Attested:  Ptolemy 2,3,19 Ουιροκονιον, a πολις of the Κορναουοι;  Utriconion Cornoviorum at position 79 in the Ravenna Cosmography
  Antonine Itinerary iter 2 Vrioconio/Vriocunio, iter 12 Viroconiorum and Viriconio/Viroconio

WhereWroxeter, Shropshire, SJ566088, beside the river Severn, where an early Roman legionary fortress developed into a large settlementViroconium was surrounded by other forts and marching camps.  It was a hub of Roman roads and had a river port.  It is close to the later English-Welsh border, to later Shrewsbury, and to the Wrekin hill-fort, a likely tribal centre of some Cornovii ‘bendy river people’.

Name origin:  The parallel with Ariconium, lower down the river Severn, tips the balance towards deriving Viro- from *wer-3 ‘to turn, to bend’, referring to meanders in the Severn here, occupying the same slot as Ari- from *arku- ‘arc, bow-and-arrow’ referring to the Severn horshoe bend by Ariconium.  The -conium part meant something like ‘coming together’, as explained for Ariconium.

Notes:  The present analysis overrules many (at least 20!) other PIE roots that might potentially explain ver-, vir-, etc in early names, with little unanimity among advanced linguists in how to present them.  Candidates include *wer-4 ‘to perceive, watch out’ (with derivatives including wary), *wer-5 ‘to cover’ (with derivatives including weir and guard), *per-1, a prefix variously meaning ‘forward’, ‘chief’, etc; and *per-2 ‘to pass over’ (hence words such as fare), *wiro- ‘man’ (hence vir, Old English wer, and Welsh gŵr).  Personal names from Gaul beginning with Vir- are often claimed to have developed in Celtic, though Delamarre (2003: 320-1) pointed out that there seem to be two roots involved, pronounced differently (what would now be written weer- and wirr-), and meaning ‘true’ and ‘man’, respectively.  Attempts to relate this name to werewolves, based on a desire to explain C-vowel-N in early names with a Celtic word for ‘dog’, are not convincing.  It is curious that Uxacona 11 miles away and next on iter 2 begins like Latin uxor ‘wife’.

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 8 December 2022     To main Menu