Caer (Welsh pronunciation: [kɑːɨr]; Old Welsh: cair or kair)
is a placename element in Welsh meaning "stronghold", "fortress", or
"citadel", roughly equivalent to the
Old English suffix now
variously written as -caster, -cester, and -chester. In modern
Welsh orthography, caer is usually written as a prefix, although it
was formerly—particularly in Latin—written as a separate word. The
Breton equivalent is kêr, which is present in many Breton placenames
as the prefix Ker-. The term is thought to have derived from the
Brittonic *kagro- and to be cognate with cae ("field, enclosed piece
of land"). Although stone castles were largely introduced to Wales
by the invading Normans, "caer" was and remains used to describe the
settlements around some of them as well. An example is the Roman fort
at Caernarfon, formerly known in Welsh as
Caer Seiont from its
position on the Seiont; the later Edwardian castle and its community
were distinguished as
Caer yn ar Fon ("fort in the land opposite
Anglesey"). However, the modern names of the
Roman fort and
Edwardian castle themselves are now Segontiwm or Castell Caernarfon,
while the communities carry on the name caer.
2 In fiction
3 See also
Gildas's account of the
Saxon invasions of Britain
Saxon invasions of Britain claimed that there
were 28 fortified Roman cities (Latin: civitas) on the island, without
listing them. The History of the Britons traditionally attributed
Nennius includes a list of the 28, all of which are called
"caer". Controversy exists over whether this list includes only
Roman cities or a mixture of Roman cities and non-Roman
settlements. Some of the place names that have been proposed
Roman Britain (1911).
Cair Guorthigirn. ("Fort Vortigern": Little Doward?
Cair Guinntguic. ("Fort Venta": Winchester?
Norwich or Winwick?)
Cair Mincip. ("Fort Municipium": St Albans)
Cair Ligualid. ("Fort Luguwalos": Carlisle)
Cair Meguaid. ("Fort Mediolanum": Meifod? Llanfyllin?
Caersws? in Powys)
Cair Colun. ("Fort Colonia": Colchester?)
Cair Ebrauc. ("Fort York": York)
Cair Custoeint. ("Fort Constantius or Constantine": Caernarfon; or
poss. a Devonian hillfort)
Cair Caratauc. ("Fort Rampart": Salisbury? Sellack?)
Cair Grauth. ("Fort Granta": Cambridge)
Cair Maunguid. (Manchester?)
Cair Lundem. ("Fort Londinium": London)
Cair Ceint. ("Fort Kent": Canterbury)
Cair Guiragon. ("Fort Weorgoran": Worcester)
Cair Peris. (Porchester? Builth Wells?)
Cair Daun. ("Fort Don": Doncaster)
Cair Legion. ("Fort Legion": Chester)
Cair Guricon. (Warwick? Wroxeter?)
Cair Segeint. ("Fort Seiont": Caernarfon; or poss. Silchester)
Cair Legeion Guar Usic. ("Fort Legion on the Usk": Caerleon-upon-Usk)
Cair Guent. ("Fort Venta": Caerwent or Winchester)
Cair Brithon. ("Fort of the Britons": Dumbarton in Strathclyde)
Cair Lerion. ("Fort Leir": Leicester)
Cair Draitou. (Drayton? Dunster?)
Cair 'Pensa vel Coyt'. ("Fort Penselwood": Exeter?
Cair Urnarc. (Wroxeter? Dorchester?)
Cair Celemion. (Camalet? Silchester?)
Cair Luit Coyt. ("Fort Grey Wood": Wall)
Caernarfon derives its name from the Edwardian
although it is now known in Welsh as Castell Caernarfon...
Roman fort now known as
Segontium derived its name from a
Latinization of the British community along the Afon Seiont.
Examples in modern
Caerleon (Caerllion, "Fort Legion")
Caernarfon ("Fort Arfon")
Caerphilly (Caerffili, "Fort Ffili")
Caerwent ("Fort Venta")
Cardiff (Caerdydd, "Fort Taf")
Holyhead (Caergybi, "Fort Cybi")
Modern Welsh exonyms for English cities include:
Cambridge (Caergrawnt, "Fort Granta")
Canterbury (Caergaint, "Fort Kent")
Carlisle (Caerliwelydd, "Fort Luguwalos")
Chichester (Caerfuddai )
Gloucester (Caerloyw )
Exeter (Caerwysg, "Fort Usk")
Lancaster (Caerhirfryn )
Leicester (Caerlŷr, "Fort Leir")
Lichfield (Caerlwytgoed, "Fort Grey Wood")
Salisbury (Caersallog )
Winchester (Caerwynt )
Worcester (Caerwrangon )
Carriden House, a refurbished
Roman fort which formerly formed part of
Antonine Wall in Scotland.
