIE *dhē(i)- ‘to suckle’ led to Russian дева ‘maiden’ but all its cognates in English come via Latin with initial F (female, etc).  PIE *dheub- ‘deep’ may be the source of *defer ‘river’, seen for example in the English place Micheldever and the Scottish river Deveron.  And PIE *dhe- ‘to set, to put’ may have led to words for ‘settlement’, such as Thracian dava, a prolific contributor to early place names in eastern Europe.  Some of these possibilities may have been reinterpreted into coalescence.

Notes:  An important cognate is the ancient city of Θηβα (Thebes) in Greece (from θεω ‘to run’), which had an Egyptian namesake.  In Mycenaean times Thebes lay inside the confluence of several rivers about which much has been written, such as here, because of early Greek tales about nymphs associated with their springs.  These rivers had their individual names, such as Διρκη (‘double’), Ισμηνος, and Στροφια (‘turning’).  Several rivers are now called Deva in formerly-Celtic regions of Spain.  Portugal has a Divor, France has a Dives and a Dive, while among rivers in England discussed by Ekwall (1928) are (Michel)Dever, Devey, Dewey, Devon, Difrod, and Divelish.  Similar names then shade into all the Dover, Douve, Tauber, Taba, etc variants.  It would be useful to see what characteristics they share.

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Last edited 29 July 2022     To main Menu.