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Attestation: BG·41.5 (ześu:poininos:kopenatis:tonoiso) (1)
Language: Celtic
Word Type: proper noun

Grammatical Categories: nom. sg. masc.
Stem Class: o

Morphemic Analysis: penn-īn-os
Phonemic Analysis: /poinīnos/
Meaning: 'Poininos'


The theonym is attested at least three times at Carona (poinunei [different stem?], penini [gen.?]), once in the Valais (poenino [dat.]), and also known from numerous Latin inscriptions at the pass sanctuary on the Great St. Bernard, where (Iuppiter) Poeninus was worshipped in Roman times (see Wiblé 2008).

The name of the Great St. Bernard, summus poeninus/alpis poenina, was connected in antiquity and later (see Wiblé 2008b: 25) with the poenī (Carthaginians) and Hannibal's passage through the Alps. This folk etymology is repudiated by Livy (XXI 38.6–9), who reports that the mountains are named after the deity whose sanctuary is situated on the pass summit. On the assumption that the Roman Iuppiter Poeninus is the result of interpretatio romana of a Celtic deity, Zeuss 1837: 5, n. * suggested an etymology from PC *kenno- 'head, top, summit': penn-īnos 'being of the mountain' uel sim., which has been widely accepted; the suffix is most likely the same as Lat. -īno- (see Weiss 2009: 288): gen. *kennī → *kennī-no- (the age of the derivation being unknown), cf. Höfler 2017b: 82 (and p.c.). Original /e/ in the root is supported by the name of the Apennines, derived from the same root (see Sims-Williams 2006: 98), and now also penini (and arguably abbreviated pe); see Eska & Eska 2022: 163–165 (also, with counter-arguments, on an alternative etymology). The Latin variant with /oe/ and degeminated nasal would then be the result of the secondary association with the name of the poenī (cf. Motta 2010: 401 f., Eska & Eska 2022: 163 f.). Uncertainty regarding the nature of the stem vowel on the part of the Romans who crossed the pass is indicated by some variation in the spelling: 26 instances of poenino stand beside one instance each of peonin[o], phoeni[no], poinino, puoenino, and pynino. The spellings with ⟨oi⟩ at Carona and at the Great St. Bernard (inscription no. 25 in Walser 1984) are explained as re-Celticised variants of the Latin name form (Eska & Eska 2022: 164, n. 14).

Corinna Salomon


Eska & Eska 2022 Joseph F. Eska, Charlene M. Eska, "Epigraphic and linguistic observations on the inscription at the so-called Mur d'Hannibal (Liddes, Valais)", Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 69/1 (2022), 159–182.