|Totnes - the castle - By Troxx (Picture was taken by myself) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons|
"Etymology of Totnes.—Can any of your readers suggest a probable etymology for Totnes, the "prime town of Great Britain," as it is called by Westcote*, who supposes it to have been built by Brutus, 1108 years before the Christian aera. Mr. Polwhele, who supposed the numerous Hams in Devon to have owed their names to the worship of Jupiter Hammon, would, I imagine, have derived Totnes from the Egyptian god Thoth or Taut ; or, perhaps, directly from King Thothmes. Westcote observes that some would have the name from, —
"The French word tout-a-l'aise, which is in English, all at ease; as if Brutus at his arrival in such a pleasant soil should here assure himself and his fellow travellers of ease, rest, and content ; and the /, in this long time, is changed into n, and so from tout-d-hsse we now call it tont-a-nesse, and briefly Totnesse. This would I willingly applaud, could I think or believe that Brutus spake so good French, or that the French tongue was then spoken at all. Therefore, I shall with the more ease join in opinion with those who would have it named Dodonesse, which signifieth [in what language?] the rocky-town, or town on stones, which is also agreeable with the opinion of Leland."
Totnes is denominated Totenais and Totheneis in Domesday Book ; and in other old records variously spelt, Toteneis, Totteneys, Toteneys, Totton', Totteii, Totenesse, Tottenesse, Tottonnsse, Totonie, &c. Never, Donodesse. J. M. B. Totnes, April 23. 1850."
NOTES AND QUERIES. [No. 29. 18 may 1850]
[I included this because of the complete surety given to the myth of Brutus, who was said to have founded Britain from Troy, having landed in Totnes]