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From Middle English Temese, from name for the river, Celtic Tamesas (from *tamēssa),[1] recorded in Latin Tamesis and yielding modern Welsh Tafwys. The name probably meant "dark" and can be compared to other cognates such as Irish teimheal and Welsh tywyll "darkness" (Proto-Celtic *temeslos) and Middle Irish teimen "dark grey",[1] though Richard Coates[2] mentions other theories: Kenneth H. Jackson's[3] that it is non-Indo-European (and of unknown meaning), and Peter Kitson's[4] that it is Indo-European but pre-Celtic and has a name indicating "muddiness" from a root *tā-, 'melt'.

Note also other river names such as Teme, Tavy, Teviot, Teifi.

The river's name has always been pronounced with a simple t /t/; the Middle English spelling was typically Temese. A similar spelling from this era (1210 AD), "Tamisiam", is found in the Magna Carta.[5]


  • (rivers in England and Canada, town in New Zealand): enPR: tĕmz, IPA(key): /tɛmz/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • (river in Connecticut): IPA(key): /θeɪmz/

Proper noun[edit]


  1. River in southern England flowing 336 km (209 mi.) through London to the North Sea.
  2. River in Ontario province, Canada, flowing 258 km (160 mi.) to Lake St. Clair.
  3. River in the U.S. State of Connecticut flowing 24 km (15 mi.) past New London to Long Island Sound.
  4. A town in the North Island of New Zealand, situated on the Firth of Thames (a large bay) and the Coromandel Peninsula.




  1. 1.0 1.1 Mallory, J.P. and D.Q. Adams. The Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. London: Fitzroy and Dearborn, 1997: 147.
  2. ^ Coates, Richard 1998 "A new explanation of the name of London", Transactions of the Philological Society 96, 2 pp.203–229; doi = 10.1111/1467-968X.00027
  3. ^ Jackson, Kenneth H 1955 "The Pictish Language" in F. T. Wainright (ed.), The Problem of the Picts Edinburgh; Nelson, pp. 129–166
  4. ^ Kitson, Peter R 1996 "British and European River Names", Transactions of the Philological Society 94, pp. 73–118; doi=10.1111/j.1467-968X.1996.tb01178.x|issue=2
  5. ^ Ellis Sandoz, ed. The Roots of Liberty: Magna Carta…; Indianapolis; Amagi/Liberty Fund, pages 39, 347