Attested: Ptolemy 2,3,20 Λινδον, a πολις of the Κοριτανοι
Antonine Itinerary 4x LINDO on itinera 5, 6 & 8; Lindum Colonia at position 104 in the Ravenna Cosmography
Inscriptions: SEVIR AUG COL EBOR ET LIND on altar at Bordeaux
Tombstones: 2x LINDO, C LIND; Letter L on milestones at Lincoln RIB 2240 & 2241
Where: Lincoln, Roman fort at SK976718, colonia, and capital of a post-Roman kingdom.
Name origin: The parallel with Welsh llyn ‘pond, lake’ from an earlier British form *lindo-, describing Brayford Pool (Lincoln's inland harbour on the river Witham) has been generally accepted for years, but there are huge problems with this orthodoxy. First, there is no reason to think that Lincoln had a significant native settlement before it became strategically important to the Roman army, and its Pool may have been merely a marsh until well after Lindum was founded. Second, there are multiple alternative parallels to consider, notably linden trees, the source of two items very important to ancient soldiers, Old English lind ‘shield’ and Old Norse lindi ‘belt’. Third, the 28 or so ancient inscriptions that show LIND (or a likely abbreviation thereof) mostly refer to Lindos in Greece or to personal names built around Germanic lind ‘soft’.
PIE dictionaries cite a root *lei- ‘to flow’ but do not agree on how that developed into the many “wet” words that begin with L, from lava to lymph. Adding -ND often generated verbal nouns, so one might expect *lindo- to mean something more active than ‘pool’, such as ‘flowing’ or ‘flooding’. That would certainly fit such modern places as Leintwardine, Lenton, Leominster, Lindisfarne, Lynt Bridge, and Lynton.
PIE *lento- ‘flexible’ led to linden and lithe in English, with cognates in Latin, other Germanic languages, Baltic and Slavic, and possibly Sanskrit. Greek and Latin words for linen, wool, lint, etc probably derive from very ancient technology of extracting fibres from plant sources, since as linden tree bark. The river name Witham, related to the word withy and very appropriate for the big bend of that river, may be a calque translation of that meaning for Lindum.
If Lincoln was indeed named from water, Old Frisian lind ‘pond’, plus Old Norse lind and Middle High German lünde ‘wave’, offer parallels as good as Welsh llyn and possibly as early too. So the common assertion that Lindum was a Celtic name rests upon weak logic.
Notes: Other ancient Lind- places may also lie at the head of a boggy river. Lindinis (probably Ilchester) was a twin of Lincoln at the other end of the Fosse Way, at the head of the Somerset Levels. Λινδον (probably Menteith) in Scotland, lies at the head of Flanders Moss, a boggy area near the upper Forth. Duroliponte (Cambridge) is at one navigable limit of the river Great Ouse (probably Lenda). On the Continent, Lindesina on the Peutinger Map is usually claimed (not with 100% certainty) by Bourbonne-les-Bains, which is near the source of the Meuse. Lindiacum is now Lintgen in Luxembourg, in a district called Mersch (probably ‘marsh’) where the rivers Alzette, Mamer and Eisch meet. Diolindum was probably at Lalinde, beside the river Dordogne, meaning something like ‘divine source’, as explained here.
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Last edited 14 September 2020
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