Why does the word for New York look so weird?
So, my post on Corinna got a lot of support, so I thought I'd post something else cool about the names of the Latin language, that being why the word for New York (Novum Eboracum) is so strange. Obviously, New York didn't exist at the same time as Ancient Rome, so in order to talk about it in Latin, it had to invented.
First off, New York wasn't the first city named York, which is why it is the "new" York. Because of this, the Latin word for new (including it's gender) was placed in front of the Latin word for York.
But why does the word for York sound weird? Well, the city that is now modern day York was originally a Roman fort called Eboracum, which was a very large and important city in the province of Britannia of the time of Roman rule, a name that was ultimately derived from a Proto-Celtic word for "yew" (eburos) and "having" (akon), making the place literally called "having the yew tree." This was Latinized to better reflect Latin grammar and evolved slowly into the word we have today.
Actually, Eboracum was NOT the largest city in Britannia at any time during the Roman occupation.
The main town was Camulodenum, now called Colchester, with Londinium (London) second and Verulamium (St Albans) third. The size of the cities varied during the Roman occupation and there were several others in the southern part of Britannia that may have been as large as these at various times, but there is absolutely no doubt that Eboracum never came close in size or importance.
Eboracum (York) was the provincial capital for northern Britannia - a province that the Romans called Brigantes that was eventually bordered in the north by Hadrian's Wall. The Wall was built by the Romans not, as is commonly thought, to keep out the warlike Scots, but to control trade and to tax goods coming in and out of Britannia across the northern border.
Eboracum was a 'colonia'. The highest status a Roman town could have. It was also for a time the capital of the Western empire under Septimius Severus and the site of an imperial palace. Two Roman emperors died there and two were proclaimed emperor there, including arguably the most important man in European history, Constantine the Great. (There is an amazing statue of him by the minster). Whether or not it was ever as big as Colchester or London, to say it never 'came close' in importance to those towns is untrue.