Attested:  Ptolemy 2,3,25 Κορινιον (or Κοριννιον), a πολις of the Δοβουνοι;    Cironium Dobuno at position 66 in the Ravenna Cosmography

WhereCirencester, Gloucestershire, around SP025017, was briefly important militarily as a hinge point of the Fosse Way, where it crossed the river Churn and was intersected by the road from Silchester to Gloucester (later known as Ermine Way), before settling down to be a prosperous Roman market town and possibly an administrative capital of Britannia Prima.  Possibly the πολις was the Bagendon tribal assembly place (Coria) of the Dobunni, 4 km upstream of the Roman town.

Name origin:  The name survives in modern Cirencester and its river Churn (Cyrnea in about AD 800), as recognised by Ekwall (1928:78-9) and by Rivet & Smith (pp 321-2), but both got sidetracked by various unsatisfactory etymologies and by Durocornovium, which was a different place altogether, on the Antone Itinerary's iter 13.  However, Ekwall did produce the best explanation when discussing the river Churnet, which “would mean ‘the winding river’, a singularly apt name for the river”.  The Churnet is noticeably wiggly, and the Churn still meanders a lot even though it has been straightened since Roman times.  Ekwall drew attention to Irish cern ‘angle, corner’.  That is presumably cognate with Old English hyrne ‘little horn, corner’, and maybe Latin circino ‘to make round’, plus Greek κιρκος ‘circle’.  This pulls the root into company with all the other circle words discussed by Allcroft, which seem more likely to derive from PIE *(s)ker- ‘to bend, to turn’ than from *gher- ‘to enclose’.  Churning milk can involve rotary motion as well as more random agitation.

Notes:  There was an exact parallel in Ptolemy's Κορινιον = Pliny's Corinium, at modern Donji Karin, Croatia, in ancient Liburnia, while Corinth in Greece and the Corinenses people in Italy come close.    Rejected explanations include a parallel with words like grain and corn, from PIE *ger-, which developed to *grə-no and then to Old English kyrin ‘churn’ and kyrnel ‘kernel’, plus Dutch koren; being in the cor ‘heart’ of Roman Britain; and a river that was PIE *kar-/*ker- ‘hard’, which Nicolaisen invoked to explain rivers with names like Carron.  The river Cher in France is confidently explained as derived from a preceltic root kar here, but actually it has lots of meanders.

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Last edited 21 May 2022     to main Menu.