Olde Jersey

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Olde Jersey

Post by botolph » Mon Mar 06, 2006 10:02 pm

Does anyone know the origin of the word "Jersey"?
I've found several.
I was taught in high school that it was derived from the latin Caesare.

But, I've also read that it could be of Norse origin either "Geirr's Ey meaning Spear's Island" or "grassy island" from jer (grass) and sey (island).

Any input?
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Post by hsargent » Tue Mar 07, 2006 2:20 pm

Of course jersey is also a type of cloth.
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Post by botolph » Tue Mar 07, 2006 4:11 pm

Compact Oxford English Dictionary

jersey

• noun (pl. jerseys) 1 a knitted garment with long sleeves. 2 a distinctive shirt worn by a participant in certain sports. 3 a soft knitted fabric. 4 (Jersey) an animal of a breed of light brown dairy cattle from Jersey in the Channel Islands.

— ORIGIN from Jersey in the Channel Islands, where the fabric was made

But,what's the origin of "Jersey"?
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Post by Bobinwales » Tue Mar 07, 2006 4:59 pm

I have had a quick look around here and there, and the BBC seem to be quite happy to say that the name of the Island of Jersey comes from the Old Norse Geirr's Ey, meaning as you say Spears Island. In truth, they are not always infallible, but as a rule they are usually pretty good.
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Mar 07, 2006 8:55 pm

Bot, I was surprised at how little has been written on the etymology of JERSEY. However, I did find one very reliable source, which gave a ‘probably,’ in agreement with what you read and with Bob’s BBC pronouncement. Adrian Room, who is the editor of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, wrote the following in his book Brewer’s Names:

JERSEY: The chief of the Channel Islands has a name that is probably Scandinavian in origin, meaning “Geirr’s island,’ with the final two letters representing Old Norse ey, ‘island.’ Geirr’ is a Norse personal name meaning ‘spear.’
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The Online Etymology Dictionary (http://www.etymonline.com) does mention your high school reference:
<“one of the Channel Islands, said to be a corruption of Latin Caesarea, the Roman name for the island, influenced by OLD ENGLISH ey "island;" but probably in fact a Viking name.”>
But how one is supposed to get from Latin ‘Caesarea’ to JERSEY is not explained, which is a bit annoying.
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Post by Andrew Dalby » Tue Mar 07, 2006 10:44 pm

The so-called Latin name for Jersey, 'Caesarea', looks like a 16th or 17th century invention which probably deserves to be deleted from the Online Etymology Dictionary. It's thought that the real Latin name for the island was Andium.

There are lots of islands in the seas around northern Europe with names ending in -ey, and nearly all of these names are Old Norse in origin.
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Post by haro » Tue Mar 07, 2006 11:52 pm

Assuming that the "Geirr’s island" theory is correct, -ey is what -ø is in Danish (Samsø, Fanø, Sejerø, and many other names of islands) and -ö in Swedish (Öland, Muskö, Sandön - where the -n is just the definite article, which as appended to the noun or name in Scandinavian languages). And geir is what ger was in Old High German, namely 'spear,' as in Gerald (from ger = spear and wald = rule as in modern German 'walten' = 'to rule') and Gertrude (from ger and þruþ = strength).
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Post by Bobinwales » Wed Mar 08, 2006 10:28 am

As a sheer matter of interest, the nearest city to the village in which I live is Swansea, originally named Sweyn’s Ey by the Norseman Sweyn Forkbeard, who was King Canute’s father.
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Post by botolph » Wed Mar 08, 2006 3:32 pm

I'm glad this querry has brought so much thought. It seems as thought the "Geirr" explanation might be best as previously stated.
I remember asking one of my better Latin masters in high school how Jersey came from Caesar and his answer didn't cut through the fog. "I don't know," he said. It was sixth year Latin whose focus was etymology. That's why I always found the explanation brutal.

But whence the "s" and its apostrophe ("Geirr's", "Sweyn's")? Did old Norse use 's for possesion?
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Mar 08, 2006 4:35 pm

To answer the last part of your query, Botolph, the answer is yes. The chief modern Scandinavian languages, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, (which are descended from Old Norse) maintain this grammatical feature, and Icelandic, which is the closest living descendant of Old Norse, also uses the possessive 's'.
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