What’s in a name? (1)

Before moving on to study the sites of the various Viking raids further, I’m moving back to have another look at the name arx Cynuit.

This appears only (I think) in Asser’s Life of Alfred which had the fullest description of the event: the Danish ships had sailed de Demetica regione (Dyfed) ad Domnaniam (Devon, sort of; though the boundaries of Dumnonia at that time are not clear). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says it was on Defenascire (Ms A).

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 23.18.46

The map shows the territory of the Dumnonii in the Roman period, but what Asser might have meant by the name, we can only guess. The West Saxons gradually pushed westwards, but at what point did they begin to call part of their conquered lands ‘Somerset’ which had had no Roman name? Perhaps my book on the Origins of Somerset will make this clearer.

The Latin word arx is generally translated as ‘stronghold, fortress’ – which isn’t much of a clue since the whole north coast of Devon and Somerset had Iron Age forts which were probably used by the Saxons as they were well-placed for watching for Danish ships coming.

Cynuit is clearly of British/Welsh origin. The later form was Cynwyd which I’ve seen identified with a St Cunetus, about whom I find nothing. The shadowy historical Cynwyd Cynwydion seems to have been both a king and a saint – but his kingdom of Cynwydion is traditionally placed in the north, by the borders of Scotland. Or in the Chilterns. Cynwyd Cynwydion was apparently born c. 491, died in c. 519 and was the son of Cynfelyn (Cunobelinus) ap Arthwys. But the Latin form of his name is given as Conuvitus, otherwise Conowit. Unfortunately, all the online sources get mixed up with family history, tracing ancestors and a lot of imagination. Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 21.59.02

Cunetus or Conuvitus? They don’t seem to be originally the same name. But Cynwyd seems close enough to Cynuit and we do know of the church and village of Llangynwyd in Bridgend; consulting The parish of Llangynwyd by TC Evans (bardic name Cadrawd), Evans identifies the patron saint with Cynwyd Cynwydion, son of Cynfelyn, son of Garthwys. This, he said, came from the Genealogy of the Cambro British Saints, though what that is I have yet to discover.

Cynwyd Cynwydion, then, lived in the 6th century and Asser was writing in the 9th. From all we know, the arx or fortress in Devonshire had no connection with this Cynwyd but coincidences are coincidences, so I’m including a mystic map with all the esoteric Lost Knowledge of the lay lines of Glastonbury. Just for my satisafaction:

Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 21.56.19

The mysteriousness of this is that Llangynwyd stands at the apex of an isosceles triangle, and at its base angles are Countisbury and Porlock Weir. I think this is meaningless, but nevertheless – it is so.

And in my next I shall look at Asser’s use of place names.


3 thoughts on “What’s in a name? (1)

  1. Thank you for the very quick reply

    I might be confusing matters more here, but in the later Welsh genealogies, specifically the Gwyr y Gogledd, the same ‘Cinuit’ of the earlier Harleian Genealogies is recorded here as ‘Idnyuet’/’Ednyued’. I originally thought that the ‘uit’ of ‘Cinuit’ corresponded to the ‘uet’ of ‘Idnyuet’, and the ‘wyd’ of ‘Cynwyd’ corresponded to the ‘ued’ of ‘Ednyued’. The ‘Idny’ and ‘Edny’ elements I feel sure are a reference to the ‘Edin’ in Edinburgh, but I don’t know if there was an understanding that the ‘uet’/’ued’ was the same as the ‘uit’/’wyd’ of ‘Cinuit’ and ‘Cynwyd’, and this was also understood to be the personal name indicator of the same ‘Cinuit’: this element being removed from the common ‘Hound’ or ‘Cin’ and added to an ‘Idny’/Edny’. The Y Gododdin poem in its older B version names an ‘Ut Eidin’ as one of the Gododdin leaders, and meaning a judge or ruler of Edinburgh. It’s just that with a bit of swapping you get an ‘Eidin Ut’, which does seem quite close to ‘Idynuet’ and ‘Ednyued’. The same ‘Ut’ is supposedly derived from ‘Iudex’, the same as ‘judex’ or ‘judge’, and ‘Iudex’ supposedly being the origin for the Welsh ‘udd’ and Breton ‘ud’, but both meaning something like ‘lord’, ‘prince’, ‘chieftain’, ‘ruler’. Other old Breton and Welsh forms would be ‘iud’ and ‘iut’ with similar meanings. I don’t know if this helps with your own research, I am hoping it helps with my own, but ‘Cynuit’/’Cinuit’ might therefore simply mean ‘Hound prince’ or ‘Hound lord’. The ‘arx Cynuit’ of your own research might therefore mean ‘fort of the Hound lord’. This is just speculation but I am personally swaying towards ‘Hound prince’/’Hound lord’/’Hound ruler’ as the translation of ‘Cinuit’. This would probably still depend on pronouncement and soundings, where a fifth-century Old North British name perhaps had a slightly different sounding from its eighth and ninth-century Old Welsh and Old Breton derivatives. I suppose ultimately there’s just no certainties in this area.

    Thanks again Old Somerset


    Martin Goral


  2. Hello Martin

    I did quite a lot of work on the N. British ‘Cinuits’ to see if I could trace the origin of the name. It certainly goes back a very long way in the British (pre-Welsh) era, and who knows how the pronunciation varied at different times and in different places? I would go for the most modern pronunciation, in Welsh, of Cynwyd (the placename in N. Wales) which is (very approximately) CUN-oowid (but you can cheat slightly by saying C’Nooit, stressing the first syllable, and making the final d a t). As a personal name I would have thought the ‘hound’ origin was a Best Guess, though that makes the second half of the name a bit mysterious – unlike Cuno-belinus, for instance, where ‘Hound of Belinus’ is clear; or Cuno-morus – ‘Great Hound’. As you can see from this list of Cyn- names, Cinuit is the odd man out. So I can’t be of much more help!

    Old Somerset


  3. Hello

    I came across your website when looking for information on the name ‘Cinuit’. The particular ‘Cinuit’ I am interested in was a fifth-century king of Strathclyde who was recorded in the medieval Welsh genealogies, but I am trying to understand what would be the proper pronouncement of this name as ‘Cinuit’ and in its later Welsh form of ‘Cynwyd’. I originally thought both names were respectively pronounced as ‘Cun-oot’ for ‘Cinuit’, and ‘Cun-ood’ for ‘Cynwyd’, but the information I am getting elsewhere and from your own website suggests ‘Cun-et’ for ‘Cinuit’, and ‘Cun-wid’ for ‘Cynwyd’. I am now thinking that Old North British ‘Cinuit’ was perhaps originally closer in its pronouncement to ‘Cun-vet’ or ‘Cun-ved’, and that the later Welsh ‘Cynwyd’ and Breton ‘Conet’ are so much removed from ‘Cinuit’ in their development and in their own soundings. Also what are your thoughts on what these names mean? Is it safe to say that ‘Hound of [something]’ is at least a partly secure translation?

    Thank you for any help in this matter


    Martin Goral

    Liked by 1 person

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