Place name of the week: Dundee - Dùn Dè / Dùn Deagh

Dundee - fort of the Tay. The fort was likely to have been Dundee Law, where this photo was taken from. Picture Ian Rutherford
Dundee - fort of the Tay. The fort was likely to have been Dundee Law, where this photo was taken from. Picture Ian Rutherford
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This name originally denoted ‘the fort of the Tay’, although the second element has changed a great deal over time – the modern Gaelic form for the river is Tatha.

The ‘fort’ in question is likely to be the hill known as Dundee Law. Various Latin forms of the name exist, such as Taodunum, but it is not clear whether or not they reflect bona fide early forms.

In recent times this city is often referred to as Dùn Dè in Gaelic, as though it meant ‘the fort of God’, although of course this is fanciful; traditionally the form Dùn Deagh was more popular and is still used by many today. There was once another Gaelic name for the city – used in Angus – either Athaileag or Aileag. Although the etymology of this name form is obscure, it is clearly reflected in the latinised form Alectum, used by Boece in his sixteenth-century work on the history of Scotland.

For more information visit Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba