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Theo Vennemann

An etymology for the name of A Corua*

Abstract: The Galician city named A Corua is and was in antiquity the most important
harbor between the Mediterranean and the North Sea, both for long-distance traffic and for
coastal cabotage. Many etymologies have been proposed for the name, none of them con-
vincing. I follow ALBAIGS (1998: s.v.) who sees Latin Caronium (Latin and Mediaeval
variants: Coronium, Corunium) as the precursor of Corua. This finds support in the name
of a near-by ancient road station named Caranico, which looks like an -ic(-um) derivative
of the name of the harbor city. In the present article, Caronium is analyzed as Latinized Phoe-
nician a k. arn, Punic a k. arcn, meaning the horn. This etymology satisfies the Realprobe:
A Corua is situated on a promontory jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, the type of location
favored by the Phoenician traders and often named Horn in various languages, including
Phoenician. The Phoenician article ha/a is assumed to have survived as part of the name in
local substrates and to have later been reinterpreted as the Galician feminine article a (<
Latin illa(m)), to which then the termination -(n)ium was adjusted as -()a.

Zusammenfassung: Die galizische Stadt A Corua ist und war schon im Altertum
sowohl fr den Fernhandel als auch fr die Kstenschiffahrt der wichtigste Hafen zwischen
dem Mittelmeer und der Nordsee. Fr den Namen sind viele Etymologien vorgeschlagen
worden, von denen aber keine berzeugt. Ich folge ALBAIGS (1998: s.v.), der lateinisches
Caronium (lateinische und mittelalterliche Varianten: Coronium, Corunium) als Vorlufer
von Corua ansieht. Die Richtigkeit dieser Annahme wird durch die nahegelegene antike
Straenstation namens Caranico unterstrichen, worin ein -ic(-um)-Derivat des Namens der
Hafenstadt zu sehen ist. Im vorliegenden Artikel wird Caronium als latinisiertes phnizisches
a k. arn, punisches a k. arcn das Horn analysiert. Diese Etymologie gengt der Realprobe:
A Corua liegt auf einer Landzunge, die in den Atlantik vorspringt; dies ist genau die von
den phnizischen Hndlern bevorzugte und hinsichtlich ihrer Erscheinungsform in verschie-
denen Sprachen einschlielich des Phnizischen mit Horn bezeichnete Art von rtlich-
keit. Der phnizische Artikel ha/a drfte in den lokalen Substraten als Teil des Namens
berlebt haben, bis er schlielich als galizischer femininer Artikel a (< lateinisch illa(m))

I would like to thank Rolf Bergmann (Bamberg), Ana Isabel Boulln Agrelo (Santiago de
Compostela), Andreas Dufter (Munich), Lutz Edzard (Erlangen), Stephen Laker (Fukuoka),
Angelika Lutz (Erlangen), Robert Mailhammer (Western Sydney), Emilio Nieto Ballester
(Madrid), Patrizia Noel (Bamberg), and Marcos Romn Prieto (Sevilla) for reading
manuscript versions of this article and making valuable suggestions. Antoniy Dimitrov M.A.
(Munich) has helped with the bibliography and with a number of useful observations. The
responsibility for remaining mistakes of form or content is mine alone.
2 Theo Vennemann

uminterpretiert wurde, an den die Termination -(n)ium als -()a kongruierend angepasst

1. Traditional explanations

The etymological literature on the name of A Corua1, the second-largest

city of Galicia, is vast and of uneven quality.2 Fortunately there also exist a
number of recent scholarly accounts which offer shortcuts toward an under-
standing of the problem, even though none of them arrive at a satisfactory
The following quotation from a much used toponomastic dictionary
provides a lot of information but in the final analysis leaves the etymological
problem unsolved:
La Corua. (A Crua) 245.459 h[abitantes]. Ciudad gallega, capital de la provincia
del mismo nombre. Se halla en una pequea peninsula limitada al norte por el Ocano
y al sureste y este por la ra de su nombre. Se ha identificado con la actual ciudad
gallega la antigua ciudad romana de Flavium Brigantium, bien documentada en la
Antigedad: Plinio, Orosio, Itinerario de Antonino. Sobre su importancia en epoca
romana hablan claramente los muchos restos arqueolgicos, particularmente el faro
conocido como torre de Hrcules, levantado en tiempos del emperador Trajano. ...
El nombre romano es un claro hibrido latino-celta. El nombre actual de la ciudad, con
todo, no remonta al nombre latino, sino que procede de un antiguo Clunia, cuyo
origen, probablemente celta o celtoide, ha de ser igual al de la localidad de Corua
del Conde (Burgos), y al de las otras localidades gallegas denominadas Corua (tres
en La Corua y una en Lugo). La evolucin fontica desde Clunia hasta Crua en la
forma gallega y Corua en la castellana (con anaptixis) no es del todo regular,
particularmente en lo que hace al tratamiento del grupo consonntico inicial. El
significado ltimo del vocablo no[s] es desconocida, as como tambin nos es im-
posible una precisin mayor acerca de la lengua a la que pertenecera, fuera de la
constatacin anterior de la posibilidad de que sea celta. La utilizacin del artculo en
el nombre de la gran ciudad gallega parece indicar que se tratara en ltima instancia
de un nombre comn. (NIETO BALLESTER 1997: s.v.)
[La Corua. (A Crua) 245,459 inhabitants. Galician city, capital of the province of
the same name. It is located on a small peninsula limited in the north by the Ocean
and in the southeast and east by the ria bearing its name. The present Galician city
has been identified with the ancient Roman city of Flavium Brigantium, well
documented in antiquity: Pliny, Orosius, Antonine Itinerary. Its importance in Roman

A Corua is the Galician and official name of the city. The La of the Castilian (and tem-
porarily official) variant La Corua simply translates the Galician feminine article A.
Much of it is obviously folk-etymological, such as the derivation from Latin columna co-
lumn, inspired by the citys lighthouse, the Torre de Hrcules [Tower of Hercules], and from
Latin corona crown, which is reflected in the citys coat of arms. For these and many other
fruitless attempts cf. the Wikipedia article A Corua.
An etymology for the name of A Corua 3
times is clearly evidenced by many archaeological remains, in particular the light-
house known as tower of Hercules, erected at the time of the emperor Trajan [53-
117 CE]. ... Its Roman name [Flavium Brigantium] is an obvious Latino-Celtic hybrid.
The modern name of the city does not, however, go back to the Latin name, unless
it derives from an ancient Clunia, whose origin, probably Celtic or Celtoid, must be
the same as that of the town of Corua del Conde (Burgos) and to that of the other
Galician places named Corua (three in La Corua [province] and one in Lugo
[province]).3 The phonetic development Clunia to Crua in the Galician form and to
Corua in the Castilian form (with anaptyxis) is not entirely regular, especially as far
as the treatment of the initial consonant group is concerned. The ultimate meaning
of the word is unknown, and we are also unable to determine more exactly the
language to which it belongs, except for the earlier observation that it might be
Celtic. The use of the article in the name of the large Galician city seems to indicate
that in the final analysis we may be dealing with a common noun.]

Thus, we arrive at a derivation from a name which is suspected to be Celtic

(or Celtoid), which is possible though not cogent on account of the as-
sumed rhotacism of the l in the initial consonant cluster [kl-] and the
assumed anaptyxis in the resulting cluster, and the meaning of which is un-
known. The last-named deficiency is particularly damaging because it pre-

MORALEJO LASSO (1977: 27f.) says:
Corua, nombre de cuatro lugares en Galicia, uno en el Valle del Dubra [Val do Dubra]
(Corua) y tres en Lugo, adems de La Corua, gall. A Crua, y medieval
Crunia/Curunia, y que debe de proceder de una forma antigua igual a la de la Clunia de
los arvacos, hoy Corua del Conde (Burgos).
[Corua, name of four places in Galicia, one in the Dubra Valley (Corua) and three in
Lugo, in addition to La Corua, Galician A Crua, and medieval Crunia/Curunia, and
which must derive from an old form identical to that of Clunia of the Arevaci [a
Celtiberian tribe], nowadays Corua del Conde (Burgos).]
I have not been able to identify any of those four Galician localities named Corua either in
NIETO BALLESTERs distribution (3 in A Corua : 1 in Lugo) or in MORALEJO LASSOs (1 in
A Corua : 3 in Lugo). Emilio Nieto Ballester (Professor at the Universidad Autnoma de
Madrid), in an e-mail of 4 April 2015, describes those Coruas as possibly just being un-
incorporated hamlets, which would indeed explain why they are undiscoverable on maps and
on the Internet. MORALEJO LASSO (1977: 276) is one of several authors who take seriously
the presence of the definite article in the name of A Corua; he says about Crua and
Corua, both of which derive from Crunia: Que las dos lleven artculo parece indicar que
el topnimo en su origen tuviera una significacin viva en la lengua como ocurre con A
Estrada o La Estrada y O Barco o El Barco. [That both of them take the article seems to
indicate that the original toponym had a meaning alive in the language, as is also the case for
A Estrada or La Estrada and O Barco or El Barco.] A Estrada and O Barco are muni-
cipalities in Galicia; the meaning alive in the language is the road fr A Estrada and the
boat for O Barco. MORALEJO LASSO (1977: 317) reminds his readers of the etymology the
Column for A Corua entertained by some scholars, on account of the Tower of Hercules.
In my own etymology farther below, both the article and the noun of the original
designating noun phrase had a meaning alive in the language, namely in the language in
which the naming noun phrase was constructed with its proper syntax and semantics.
4 Theo Vennemann

