Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Oaks along the River Dart

The native oaks along the banks of the lower Dart have suggested a possible etymology, that - like the Derwent - the river takes its name from the Brythonic for oak (Old Gaelic dair, Breton derv, Cornish derow, Welsh derw), but it is also true that the root der- / dar- / dur- means water (Breton dour, Cornish dowr, Wlesh dŵr) and that dairt is Erse for a heifer.

"I know what Mr. Baxter says of Derventio, that it comes from the Welsh Derwent or Dirwyn, all of a piece with his Corguba aforementioned; inventions and boilings-over of a fertile brain. The Welsh tongue never had the word Derwent; therefore his whole building is without foundation. I have traced it to its original British name, but will not attempt the etymology of it. If it is from Derw, oak: why was not every river that ran through a forest called Derwenydd?"
Letter from Mr. Lewis Morris, of Penbryn, Cardiganshire, to Mr. Edward Richard, at Ystrad Meuryg, in that County, The Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 66 (1789)

Monday, 26 September 2011