Thames Bank, SW14

Place Name

Literal, this is laid out alongside the River Thames. The origins for the name of the Thames are ancient and have long been lost and so have given rise to numerous theories. It was first recorded as Tamesis in 51BC in the writings of Julius Caesar. More than a century and a half later, in AD115, it was called Tamesa. By AD683 it was Temis, and Temes in AD843. The most obvious – but by no means certain – root is that it is of Celtic origin, from the word tam, which is thought to mean dark. Although David Mills in A Dictionary of London Place Names suggests it may be even earlier: “a pre-Celtic (Old European) root *tā meaning ‘melt, flow, turbidly’, referring to muddy waters.” Caroline Taggart in The Book of London Place Names writes: “Also lost in the mists of time is the meaning of London’s most significant natural feature, the Thames. It… is of pre-Roman origin and may mean something as simple as ‘flowing’. A fairly basic name for a river, you might think, but then it would have been the only major one that the early inhabitants of London knew. Modern-day Londoners still refer to it as ‘the river’, as if it was the only one that existed or at least the only one that mattered, and this may well have been the rationale for the Celts of 2,000 and more years ago.” It almost certainly has the same root as many other British river names such as Thame, Tame, Tavy, Tamar, Team and Teme.



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