Toponomy is the technical term for the study of place names. The subject fascinates many people and led to the formation of a special group of experts at the United States Interior Department for the classification and cataloging of American place names. In England considerable effort has gone into such study over the past several hundred years. Eilert Ekwall wrote the Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names in response to such interestCODEPN. Albert Baugh discussed the phenomenon in his History of the English LanguageHEL. It is a fruitful study in the social history of man.

England is rich in place names which reflect its checkered social history. From the pre-Roman Kelts, the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Norse marauders of the eighth century, and the French Normans, England has witnessed the successive implantation of different languages and names by each of those people.

A Keltic word is cumb; it means a "deep valley." It is found in such names as Duncombe, Holcombe, Winchcombe and so on. The Romans used the word castra = "camp" to denote their encampments. Villages and towns grew up around these camps or forts with names which later were adopted by the Anglo-Saxons. They turned castra into ceaster; we know the word today in Chester, Colchester, Dorchester, Manchester, Winchester, Lancaster, Doncaster, Gloucester, Worcester, and

many others. The Anglo-Saxons also used their word dun for moor, down, height, hill, and mountainASD. Many dun names are known: Ashdown, Bredon, Hambledon, Snowdon, Hendon, Dunham, Dunton, Dundon, and so on. Dundon is a marriage of the Anglo-Saxon dun with the Keltic don; literally it would mean "the hill of Don." Duncombe could be "the moor of the deep valley." But in the blending of dun with don we cannot easily determine if Bredon, Snowdon, Hendon and others may come from the Kelts or the Anglo-Saxons. The use of Don as a prefix on Doncaster suggests that the don name carried significance at very early times, prior to the Romans, since it was used in combination with the Roman caster.


From these examples we see how difficult it is to assign place names. But when a river with the Don name is found across Europe and into Asia, we observe an underlying cause which pervades all Indo-European lands.

I shall now illustrate three different Indo-European word groups, how they may derive from Semitic roots, and how they reflect on the social customs of prior ages. How did Don affect our common words for house and home? If the original Semitic Ab and Am turned into Pa and Ma, did our words for brothers and sisters also derive from that source? And how did we learn to differentiate between that original Judge of mankind and more recent ruling Kings?


In a preceding chapter I briefly mentioned that certain words were used across the Indo-European regions for domestic practices which included agriculture and animal husbandry. It is useful to examine this phenomenon in more detail.

If we find a word common across Europe and into India it seems sensible to believe that it had a common origin. Such deduction involves two important criteria for linguistic studies. First, that the word has the same sound, and second, that it has the same meaning. However, both criteria may not be obvious. The Indo-European (I-E) word for father is found in Latin pater, Greek patir, Sanskrit pitr, Dutch vader, Gothic fader, and Old Irish athir. Obviously "t" can exchange with "d," or the initial "p" may become an "f," as in the Teutonic languages, or may be lost altogether, as in Irish athir. These changes across languages are well established linguistic phenomena.

Shift in meaning may also occur. A word may lose its original literal significance but the new use, to fit linguistic criteria, must show vestiges of its original use in an historical language. In this present study we encounter phenomena which lie on the edge of linguistic science but which provide new and deep insights into our planetary past.

For example consider the I-E root dom. It is found in Indian Vedic literature as dama- = "house," in Iranian dam- = "family or house," Old Slavic domu = "home," Greek domos = "house," Latin domus = "house," and in English borrowed from Latin: domicile and domestic. The last two words demonstrate two senses of the dom- root -- a place of residence and a settled style of life.

Emile Benveniste, in his absorbing book, Indo-European Language and Society, showed that originally the dom root meant "home," the gathering place for the family, and not "house," the structure in which they assembledIESL. In Greece the word gradually shifted over to mean merely the structure; another Greek word, oikos, was eventually used for domestic life. Benveniste also showed that from the dom- root came the Latin dominus, the master or lord of the home. Later this use evolved into application to a civil Lord.

If this derivation is correct it accents our problem with the Don and Dona titles. Given the clear evidence of the Hebrew Don verb we have strong support for our earlier deduction that the Iberian Don did not come from the Latin Dominus but that it carried independently from some other, far more ancient, practice. Rather than the Latin Dominus being the source of the other titles we now find it sitting alone with an origin that is secondary and derived from a different path. Since the Semitic Don must be older than the Latin Dominus we are led back to the question of the origin of the I-E dom form. Also since the n-to-m shift is a common linguistic phenomenon is it possible that the I-E dom = "home" derived from that personality named Don? Did an original group of I-E people name the home in honor of Don because he was the one who instituted the social practice of a settled home? If so it would mean that a very common and basic word in the I-E languages derived from an earlier Semitic source. This raises an equally important question. How many I-E words can be traced back to an influence which originates in that Semitic groundspring?

This possibility also raises another difficulty. If dom came from Don, and if Don carried down through time for the titles of Europe, and then if Latin Dominus derived from dom, why would the title for Lord in Rome come back to an identical use through such an involved route? If the establishment of the home was due to Don then it might be natural for his descendants to refer to the home with that name, with "n" to "m" inflection difference to distinguish the home from the man.

As a further example of inflectional differences consider how the title Don survived in the I-E languages but not Adon, while the title Adon survived in the Semitic, but not Don. The differences probably are due to different social attitudes held by different groups of people. In the first case a respect was shown for the individual who deserved that title; in the second a relationship was emphasized between that individual and others.

Further insights are offered by other evidence. In ancient Vedic the adjective damunah means "domestic (protector) of the house." The Armenian tanuter means "master of the house." (Note both "d" to "t" and "m" to "n" phonetic shifts.) In Sanskrit two similar phrases are dam-pitah and pater-dan, both meaning "master of the house"IESL. But pater-dan, literally, is "Father

Don." Thus we see how convoluted the various forms may become and that Latin Dominus is merely another example of linguistic phenomena that reflect unconscious deep respect for that ancient Father of mankind.


We find another I-E root in dem- = "to build." It is illustrated in the Greek root demo- = "to build or to construct." It is found in the Greek word doma = "a rooftop," which we still carry in English dome. It is in Greek oikodomos = "a builder or architect," the one who was the "home-builder." (Note our English word major-domo = "head of the domestic household.") The root dem- probably derives from dom-; dom- meant the home, the social apparatus, while dem- came to mean the structure. From this root derived the Greek noun, demas = "physical shape, appearance, or stature." It was used adverbially as "in the manner of," literally "according to the appearance, the form of," or "as it was built."

From the I-E dem- root other words developed in the Teutonic languages. With a "d-to-t" shift and vowel change dem- went to tim-. It is found in Gothic ga-timan and German gezieman = "to be in accord, to agree," literally "to be constructed in the same manner." A derived noun, dem-ro, gave us English timber = "wood for construction." The Gothic verb timrjan meant "to work in wood," (German zimmern), while the abstract noun ga-timrjo meant "construction,"IELS.

Note that German changes "t" into "z," another well-known phonetic change following linguistic laws.

Thus we can see how the dom- root, which meant the home, the social apparatus, could easily be the source of the dem- root, in the sense of the structure. This inflectional change then led to a host of other words, all revolving around the material aspects of the residence rather than the social aspects.

Still other words derived from the dom- root. Greek damao meant "to subdue" or "to tame." It carried the sense of subjecting natural things, wild animals or uncultured man, to the rule of the home, to domestic control and tranquility. The Latin word was domare. Cognates in the Teutonic languages were Old High German zam and Gothic tamjan, known to us in Old English tam, modern English tame. A derived Greek word was a-damatos, "to be indomitable," so strong that all would be subject to that will. From adamatos we get our word adamant.

