[Spellyans] earliest cornish words

Craig Weatherhill craig at agantavas.org
Fri Jun 24 09:34:15 BST 2011

Answer - personal names on our many 5th-7th century inscribed stones  
(q.v. "And Shall These Mute Stones Speak", Charles Thomas, Univ. of  
Wales Press, 1994).  Although mildly Latinised, the Celtic form of  
these names shines through  (we do have a few stones with Irish names,  


Men Scryfa, Madron:  Rialobrani Cunovali fili (Br. rigalo-brano-s;  
cuno-ualo-s).  "Royal raven"; "Worthy hound"

Madron church:  Qonmal filiu(s) Uennorcit (Br. Cuno-maglo-s (Conmael);  
Uenn-orgit ("fair slayer").  Beautiful stone, with divided cartouches  
and a cross with leaf-shaped arms.  The inscription is uniquely  
preceded by the Latin word vir, "man", perhaps translatable here as  
"husband" - a memorial stone commissioned by the widow?

Phillack churchyard: Clotvalli Mobratti (Br. cluto-ualos; mo-brato-s).  
"Worthy of fame"; "Great in judgement" (the second word appears to be  
an epithet rather than a name).

Tristan Stone, Fowey:  Drustans ic iacit Cunomori filius (first name  
uncertain.  "Oak-fire"?  Br. Cuno-moro-s, "sea hound").  Some  
"Pictish" name (Drustans) when the earliest example of it, in  
Cornwall, predates the Scottish examples by more than a century!

Some of our early kings give us more words:  the 9th century Dungarth/ 
Donyarth (Doniert) could be Br. dubno-garto-s, "sleek, dark one".   
Early lenition there, cf. Cartimandua, "sleek pony").  The Annales  
Cambriae, for 875 AD, record his death, gives Cornwall's Celtic name  
and specifies the Cornish as a distinct people 15 years before the  
earliest known reference to England (Englaland c.890):  Dungarth rex  
Cerniu, id est Cornubiae, mersus est  (Donyarth, king of Cornwall,  
that is, the Cornish, was drowned).

The word for the Cornish people is found even earlier than that, by  
about 475 years!  The Ravenna Cosmography, compiled c.700 from sources  
dated to c.400, lists a route from Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) westward  
to the Camel (Portus Alaunus). The name given before the Camel  
terminus is Durocornovio, "fortress of the Cornovii", identified by  
Charles Thomas as the Roman period and post-Roman high-status site at  
Tintagel.  I want the Cornish name for Tintagel headland to be: Din  
Kernowyon.  One in the eye for its current managers: "English"  
Heritage!  (I am still convinced that 'Tintagel', nt mentioned by that  
name until Geoffrey of Monmouth, is Norman-French and not Cornish, cf.  
Tintageu, Sark)


On 24 Efn 2011, at 08:43, Jon Mills wrote:

> According to Andrew Breeeze (http://nq.oxfordjournals.org/content/54/4/367.extract 
> )
> "The phrase, reading ud rocashaas, occurs in Vatican City,  
> Biblioteca Apostolica, MS lat. 3363; it appears above the adjective  
> perosa ‘loathing’ in De Consolatione Philosophiae by Boethius. In  
> the passage, beginning metrum 1 of book IV, Philosophy tells  
> Boethius, ‘For I have swift feathers, which fly up to the height of  
> heaven. When quick Thought clothes herself in them, with loathing  
> she despises the lands below ( Terras perosa despicit), rises above  
> the vast encircling atmosphere, and sees the clouds behind her back  
> ….’ "
> The phrase is late ninth century, and an annotation to an Anglo- 
> Saxon translation.
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: Craig Weatherhill
>> Sent: 06/24/11 01:06 AM
>> To: spellyans at kernowek.net
>> Subject: [Spellyans] earliest cornish words
>> Question:  where can you find the earliest written Cornish words?
>> -- 
>> Craig
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> _____________________________________
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Craig Weatherhill

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