Southern Scotland, the former Old North of the Romano-Britons,
contains many modern placenames with variant forms of caer, including:
Carriden ("Fort Eidyn")
Cramond ("Fort Almond")
Caerlanrig ("Fort Clearing")
Carfrae ("Fort Brae")
Cardrona ("Fort Ronan")
Kirkcaldy ("place of the hard fort" or "place of Caled’s fort")
^ Carlisle, Nicholas. Topographical Dictionary of the Dominion of
Wales, "Glossary", p. xxx. W. Bulmer & Co.
^ a b c Allen, Grant. "Casters and Chesters" in The Cornhill Magazine,
Vol. XLV, pp. 419 ff. Smith, Elder, & Co.
^ More precisely, these English placename elements derive from Latin
castrum ("fortified post") and its plural form castra ("military
camp"), making them the more precise equivalent of the Welsh castell.
^ Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, vol. 1, p. 384.
^ a b "JTK". "Civitas" in Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia,
Vol. I, p. 451. ABC-CLIO (Sta. Barbara), 2006.
^ De Excidio Britanniae, §3. (in Latin) Cited in the "Civitas" entry
of Celtic Culture.
^ a b
Theodor Mommsen (ed.). Historia Brittonum,
VI. Composed after AD 830. (in Latin) Hosted at
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Ford, David Nash. "The 28
Cities of Britain" at Britannia. 2000.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Newman, John Henry & al.
Lives of the English Saints: St. German, Bishop of Auxerre,
Ch. X: "Britain in 429, A. D.", p. 92. James Toovey
Latin names according to Mommsen's edition of Nennius,
translations and modern equivalents according to Ford, Ussher,
or as otherwise noted.
^ Breeze, Andrew. "Historia Brittonum" and Britain’s Twenty-Eight
Cities at Journal of Literary Onomastics. 2016.
^ Veprauskas, Michael. "The Problem of
Caer Guorthigirn" at Vortigern
^ Williams, Robert. "A History of the Parish of Llanfyllin" in
Collections Historical & Archaeological Relating to
Montgomeryshire, Vol. III, p. 59. J. Russell Smith (London),
^ Roman Britain Organisation. "Mediomanum?" at Roman Britain Archived
2007-04-01 at the Wayback Machine.. 2010.
^ On page 20 of Stevenson's 1838 edition of Nennius's works.
Bishop Ussher cites another passage in Nennius: "Here, says
Nennius, Constantius the Emperor (the father probably of Constantine
the Great) died; that is, near the town of Cair Segeint, or Custoient,
Nennius stated that the emperor's inscribed tomb
was still present in his day. Ford credits this to Constantine, son
of Saint Elen.
^ Per Ford, who ascribed Nennius's "Caer-Custoeint" to one of the
Dumnonian kings named Constantine.
^ Although note that
Bishop Ussher ascribed this to the
^ Both Ussher and Ford use the transcription Lundein; with regard to
Mommsen, note the similarity with Lindum, the Roman name for
present-day Lincoln, and the generic name *Lindon, "lake".
Bishop Ussher argued for Bristol.
^ Coit is Welsh for "woods" or "forest". Ford takes the name as a
single construction "Caer-Pensa-Uel-Coyt" ("Fort Penselwood"), while
Mommsen and Ussher treat vel as the
Latin word for or: "Cair Pensa or
^ Cited in Frank Reno's The Historic King Arthur: Authenticating the
Celtic Hero of Post-Roman Britain, Ch. 7: "Camelot and Tintagel",
^ Usser, following John Leland.
^ In Academy, Vol. XXX, Oct. 1886.
^ Wolcott, Darrell. "Glast and the Glastening". Center for the Studies
Wales (Jefferson), 2010.
Henry of Huntington previously ascribed it to Lincoln, which was
followed until the 19th century, when Bradley placed it at
Lichfield, thinking it to be the Roman Letocetum. Instead,
excavations have shown that
Letocetum was located at nearby Wall