The same root was used other ways. Greek demos = "the people, the public" derived from dam-, the I-E word for family, which in turn came from dom-. The Greek usage can be explained as follows:

Originally a family has brothers and sisters. These marry to bring in mates from other families but they become part of the first family. They are regarded as family. As this family increases in size it becomes a "Grossfamilie," a clan which may live in the same community or geographical region but which occupies numerous houses. However, the name dam is still retained after generations to denote this large group related by blood. Eventually, to differentiate between the immediate family and the clan the word shifted in pronunciation and meaning. Dam went to demos in Greek and came to mean the entire gathering of people who no longer identified with one another as immediate family. They were now the entire social unit, the "people," or the "public." And from Greek demo other words spread into other languages. English now has demagogue = "people + leader." Democracy = "people + authority." Other words derived from this use of the root.

Thus we see how a single word, coming out of that Great Granddaddy, through simple phonetic inflections, can blossom out into manifold uses and hold its mind-forming sway on untold human generations. We also obtain some insight into how that original Semitic tongue left such an impact on the Indo-European languages.

Benveniste expressed concern that the several word roots, dom-, dam-, or dem- were listed together under one category in the etymological dictionaries. He felt the individual terms were independently derived and that "there is nothing more than homophony between dem- 'family' and dem- 'construct'." He admitted that a cross influence existed but he felt the contamination from one to the other was due to a tendency to identify social groups with material habitats. From this study we see they are phonetically and semantically close because they derive from the same word, that ancient Great Granddaddy Don.



In the previous chapter we noted the Semitic names for father and mother, ab and am, with their childhood uses, abba and amma, or, as we know them in the western world, poppa and momma. We also considered the possibility that atta was the childhood diminutive of Adon, the Semitic word for Lord, leading to our daddy. Furthermore we had the puzzle of the anna form; we could not determine if it derived from amma with an "m-to-n" phonetic shift, or if it derived from the female of An, representing a Mother God consort.

An inquiry into the I-E forms for family members, and their possible origins, is helpful if we tabulate them as they appear historically in various I-E tongues. The hypothetical original I-E is shown in the column headers with an asterisk.






Old Irish 
Old Slavic






We see that father and mother in their original I-E forms had the initial syllables of pa- and ma-, which we remember so well in English colloquial practice. These are obviously related phonetically and semantically to the Semitic ab and am, involving what linguists call metathesis, the interchange of the sounds in a word. (We saw this in Latin castra with an -ra and the Anglo-Saxon ceaster with an -er.) In the case of father the "b" also shifts to "p."

Other patterns may be noted. In all four categories we see a suffix of -ter, with the hypothetical original supported by a majority of endings. Specialists are not agreed on the origin of this suffix. No recorded evidence is available to show how it may have derived; some linguists believe the common form suggests origin by relational familiarity within the family, a colloquial derivation.

Old Irish substitutes -thir for -ter in aithir-mathir -brathir. Armenian loses the "t" entirely with an ayr ending in hayr-mayr-etbayr, and also with the greatest changes on the initial phonemes.

The word sister shows a striking contrast among the languages. The -ter ending shows in English, Gothic and Old Slavic (with metathesis); it is transformed to an "r" ending in the other languages illustrated. Linguists postulate that the word is made up of two elements, swe and sar, but they have no consistent view of the origins. The -sor in Sanskrit and -sar in Armenian and Tokharian suggested to Benveniste that the word could be broken up into two elements, swe- and -sor, following the common linguistic trend. He proposed that swe- may be a term for social relationship, while -sor was an archaic name for "woman."

Before proposing an origin for "sister" I shall consider "brother." However, the origin of the bra- for "brother" is also a puzzle for linguists, even more than the origin of "sister." Since the problems for "brother" and "sister" are both more involved I shall make a short digression into Indo-European practices as they show in historical cultures and as they reflect upon our inquiry.