cludes the most important support of a toponymic etymology, the control by

Realprobe, the investigation of the geophysical situation of the place. Hence
this proposal is somewhat less than satisfactory.
The final observation, which will recur in the conclusion of the quotation
from BOULLN AGRELO 2011 below, viz. that the article in the name of the
large Galician city seems to indicate that in the final analysis we may be
dealing with a common noun, is insightful but unfortunately finds no appli-
cation in the proposed etymology, because no common noun is offered to
which the article would be attached. As will be seen, the new etymology to
be given in the present article is in harmony with that final observation: The
name of A Corua will be explained as being based on a metaphorically used
noun phrase consisting of a common noun plus a preposed definite article,
all within the syntax and semantics of the language of origin.
Another standard reference work, ALBAIGS 1998, published only one
year after NIETO BALLESTERs, explains the name rather differently:
CORUA, A (La Corua) ... Parece ser que la ciudad donde nadie es forastero es
la antigua Brigantium citada por Paulo Orosio, la protegida por el romano Faro de
Hrcules, que ha llegado a ser su simbolo. Su excelente situacin estratgica como
puerto de mar motiv a la vez grandes problemas de invasiones, por lo que fue tras-
ladada por los reyes leoneses al Burgo, situado en el fondo de la ra, como situacin
ms privilegiada. All permaneci hasta el siglo XII, en que Alfonso X restituy las
autoridades a la antigua Corua.
El nombre actual procede del latn Caronium y recuerda el Callaicorum Lucen-
sium Oppidum. El nombre de Crunia, que resucita el del antiguo oppidum romano,
aparece por primera vez en tiempos de Fernando II, y probablemente fue aplicado por
familiaridad con el castellano Corua del Conde. Actualmente conviven diversas
grafas para representarla: A Corua (oficial), A Corunha (reintegracionista o lusista)
y A Crua (arcaica, pero legtima). En cualquiera de ellas, el artculo es prescindible.
(ALBAIGS 1998: s.v.)
[CORUA, A (La Corua). ... It appears that the city where nobody is a stranger
is the ancient Brigantium mentioned by Paulus Orosius [c. 375 - after 418 CE], pro-
tected by the Roman Faro de Hrcules which has become its symbol. Its excellent
strategic position as a sea harbor has at the same time caused big problems of inva-
sions, which is why it was transferred by the kings of Leon to O Burgo, at the head
of the ria, as the more privileged location. It remained there until the 12th century
when Alfonso X restored the authorities to the old Corua.
The present name derives from the Latin Caronium and is reminiscent of the
Callaicorum Lucensium Oppidum4. The name of Crunia, which brings back to life
that of the ancient Roman oppidum, makes its first appearance at the time of Fer-
nando II, and was probably applied out of familiarity with the Castilian Corua del

The town of the Galicians of Lugo, mentioned in Ptolemys Geography II.5.
An etymology for the name of A Corua 5
Conde. Nowadays a number of different spellings representing the name coexist: A
Corua (official), A Corunha (reintegracionist or Portuguese-oriented), and A Crua
(archaic, but legitimate). In each of them the article may be omitted.]

Unfortunately, ALBAIGS does not cite a source for his etymon, el latn
Caronium. However, the following quotation from the 1911 Encyclopdia
Britannica shows that this evaluation of the name Caronium has a tradition:
In the middle ages, and probably at an earlier period, it was called Caronium; and this
name is much more probably the origin of the present designation than the Latin
Columna which is sometimes put forward.5

I will return to the equation of A Corua with Caronium in section 7. The

International Dictionary of Historic Places has this to say about early attes-
tations, though no etymology of the name is attempted:
Perhaps the earliest extant mention of the city is in the first-century history of
Pomponius Mela, who identifies a seaport called Ardobrica in the country of Artabri.
The name Portus Artabrorum was assigned to the bay on which the city was located.
Some later histories claim the port was captured by the Romans in 60 B.C. and named
Ardobicum Corunium, while others trace the present name to the medieval moniker
Caronium and others still to the Latin Columna.
(RING et al. [eds.] 1995: s.v. La Corua [p. 163])

VOLGER (1837: 24) has an entry Artabri in Galizien. Brigantium Flavium

s[ive] Caronium (Corunna) [Artabri in Galicia. Brigantium Flavium or
Caronium (Corunna)], also without naming his source.
Since it occurs in the literature and is mentioned in connection with A
Corua, I would like to cite a name resembling A Corua though occurring
at a distant location. Referring to an inscription Cloutius Clutami f(ilius) ...
Susarru(s) domo Curunniace found in Hungary (CIL III 2016), LUJN (2008:
74f.) writes:
As for Curunniace ..., Albertos 1975: 47 related it to Curunda (CIL II 2633), the
name of a town of the Zoelae, an Asturian people. It is tempting to relate it to the
modern placename Corua, as Prsper 2002: 372 does, even if the Susarri lived too
far away, in the eastern part of the conuentus lucensis or western part of the
asturicensis. Prsper explains the name as from *Kurund-yko-, so it would be
related to some personal names derived from the same base, such as Curundus and
Curundea, even if they lack a satisfactory etymology.

JOAQUN CARIDAD ARIAS is known for his theory that La Toponimia es [...]
el cementerio de los viejos dioses (CARIDAD ARIAS 1995: 27) [Toponymy

Cf. the Internet site 1911 Encyclopdia Britannica/Corunna (city).
6 Theo Vennemann

is the cemetery of the old gods]. So it comes as no surprise that in his view,
A Corua too is theophoric. This is true for CARIDAD ARIAS 1995:
Conclusin. El nombre de La Corua tiene su antecedente inmediato en el nombre
del dios celta, pero ya del antiguo Mediterrneo, Coro, Crono, Cruno o Krnunno,
que tambin se dijo Acorn o Aquern, origen de la forma quiz ms antigua:
Acorunia o Aquerunia > Acrua, por el habitual fenmeno de sincopa.
El motivo casi inevitable de este patronazgo, fue su especial situacin geogrfica
en un promontorio del Fin del Mundo, importante lugar de culto desde poca
prehistrica. (CARIDAD ARIAS 1995: 279)
[Conclusion. The name of La Corua has its immediate antecedent in the name of the
Celtic god, but already of the ancient Mediterranean, Coro, Crono, Cruno [Latin
Cronus, Greek ], or Krnunno, also called Acorn or Aquern [Latin Acheron,
Greek ], origin of perhaps the oldest form: Acorunia or Aquerunia > Acrua,
by the common phenomenon of syncope.
The nearly inevitable reason for this patronage was her special geographical
situation on a promontory of the End of the World, an important cult location since
prehistoric times.]

And it has not changed in CARIDAD ARIAS 1999: 308 and 2003-04: 287-305.
Even though the author fills many pages with naming parallels and argu-
ments to support his Conclusin (33 pages in CARIDAD ARIAS 1995), and
manages to explain the definite article very much as I will farther below, and
even though he involves the horn word in the etymology of his theonym(s)
(CARIDAD ARIAS 1995: 279), as I will for Corua, I do not find his approach
convincing. There are so many deities in the numerous cultures of Europe,
many of them with several name variants and a variety of functions, that it
will always be possible to find a fitting one. Since for this theory there is no
equivalent of the Realprobe, I see no criterion by which to judge the plausi-
bility of the proposal.

2. The etymological state of the art

All told, I have to conclude that the etymological harvest collected in the pre-
ceding section is unsatisfactory. Also a recent paper on Galician toponyms
containing the definite article, BOULLN AGRELO 2011, in which expectedly
A Corua looms large and in which a huge amount of medieval attestations
of the name are listed, expresses astonishment about the etymological state
of the art, which is at the same time succinctly summarized:
An etymology for the name of A Corua 7
A Corua. ... Curiosamente, non hai ningn estudo recente que se detivera na
etimoloxa, cando desde hai sculos se lle veen atribundo as mis diversas orixes.6
O feito que hai algunhas circunstancias anmalas. Por unha parte, nos textos mis
antigos o territorio aparece citado como Brigantia ou Faro (pola construcin actual-
mente chamada Faro de Hrcules), e s comeza a citarse A Crunia a principios do
sc. XII.7 Para explicar esa datacin tarda nas fontes documentais, tense falado, por
unha banda, dunha repoboacin procedente da vila de Burgos Corua del Conde; por
outra banda, Vaamonde Lores (apud Barreiro Fernndez 1986: 95) especulaba con
que fose o nome dun antigo barrio da primitiva cidade e que a repoboacin se fixo
sobre el, in loco qui dicitur Crunia (a.1208), expresin que fai explcito o feito de
o nome xa existir previamente. As das hipteses carecen de probas, pero a segunda
parece mis plausible. Por outro lado, a partir dunha orixe cun grupo KL- agardarase
unha palatalizacin. Moralejo Lasso (1977: 276) pensa nunha posible influencia me-
dieval culta na primeira slaba, e Antn Santamarina, en comunicacin oral, apunta
cara importancia que podera ter o contorno fontico: a existencia dunha palatal na
segunda slaba puido impedir apalatalizacin da primeira, nunha especie de disimi-
lacin preventiva. En definitiva, no que si parece haber consenso ultimamente en
que a orixe prerromana; a existencia do artigo podera indicar que o topnimo tivese
en principio unha significacin transparente (Moralejo Lasso 1977: 276).
(Boulln Agrelo 2011: 18)
[A Corua. Strangely, there are no recent studies discussing its etymology, even
though, over the centuries, the most diverse origins have been attributed to it.8 The
fact is that there are some anomalous circumstances. On the one hand, the most
ancient texts mention the territory as Brigantia or Faro Lighthouse (the latter owing
to the building that nowadays is called Faro de Hrcules), and it only began to be
called A Crunia at the beginning of the 12th century.9 To explain that late dating in
the documentary sources, there has been discussion, on one side, about a resettlement
coming from the village Corua del Conde, located in the province of Burgos; on the
other side, Vaamonde Lores (apud Barreiro Fernndez 1986: 95) speculated about the

Footnote: Desde Afonso X, que o atribe ao nome persoal da primeira muller al moradora
(vid. MORALEJO LVAREZ 2008: 62-67), ata as teoras decimonnicas que defendan a
procedencia a partir de diversas formas latinas como COLUMNA, CORONA, COLONIA, ou da
francesa Cluny (pola influencia da orde cisterciense): vxase MARTNEZ SALAZAR (1948) e
Footnote: As aparicins de Clunia nas fontes romanas refrense cidade burgalesa Corua
del Conde.
Footnote: [From Alfonso X [12211284], who attributed the name to the first woman living
there (cf. MORALEJO LVAREZ 2008: 62-67), until the nineteenth-century theories which
defended the idea of a derivation from diverse Latin forms such as COLUMNA, CORONA,
COLONIA or from the French Cluny (due to the Cistercian Order): vid. MARTNEZ
SALAZAR (1948) and Barreiro Fernndez (1986: 92-5).]
Footnote: [Occurrences of Clunia in Roman sources are assumed to refer to the village
Corua del Conde, located in the province of Burgos.]
8 Theo Vennemann

idea of an ancient quarter of the primeval city, upon which the city was repopulated,
in loco qui dicitur Crunia [in a place named Crunia] (a.1208), which explicitly
states that the name had existed previously. Both hypotheses lack any firm evidence,
but the second seems to be more plausible. On the other hand, if the name had
originally begun with a KL- cluster, one would expect palatalization. Moralejo
Lasso (1977: 276) considers a possible influence of some medieval inkhorn term on
the first syllable, and Antn Santamarina, in oral communication, points to the
importance of the phonetic environment: a palatal sound in the second syllable could
prevent the palatalization in the first, in a sort of a preventive dissimilation. In
conclusion, it seems that the only thing that can be agreed upon is a pre-Roman
origin; the definite article could indicate a previously transparent meaning of the
toponym (Moralejo Lasso 1977: 276).]

ANDREAS DUFTER10 writes about the lack of recent attempts to arrive at an

etymology for A Corua observed by ANA ISABEL BOULLN AGRELO:
Diese Forschungslcke verwundert umso mehr, als die gleiche Autorin [...] in
Boulln Agrelo 2010 eindrucksvoll den reichhaltigen Bestand an rtlichkeitsnamen
in Galicien und die ebenso intensiv scheinende onomastische Aufarbeitung bilanziert.
[This research gap is all the more astonishing in view of the fact that the same author
[...] impressively registers in Boulln Agrelo 2010 the rich reservoir of toponyms in
Galicia and their equally intensive onomastic compilation and assessment.]

As will be seen, my own attempt to find an etymology for A Corua proceeds

in harmony with the conclusion of the above quotation from BOULLN
AGRELO 2011 (there attributed to MORALEJO LASSO 1977: 276), that the
name is likely to be of pre-Roman origin and that the definite article could
indicate a previously transparent meaning of the toponym.

3. Strabo on the Atlantic Tin Route

Strabo (ca. 63 BCE - after 23 CE) mentions the area of A Corua in book 3 of
his Geographika, in his description of the sea route from Cdiz to the Tin
, ,
. (Strabo, Geographika 3.5.11, cf. ([Strabo 1923]:
[The Cassiterides11 are ten in number, and they lie near each other in the high sea to
the north of the port of the Artabrians.] ([Strabo 1923]: 157)

In an e-mail of 24 March 2015.
I.e. the Tin Islands.
An etymology for the name of A Corua 9

Strabo unfortunately does not name this port of the Artabrians, either here
or elsewhere in his Geographika. But he does tell us where the Artabrians
lived: farthest on the north-west of Lusitania (3.2.9), in the neighbourhood
of the cape called Nerium [Cape Finisterre], which is the end of both the
western and the northern side of Iberia (3.3.5). In other words, the land of
the Artabrians, in Strabos days, was Galicia, perhaps only the northwestern
part of it, perhaps what is now one of the four provinces of Galicia, the
province of A Corua.
Then what was the port of the Artabrians? The largest harbor of all of
Galicia, actually a system of several harbors, is A Corua, hidden away from
the Atlantic Ocean in the estuary named after the city, Ra da Corua, see
Illustrations 1 and 2.

Illustration 1. Harbor cities of Galicia (copied from Google Earth)

10 Theo Vennemann

Illustration 2. Ra da Corua with harbors of A Corua (copied from Google Earth)

Strabo says: The Artabrians have many thickly-peopled cities on that gulf
which the sailors who frequent those parts call the Harbour of the Artabrians
(3.3.5). I think there cannot be much doubt that the Harbour of the Arta-
brians, the port of the Artabrians, was the best protected harbor on the Ga-
lician coast, the harbor inside the Ra da Corua, hidden behind the pen-
insula (cf. Illustration 3):
The Roman town of Brigantium (La Corua) developed on a protected harbour on
the side of a rocky promontory joined to the mainland by a sand bar. The Roman
lighthouse, La Torre de Hrcules, was built at the north-west extremity of the
headland. (CUNLIFFE 2001: 383)

The excellence of the harbor of A Corua is evident from a 19th century

description (WILLKOMM 1855: 331):
Die Stadt la Corua ist einer der Hauptpltze des spanischen Seehandels. Sie ver-
dankt dies ihrem prachtvollen, gerumigen, gegen alle Strme gesicherten Hafen, der
eine weite, von malerischen Granitfelsen umschlossene Bucht ist.
[The city of La Corua is one of the major places of the Spanish sea trade. It owes
this to its splendid, spacious, storm-safe harbor which is a wide bay enclosed by
picturesque granite rocks.]
An etymology for the name of A Corua 11

Illustration 3. The peninsula of A Corua (copied from CUNLIFFE 2001: 383)

If we ask ourselves whose harbor this was in prehistoric times, who needed
it most, the answer must be: navigators for whom the northwestern tip of the
Hispanic peninsula was the last opportunity to fill their supplies with food
and water before leaving for their northern goals, for Armorica and the
British Isles (and perhaps further for extera Europae [the extreme parts of
Europe]12), possibly with a stop-over at Burdigala (Bordeaux); or when
returning from those quarters and reaching the Hispanic peninsula, eager to
replenish their supplies before continuing their journey to Cdiz and perhaps
into the Mediterranean. See Illustration 4.

Cf. Pliny, Naturalis Historia 2.71, with reference to Himilcos expedition to northern Europe
on the Atlantic route.
12 Theo Vennemann

1. Gesoriacum, 2. Burdigala, 3. Brigantium, 4. Gades

Illustration 4. Area of the Atlantic sea route from Cdiz to the Tin Islands (Britannia) (from
NAVEIRO 1991: 134)

Now Strabo, immediately continuing the above passage, tells us who those
navigators were that traveled between Cdiz and the Tin Islands:
. ([Strabo 1923]: 156, 157)
[Now in former times it was the Phoenicians alone who carried on this commerce
(that is, from Gades14), for they kept the voyage hidden from every one else.]

The Phoenicians alone: It would thus only be natural if the port of the
Artabrians, being actually the harbor of the Phoenicians of Cdiz on their
Atlantic Tin Route, was a point of utmost importance to the Phoenicians and
was therefore held by them, and known by its Phoenician name.

I.e. 1. Boulogne-sur-Mer, 2. Bordeaux, 3. A Corua, 4. Cdiz.
Lat. Gades (also Gadir, Gadis), Greek , Phoenic. hGdr, Gdr (i.e. h Gdr / Gdr, A
Gader) the wall, i.e. fortification (KRAHMALKOV 2000: GDR I, GDR II) the modern Cdiz.
Cf. LIPISKI (ed.) 1992: s.v. Gads.
An etymology for the name of A Corua 13

4. Cunliffe on Galicia in antiquity

Even though in popular descriptions such as travel guides, A Corua is in

some way or other connected to the Phoenicians15, I have not found any
serious attestation of such a connection, except for cited trading relations of
the city with the Phoenician or Punic south. I will at some length cite what
CUNLIFFE writes in his book Facing the Ocean, subtitled The Atlantic and its
peoples 8000 BC - AD 1500. He has much to say about Galicia and A Corua
and does mention the Phoenicians in his descriptions. If he had had any evi-
dence that the city had at any time been Phoenician he would certainly have
said so. First we read that the city was integrated into the trading networks
of the Bell Beaker period:
The local elites commanding the ports of Corua midway between the Tagus and the
Morbihan seem to have been able to benefit from the need of the maritime
entrepreneurs to break their long journey. The collection of callas beads from the
tomb of Monte da Mora, Savino, in the valley of the Mio is another reflection of
the movement of goods along the Atlantic routes. Together, these finds from the
north-western corner of Iberia show that the region was integrated into the exchange
networks, but recognizable imported material is rare. While it could be argued that
this indicates a low intensity of activity, it could simply be that other commodities,
no longer recognizable in the archaeological record, were more acceptable to the
local elites. (CUNLIFFE 2001: 232f.)

Then, in the chapter about the period of 1200 to 200 BCE, which includes the
Celtic expansions, he writes, in a section subtitled The Castros of Galicia:
The north-west corner of the Iberian Peninsula has long been recognized to have had
a highly characteristic culture, distinguishing it from the rest of the country. Simply
stated, the landscape is packed with defended settlements (castros) which occur in
their many thousands between Coimbra in the south and Santander in the north. ...
The density is at its most extreme in the north-west corner, in the Spanish province
of Galicia.
The settlements represent occupation over a long period of time, beginning in the
Late Bronze Age, at the start of the first millennium, and extending to well into the
Roman period to the early centuries of the first millennium AD. This long time-span
can be divided into three broad phases. [...] The third period begins with the Roman
military expeditions of Decimus Brutus, who campaigned through the southern part
of the region in 138-136 BC. This was followed by Julius Caesar's more wide-ranging
expeditions in 61-59 BC, during which he penetrated Galicia and captured the native
town of Brigantium (La Corua). The conquest of the north-west was finally

E.g. on the Internet site Tour Spain, Travel guides: History of La Corua, Spain where it
says, La Corua is an ancient city, founded by Hercules, according to local beliefs. Celts,
Phoenicians and Romans have occupied its port.
14 Theo Vennemann

completed by Augustus and his generals in the so-called Cantabrian wars of 29-19
BC.(CUNLIFFE 2001: 338f.)

We find trading relationships with the Phoenician and Punic ports of the
south mentioned for the first phase (c.1000-c.500 BC) and [cultural] ideas
continuing to come from the Punic south by sea for the second (c.500- c.140
BC), as well as the capture of A Corua by Caesar which shows that the city
must have been important when the millennium was nearing its end. But
nowhere does Cunliffe say or imply that the city actually was Phoenician or
Punic. The following passage characterizes the role of the city in the Roman
period, but there are good reasons for believing that similar conditions also
held for the centuries before the Roman conquest of Galicia:
The Atlantic routes used for long-distance shipping at the time would have involved
several ports of call. From Gades the first stopping-off point would probably have
been Olisippo (Lisbon). From there Flavium Brigantium (La Corua) could have been
made in a single haul. After this it was a choice of either sailing along the north coast
to the Gironde or braving the Bay of Biscay to make for a port somewhere in south-
western Armorica. If shorter sea passages were preferred a stop could be made in the
estuary of the Douro, at or near Oporto, and along the coast of Cantabria, perhaps at
Santander. In addition to long-distance traffic there would, of course, have been
coastal cabotage linking all the smaller estuaries and inlets. It was in this way that
pottery and a range of other items from Baetica and beyond found their way into the
coastal settlements of Galicia. (CUNLIFFE 2001: 383)

5. The Phoenician appearance of the location of A Corua

Yet even in the apparent absence of written or archaelogical evidence it is

safe to say that A Corua played a more important role in the history of the
Phoenicians of Carthage and Cdiz than merely as a port of call on the way
north. Looking at the map in Illustrations 2 and 3, we see the typical kind of
place sought by the Phoenicians for their trading purposes, described e.g. by
MARKOE (2003: 67): With few exceptions they lay on or near the coast,
easily reached by ship and easy to defend; preferred positions were islands
close to the coast, peninsulas, and necks of land, with protected anchoring-
places in bays, natural harbors, lagunes, and estuaries.16 On the map (cf.
Illustrations 2 and 3 above) we see exactly what can be described as an easily
defensible promontory with a sheltered beach on which ships could be drawn

Cf. the Internet site Phoenician colonies: The Phoenicians lacked the manpower and the
need to found large colonies as the Greeks did, and few of their settlements grew to any size.
The sites chosen were generally offshore islands or easily defensible promontories with
sheltered beaches on which ships could be drawn up.
An etymology for the name of A Corua 15

up. The entire location looks similar to that of Tharros, on the Sinis Penin-
sula, Sardinia, which is known for certain to have been a Phoenician and
Punic settlement; cf. Illustrations 5 and 6.

Illustration 5. The Sinis Peninsula, Sardinia (copied from the Internet site Sinis-Halb-

Illustration 6. The Sinis Peninsula, Sardinia, with Tharros (copied from Google Earth)

The copyright of this photograph is held by Hans Hillewaert.
16 Theo Vennemann

The peninsula of A Corua in particular looks like an excrescence of the

terra firma into the ocean, very much as the horn of a horned animal is an
excrescence of its head into the air. This seems to have been noticed before.
Thus, looking for evidence, I noticed the following passage in the Italian
version of the Internet page La Corua:
Altra teoria suppone una derivazione del toponimo Corua da Cornia attribuendolo
a corno geografico: anche la Cornovaglia, storica regione britannica avrebbe una
derivazione simile. La parola latina cornus deriverebbe a sua volta dal greco,
precisamente dalla parola Kerne: in effetti molti storici greci, come Esculapio e
Diodoro Siculo, parlano di una zona africana costiera chiamandola kerne da
(kras). Anche una parola celtica ha la stessa radice e stesso significato, kernyw.
[Another theory assumes a derivation of the toponym Corua from Cornia18,
attributing it to geographic corno [horn]: also la Cornovaglia [i.e. Cornwall], [name
of] a historical region of Britain, should have a similar derivation. The Latin word
cornus would in turn derive from the Greek19, namely from the word Kerne: in fact
many Greek historians, such as Aesculapius20 and Diodorus Siculus21, speak of an
African coastal area which they name kerne, from (kras). There exists also a
Celtic word with the same root and the same meaning, kernyw22.]

This Latin horn etymology does not loom prominently among the ety-
mologies for A Corua assembled on this Internet page, namely as the fourth
of five attempts; and it does not appear very well argued either. Indeed the
etymology is almost certainly incorrect: If the place was named with Latin
cornu horn, why did the Romans themselves change the name into Caro-
Also what is said in the above quotation about the African does not
appear correct: The place is not likely to be Greek in origin for the simple
reason that it was named by Phoenicians, as is evident from Hannos periplus
where the dicovery and naming are recorded:

Cornia is the name of a river in Tuscany. It is listed as one of several Italian toponyms under
the heading cornus corniolo in PELLEGRINI 1991: 335. It is not clear why the hydronym
is singled out for the argument above.
Latin cornus (more commonly corn; also cornum) horn, pair of horns; promontory,
mountain peak; blowpipe, etc. is generally viewed as being related to Gk. horn (and
its family) but not as being derived from it.
Asclepius of Tralleis?
Library of History 3.54.2.
Cf. Cornish Kernow Cornwall.
For Caronium see the quotation from ALBAIGS 1998 above as well as section 9 below.
An etymology for the name of A Corua 17
. 25.
(Hannos periplus 55r, cited from Aly 1927: 322, lines 35-41)
[Taking interpreters from them26, we sailed twelve days toward the south along a
desert, turning thence toward the east one days sail. There, within the recess of a bay
we found a small island, having a circuit of fifteen stadia; which we settled, and
called it Cerne27. (SCHOFF 1912: 4)]

What makes the name look Greek is the sad fact that the Punic original of
Hannos memoir is lost, with only a Greek translation surviving. This be-
came a likely source for the later Greek geographers, such as Diodor of
Sicily who compiled his Bibliotheca approximately 500 years after Hanno
wrote the memoir. Hanno himself mentions no reason for giving the settled
island this particular name; at least the Greek version, which is all we have,
does not contain any. But if Hanno was, for some reason, reminded of a horn
when choosing a name for the place he would naturally have derived it not
from Greek horn but from the horn word of his own native lan-
guage: Punic k. arn horn. Chances are that has nothing to do with the
horn concept.28

<> [with references]. (Alys footnote)
<> [with reference]. (Alys footnote)
Namely from the people living near the Lixus river.
The location of /Cerne used to be disputed but may no longer be. HENNIG (1944: 87n.)
cites the island of Fedallah on the Moroccan northwestern coast as an older assumption. He
himself considers the island silted up and locates it on the Seger-el-Hamra (Sagia el Hamra,
as-Sqiya al- amr(?), south of Cape Juby. SCHOFF (1912: 7, 8) identifies it with modern
Herne Island within the Rio de Oro at about 23 45' N. This is confirmed by LIVIO C.
STECCHINI on his Internet site The Voyage of Hanno: Most scholars identify Kerne with
the Island of Herne (23 50' N) in the Western Sahara, near the present town of Dakhla
(formerly Villa Cisneros). This identification is no doubt correct.
The identification of Cerne with modern Herne Island (cf. the preceding note) offers a perfect
reason for Hannos memoir not prompting horn to occur in the translation: As
Samuel Bochart was the first to recognize, the name Kerne derives from the Phoenician
Khernaa, meaning, the last habitation, corresponding to the Hebrew akharon; in Greek
mythology the river Acheron separates the last habitation where the souls of the dead dwell,
from the land of the living. Hence Kerne became known as ultima Kerne among the Romans.
... This identification is no doubt correct, and serves to confirm Bocharts etymology; the
suggestion that the name Kerne/Herne may be derived from the Hebro-Phoenician qeren,
meaning horn, must be rejected, since the Hebrew koph could not be transformed into a soft
h, but a cheth could. This argument appears valid to me, even if Greek Acheron is left
outside; according to FRISK (1973: s.v. ), this name of several rivers (one of them
mythical) may be explained within Indo-European.
18 Theo Vennemann

Greek horn does occur in Hannos periplus, though not in con-

nection with /Cerne but as the name of a bay:

(Hannos periplus 55v, cited from Aly 1927: 323, lines 67-70)
[Having taken in water there, we sailed along the shore for five days, until we came
to a great bay, which our interpreters said was called Horn of the West.
(SCHOFF 1912: 4)]

Here quite obviously is part of a Greek loan translation,

, of the Punic name the translator found in the periplus, which must
itself have been a loan translation of what the Lixite interpreters were offered
as the native African name of the bay. SCHOFFs Horn of the West merely
carries the translation process to the fourth level.
Horn of the West may appear strange as a name for a bay. The name
may have spread to the bay from one of the two capes which typically mark
a bays ends, and Horn of the West feels very much like the name of a cape.
Or horn is used metaphorically for the curved appearance of a bay. On the
Internet site The voyage of Hanno, , translated as Western
Horn, is quietly taken to be the name of a cape: The Western Horn must be
Cape Palmas, the beginning of the Gulf of Guinea. This identification, if
correct, offers support for my Punic The Horn interpretation of A Corua29,
cf. Illustration 7.
Further down in the periplus, a bay named Horn of the South
is mentioned.30 This is accepted on the Internet site The voyage of Hanno as
the name of something resembling a bay more closely than a cape: The
Southern Horn must be the great estuary of the Gabon. Cf. Illustration 8. But
I consider it likely that the Horn of the South was one of the capes defining
the estuary and was merely used also to identify what appeared to be a bay.31

See section 7 below.
Hannos periplus 56r, Aly 1925: 324, lines 88f.; SCHOFF 1912: 5.
In connection with the concepts of coasts and horns, it is tempting to bring into play
Corniche/corniche, name and appellative seemingly containing corn- horn, for a (type of)
coastal road. However, Corniche is borrowed French route corniche road on a ledge,
corniche itself being borrowed Italian cornice, which was, already in Vulgar Latin, folk-
etymologically confused with cornix crow. This explanation thus points in a different
direction: Italian cornice is explained with Lat. cornis curved, bent, in particular the curly
colophon at the end of a document, itself from Greek , related to Lat. corna
crown, Greek wreath, crow, Engl. crow. (Cf. GAMILLSCHEG 1969: s.v. corniche
1, WALDE/HOFMANN 1982: s.v. corna, FRISK 1973: s.v. ).
An etymology for the name of A Corua 19

Illustration 7. The Horn of the West mirroring A Corua (copied from Google Earth)

Illustration 8. The Horn of the South? (copied from Google Earth)

20 Theo Vennemann

6. More on Horns in geography

A cape resembling that of A Corua, though on a much more modest scale,

is that of the Swiss community of Romanshorn, on the southern coast of Lake
Constance, cf. Illustration 9.

