[From Manx Soc vol 30, 1880]



THE island of Man, or Mann, has a central and lonely position in the Irish Sea. Its area is about 145,325 acres. It is interesting as an ancient Principality still retaining traces of former distinction—interesting for its historic associations, archaic structures, language, and physical character.

It has been known by various appellations. Some of these are modifications of pre-existing names, and have, probably, assumed their present forms by reason of the uncertain information of the writers who employed them, or the imperfect transcription of their works.

Its supposed identity with Cæsar’s Mona has been inferred from his account of the position of that island. After mentioning the passage from Ireland into Britain, Cæsar says

" In hoc medio cursu est insula quæ appellatur Mona ; complures præterea minores objectæ insulæ existimantur."——l. v. 13. (" In the middle of this voyage is an island which is called Mona ; many smaller islands besides are supposed to lie there.") If Mann be the island here referred to, the description is not so applicable as it at first sight seems. Cæsar probably intended to describe the position of Mona, as that position would appear during a voyage from the eastern shores of Ireland to the southern coasts of Britain. In such a voyage Anglesey would, probably, be sighted ; but Mann would not, for it lies between the north of England and the north-east of Ireland, parts which were unknown to Cæsar. But he mentions the supposition that there were islands smaller than Mona in the direction in which that island lay. May not Mann have been one of such supposed islands?

The Mona of Tacitas is undoubtedly Anglesey, but what he wrote about it has, by Polydore Virgil, Hector Boetius, and other writers, been erroneously applied to Mann.

Buchanan affirms that Mann has been falsely called Mona. In reference to the Western Islands of Scotland, he says :— " Prima omnium est Mana, falso quibusdam dicta Mona." As to the opinion that Mann is the island referred to by Cæsar, Brown, in his " Dissertation about the Mona of Cæsar and Tacitus," appended to Sacheverell’s " Account of the Isle of Man," observes :—" What utterly destroys this opinion is, that by Mona all the rest of the ancient writers certainly mean Anglesey, and not the Isle of Man ; for so do Pliny and Dion, who only make mention of the name and no more ; and that Tacitus’s Mona is Anglesey is beyond all dispute. It is therefore probable that Julius Cæsar, who only visited the southern parts of Britain, might be mistaken in his relation, and appropriate that name to Man which belonged to Anglesey.1

Tacitus does not mention Mann, and if Cæsar referred to Mann he does not mention Anglesey. It may fairly be presumed that Tacitus knew to what island Cæsar had referred. He was doubtless conversant with, and held in high estimation, the works of Cæsar. He gives in his Germany (c. 28) a quotation from Cæsar’s Gallic War, and mentions him as " That great writer, the deified Julius." In his life of Agricola (c. 13, 15), he refers critically to Cæsar’s invasion of Britain. It is therefore difficult to believe that the same name was applied by these two writers to different islands. I think-that the island called Mona in the time of Tacitus is identical with that which had been so named in the time of Cæsar; and that, therefore, Anglesey is the island to which Cæsar alludes.

The name Eubonia has been given to Mann by several writers. Nennius's " History of Britain " is the oldest of the works in which I have been able to find it. The island is called Eubonia or Mann by Jocelinus of Furness, who relates that S. Patrick when returning from Britain touched at the islands of the sea, one of which, " Euboniam, id est Manniarn," he converted to Christ. Eubony is another form of the same word (Capgrave, „ Chronicles of England," A.D. 1392). Eubonia is a reading for Eumonia. In the annals of Wales I find 'C Sweyn Filius Haraldi Eumoniam vastavit, AD. 987."

In the Welsh tongue Anglesey is called Mon or Mônfynydd, supposed to be identical with môn = isolated. The name Mona, however, appears to denote a mountainous, heathy, or peaty expanse. The word occurs in different forms in the Erse and Britannic tongues, e.g.-

Scottish and Irish

rnòin-e, rnon-adh.


moain-ee, moan-ey, mon-a.

Welsh .

mawn, myn-ydh.


men-edh, mon-edh.



The name is occasionally, in the Manx dialect, applied to a farm ; thus, Moaney mooar Big moaney or mona; Moaney mollagh = Bough moaney or mona ; Moaney muccleigh = Hedgehog moaney or mona.

Eumonia, though seemingly a Grecism, is probably an equivalent of ym moaney. According to Dr. Kelly, " the names of places generally require the article to be prefixed, as yn Spainey, yn Rank, Spain and France "-(" Manx and English Dictionary," sub voc. Yn). If the name Mona has been erroneously applied to Mann, so have been its cognates Eubonia, Eubony, and Eumonia.

