Γαγγανων ακρον

Attested:  Ptolemy 2,3,3 Γαγγανων (or Ιαγγανων) ακρον

Where:  The Llŷn peninsula of north Wales, with its western tip at Braich y Pwll, SH135256, is the “Land's End of Wales”, with Bardsey island offshore.  It was presumably inhabited by people like those named by Ptolemy 2,2,5 as Γαγγανοι living in south-west Ireland, in modern county Clare between the Shannon and Galway Bay.

Name Origin:  Greek γαγγαμευς ‘fisher’ and γαγγαμον ‘fishing net’ may be the key to understanding this name.  They have no recognized source, along with the Greek precursors of modern English ganglion, gangrene, and Ganges (the world's largest river delta) but maybe they all came from Greek *γαγγ (gang-), meaning much the same as Welsh caing ‘branch’, applied to fishing weirs or nets, from which Ganganoi people obtained food.

Notes:  Many of Ptolemy's tribal names were outsiders' descriptions of geography or lifestyle rather than insiders' descriptions of political units, so there is no need to postulate (as here, for example) relatively recent migrations to explain why tribes in widely separate locations bore similar names.  Fishing weirs as old as the Stone Ages are known from archaeology, and are historically well documented in the Menai Strait, not far away, and also around the river Shannon.  This hypothesis hugely outranks previous ideas based on PIE *ghengh- ‘to go, to walk’, the source of words such as Old English gangan and modern gangway,or Old Irish cingid ‘to step’.  Also unlikely is any close link to Sanskrit jangha ‘shank’, or to the Concani people of northern Spain.

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Last edited 9 Septermber 2022     To main Menu