Originally published in the Scotsman on 9 April 2016
The River Clyde is one of the oldest Scottish names for which we have a record; the Egyptian geographer Ptolemy in 50 AD wrote it as klōta. It is always difficult to tell the original intended meanings of large rivers in Scotland, but this name is thought to mean ‘pure or cleansed one’, a meaning possibly also seen in the name of the Cluden Water.
The name of the Clutha Bar on the banks of the Clyde is taken from Macpherson’s Ossianic Poetry which used Clutha as the Gaelic name of the River Clyde. Macpherson likely invented this form for his poetry however, since the name of the Clyde in Gaelic is Cluaidh.
In Arran Gaelic the River Clyde was known simply as An Rìobhar, ‘The River’ a loan word from Scots river. Arran Gaelic speakers would say a’ dol suas an Rìobhar, ‘going up the River (Clyde)’.
For further research please see our database: Clyde