The Manx name of the island is Mannin ; hence Mann. Different origins have been ascribed to the name Mann or Mannin. Bishop Wilson derives it " from the Saxon word ‘mang,’ among, as lying almost at an equal distance between the kingdoms of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales,"— a derivation exceedingly improbable. McPherson supposed Mannin to have originated in mean = middle, and in = island,—middle island ; but Dr. Kelly is of opinion that the " patronymic Manninagh seems to destroy McPherson’s etymology. According to him the name of a Manx man would be Meanagh, which would be either the middle man or the monkish man (as Balley-meanagh is abbot’s land) ; but this is answered by writing meaninagh or maynenagh, the middle islandman or the monkish islandman. Yet use the word ellan, an island, and you do not say yn ellan veanagh or veaninagh, the middle island, but yn Ellan Manin, the island Man-isle, or Ellam Vanin, the island of Man-isle, whilst meanim is literally the middle of the island, not the middle island. Nor is there an instance where the word mean is pronounced with an a short" —("Dictionary," sub voc. Manninagh).

Dr. Kelly suggests that the name Mann may have been derived from Mannus, the Teutonic deity, and may have been given to the island by the Northmen. The name, however, doubtless existed anterior to the piratical invasions of the island by the hosts of the Vikingar.

According to Feltham the name is supposed to have originated in " Maune, the name of S. Patrick, the apostle of the island, before he assumed that of Patricius." Mr. Train has adopted the etymology of McPherson. The late Rev. J. G. Cumming, in the Appendix (A) to his " Isle of Man," says :—" I am inclined to derive it from maen, a pile of stones or rocks ; " but, subsequently, in a note to Sacheverell’s " Account of the Island," edited by Mr. Cumming, and published by the Manx Society, he says : " On an ancient cross in the wall of the churchyard of Kirk Michael, we find the name of the island spelt in old Runic characters, ‘ Maun.’ It is thus evident that the broad sound was given to the a in Mân and the o in Môn or Mona ; and this explains in some measure the various orthographies of the name of this little island. I am of opinion that the name anciently given to it in common with Anglesey, had to do with the reputed holy character of the isle, as the Secles Druidarum, the abode of the holy wise men, and that it has the same connection with the Sanskrit root Man, in reference to religious knowledge, as our word monk ; so also Moonshee, and the names of ancient law-givers, as Mann, son of Brahma, Menu, Minos, and Menes."

It does not appear that there is any affinity between the name Mann and the Sanskrit mán. . The Sanskrit word mânan signifies reverence ; but though Sanskrit elements occur in the Erse, this word has no cognate in the Erse, or in any of the Britannic tongues. A phonetic resemblance, unsupported by other evidence, is a very doubtful indication of verbal affinity.

Mr. Cumming was mistaken in supposing that Druidism obtained in this island. There is not the least evidence to warrant the supposition that it was " the Sedes Druidarum." Some old writers, indeed, state that it was once the abode of Druids, but the statement is ill-founded, and can only be ascribed to a confused notion that Tacitus’s description of Paulinus’s expedition against Anglesey (Annal xiv, 29, 30) relates to Mann. An instance of the misapplication of this description occurs in Polydore Virgil, who, referring to Mann and the sea separating it from Britain, very amusingly says— " In olde time, whensoever there appeared decrease or ebbe in the ocean, it was divided with so small a sea, and was so near the lande, that a man might have gone thereunto without shippinge ; which thinge (as Cornelius Tacitus recordethe) was donne by the Romaines."

The so-called " Druidical remains " found in Mann are sepulchral structures, and approach in similarity of character others existing in numerous regions, where Druids never were. An occasional local name—e.g., Druid Dale—has been formed in the island under a mistaken belief that neighbouring tumuli were the works of those weird philosophers.

The island has been called Yn Ellan sheeant (Kelly’s Dict., sub voc. Sheeant). It is so called in a Manx traditionary ballad published by the late Mr. Train, and supposed by him to have been written between AD. 1504 and 1522 (Hist., vol. i. p. 50). The appellation means Holy Island, or rather the Island blessed with Peace ; it is a local designation, in allusion probably to its peaceful and religious solitude, by which the institutions of S. Patrick, S. Machutus, or S. Columba had been fostered, though surrounded by paganism. The little island of Lindisfarne is called Holy Island, doubtless from the piety of its former residents. Its sacred character is indicated by the ruins of its monastery, from which the ancient churches of Bernicia, and some of those of Deira, had their beginning.