The everyday word for brother in Greek is adelphos, not phrater. It comes from delphus, a Greek word for the womb. It meant a blood brother, one who was a brother by birth from the same mother. The use of adelphos in Greek led to the female equivalent, adelphi for sister. The word phrater devolved to designate those who were members of a phratria, a brotherhood under a social relationship in which the members understood themselves to be descended from the same remote fatherIESL. An ancient Greek tradition celebrated the feast of Zeus Phratrios, Father Zeus. This was called the Apatouria, which the ancients interpreted as the homopatria, literally "of the same father." The word frater was also used in Latin as a designation for a brother who was a member of a fraternal group, thus our English word fraternity. In Latin the phrase for blood brother was frater germanus, or simply germanus. Curiously, the German word stuck to the citizens of Deutschland, which we know in English as Germany. Germanus led to Spanish hermano and Portuguese irmado.

This linguistic evidence in historical cultures shows a transformation away from older family designations to substitute words in order to recapture the notion of consanguinity. As the clan grew beyond the Grossfamilie it became socially unwieldly; it began to break up. In following generations the offspring no longer regarded themselves as blood brothers of those who lived more distantly but the word brother was still used. In order to distinguish between the members of the phratria, the clan, and a true blood brother new words had to be found.

Similar transformations did not take place among all I-E people. Many groups, including the Teutonics, held to the word brother for the blood brother. But the evidence from Greece and Rome offers insight into the structure of that early I-E culture.

The members regarded themselves as blood brothers. As the number of descendants increased and spread out into everwidening circles they lost the sense of close kinship but still

regarded themselves as descended from the same father, homopatria. This social regard is illustrated by other  transformations used to designate expanding concentric circles of kinship: the family, the clan, the tribe, and the country.





dam- = family 
vis = clan 
zantu = tribe 
dahyu = country 

dam = house 
vis = community 
janus = creature 
dasyu = country

domos = house 
(w)oikos = home 
genos = birth, race 

domus = house 
vicus = village 
genus = birth, race 


The Greek domos and oikos were used differently by the several Greek dialects at different times. (W)oikos devolved to designate the home and not the clan. The Sanskrit and Latin vis and vicus no longer carried the significance of blood relationship, but rather communities of unrelated people or villages which were assemblages of people in houses. As a substitute for the idea of a blood clan Latin used the word tribus. For country it used patria, the I-E designation for father, again a haunting memory of the original father, and remembered in English patriotic. Genos and genus retained the idea of blood relationship in the notions of common ancestry but now altered from a tribal designation to that of an entire race. Janus, genos and genus are known in the Teutonic languages as kin, those who are blood related.


The Latin word vicus was borrowed by the Keltic natives of Britain from their Roman overlords as wic and is now found in such place names as Greenwich and Brunswick.

With this brief digression on the manner in which Indo-European words can shift in meaning as races grow and expand into ever widening circles we can better appreciate how words were transformed from an original Semitic source to different uses among people who separated from those Semitic origins.

We can now examine possible origins for the Indo-European "brother" and "sister."

"Och" is the Hebrew word for brother. Should we expect the I-E word for brother to follow a similar origin as father and mother? Such is not the case. Brother comes from another Semitic word entirely.

The common stem noted in the tabulation above is bra-.

A basic Hebrew verb root is barar "to clarify, purify, and select"1305. This form parallels that of sarar, which we found went to sara in the female, and sar in the male. In similar manner barar goes to bara1262 and bar1247. The Assyrian bararu meant "to be shining"BDB. Bara meant "to shape, or create." The Assyrian baru meant "to make or create." The Assyrian cognate banu, with a change from "r" to "n," meant "to create or begetBDB." From this shift in phonetics the Hebrew acquired the word ben = "son1121." But the parallel verb root in Hebrew is banah = "to build"1129.

These parallel sounds and meanings in verbs is common in Hebrew and has been a puzzle for linguistic experts. There appears to be an intelligent pattern to word associations which is more than mere evolutionary drift.

Although it is not attested in early Hebrew, bar meant "sonBDB." Bar was applied to male offspring as those who were "created." It was used in Ezra 5:1 as bar-Iddo, the "son of Iddo." It was also used in Aramaic as bra = "to create,"HAEL, where it was applied to "son" or "sons," in various forms as brai, bree, and so on. See Ezra 6:10, Dan 5:22, and so on. The bar or bra- form was used in other ancient Semitic languages.

