Eboracum

Eboracum

Eboracum is the Roman name for what is now the city of York, and also the title of York’s first substantial published history by Francis Drake.

There are a number of theories for how the name Eboracum developed, although historians aren’t entirely sure which one of the suggestions is correct. It is thought likely however that the word is an old English word meaning “place of the yew trees”, when then developed into the name Eboracum following the Roman invasion.

The debate has run for many centuries, in 1884 there was a debate in The Times about how the city had got its name. George Trevor wrote to the paper noting that, “the oldest form, Aberach, is confirmed by the Roman name Eburacum, Eboracum, and Uberacum, the native name with the Latin termination. Aber means water, and especially a confluence of waters, whence it occurs so often at the mouths of rivers where the salt water meets the fresh. By the usual changes of b into v and v into u, we get Eur, the river, which rising at Urehead, on the backbone of England, falls into the sea at Spurn Point, after a course of 150 miles, draining and denominating the county of York”. Another correspondent the following week disagreed, “I venture to differ entirely from his view. My own plan is to take the name as it is handed down to us. George Trevor, however, begins by changing Ebor into Aber, for which there is no authority whatever and so expends a great deal of knowledge coming to an unsatisfactory conclusion. I have long made up my mind that Eboracum really marks one of the pre-Celtic settlements in Britain, and that if we eliminate the Latin affix “um” and read it Ebor-ac (Town of the Ebors) we shall not err. The endeavour to interpret Eboracum by referring to Saxon and Danish names seems to me a mistake”.

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