Dr. Charnock suggests that the name Mann is derived from the Welsh rn~n = isolated, and quotes the following words of Dr. Owen Pughe :—" The Welsh call the Isle of Anglesey ' Môn,’ and in order to distinguish it from Mon Aw, the Mon of the Water, or the Isle of Man, it is sometimes called Mon Fynydd, or Mòn of the Mountains." (Proceedings of the Anthropological Society—Journal, July 1871, p. xv.) Dr. Pughe here only suggests the meaning of the postfix distinguishing the Welsh name of each of these islands, and does not derive the name Mann from the Welsh word môn.

The meaning attached by Dr. Pughe to the Welsh Mônaw is doubtful. Aw denotes flowing, and is an element of avon or afon = river. In the Cornish dialect awan = river, torrent, or landflood, is a late form of avon (Williams’s Lex. CornuBritannicurn, sub voc. Awan). It does not seem clear that the word aw, in the Welsh and Cornish dialects, is applicable to the sea.

Manaw and Monaw are, I think, only Welsh modifications of the older Manx name Mannin. In Manaw it will be observed the first syllable of the Manx word is retained. The termination aw or au is an idiomatic sound, and may or may not have a definite meaning. It is apparently, in a few instances, employed as a postfix, to indicate the young of animals ; thus from ce = dog, is cen-aw cub or whelp ; from gwydd goose, is gwydd-au = gosling.

The final syllable of Mannin or Mannan implies young or little, and that of Manaw may have a similar implication.

Unable to adopt any of the etymologies given by the writers I have mentioned, I shall endeavour to trace the name Mannin or Mann to its probable origin. The names of ancient tribes invariably preceded the names of the countries which they occupied. Mann was originally inhabited by a tribe of the primordial race which populated Ireland. This tribe was called the Manninee or Mannanee, and is still so named in the Manx Erse. Manninagh denotes native, and Manninee, natives of Mann. The name Mannin or Mann, was borrowed from that of the inhabitants, and denotes the land or country of the Manninee. In the same manner, Helvetia took its name from the Helvetii, Aquitania from the Aquitani, Gallia from the Galli. The discriminating Camden asks: " Who can deny but the names of the Jews, the Medes, the Persians, Scythians, Almans, Gauls, Gætulians, Saxons, English, Scots, etc., were extant before those of Judæa, Medea, Persia, Scythia, Almaine, Gaul, Saxony, England, Scotland, etc. ?"

The Manninee in remote times inhabited elevated solitudes near the sea. Foundations of their circular hut-dwellings still exist on the slopes of the mountains Cronk ny irree Laa and Meayl Those on Cronk ny irree Laa occur at Sloc, and the walls of the huts which they represent were built with sods. The buildings were supported by upright stones, often of a lintel character, from two to three feet high, fixed in the ground, and set externally in the walls. The roofs were thatched with rushes, fern, or heather ; and, when necessary, the entrance of each hut was closed with a bundle of gorse—the scaa ‘sy doarlish, as it is called in the native dialect. The interior diameter of the several huts was generally seven or eight feet. The remains are concealed in a depression of the mountain, and near a bog, whence the occupants of the dwellings may have obtained water. These interesting relics are called Clagh y daa bit = "Stone of the two Settings." The peasantry of the neighbourhood formerly regarded them with superstition : it is said that in this moorland recess native mountaineers have at early dawn, or amidst the faint gleamings of evening twilight, been startled by spectral forms. The bleak lonesomeness of the locality is calculated to inspire superstitious emotions. Even the names of the surrounding cliffs betoken a melancholy dreariness. Baare mooar = Big Top ; Beel Oaie ny Geayee = Mouth of the Face of the Wind; Gob ny Veinney = Beak of the Pinnacle, are wild poetic appellations, probably often uttered by the fleet Manninagh of old as he darted down the frowning precipice to snatch from her nest the egg of the shearwater.

The dwellings on Meayl, it seems, differed slightly in construction from those at Sloc, inasmuch as their sod walls, though supported by high upright stones imbedded in them, were based upon rude stone foundations, raised, perhaps, a foot or eighteen inches above the surface of the ground.

In both localities the huts were grouped, and formed villages, which were probably surrounded by earth fences strengthened by upright stones, after the manner in which the walls of the huts were secured.