Thus we see that the word bra- could easily have been carried over into primitive I- E as the word for son, but that it later came to mean brother.

The word for sister is more difficult; I can only suggest possibilities. The tabulation does not show a consistent stem. If the original word for sister carried the common suffix -ter then English, Old Slavic and Gothic forms suggests that the affix may have been of the form ses or swis. The sar of Tokharian, Sanskrit, Latin and Old Irish suggest that perhaps the word derives from the original Semitic sara = "princess" or "royal lady."

The earlier tabulation shows how the words atta and anna came into use among certain groups of Indo-Europeans. Gothic and Hittite both used these words for father and mother; They did not use pater and mater. Gothic does attest one use of the word fader but this is restricted to translation of the Greek in the Gothic Bible from Mark 14:36 where Abba = fader. This use of atta and anna across both I-E and Semitic people has been a puzzle for the linguists but we can now resolve this puzzle.

These foregoing examples show the strong linguistic connections of the Indo-European languages to the Semitic. Yet they show differences in application that caused a considerable shift from the original Semitic. Is it possible that words in the original I-E mother tongue were derived in reaction to the Semitic influence, consciously borrowing from the Semitic to provide word roots in a new language but attempting to forsake the Semitic because of its association with fallen divine personalities? Or was this a gradual evolution away from the Semitic? On the basis of this limited evidence we cannot say.




I shall turn now to a different area of discussion. I shall demonstrate that our ancient forefathers looked upon life with devout respect. This can be illustrated in concepts of kingship in ancient times.

The Latin word for king was Rex. The Sanskrit word was Raj(an), modern Rah(ah). In Hindi Raj means to reign or ruleOED. Among the Kelts this word appeared as a suffix in the names of the leaders of Gallic tribes: Dumno-rix and Vercingeto-rix. Among the Irish it was variously spelled as Ri, Righ, or Rig, both with and without the guttural endingOED,SIR,IELS.

The Indians, Romans, and Kelts all remembered the rex form, but other European groups did not. In Teutonic languages the word for "king" was German Koenig, Old English Cyning, and Gothic Kuni. This form derives from kin = "family" or "blood relations." The Teutonic word king has no phonetic relation to Rex, nor do other I-E groups use words which are phonetically related to Rex.

The question we address here is the origin of the rex-rix-raj-righ title. Since the Latin word reg-is is merely another form of Rex it may be useful to examine similar words. Regius meant "royal," "regal," and "kingly" while regio meant "district," "region," or "boundary," that which was ruled by the Rex. Regno meant "to rule" while rectus meant "straight" or "direct"; rego meant "to guide" or "direct," "to rule" or "manage." These words are all obviously related to one another from that common reg- root. We have such English cognates as "region," "regal," "royal," "regulate," "regular," and "rectify," all derived from Latin.

Among the Romans the phrase regeres fines meant literally "trace out the limits by straight lines." It was a function carried out by priests prior to the construction of a temple, sacred area, or town. In days of antiquity all such actions were sacred, a dedication to a Creator God. (Or, as the mythologists would have it, a dedication to the gods who first laid out temples and towns.) The setting of straight-line boundaries was the responsibility of the person who carried important religious power. Originally he carried the title rex. This is recognized in the ancient phrase rex sacrorum. The rex was charged with the task rex sacraIELS. The Druids, the all-important Keltic priests, personified this important social role. No social action was taken without their approval and permission, including the highest actions of state. Keltic chiefs were subservient to them and acknowledged their authority in all matters relating to the future welfare of the societyTD.

The concept of "straight conduct" in the reg- root is seen in the Latin regere = "to make or lead straight." Reg- not only applied to the survey of straight lines for temples or towns, it also applied to social conduct. English phrases express this same idea. Our word "right" denotes the concept of "being straight," or "in line." The concept of "straightness" is found in the other Latin reg- forms. Rectus = "straight + line," from which we get our English "rectilinear" and "rectify." Regula, through French, is the origin of our English "rule," and the regulation of society.