Illustration 9. Romanshorn (copied from Google Earth)

The name, first mentioned in 779 as Rumanishorn32, most probably means

Romans Cape or Romans Cape. As is to be expected, there occur inter-

Cf. the internet site Romanshorn and NIEMEYER (ed.) 2012: s.v.
An etymology for the name of A Corua 21

pretations in which other meanings of Horn are adduced33 and in which the
first constituent is interpreted as the name of a specific, though unidentified
person. The correct, namely geographic etymology is implicit in the fol-
lowing passage on the Internet site Hafenstadt Romanshorn:
Das Drfchen ... mit seinen niedrigen Fischerhtten am Fusse der Kirche schien nie
gross ins Rampenlicht der Geschichte zu gelangen. Dies nderte sich im 19. Jahr-
hundert mit einem Schlag, als die verkehrstechnisch gnstige Lage auf dem Horn am
See entdeckt und Hafenanlagen gebaut sowie Strassen ins Hinterland erstellt wurden.
[The little village with its low fishermens abodes at the foot of the church did not
appear ever to be able to reach the limelight of history. This changed in a flash when
in the 19th century its excellent transport location on the horn at the lake was re-
cognized and port installations were built and roads to the hinterland constructed.]

The horn at the lake relates Romanshorn to its cape in Lake Constance
exactly as the horn at the Ocean would relate A Corua to its cape in the
Atlantic. The geographic interpretation of the -horn constituent finds
strong support in NIEMEYER (ed.) 2012: s.v.:
P[ersonen]N[ame] Rmn(us) + App[ellativum] horn: Landzunge eines Mannes
namens Rmn(us). ... Horn und Hrnli finden sich als Simplex und als G[rund]-
w[ort] hufig fr die Bez[eichnung] von Landzungen am Bodensee und Untersee.
[Personal name Rmn(us) + appellative horn: headland of a man named R-
mn(us). ... Horn [Horn] and Hrnli [Little Horn] are frequently found, both as sim-
plexes and as head constituents, in designations of headlands at Lake Constance and
at Untersee [Lower Lake].]

One such headland with a simplex name is the Horn in Constance, locally
also named Hrnle, see Illustration 10.

E.g., on the Internet site Romanshorn und Salmsach Namen und Wappen, the -horn part
of the name is interpreted literally or with a musical metaphor: Beim vorderen Teil des
Namens drfte es sich um das Adjektiv Romanus handeln: Rmisch. Im klassischen Latein
wrde es also heissen: Romanus [sic] cornu. Nun gab es mit dieser Bezeichnung allerdings
ein militrisches Musikinstrument fr das Signal zum Angriff in einer Schlacht. ... Oder war
es doch das Horn eines Tieres? Am wahrscheinlichsten war es ein Signalhorn eines
rmischen Wachpostens. [The first constituent of the name is most likely the adjective
Romanus Roman. In Classical Latin it would thus be Romanu[m] cornu. There existed a
military musical instrument with this name for the signal to attack in battle. ... Or was it
simply the horn of an animal? Most probably it was the signaling horn of a Roman sentinel.]
22 Theo Vennemann

Illustration 10. The Horn (Hrnle) in Constance (copied from the Internet site Konstanz,
Hrnle, Bilder)

This not only shows that horn words can be used with the meaning head-
land34 but even that they occur with this very meaning as simplexes which
is, as will be seen directly, precisely the fundamental assumption in my
etymology of A Corua.35
The worlds best known Horn is undoubtedly the Horn of Africa. The
name Horn of Africa applies to the entire eastern part of Africa, a peninsula
jutting hundreds of kilometers into the Indian Ocean and including the
countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Eritrea as well as, probably, the
Land of Punt known from Egyptian records and the Hebrew Bible.36 It is

Stephen Laker writes (e-mail of 29 June 2015): The use of Horn in this way seems very
likely, and indeed it is similar in type to formations with HEAD (e.g. Flamborough Head) and
NESS nose (e.g. Kettleness). How very likely such use of the horn word is is neatly shown
by the English, Dutch, German, and Italian names of Zlatni Rat, a headland on the south
coast of the Croatian island of Bra, Golden Horn, Gouden Hoorn, Goldenes Horn, Corno
dOro, even though Dalmatian rat, Standard Croatian rt, literally means spit (of land),
promontory, as I was kindly pointed out by Prof. Mirko Gojmerac (University of Zagreb);
cf. the versions of the Internet page Zlatni Rat.
Horn-shaped objects occur in other geographical domains as well, e.g. in names of
mountains. The best-known example may be the Matterhorn in the Alps, on the border
between Switzerland and Italy. In the German Alps there is a mountain range named
Hrnergruppe [Horns Group] with Riedberger Horn, Rangiswanger Horn, Sigiswanger Horn,
Bolsterlanger Horn, Ofterschwanger Horn (plus two mountains named with Kopf [Head] as
a name base). The Golden Horn, Greek , is a seven kilometer long horn-shaped
inlet of the Bosporus in Byzantium/Istanbul (Turkish Hali inlet, bay), which is, according
to legend, named after the nymph the horn-shaped one, mother of , the
founder of the city.
Cf. the Internet site Horn of Africa.
An etymology for the name of A Corua 23

clearly not a horn of the geographic kind exemplified above. However, the
easternmost point of the Horn of Africa37, and hence of the entire continent,
is prececisely such a horn (cf. Illustration 11), resembling in particular the
A Corua headland (cf. Illustrations 2 and 3 above) and Hannos Horn of the
West (Illustration 7). The name may have generalized from the horn in the
narrower sense to the entire peninsula.

Ilustration 11. Ras Hafun, the easternmost part of the Horn of Africa (copied from Google

The promontory is named Ras Hafun (Cape Hafun) for the major town of the
area (c. 13,000 inhabitants).38 In antiquity it was named Cape of Spices for
the main trading good, especially cinnamon.39 Hafun is identified with the
ancient trading port of Opone (Greek ).
Pottery found in Oponean tombs date back to the Mycenaean Kingdom of Greece that
flourished between the 16th and 11th century BC. Its major periods of activity were
during the 1st century BC and the 3rd to the 5th centuries AD. Opone was mentioned
by an anonymous Greek merchant in the 1st century CE Periplus of the Erythraean
Sea. ... Opone served as a port of call for merchants from Phoenicia, Egypt, Greece,
Persia, Yemen, Nabataea, Azania, the Roman Empire and elsewhere.40

C. 60 kilometers south of Cape Guardafui.
Cf. the Internet sites Hafun and Ras Hafun.
Cf. the Internet site Hafun (German version).
Cf. the Internet site Opone.
24 Theo Vennemann

The Phoenicians in particular must be assumed to have known the place

at least since their clockwise circumnavigation of Africa by commission of
pharaoh Necho II (610 - 595 BCE)41, but probably much earlier because this
very commission shows that in Nechos days the Phoenicians were assumed
to know Africa best. But their name for Ras Hafun is unknown; perhaps it
was their Horn of the East.

7. The Phoenician appearance of the name A Corua

In section 5 it is shown that the peninsula of A Corua is exactly the kind of

site sought by the Phoenicians. But it is not just the location of A Corua that
looks Phoenician; it is also its name that sounds Phoenician, or at least
reads Phoenician. Written the Phoenician way (transliterated with Latin
letters), i.e. by rendering only the consonantal skeleton, the name A Corua
would be k. rn.42
Whereas this may so far merely look like an idle game, in reality it is not.
It is not because this way we may find a Phoenician expression with a mean-
ing, which we could then submit to the Realprobe in order to see if we have
found a suitable name for the place. Dividing the skeleton k. rn the way the
Phoenician name of Cdiz, Gdr, is divided43, namely as K. rn, we receive,
as a name, a perfect definite noun phrase with a well-attested meaning: Punic
k. rn means the horn (KRAHMALKOV 2000: s.vv. , QRN 1). This would, of
course, be an expression with perfect semantics for a protruding piece of land
like the peninsula of A Corua.44
But also the syntactic, morphological, and phonological form of the ex-
pression speak in favor of this reconstruction. In Phoenician, as well as in
early Punic, the definite article is preposed to its noun, as it is in Galician and

Cf. the Internet site The circumnavigation of Africa.
The emphatic velar plosive is in Semitic studies also transliterated as q; thus, many would
write qrn instead of k. rn. An alternative reconstruction would be krn. But this has no
interpretation in Phoenician.
Cf. note 14 above.
The same Realprobe could, of course, have been made on the basis of Lat. corn horn, cf.
the altra teoria cited in section 5 above. For some reason the authors of that page abstained
from performing it. Concerning the similarities between the horn words in Indo-European
and Semitic, there are four different views: (1) that those words are unrelated, (2) that they
are inherited from an ursprache common to both Indo-European and Semitic (the nostratic
view), (3) that the Semitic word was borrowed from Indo-European, (4) that the Indo-
European word was borrowed from Semitic. For the present purpose it is immaterial which
view is correct. Personally I side with (4), cf. VENNEMANN 2006: 158 [2012: 518].
An etymology for the name of A Corua 25

Castilian. In Phoenician and Punic it is spelled h and pronounced [ha(n)],

with the -n either dropping or assimilating, depending on the onset of the fol-
lowing noun, everything incidentally exactly as in Biblical Hebrew. Be-
ginning in the 5th century BCE, the unaspirated form of the definite article
h- [i.e., ], peculiar to Punic, is used in free distribution with h- (KRAH-
MALKOV 2000: s.v. ). The vocalization is known from Hebrew as well as,
more directly, from Latin renderings of Punic noun phrases, where the article
is spelled a- (also, with indication of vowel reduction, e-, i-, y-), cf. KRAH-
MALKOV 2001: 86-88.
The vocalization of k. rn in Northwestern Semitic is known from Arabic
and Hebrew to have been k. arn-, in Hebrew pronounced +[k. Nrn], owing to the
retracting effect of the emphatic /k. /. After the loss of case inflection in
Hebrew the word was monosyllabic, +k. arn; the singular became, with the
anaptyxis of the segholate nouns, +k. aren, pronounced [k. NrDn] in pausal or
terminal position, in non-terminal position with vowel harmony [k. DrDn].45
Phoenician does not have the segholate anaptyxis of Hebrew (FRIEDRICH/
RLLIG 1999: 75a, KRAHMALKOV 2001: 32), hence k. arn would remain
monosyllabic in Phoenician. In Punic, however, anaptyxis does begin to
occur in the neighborhood of r, and in Late Punic this anaptyxis, recogniz-
able by the insertion of the letters for the pharyngeal or the laryngeal ,
occurs more frequently; FRIEDRICH/RLLIG (1999: 96.c) specifically use
an example containing the horn word: Balcaranensis Bal mit den zwei
Hrnern [Bal with the two horns] ... [i.e.] bal-qarnm > -qaranm. Since
the Hebrew horn word shows the retraction of a next to emphatic conso-
nants, and this kind of retraction is also a feature of Phoenician (FRIE-
DRICH/RLLIG 1999: 75c), we may assume that the Phoenician pronuncia-
tion of k. arn tended in the direction of [k. Nrn], perhaps with anaptyxis of a
neutral vowel, hence [k. arcn] / [k. Nrcn], possibly subject to harmonic assimi-
lation, [k. aran] / [k. NrNn]. The re-traction of /a/ by /k. / does not seem to have
been regular, or very strong, because it was not registered in the Latin
rendering of k. arn as -caran- (cf. Balcaranensis).