The ancient Manninee burned their dead. The process of cremation was probably performed on the tops of their sepulchral mounds. After the cineration of the body the remains, or portions of them, were deposited in a rude urn, which was either placed in a kistvaen, or buried in the loose earth of the turnulus. It is not difficult to imagine the loathsomeness of the places of sepulture. There was scarcely any timber in the island except that found in peat-bogs, and therefore withered furze, fern, and heather, were the materials used to feed the flames by which the bodies were consumed. It is not likely that the cineration of the bodies was always complete, and the disgusting effects of imperfect cremation may easily be conceived.

It would be interesting to know what were the objects of worship among the primordial inhabitants of Mann. As there are no data, however, upon which enquiries into this question can be satisfactorily based, it is difficult to form any just notion of their mythology. It was doubtless identical with that of the primitive inhabitants of Ireland.

Mann is called by Paulus. Orosius, Mevania, a name adopted by Bede, who, confusing the names of the two islands Mann and Anglesey, calls them " the Mevanian Islands." The name Mevania was subsequently copied by Florence of Worcester, William of Malmesbury, and others. Camden observes that the name is in Bede and Orosius falsely given Mevania, and writes it Menavia. Buchanan had previously suggested the error. The word given in the " Chronicle of Richard of Cirencester " is still more nearly correct, for it is there written Manavia. The substitution of n for v in Mevania, as suggested by Camden, is doubtless an emendation, but there is no reason why the n should be changed to v. The original n ought to remain, and the word would then be Menania or Manania, which is the present name of the island in a Latinised form, and means the country of the Manani. Thus Manania and Manani are equivalents of Manan and Mananee, or Mannin and Manninee.

According to Dr. Kelly’s interpretation, Mannin means " Man-isle ;" for he assumes that the suffix in signifies isle. It is true in, innys, inys, and insh, mean isle, but these are fornis of the Latin insulae, and belong to the Britannic rather than to the Erse dialects. The true Erse words for island are the Manx ellan, the Irish oilean, and the Scottish eilean.

It is not improbable that the suffix in has been substituted for the diminitive an, and that Man-an would be a better orthography than Mann-in is.

The origin of the name of a barbarous tribe may generally be traced to a word in the language of the tribe. It has already been suggested that the name Mannin or Mann is derived from Manninee, the name of the tribe by whom the island was originally occupied. The tribes, septs, or clans, into which the early inhabitants of the British Isles were divided were remarkably numerous. The name Manninee or Mannanee may denote the tribe or clan of the Kid or fawn. The word mannan = kid or fawn, exists in the Erse and Britannic dialects, and in other tongues. Some of its forms appear below






Old Irish,



mean, meann-an.



myn, myn-an, myn-yn.


mm, myn, mynn-an.



A trace of the word appears in the Saxon and English hind, the female of the red deer. It is an element of the Latin hinn-a = hind or mule, and of hinn-ulus or hinn-uleus young hind, fawn, kid, or little mule ; and also of the Greek Ivvoc.

The Manx adjective mannanagh signifies belonging, or relating to kids or fawns. The plural of this word is mannanee, the exact name of the natives of Mann.

The fabled enchanter Mannanan beg Mac y Leah, who could hide the little island in a disguise of magic fog, or charm it into fascinating light, was the kid, the Son of the Mist. Such may be the interpretation of his name.

We know from the records of philology and of history that in ancient and modern times chiefs or distinguished individuals have been named after certain of the lower animals, and that tribes or clans of existing barbarians are often so named.

Certain Biblical names are said to indicate animals, e.g. Jael. = kid or doe ; Jonah dove ; Zeeb wolf ; and Zophar bird.

According to Anacharsis, names of ancient Greeks had their origins in imaginary relations between men and some of the lower animals, e.g.—" Leon, the lion ; Lycos, the wolf ; Moschos, the calf ; Corax, the raven ; Sauros, the lizard; Batrachos, the frog ; Alectryon, the cock, etc." (See Dr. Nuttall’s " Classical and Archæological Dictionary," sub voc. Name.)

The origin of " Ovidius," the nomen or clan-name of P. Ovidius Naso, the Roman poet, has been referred to the Greek word ~‘ic = a sheep ; a word to which the old Greek digamma gave a sound similar to that of its Latin derivative ovis.

In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle we find the names Westerfalcon, Seafowl, etc.

Leibnitz supposed that the Catti, a people of ancient Germany, obtained their name from Kater = cat. The Cauci, another ancient German nation, it is said derived their name from Kauz = a screech owl.

