Attested:  Tacitus Annals 12, 31: ... et Sabrinam fluvios ...
   Ptolemy 2,3,3 Σαβρινα εισχυσις;   mentioned by Gildas and Bede

Where:  The river Severn.  Ptolemy's coordinates map surprisingly high up the river, close to Gloucester, around SO7510.

Name origin:  Many river names came from PIE *sab- ‘juice’ and/or *seib- ‘to pour, to seep’, as discussed under the related name Saponis.  Krahe (1963:336) listed eight rivers whose names began with Sav-, while Villar (2000:317-8) listed eight Indo-European examples beginning with Sab-, six with Sav-, and four with Sau-.  The -rina part has plenty of flowing-water parallels, such as the river Rhine, Irish rían ‘sea’, or OE ryne ‘water channel’, whose PIE root is debatable: possibly *rendh- ‘to tear up’ or *er- or *reiə- ‘to flow (fast)’.

Notes:  Initial S changed to H in later Welsh (Hafren) but not English.  The idea of Sabrina as a goddess, like so much reported by Geoffrey of Monmouth, may be spurious.  A -rina ending also shows up in Ptolemy's Μοναρινα.

You may copy this text freely, provided you acknowledge its source as, recognise that it is liable to human error, and try to offer suggestions for improvement.
Last edited: 23 May 2019
To main Menu