The accented first vowel is allophonically lengthened in [k. NrDn] and [k. DrDn].
26 Theo Vennemann

The name a K. arn, phonetically perhaps [()ak. k. arcn] etc.46, seems to me

a rather promising starting point for developments leading to the Latin,
medieval, and modern forms of the name, Caronium, Coronium, Corunium,
(A) Crunia and A Corua, considering the posibility that the original form
was colored in the language of the Artabrians (possibly a Celtic dialect) and
had to be adjusted to the language of the Romans.47 That r metathesizes with
an adjacent vowel is an often observed phenomenon, and so is anaptyxis in
consonant clusters containing r. The addition of new terminations, such as
Latinizing -i-um and -i-a, in language shifting is likewise an often observed
kind of name modification; it is called head addition, a special case of the
more general toponymic change type of head renewal (cf. VENNEMANN
1999: 2.1.d).48 The addition of head material at the end of the name would
move the accent to the anaptyctic vowel between the r and the n, in
accordance with the Latin stress rule; this in turn would make the old root
vowel between the k. c [k] in Romance and the r subject to reductive
assimilation and to syncope.
It is also quite likely that the original name had a specifier following the
horn part, as in Hannos Horn of the West and Horn of the South and in
the modern name of the Horn of Africa, which in Arabic is called al-k. arn al-
afrk. .49 Perhaps A Corua was the third of the major Punic landmarks on

The gemination of the initial consonant would be induced by the article ha, whose earlier
final -n assimilated to the following onset. This kind of sandhi rule is well known in
Romance linguistics from the Italian raddoppiamento sintattico. In Iberian Romance all
geminates were simplified. In Phoenician and Punic, geminates were spelled with the single
consonant letter, even accross syntactic boundaries.
MARCOS ROMN PRIETO asks in his e-mail of 1 April 2015 whether a Phoenician name a
K. armn would not have yielded Latin Acaronium rather than Caronium (etc.). I think it might
have, but did not have to. (1) The name may have been used both with and without the article
from the beginning, if my proposal is correct that the name originated in a form with a
definite specifier, the form with the article only originating a posteriori when the specifier
began being omitted (see farther below). (2) The Romans may have learned the name
(probably long before they conquered the place) from somebody who understood the
Phoenician grammar of the name and dropped the article when Latinizing the name. (3) The
unstressed a- may have been deleted in ordinary aphaeresis (type Lat. abbatia > Ital. badia).
Such modifications may have been invited at least in part by the original morphological form
of the name: Looking at the map in Illustration 3, the impression may be that of a pair of
horns or of several horns, of unequal size; the dual and plural would have been +k. arnem (<
k. arnayim) in Punic, cf. Hebrew k. arnayim (LEVIN 1995: 29, KRAHMALKOV 2001: 121). Cf.
the dual in the Balcaranensis example above. But since all toponymic parallels are based on
a horn word in the singualar, I will not pursue these alternatives.
This geographic use of k. arn horn also in Arabic was kindly pointed out to me by Rolf
Bergmann (e-mail of 20 April 2015).
An etymology for the name of A Corua 27

the Atlantic coast: the Horn of the North, +K. rn h S. pwn (Hebr. +K. eren has.
S. afn50), simplified to h K. rn, K. rn, because on the northern route no
confusion was likely.51 The assumption of such a simplification would
elegantly explain the occurrence of the definite article in front of the noun,
because with a definite specifier such as h S. pwn or S. pwn (of) the North,
the head of the noun phrase would not normally itself also be accompanied
by an article of its own in Phoenician52: K. rn h S. pwn 6 h K. rn would be an
expectable development within the grammatical bounds of Phoenician.
However, in Punic the rule was not followed very strictly any more, so that
K. rn S. pwn and K. rn could have co-existed, further simplifying the
deletion of the specifier.53
As to the sound structure of the early Latin form of the name, Caronium
reflects the Punic phonological /ak. k. arn/ I am proposing even more directly
than my more phonetically oriented [()ak. k. Nrn] or [()a k. Nrcn]. The definite
article would not be represented in the Latin name, this not being a
grammatical device available in that language. As a matter of fact, that the
A preceding Crua, Corua, etc. had in pre-Roman times been an article was
probably forgotten for a lengthy part of the Roman and Romance times of
Galicia; it only became an article again when this device developed in the
Romance languages of the Peninsula, mainly from forms of the Latin
demonstrative ille/illa/illud. Only when the feminine singular form illa(m)

Cf. Hebr. aar has. S. afn Gate of the North, North Gate (Ezekiel 40,35). pwn north
occurs in Phoenician encapsulated in the name BLPN, BL PN (Baal apon) [Lord of
Mount Saphon, literally Lord of the North], cf. Krahmalkov 2000: s.v. BLPN.
A famous example of such simplification is Constantinopolis City of Constantinus, which
the Greeks simply called Bulin City in the Middle Ages and call (i Pli, the City)
now. The prepositional phrase (or rather , , with
in, into) yielded the name forms Istanbul, Stambul. In an e-letter of 23 March 2015,
Lutz Edzard offers the following parallel: al-Madnah (known in the West as Medina) means
the City in Arabic; its full name is al-madnah al-munawwarah the enlightened City,
alternatively madnat an-nab or madnatu n-nab the City of the Prophet. Informally such
shortenings are quite common, e.g. the City for New York City and the Isles for the British
Isles. Note in particular the usage described on the Internet site Cape of Good Hope: As
one of the great capes of the South Atlantic Ocean, the Cape of Good Hope has long been
of special significance to sailors, many of whom refer to it simply as the Cape.
Cf. the examples in FRIEDRICH/RLLIG 1999: 220: dy h-s. d der Rest des Fleisches [the
rest of the meat], bt b-y das Haus meines Vaters [the house of my father], s. d s. rn die Flur
von Saron [the fields of Saron] (names are inherently definite), ers a-helicot / irs a-elichot
die Scherbe der Gastfreundschaft [the shard of (the) hospitality (abstract nouns are
accompanied by the definite article)].
Cf. KRAHMALKOV 2001: 89.
28 Theo Vennemann

had been shortened into a in early medieval Galician could A Crua etc. be
re-understood as bearing an article, which in Castilian then had to appear as
La. Perhaps it was this interpretation of the traditional A of the name that
caused the name to acquire its feminine termination -(i)a, now -()a, by
way of head renewal. Without this adjustment the name would probably have
become A Coruo (or Acoruo, Acruo, perhaps O Coruo).

8. A Corua / +a K. arn: a Phoenician foundation?

If A Corua has a Phoenician name, it seems a natural consequence that the

place was a Phoenician foundation, or at least for some time a Phoenician
possession. A possible connection of A Corua to the Phoenicians has been
mentioned in the literature, but only in passing and without much support.
In RING et al. (eds.) it says, unfortunately without a specific reference:
Reputedly founded by Phoenician traders and later occupied by Roman and Moslem
settlers, La Corua (Corunna in English) is most famous in modern times for the
strategic importance of its harbor, which has proven a gateway of conquest for forces
invading and leaving the Iberian peninsula. ... It was once generally agreed that La
Corua was first settled by Phoenicians, though new evidence suggests the possibility
of more ancient Celtic origins. (Ring et al. [eds.] 1995: s.v. La Corua [p. 163])

And in the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica54:

Corunna, possibly at first a Phoenician settlement, is usually identified with the
ancient Ardobrica, a seaport mentioned by the 1st-century historian, Pomponius
Mela, as in the country of the Artabri, from whom the name of Portus Artabrorum
was given to the bay on which the city is situated. ... The harbour has always been of
considerable importance.

Without explanation, the contemporary Encyclopaedia Britannica does not

refer to the possibility of a Phoenician origin of A Corua any more, and
concerning its oldest names it now says: Under the Romans, A Corua was
the port of Brigantium, but its present name is probably derived from
Coronium, the name by which it was known in the Middle Ages.55 No

Viz. on the Internet site 1911 Encyclopdia Britannica/Corunna (city).
Cf. the Internet site Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Corua. The name form Coronium also
occurs in SCHERER 1703: 4: Among the cities in the Regnum Gallaeciae is listed Corunna
Coronium, oppidum elegans cum portu capaci & duobus castris [Corunna Coronium, an
exquisite city with a capacious harbor and two fortresses]. Also in KRAFT 1825: 1241:
Corunna, Coronium -i n[euter]. Nowhere in these works is the ultimate source of this name
form revealed.
An etymology for the name of A Corua 29

etymology is provided either for the 1911 Caronium or for the present
editions Coronium.
Concerning the role of the Phoenicians in A Corua, Wikipedia is di-
vided. For example, the English version does not mention them, but the Ger-
man version says:
Der natrlich geschtzte Hafen von La Corua wurde von den Phniziern, Kelten und
spter den Rmern genutzt. Diese errichteten um 110 n. Chr. im damaligen
Ardobicum Corunium den Herkulesturm.
[The naturally protected harbor of La Corua was used by the Phoenicians, the Celts,
and later the Romans. The latter erected the Tower of Hercules about 110 CE in what
was then called Ardobicum Corunium.]

Similarly WILLKOMM 1855: 331:

La Corua soll von den Phniziern gegrndet und im J[ahre] 693 vor Christo in den
Besitz der Rmer gekommen und von diesen Ardobicum Corunium genannt worden
[La Corua is supposed to have been founded by the Phoenicians and to have been
taken possession of by the Romans in 693 BCE56 and named Ardobicum Corunium by

EMILIO NIETO BALLESTER57 declares himself skeptical about the likelihood

of a Phoenician origin of the name, because [place-names have to be studied
within their environments and, of course] there [is] no Phoenician toponymy
in Galicia. I do not consider this a strong argument. According to my
proposal, the Phoenicians were only interested in the location of A Corua
as a stronghold on their Atlantic route to the North. This does not require that
there are other places in Galicia named by them. Another reason one might
be skeptical about the assumption of a Phoenician origin of A Corua is the
fact that archaeologists have not discovered a Phoenician settlement. But, as
is well known, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence:
Settlement excavations have been hindered by the existence of modern cities built
over many of the ancient sites. For example, the coastal island site of Gadir/Gades,
one of the most important and largest (at an estimated ten hectares) of all Phoenician
colonies in Iberia, lies buried under modern Cdiz. However, excavations and survey
work in recent years have dramatically increased the quantity and quality of
information about Phoenician settlements. (DIETLER/LPEZ-RUIZ 2009: 300)

This is, of course, an impossible date.
In an e-mail of 14 September 2015.
30 Theo Vennemann

It is also worth considering that archaeological evidence for Phoenician

activities is not really absent from Galicia, and from A Corua in particular.
E.g., numerous indications for a Phoenician/Punic presence in the Hispanic
northwest are provided in GONZLEZ-RUIBAL 2004. To illustrate this with
just two quotations: In Museo do Mar alone, around 2000 Punic sherds have
been recorded (V. Carams, pers. comm.). In Romariz, 25 per cent of the
pottery from the lower levels, datable to the fifth and fourth centuries BC, is
Punic (page 296, with reference to SILVA 1999: 119). The bay of A Corua
has yielded plentiful Punic amphorae (page 300, with reference to NAVEIRO
LPEZ 1982).58
Then there is the Tower of Hercules. The very name of the light-house is
revealing. The Romans may have built the tower as it stands; but what was
there before? And why is it named for Hercules? Why is there an apparently
ancient association of the city with Hercules? The Latin Hercules is the
Greek Heracles, and Heracles is the interpretatio Graeca of the Phoenician
Melqart, i.e. Milk-qart King of the City, originally of Tyre, who however
was venerated throughout the Mediterranean world from Syria to Spain
(LIPISKI [ed.] 1992: s.v.).59 Thus it is likely to have been the Phoenician and
Punic Melqart who was connected to A Corua by legend.60 That the tower
mirrored the light-house of Alexandria (cf. KRAPPE 1931) and thus signaled
a relation to the eastern (Phoenician) world is also stressed by MORALEJO
(2008: 63) when he mentions

Cf. also NAVEIRO LPEZ 1991: 24-26. NAVEIRO LPEZ (1991) most impressively illustrates
the role A Corua played in the navegain de altura [deep-sea shipping] of Antiquity with
his maps on pages 134 and 263. The map on page 134 (see Illustration 4 in section 3 above)
in particular expresses graphically what GONZLEZ-RUIBAL (2004: 310ff.) formulates in the
following words: Brigantium modern A Corua [...], as we have seen, was already used
as a port-of-trade in the fourth century BC and it has continued to be a key point in Atlantic
navigation until modern times. Its importance was due to its role as a port of call in the
journey to north-western Europe and the limes [Germany]. [...] Ships leaving from Gadir
necessarily had to stop in Brigantium before crossing the Ocean. Naveiro Lpez map on
page 263 marks A Corua as the only port for deep-sea shipping in the entire Hispanic
Cf. the following passage from the Internet site Melqart:
The name of Melqart was invoked in oaths sanctioning contracts, ..., thus it was
customary to build a temple to Melqart, as protector of Tyrian traders, in each new
Phoenician colony: at Cdiz, the temple to Melqart is as early as the earliest vestiges of
Phoenician occupation. (The Greeks followed a parallel practice in respect to Heracles.)
Cf. RING et al. (eds.) 1995: s.v. La Corua [p. 163]: Local legend maintains it [the Tower
of Hercules] was built by the Phoenicians.
An etymology for the name of A Corua 31
Nabucodonosor y su conquista de Tiro y consiguiente control de sus colonias, es
decir, podramos tener aqu un eco remotsimo de la presencia en Gallaecia de los
fenicios, cuyo Melkart se hace Heracles griego, Hercules latino, en ms de un lugar.
[Nebuchadnezzar [II] and his conquest of Tyre and subsequent control of her
colonies, that is to say, we could have here a very distant echo of the presence in
Galicia of the Phoenicians, whose Melkart becomes the Greek Heracles, the Latin
Hercules, in more than one place].

9. The Latin name of A Corua

As to the variation of Latin or medieval names of A Corua, the Corunium,

Coronium, Caronium found in various places, I have not seen a reference
leading to the original source.
The Tabula Peutingeriana (reconstructed first segment, cf. RATHMANN
2016: 9) has no name in the area of A Corua resembling Caronium or the
like; in the index of the Internet site Tabula Peutingeriana, the map
location Bricantia, marked by a picture of a light-house, is identified as A
Corua. The space between Bricantia and Luco Astorum is empty.
Not so the Antonine Itinerary.61 There we find on one of two routes from
Bracara Augusta (now Braga) to Asturiaca (now Astorga), namely the one
per loca maritima [the coastal area], the following sub-sequence of stations:
Trigundo mpm XXII, Brigantium mpm XXX, Caranico62 mpm XVIII, Luco
Augusti mpm XVII (PARTHEY/PINDER 1848: 204). Here the order of
appearance and the number of miles are likely not all to be correct; also the
identification of Brigantium is a matter of dispute, as will be seen in the next
section. Luco Augusti is present-day Lugo. Caranico is generally identified
as a place to the southeast of Brigantium / A Corua in the direction of
Lugo.63 The derivational form of the name may suggest that the place was
named for its connectedness to A Corua, as the place related to / belonging
to +Caranium / Caronium: +Caran-i-um 6 +Caran-ic-um, where the radical
caran- is Punic k. arn [k. arcn]. This interpretation of Caranico presupposes
that +Caranium/Caronium co-existed with Brigantium as a name for A

This is the form in the versions of the Itinerary that Parthey and Pinder follow. In the
apparatus they cite from one codex each the alternative forms carinico and caronico.
Cf. the map in SEZ TABOADA 2002: 403, where Caranico is identified with Pobra de Parga
32 Theo Vennemann

The source of the Latin (rather: Latinized) Caronium itself is most likely
Ptolemys (Geography II.6.23) and its Latin adaptations. The
English translation of Books I and II of the University of Oxford Text
Archive64 has Carronion.

10. A possible objection answered

The following question may be seen as damaging to the new etymology: If

the place was called Flavium Brigantium in Roman times (cf. NIETO
BALLESTER 1997: s.v.), how could a pre-Roman name for it survive and even
prevail? There are two answers in defense of the proposal.
The first answer accepts the equation Flavium Brigantium = A Corua and
says that the name A K. arn survived as the name of a certain section of Flavium
Brigantium65 with developing vocalizations, namely as the name of the Horn
in the narrower sense, that part jutting away from the original settlement and
out into the Ocean, until the name surfaced in modern times as A Corua,
having been generalized to the entire settlement.66 This answer appears
plausible to me because even today the extreme part of the Horn is not
included in the settlement but is a separate area reserved for special purposes,
including the famous Promenade (Paseo Maritimo), see Illustration 12.

Illustration 12. A Corua: The Horn not entirely settled (copied from Google Earth)

Cf. the Internet site Ptolemys Geographia [Electronic resource]: Books I & II).
Cf. the same basic idea cited in the quotation from BOULLN AGRELO 2011 in section 2
This would be paralleled by the medieval name of A Corua, Faro (or Faro do Burgo),
generalized from the light-house, the Tower of Hercules, at the extreme point of the Horn,
cf. the Internet site A Corua.
An etymology for the name of A Corua 33

A variant of this answer would assume that the original name survived in
the non-official, non-Roman substrate languages of the city or the area, and
resurfaced when the official Roman nomenclature gave way to popular
naming habits. Antoniy Dimitrov67 supports this proposal with parallel
observations of his own:
Vgl. den Fall Philippopolis: Obwohl zwischen Philipp von Mazedonien und 1878 die
Stadt fast durchgehend offiziell anders hie (Philippopolis, Trimontium, Filibe [arab.
b fr p], hat sich der thrakische Name Pulpudeva im heutigen Plovdiv gehalten, auch
wenn in der Gegend mehrere Stdte ihre griechischen oder lateinischen und spter
slawischen und trkischen Namen erhielten und behaupteten. Thrakisch wird in der
Gegend von Plovdiv seit 1500 [Jahren] nicht mehr gesprochen und war lange davor
nicht mehr die dominante Sprache in diesem Gebiet.
Insbesondere lateinische Doppelnamen wie Ulpia Traiana fr die damalige Stadt
Serdika, heute Sofia, haben sich auf dem Balkan nicht halten knnen. Allerdings trgt
ein Bezirk der Stadt sowie die Stadtfestung immer noch den Namen Serdika.
[Compare the case of Philippopolis: Even though the city had different official names
almost continually between the time of Philipp of Macedonia and 1878 (Philippo-
polis, Trimontium, Filibe [Arab. b for p]), the Thracian name Pulpudeva has been
preserved in todays Plovdiv, even though several cities in the area clung to their
Greek or Latin and later Slavic and Turkish names. Thracian has not been spoken
in the area of Plovdiv for 1500 years and had not been the dominant language there
for a long period even before that time.
In particular, Latin name doublings such as Ulpia Traiana for what was then the
city of Serdica, now Sofia, have not been able to hold on in the Balkans. Neverthe-
less, a district of the city as well as the citys fortress still bear the old name Serdica.]

The second answer takes up a different view of the modern continuation of

Flavium Brigantium. This Roman city is not universally identified with A
Corua. An alternative hypothesis sees it continued in the town of Betanzos,
located on the Mandeo river near the head of the neighboring Ra de
Betanzos, to the east of the Ra da Corua, see Illustration 1 above. This
view, if correct, would eliminate the name Flavium Brigantium from A
Corua. The Roman name may then well have been an uncontested
Caronium, while the indigenous population continued prefixing the A, and
this name would eventually surface in the Middle Ages as Crua and A
Crua, and gradually stabilize in its modern form.68
In an e-mail of 26 April 2015.
The English version of the Internet site Betanzos gives the following description: In
Roman times Betanzos [was] called Carunium or Brigantium. During the Medieval period
the settlement was known as Carunio. However, in the German version it says: Der Ort
wurde frher mit dem rmischen Hafen Flavium Brigantium identifiziert, heute wird dieser
aber in A Corua lokalisiert. [The place used to be equated with the Roman harbor Flavium
34 Theo Vennemann

It seems, then, that no good reasons speak against my proposal that A

Corua started out as a Punic settlement named K. rn, A K. arn, phonetically
[()ak. k. arcn] or [()ak. k. Nrcn], The Horn, colloquially shortened from a
specified fuller (official) name such as +(H) K. rn h S. pwn Horn of the North;
it is a workable formal starting point for the development into Latin Caro-
nium (with its Latin and Mediaeval variants Coronium, Corunium, (A)
Curunia/Crunia/ Crua, etc.) and into the modern A Corua, and it is
semantically the best possible solution, because it passes the Realprobe.69
The non-linguistic application of my etymology just mentioned, viz. that
the site of A Corua was not only named but also founded or possessed by
Phoenicians, is not a trvial one. The question of how far north the Phoenician
sphere of influence reached is disputed. In a recent account of the Phoeni-
cians (MORSTADT 2015), the Carthaginian sphere of influence is stated to
have included the southern Iberian Peninsula (p. 28f.); no Phoenician places
north of Santa Olaia near Figueira da Foz in Portugal are mentioned in the
book (cf. pp. 138-143). Also AUBET (2001: 297) says: The most northerly
archaeological traces of a Phoenician presence that we know of come from
the Mondego valley, and in particular the indigenous hill forts of Conimbriga
[Coimbra] and Santa Olaia. Cf. also DIETLER/LPEZ-RUIZ (eds.) 2009 in
general and ARRUDA 2009: 114, 123 in particular; further BIERLING 2002.
A Corua is not mentioned in any of these books.70 However, Strabo
(Geography 3.5.11) says that the Phoenicians of Gades (Cdiz) controlled the

Brigantium, but nowadays the latter is localized in A Corua.] Likewise NIETO BALLESTER
(1997: s.v. Betanzos) does not seem to see any value in this equation:
Betanzos. 11.905 h[abitantes]. Ciudad coruesa junto a la confluencia de los rios Mendo
y Mandeo, en Las Marias. Muy importante en tiempos pasados. No hay etimologia
satisfactoria, aunque se ha sealado una relacin con Habitancium, en la Britannia
[Betanzos. 11.905 inabitants. City in the province La Corua close to the confluence of
the rivers Mendo and Mandeo, in Las Marias. Very important in the past. There exists
no satisfactory etymology, though a relationship with Habitancium, in Roman Britain
[now Risingham, Northumberland], has been suggested.]
I emphasize the Realprobe criterion here and throughout the article because a place-name
reconstructions harmonizing not only with the linguistic history of the place but also with
its material history and with its geography and physical appearance at the time of the names
origin is the only safeguard we have against armchair and dictionary etymologizing and
arbitrary decisions of all kinds. Demonstrating the importance especially of a places
geophysical character for an understanding of its name is one of the great achievements of
Margaret Gelling (cf. GELLING 1984, GELLING/COLE 2000).
A Corua is not even included in the 55 indigenous settlements that traded with the Phoeni-
cians, let alone the 16 Phoenician colonies, on the map Iberia in BIERLING 2002: xii.
An etymology for the name of A Corua 35

trade with the Tin Islands (most likely including tin-producing Cornwall),
and more recent authors concur with this, seeing the Phoenicians trading
fleets pushing into the Atlantic and the North Sea: The commerce with
Britain provided the Carthaginians with amber from Scandinavia, as well as
one of their most lucrative commodities: tin (BUNSON 2012: 113). In my
theory of the birth of Germanic, developed on quite independent grounds,
they traded with Jutland (VENNEMANN 2012: vii-ix). And if one asks why the
Phoenicians founded and named that northern harbor, the most plausible
answer is: to support the trade with their Britannic and Germanic colonies.
A Phoenician A Corua would move the border in the Hispanic peninsula
350 kilometers farther north.71

Concluding remark

Existing etymologies of the name of A Corua sought the explanation in lan-

guages known to have been spoken in the area, Celtic and Latin. In retrospect
this becomes recognizable as the wrong approach, not only because all those

FERNNDEZ OCHOA and MORILLO CERDAN (2013) summarize the Phoenician activities
beginning with Herodotus and Strabos reports of voyages to the Tin Islands, but they also
Los hallazgos fenicios y pnicos en la fachada atlntica de la Pennsula Ibrica, que se
remontan al siglo VI y son especialmente abundantes a partir del siglo IV a. C., avalaran
la existencia de un comercio mediterrneo a lo largo de todo este espacio martimo,
desde Cdiz y el sur de Portugal [...] hasta el territorio de los galaicos [...]. Pero dichos
testimonios se rarifican hasta casi desaparecer al este del cabo Estaca de Bares, lo que
descarta una continuacin de dicha ruta en aguas cantbricas en poca tan antigua. El
castro de Campa Torres, en la parte central del litoral asturiano, constituira el punto ms
oriental donde se documentan productos mediterrneos [...]. (FERNNDEZ OCHOA/
MORILLO 2013: 61f.)
[The Phoenician and Punic finds on the Atlantic faade of the Iberian Peninsula, which
go back to the 6th century BCE and are especially abundant from the 4th century onward,
would guarantee the existence of a Mediterranean commerce throughout this entire
maritime area, from Cdiz and southern Portugal [...] up to the territory of the Galicians
[...]. However, that very testimony rarifies and nearly disappears to the east of Cape
Estaca de Bares, which rules out a continuation of that route in Cantabrian waters in such
ancient times. The castle of Campa Torres, in the central part of the Asturian seaboard,
constitutes the easternmost point where Mediterranean products are found [...].]
A straightforward interpretation of these interesting findings is that the Phoenicians did not
use A Corua primarily as their harbor for eastward coastal cabotage but for deep-sea
shipping to their northern trading stations and colonies. The coastal situation east of A
Corua changed considerably in Roman times: The archaeologic excavations realized at La
Corua, Gijn, Santader, Castro Urdales and the Low Bidasoa area give new informations
about [the] urban and mercantil evolution of these centres (FERNNDEZ OCHOA/MORILLO
CERDAN 1994: 225).
36 Theo Vennemann

attempts did not lead to satisfactory results but primarily because in antiquity
the specific nameworthy features of a sea-oriented piece of land of the type
of the A Corua location attracted the attention of seafarers earlier than any-
body elses, and for a straightforward reason: The success of their naviga-
tional and commercial operations depended on reliable communication about
the dangerous as well as the economically attractive points along the coasts
they traveled, on sheltered beaches and safe harbors which were at the same
time easily defended should the need arise. PATRIZIA NOEL put it in a
Das Horn von Afrika drfte nicht aus der Landperspektive so heien, der globale
Blick auf die Form mag auch bei A Corua nicht von der Landbevlkerung
[The Horn of Afrika is not likely to have received its name seen from inside the dry
land; likewise in the case of A Corua the global aspect of its shape probably does
not stem from the land-living population.]

The etymology presented in the present article, arrived at by traditional

philological means, could also have been reached in the following seven steps,
simply by applying this piece of real-world wisdom: (1) The nature of the
object suggests that it was named by pre-Roman seafarers. (2) History
teaches us that those seafarers were Phoenicians. (3) The Phoenician seafarers
are known to have perceived and named geographical objects of the type
represented by A Corua as horns. (4) The horn in the Phoenician language
of the West is a k. ar[c]n. (5) A k. ar[c]n is reflected in one of two Latin names
of A Corua, Caronium. (6) Latin Caronium (for which the variants Coronium,
Corunium occur) is seen as the precursor of Corua in a standard reference
work, Albaigs 1998. (7) From this line of thought it follows that West
Phoenician +A K. ar[c]n The Horn is the oldest name of the place, the etymon
which, despite language shifts and language change, is still perceptible in the
present name A Corua. This is not exactly a summary of my article, but it
succinctly presents its nucleus, the new etymology.

In an e-mail of 4 September 2015. Similarly in an e-mail of 11 May 2015: Weist die Be-
zeichnung Horn nicht schon auf den Blickwinkel vom Gewsser vs. Landperspektive hin,
also auf ein primr seefahrerisches Interesse? Die Form ist ja fr den Landbewohner nicht
so wichtig wie fr den, der das Horn umschifft. [Doesnt the designation horn already
indicate the view from the water in contrast to the perspective from the dry land, i.e. a pri-
marily nautical interest? Surely the shape is less important for the land-dwellers than for
those sailing around the horn.] For this reason a derivation from Celtic + karn- horn (e.g.
Gaul. trumpet) is less likely and does not seem to have been suggested: The Celts
are not known to have traded on the Atlantic sea route between Cdiz and the Tin Islands.
An etymology for the name of A Corua 37


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An etymology for the name of A Corua 41
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Zlatni Rat,

Prof. Theo Vennemann gen. Nierfeld, Ph.D.

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt Mnchen
Institut fr Deutsche Philologie
Schellingstrae 3 RG
80799 Mnchen