Different forms of "rule" are listed in the Oxford English Dictionary:

1. A principle, regulation or maxim for moral conduct.
2. A principle regulating practice or custom.
3. A standard of discrimination.
4. A fact which holds generally good.
5. Good order and discipline.
6. To control, manage or direct.
7. A graduated strip of metal or wood used for measuring length.
8. Array, marshalled order, or line, now obsolete.
9. A straight line drawn on paper, now obsolete.

And so on.


The Latin word regula was also used for a straight stick, bar, ruler, pattern, and so on. This evidence all suggests that the reg- root originally meant that which was straight. It not only meant something that was physically straight, as in straight lines and construction rulers, but also something that was straight socially and morally. We use such expressions as "go straight" for someone who refrains from criminal conduct, but also "act straight" with our contemporaries, to be forthright and honest with them. The Rex was the exemplar of upright, proper and "straight" conduct. He was the moral leader of the community, the one entrusted with responsibility to ensure that all other members of the community also conducted themselves in a "straight" manner. He laid out the "rules" and "regulations" as well as the sacred areas. He was the one to keep everything "right." He made sure that all was done with respect to a higher moral allegiance. Thus he became a priest and the leader of the people. As time passed he began to take on more political responsibilities with less recognition of the moral and religious ones. Thus the title eventually came to mean the ruler or sovereign, the king.

Our words "rich" and "right" derive from this same I-E root but come down to us through the Teutonic languages, not the Romance. Although the Teutonic languages do not show the reg- or rec- form for a king or ruler, there are vestiges of this word in Gothic raihts and German recht, which we retain in our English "right" and "righteous." Righteous comes from "right + wise." The pervasive use of right can be found in the Oxford English Dictionary which gives seven pages of definition and other uses for the word. The religious meanings are portrayed in such phrases as "the right hand of God" and "to turn to the right and not to the left." Right, in the sense of straight, contrasts with that which is bent, crooked, or twisted. A person is a crook if he steals. The way of the Rebellious One was twisted and tortuous.

Our word rich comes from a Teutonic root found in Gothic reiks. Originally "rich" meant someone who was powerful and mighty, noble and great. Because material wealth accumulated to those individuals the word now means merely that which is of great material possession or abundant physical wealth. The Roman, Keltic and Indian people retained the word for a noble ruler in that ancient I-E society. The rex was a spiritual and moral leader, the one to do "right." The importance of his social role eventually led to the use of his title for kingly rule, while in the Teutonic and Slavic regions the evolution to kingship forced use of other words for king; the superior social role of the priest had been lost.

From this brief survey we see that the Dons and Donnas were the leaders of the people by right of birth, descended from that original Don, but that civil rule was subject to religious authority. The Teutons and Slavs may have forgotten, but the Romans and Kelts did not, at least until later times. The picture we infer here of Keltic and Germanic society seems greatly different from that portrayed to us by classic writers such as Julius Caesar and Posidonius. Particularly abhorrent to them was the rite of human sacrifice, a religious practice which the Romans themselves had not long since left behind. The memory of it lingers in our Bible when Abraham took his son Isaac away to the sacrificial altar, Gen 22. See also Judg 11:29-40, a truly sorrowful story, I Kings 16:34, and Exod 22:29. For those of us living in the modern civilized world this practice is grossly barbaric. But for the people of those days it was a highly devout rite, most important of all propitiations to the gods. They entered into the spirit of deep religious cleansing, as devout as the practice of Christians today when they eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus in the Eucharist. It certainly was primitive, inherited from the earlier days of man's superstitious past. It also became greatly degraded in some societies. The Aztec Indians of later times degenerated to gross blood-letting in their national celebrations. I do not justify it; I merely try to show that it was a devout rite that did not in any way detract from upright and moral conduct in the society which practiced it. If anything it made them more serious about their social and religious obligations, in contrast to our modern religious allegiance which we take ever so casually.