Dumnonii

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The Dumnonii or Dumnones were a British Celtic tribe who inhabited Dumnonia, the area now known as Devon in the farther parts of the South West peninsula of Britain, from at least the Iron Age up to the early Saxon period. They were bordered to the east by the Durotriges.

Contents

Tribal nomenclature

William Camden, in his 1607 edition of “Britannia”, describes Cornwall and Devon as being two parts of the same 'country' which:

“was in ancient time inhabited by those Britains whom Solinus called Dunmonii, Ptolomee Damnonii, or (as we find in some other copies) more truly Danmonii. ... . But... the Country of this nation is at this day divided into two parts, known by later names of Cornwall and Denshire [Devonshire] ... The near or hithermore region of the Danmonians that I spake of is now commonly called Denshire, [or] by the Cornish-Britains ‘Dewnan’, and by the Welsh Britains ‘Duffneint’, that is, ‘low valleys’, for that the people dwell for the most part beneath in Vales; by the English Saxons [it is known as] ‘Deven-schire’, whereof grew the Latin name ‘Devonia’, and by that contraction which the vulgar people useth, ‘Denshire’.”

William Camden had learnt some Welsh during the course of his studies and it would appear that he is the origin of the interpretation of Dumnonii as "deep valley dwellers" from his understanding of the Welsh of his time. An alternative derivation is from the Gaelic Domhnain which merely means "land" and leads to the meaning "people of the land", Latinised as Dumnonii. Another tribe with a similar name but with no known links were the Fir Domnann in the province of Connacht.

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