Attested: Gabrocentio at position 117 in the Ravenna Cosmography; Gabrosenti, where the Tribunus cohortis secundae Thracum was based, in the Notitia Dignitatum.
Where: The Roman coastal fort, at NX982210, north of Whitehaven, Cumbria, whose location is usually described as Moresby, but actually it is between Parton and Lowca. Confirmed by three inscriptions, RIB 797, 803 and 804 mentioning Thracians. The fort sits in relatively low ground, as a base from which Roman troops would have patrolled the west coast of Cumbria and looked out over the Irish Sea.
Name Origin: The Gabro- part most likely descends from PIE *ghāi- ‘to gape, yawn’, making it a relative of gap and to gape or to gove in English, plus words in other European languages mentioned under Γαβραντουικων Ευλιμενος κολπος. The ending matches Latin sentio ‘to sense, to perceive’, from PIE *sent- ‘to go, to sense’.
Notes: Many failed attempts have been made to translate this name. Rivet & Smith's widely accepted suggestion of ‘goat-path’, related to Irish gabor ‘goat’ and sét ‘path, way’, is probably nonsense. It could fit the otherwise puzzling letter R in this name, but would Gabrus, the name of one or more potters, probably based in north-east Gaul, really be based on a goat? Despite Latin sentus ‘thorny’, sea buckthorn is probably irrelevant, even though it is now being encouraged to grow among sand dunes on the Cumbrian coast. This plant, which is native to Britain, and is useful for food and dyeing, can form great thorny thickets, which Romans might have appreciated to help protect their fort. Also it no longer seems ideal to liken nearby St Bees head, the westermost point of northern England, to Flamborough Head in the east, which is near the other Gabr- name. That would postulate a link to PIE *gab- ‘to show, to watch’, and hence a translation of ‘cape sentinel’, an idea supported by analogy with Γαβαιον in Brittany, Gabes in Tunisia, Καφαρευς, in Euboea, Greece. Also by the English word cape, in its twin senses of ‘headland’ and ‘heading’ and by Pokorny's separation of two roots like *kap-, meaning ‘piece of land’ and ‘thing in the water’, plus kaput ‘head’.
The current best suggestion envisages Gab- as referring to a coastal indentation or bay, rather than a promontory. That could also explain Gabromagus, Windischgarsten, Austria, which sits in a sort of “bay” among high mountains. And it now possible to understand the adjacent Lowca Beck as named like many other L-vowel-V names discussed at length here.
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Last edited 11 June 2021 To main Menu