Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Lindisfarne.....What's in a Name?



Whilst on Lindisfarne on Saturday our talk didn’t get around to the meaning of life but it did focus at times on the meaning of words.  The name Lindisfarne in particular.  We felt this was a wonderfully evocative sounding name but we didn’t know where it had derived from, so I’ve done a little research since.

My research suggests that there is no definite source for the name, but several ideas.  My thanks go to Wikipedia and Magnus Magnusson.

Firstly Wikipedia’s wisdom.  Firstly it notes that Lindisfarne appears under the Old Welsh name Medcaut in the 9th century Historia Brittonum.  It’s suggested that the name derives from Latin Medicata (English = Healing (Island)), owing perhaps to the island’s reputation for medicinal herbs.

Annuls in the AD 793 record the Old English name as Lindisfarena.  The name Lindisfarne has an uncertain origin.  Lindis may refer to people from the Kingdom of Lindsey in modern Lincolnshire, referring to regular visitors or settlers.  Alternatively the name may be Celtic in origin , with Lindis meaning stream or pool.  Could this refer to the nearby river or Lough on the island?  The second element farne probably come from Farran meaning land, but may come from Faran, a traveller.  There is a supposition that the nearby Farne Islands are fern like in shape and the name may have come from there.

My second source which I perhaps place a little more academic reliance upon is from Magnus Magnusson’s 1984 edition of Lindisfarne and is in many ways similar to the above.  Below is a quote from the book.

‘‘Lindisfarne, what a lovely, sensuous name it is.  It reflects a marriage between Old English and Celtic elements, although they cannot now be identified with any certainty.  Some say that Farne is a Celtic word meaning land, and lindis come from some stream associated with the island; others suggest a derivation from Scots-Celtic linn, meaning torrent or cascade.  For myself, I prefer to believe that lindis comes from the old English word lind in its meaning of shield (from the lime trees whose wood was used to make Anglo-Saxon bucklers).  Who can be sure?  I only know Shield-land would be a happily appropriate designation for the Lindisfarne of then and now.’’

Magnusson goes on to remind us that the Normans in the 11th century accorded the island with the official name of Insula Sacra, Holy Island, in honour of the early Celtic saints that lived and worked there.

I was interested to know exactly what bucklers were and found that they are the rounded shields used by the Vikings (and others).  There is a good depiction of bucklers here http://forums.armourarchive.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?t=7398&highlight=norwegian+buckler

Now I have a friend with the surname of Buckle and I was interested to know if his name may have derived from Buckler.  I found that it could have, but perhaps more likely it is derives from a maker or seller of (belt) buckles.  I must tell him when I send the Christmas card.

We also pondered over the meaning of lonnen as we walked along the straight lonnen on the island on Saturday.  What I found suggests that it is a Geordie word for lane or street or a more archaic meaning for an area where cattle are milked (no longer in use).  Now my first association with the word lonnen as a child comes from the term that is often used in Cumbria so I knew it was not just a Geordie word.  Having checked it out on a very interesting blog written by a Cumbrian journalist I found that the word lonnen seems to be spelt as Lonning in Cumbria again in that area it means lane, often hedged and the hedging covering old stone wall, presumably most often dry stone walls.  This latter explanation of the hedging and wall certainly reflects my thought of what a lonnen or lonning is.

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