An Ancient (Celtic) Toponymic Crux: The Origins of the Name of 'Bad Kreuznach' - 'Cruciniacum'

Antonia Maria POPP, Francesco PERONO CACCIAFOCO*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Even though German toponymy is consistently studied, compared with the toponomastics of other regions, the origins of the names of many small towns are still either unknown or under-researched. The temptation, in explaining them, to just link all similar toponyms to each other, without the support of documented sources, is high. This paper aims at providing an investigation of the etymological origins of the toponym '(Bad) Kreuznach'-the ancient 'Cruciniacum'-in South-West Germany through a Comparative Methodology approach and in the light of the assessment of the relations among the different linguistic groups living in the area throughout its history and prehistory, thus applying a toponymic stratigraphy approach. The article also highlights at least one possible paretymology for the place name, not only by isolating it, but also by investigating the implications that it could have on the perception of the place name by the people living in the area, and thus its indirect influence on the further historical development of the toponym. In former research, the toponym 'Kreuznach' and other similar place names have been linked to supposed anthroponyms that have never been attested in history and which, because of their specific onomastic nature, have no links to geographical or hydro-geomorphological features of the local territory. This paper evaluates the validity of those old etymological practices, highlighting the importance of questioning former works in an attempt to promote further research to gather more knowledge about long-gone civilizations like the continental Celts, in Europe. Research on Celtic place names in Central Europe has often been mostly extensive, drawing conclusions for single cases starting from the analysis of toponymic macro-systems and producing, sometimes, questionable results. Conversely, through the application of an intensive research analysis focused on single specific cases, like 'Kreuznach', it is possible to show the flaws in such practices and the validity of the epistemological approach according to which the study of Indo-European toponymy should be conducted mainly on a case-by-case basis, starting from the micro-systems to reconstruct the macro-system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-66
Number of pages17
JournalReview of Historical Geography and Toponomastics
Issue number27-28
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • Toponymy
  • Celtic
  • Cruciniacum
  • Bad Kreuznach
  • Toponomastics


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