Professor Max Muller relates that " a celebrated war-chief . . . . died on Lake Superior about 1793. He was of the clan of the Addik or American reindeer. . . . There is a grave-board of the ruling chief of Sandy Lake on the Upper Mississippi. Here the reversed bird denotes his family name or clan, the Crane." (" Chips from a German Workshop," p. 317). I cannot further illustrate this part of the subject better than by quoting from a recent and admirable work by

Sir John Lubbock, the President of this Institute : " The Hottentots also generally named their children after some animal. . . . In China also the name is frequently that of a flower, animal, or such like thing.’ In Australia we seem to find the totem, or, as it is there called, kobong, almost in the very moment of deification. Each family, says Sir G. Grey, adopts some animal or vegetable as their crest or sign, or kobong, as they call it.’ . . . The totem of the redskins, says Schoolcraft, is a symbol of the progenitor—generally some quadruped, or bird, or other object in the animal kingdom, which stands, if we may so express it, as the surname of the family. It is always some animated object, and seldom or never derived from the inanimate class of nature. Its significant importance is derived from the fact that individuals unhesitatingly trace their lineages from it. By whatever names they may be called during their lifetime, it is the totem, and not their personal name, that is recorded on the tomb or adjeditig that marks the place of burial. Families are thus traced when expanded into bands or tribes, the multiplication of which in North America has been very great, and has increased in like ratio the labours of the ethnologist. The turtle, the bear, and the wolf appear to have been primary and honoured totems in most of the tribes, and bear a significant rank in the traditions of the Iroquois, or Delawares.’

" Thus the Osages believe themselves to be descended from a beaver, and consequently will not kill that animal ; so also among the Khonds of India, the different tribes take their designation from various animals, as the bear tribe, owl tribe, deer tribe,’ etc. etc. The Kols of Nagpore also are divided into keelis or clans, generally called after animals, which, in consequence, they do not eat.

" In Southern Africa the Bechuanas are subdivided into men of the crocodile, men of the fish, of the monkey, of the buffalo, of the elephant, porcupine, lion, vine, and so on."

(" The Origin of Civilisation and the Primitive Condition of Man," pp. 172-4.)

In the mythology of many ancient nations animals are symbolic representations of deities. Among the avatars or incarnations of Vishnu, the second person of the Hindú triad, are the fish, the tortoise, the boar, and the man-lion. The apotheosis of cats, dogs, wolves, bears, and hawks, extensively prevailed in ancient Egypt. In Northern mythology the wolf, the serpent, and other animals are symbols of fabulous divinities.

Pliny, in a list of names of islands stated by him to lie between Ireland and Britain, mentions Mann, under the name Monapia. Ptolemy includes it among the islands on the eastern coast of Ireland, and calls it " Monaoeda ( otherwise Monarina Monavia)." According to the last-named writer, a city of Ireland was called Menapia, which it is supposed stood in the present county of Wexford. The modern S. David's in Pembrokeshire was anciently called Menevia, and by some authors Menapia. In " Leges Wallicæ " we find " Meneuia est sedes principalis (episcopi) in Cambria ; " and again, " Meneuia quia prima est ab omni debito soluta (est)." In the laws of Howel Dda it is called Mynyw. It has been suggested that the Menapii of Ireland and the Menevii of Britain were colonies of the Menapii of Belgic Gaul. Sir Francis Palgrave, in his " History of the Anglo-Saxons," says, in reference to Carausius, that " he was a Menapian by birth. The nation whence he originated had been divided by its migrations into several colonies : one was settled in Hibernia, another was found on the Islands of the Rhine, and the Menapia or Menevia of Britain, now S. David's, seems also to have belonged to these tribes." The names Monapia, Monavia, Mevania, Menavia, Manavia, Menapia, and Menevia, are all apparently modifications of the same word. It is probable that they were formed from the Britannic Myn-yw, Men-aw, or Môn-aw = (the Erse) Man-an or Mann-in. The suffix " yw " or " aw " seems to have under-gone a Latinised mutation, and to have been assimilated to the termination of the pre-existing name applied to a settlement in Gaul.

The Menevii of Britain, the Menapii of Ireland, and the Manninee, may have originally belonged to the same tribe or clan, from which occasional migrations may have occurred. The departure indeed of the wild Manninagh from his own country-whether Ireland or Mann-must have been attended with difficulty and risk. He saw from his native mountain-tops the gray hills of other lands ; but his coracle, which bore him safely over tranquil bays and loghs was too frail for the navigation of the trustless sea with which he was encircled. Yet he may now and then have ventured so far from his own shores as to be unable to return. A veering of the wind, with an increased surging of the waves, may have compelled him to harbour on the opposite coast.


I am indebted to the kindness of the Rev. John Qualtrough, Vicar of Arbory, for this translation. ,


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