“Tane’tus, a small island of Albion. Ptolemy calls it Tolianis. It is now Thanet.”
Speculation over how the Isle of Thanet gained its name reveals its role as both a setting within ancient history and as a strategic post between Britain and the continent. It may have derived from Ruoichin – meaning ‘gift’ in Old Welsh – after it was given to Hengist and Horsa as a reward for their successful invasion in the 5th Century. Others have remarked on its similarity to the old Celtic words Tân (fire) and Arth (height); the bright island may have gained its name from an ancient lighthouse on its clifftops. One etymology is more curious than the rest: Θάνατος, or Thanatos, the Greek term for death. In ancient Greece, it was believed that the souls of the dead were ferried to the Islands of the Blessed, a realm reserved for the heroes of myth. Thanet thus carries a darker tone; could it be this ancient isle of the dead?