Attested:  Ptolemy 2,3,5  Ταουα estuary;  Tacitus Agricola ad TaumTaba at position 232 in the Ravenna Cosmography, among its diversa loca discussed here.

Where: Ταουα is explicitly described as an estuary, which must belong to the river Tay, whose mouth is around NO5229.  The Cosmography tends to state explicitly when a name applies to a river, so a definite place needs to be sought for Taba, but the nearest known Roman camp (not a proper fort) is at Auchtermuchty in Fife, at NO242119.  The best candidate seems to be Dundee Law, a high and prominent hill in the centre of Dundee, at NO391313, which may have been used as a lookout point in Roman times.

Name Origin:  ‘Melt water’, compounded from PIE *ta- ‘to melt’ plus *ap- ‘water’, is the logical explanation of Ταουα/Tay plus many other early names of rivers that descend from high ground liable to receive much snow and rain: Tavy, Taw, Teifi, Teviot, etc.  Compare Latin tabeo, Russian таять, ‘to melt’, English thaw, Welsh tawd ‘spread’.

Notes:  Marx (2013) wrongly suggested the river South Esk.  Ekwall (1928) drew attention to the way that PIE *teu- ‘to swell’ developed to *tav-, which produced words such as Sanskrit taviSI ‘strength, river’, Lithuanian tvanas ‘deluge’, Avestan tavah- ‘power’, etc.  Having the greatest flow of all British rivers, the Tay would certainly fit that interpretation.  Are all the other rivers with similar names also “strong”?  Would early people be more inclined to notice the volumetric flow or a propensity to spate?  See also the Tuessis, and the discussion of Tamesis.  Despite all that, it seems best to stick to the Name Origin stated here.

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Last edited 29 January 2023     to main Menu