Continuing in the looking-up-one-thing-and-finding-the-tip-of-the-iceberg vein, I recently began looking into an assumption I had made a while back — that the name Tirol was derived from the Roman fortress Teriolis (from which the village of Zirl takes its name). It turns out that this is completely unsubstantiated, and that the name Tirol came to these lands by being ruled by the Earls of Tirol, who in turn took their name from their home, the castle Schloss Tirol, by around 1141.
Whence the castle got its name remains a mystery. Wikipedia mentions that tir meant territory or land in both Latin and Old Irish (Celtic), and that earlier written versions of the name include de Tirale and de Tyrols.
Ah, that mysterious “y” which one finds in the name when written in English! I had always wondered about that.
Then, poking around for anything on the internet concerning the origin of the name, I came across this interesting treatise (de). (I am not sure what to make of it, exactly — it reads a bit like Tolkien’s backstory in the appendices of “The Lord of the Rings”. It also shares some word-for-word passages with this.) The author (if he is the author) postulates that the rocky hill on which the castle sits had been taken in the early middle ages by conquering Germanic tribes, who named it in honor of the Germanic god Tyr (en) (aka Ziu*, both connected in turn to Zeus deus, deva, and our Tuesday). He adds that before the castle there had been an early Christian church on the site, and it is known that those early Christian churches often were built right atop pre-Christian holy sites. So it’s possible that the name Tirol (or Tyrol) is a very old, pre-Christian one.
The first Earls of Tirol were apparently Bavarian (Bavaria was running the place at the time) but they adopted the name of their castle rather than their family name, which lends a little credibility to the theory that the place name had some ancient meaning. Which nobody would have remembered by the 12th century.
The author also mentions a very curious book called Das erfundene Mittelalter (“the invented middle ages”) by a “chronology critic”, who claims that all the years between 614 and 911 didn’t exist, that everything purported to have happened in that time, didn’t, because of some sort of massive calendar jump. Scientists and archaeologists have debunked this theory.
And, completely unrelated to these places: the name Tauern, given to the Alpine mountain region of Salzburg and Carinthia, is evidently connected to the name of its earlier inhabitants, the Taurisci. After the Battle of Telamon in 225 B.C.E., the beaten Taurisci were allowed to resettle further southwest at what is now called – wait for it — Torino, or in English, Turin.
*Ziu and Zirl sound suspiciously alike. Is it not possible that, the Romans perhaps having latinized an already-given Raetian name for that hill there (now the Martinsbühel), the two names might indeed be related, by way of Ziu? The Roman name for Wilten, Veldidena, is thought to have come from a pre-existing name. Did the Raetians share any linguistic origins with their northern neighbors? One might assume yes, as Germanic and Celtic were both Indo-European. And gods are completely transferable, as history shows us.