Monday, 21 April 2014

Roz, Ros and Rhos in Celtic Place Names

Rostrenen, Roscoff, Roscanvel, Rosnoen, Rospez and Rosporden all include the place name element ros. This is a common Celtic root and can be found in: Roscommon and Rosslare (Ireland); Rhosllanercrugog, Rhos-on-Sea and Rhosgadfan (Wales); Roscroggan, Rospannel and Roskrow (Cornwall); Ross, Rosneath and Rosyth (Scotland).

The problem with ros, however, is that it is diificult to define: it has different meanings which also vary across languages.

All the uses, however, share a reference to landscape. The original appears to be 'promontory', a raised section of land sloping sharply on one side only:
Ros: 'promontory'
This was extended to include land descriptions such as 'hillspur' or 'coastal slope'. 
The Welsh rhos includes these meanings as well as 'moorland' (probably with more one-sided 'slopes). 
Ros: 'moorland'
Cornish names do the same and but also refer to uncultivated 'valleys', 'valley bottoms' and 'roughland'.
Ros: 'valley'
Breton keeps the sense of 'promontory' but then adds 'mound' or hillock'.
Ros: 'hillock'
The Scottish Gaelic and Irish have the more restricted sense of 'headland' or 'peninsula'
Ros: 'headland'
Ros may be impossible to translate but I'm sure we know one when we see one. 
If it's rough, hilly, jutting out and with a bit of a slope it's probably a ros.

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