AttestedMaiona at position 298 in the Ravenna Cosmography

Where:  An island off west Scotland, probably Iona, if the sequence Esse - Grandena - Maiona - Longis in the Cosmography's list of names does indeed follow a geographically logical, non-intersecting path across the map.

Name origin:  Iona's position at the end of Mull, at the entrance to the ancient trading route into the Great Glen from Ireland, fits PIE *ma- ‘to wave, to signal’, which led to Ukrainian маяк (mayak) ‘lighthouse’, but seems not to have a good parallel in English, Irish, or Latin.  Greek μαιομαι ‘to touch’ is discussed informatively by Robert Beekes' dictionary of Greek etymology, including the alternative meaning of ‘to strive for’, a possible link to the name Μαιων or Μαιονος prominent in Greek mythology, and the apparent absence of an active verb *μαιων.

Notes:  See here for some general comments on Scottish islands.  The original form of the name Iona seems to have been something like the Hy used by Bede, which resembles Greek ὕαλος ‘crystalline stone, glass’, hence Latin hyalus and modern hyaline.  This may refer to Iona's outcrop of fine marble, white veined with green, which was quarried in large blocks and used in churches, such as Columba's abbey.  Saint Columba's choice of Iona for his base for evangelism could even have been boosted by the ancient fascination with glossy or translucent minerals (think of before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal in Revelation 4,6).  Not particularly relevant are Greek μαιον ‘ptarmigan’, Irish móin ‘peat’, (the base of Gaelic maonag ‘bog-berry’), islands called Mona etc, or Latin maiora ‘greater, larger’.

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Last edited 30 December 2022     to main Menu.