AttestedVectis at the end of the Ravenna Cosmography; Ptolemy 2,3,33 Ουηκτις;  Pliny Vectis;  Suetonius insulam Vectem
  Panegyric 8  apud insulam Vectam; Maritime Itinerary Vecta;  Bede Vecta

Where:  Isle of Wight

Name Origin:  Traditional thinking held that the Latin name was primary and the Old English name secondary, but a process of (re)interpretation could have gone either way, since Vectis and Vecta were just classical writers' way of writing *wiχt- and giving it grammatical endings.  In Latin, Vectis ‘carried’, from the past participle of Latin veho ‘to carry’, was applied to poles used for carrying litters of important people, the Ark of the Covenant, etc.  It developed into a general word for any wooden pole, which prompted Breeze (2019) to suggest that Romans could have thought of the Isle of Wight as like a bar across the doorway.  Wight seems to have been a fairly common element in later place names, particularly at river bends and river islands, and it is hard to see how that could be secondary to Latin, rather than independent developments in Germanic.  Wiht and other, variously spelled, forms that finally settled down as Wight, could have an essential meaning like ‘little companion’, as discussed by Durham (2011), having developed from the sense of ‘outlying’, shown by Old English wīc and its many cognates, all ultimately derived from PIE *wegh- ‘to go’, via the notion of ‘clan on the march’ explained by Szemerenyi (1977).

Notes:  There is an interesting parallel in Fectio, near Utrecht in the Netherlands, attested in one inscription, from a Roman naval base, that sat “across the water” in much the same way as the Isle of Wight and other wight-named places in England.  It led to the later name Vechten, applied to a river.  Irish fecht ‘journey’ belongs in the same semantic area.

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Last edited 3 March 2023     To main Menu