Attested: Pliny Natural History 4, 102 XXX Hebudes
Ptolemy 2,2,11: above Hibernia lie the so-called Εβουδαι, five in number, their western island is called Εβουδα and the next to the east is also called Εβουδα then Ρικινα (or Εγγαρικεννα) then
Μαλεος (or Μαλαιος) then Επιδιον.
gloss on Solinus Ebudes & Ebudibus; Marcian/Stephanus Αιβουδαι & Αιβουδαιος
Where: Ptolemy's coordinates map best to the Scottish islands of Islay and Jura, according to Kleineberg, Marx, and Lelgemann (2013), with the other three names belonging to Rathlin Island, the Isle of Mull, and the Kintyre peninsula.
Name origin: Rivet & Smith could find no etymology within Celtic. A geographically logical meaning in Greek (which seems to be prominent in western island names), might be ‘droplets’ from ειβω ‘to fall in drops’ plus ουδος ‘threshold’ or ουδαιος ‘on the ground’. This analysis outranks the previous best guess, based on PIE *apo- ‘off’ plus *ūt- ‘out’
Notes: The modern name Hebrides was based on this name, in a mistaken reading of Ptolemy. The similarity with Ptolemy's Επιδιοι people has long been noted, but that does not lead to any convincing etymology. Less likely Graeco-Roman parallels include επτα ‘seven’, ηβη ‘youth’, and ebur ‘ivory’ (probably from Egyptian), plus the Greek ending –δαι ‘sons of’ or ‘people’. Marine mammals would have been common around Scotland islands in Roman times, and it is easy to imagine travellers to the Hebrides coming back with trade goods carved from walrus or whalebone ivory, like the Lewis chessmen, or talking of a whalebone arch.
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Last edited 6 September 2022 to main Menu