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La Seine

Origin of the name

The name "Seine" comes from Latin Sequana, which itself comes from Gaulish (Celtic) Sicauna. The name Sicauna is made up of Celtic sakw, which means "sacred" and comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *sak- (which also gave Latin sacer and sanctus, which in turn gave English sacred and saint)...
see Below

View from the Eiffel Tower
Place de la Concorde at the Top Right

Length :
Elevation of the source :
Average discharge :
Area watershed :
Origin :
Mouth :
Basin countries :

  776 km 
  470 m
  500 m³/s 
  78 650 km² 
  the English Channel 

and from a Celtic (or more probably Pre-Indo-European) suffix -onna which means "source, river", and which can be found in the name of many rivers of western Europe (such as the Garonne or the Dordogne). 

The name "Sakw -onna" ("sacred source", "sacred river"), is also the name of several other western European rivers, such as the Saône River, and possibly also the River Shannon.

Another proposed etymology posits that Sequana is the Latin version of Gaulish Isicauna. Is-Icauna would be the diminutive of Icauna, which was the Gaulish name of the Yonne River. 

The ancient Gauls considered the Seine to be a tributary of the Yonne, which indeed presents a greater average discharge than the Seine (the river flowing through Paris should be called Yonne if the standard rules of geography were applied). Icauna comes from the Pre-Indo-European roots inka -onna. Further research will be needed to decide between both etymologies.

Further downstream in what is now Normandy, the Seine was known as Rodo, or Roto, which is a traditional Celtic name for rivers, and is also the original name of the Rhône River (see Rhône article for further explanations). This is proved by the name of Rouen, which was Rotomagos in Gaulish, meaning "field, plain (magos in Gaulish, whose meaning evolved into "market") of the Roto".


The river is 780 km (485 miles) long, France's second-longest (after the Loire). Its main tributaries are the Aube, Marne and Oise rivers from the north and the Yonne and Eure rivers from the south. It is connected with canals to the Scheldt (also called the Escaut), Meuse, Rhine, Saône and Loire rivers.

The Seine rises in the French région of Burgundy, in the département of Côte-d'Or, 30 km (18 miles) northwest of Dijon at a height of 471 metres (1545 feet). The river then flows through Troyes to Paris.

In Paris, narrowed between high stone embankments, the river carries commercial barges, waterbuses and large tourist boats (bateaux-mouches). From the water, fine views are seen of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay (housing Paris' collection of Impressionist art), the Conciergerie and the Eiffel Tower. 

The northern side of the river is described as the Right Bank (Rive Droite) and the southern side as the Left Bank (Rive Gauche), because when facing the same direction that the river flows, these are the directions to the left and right.

The route of the river Seine, in northern France is shown in the image on the right.

The river then meanders in large loops through Normandy and Rouen, entering the English Channel (La Manche) in an estuary between Le Havre and Honfleur.

The Seine is dredged and oceangoing vessels can dock at Rouen, 120 km (75 miles) from the sea. Commercial riverboats can use the river from Bar-sur-Seine, 560 km (350 miles) from its mouth. At Paris, the river is only 24 metres (80 feet) above sea level, 445 km (277 miles) from its mouth, making it slow flowing and thus easily navigable.

The water of the Seine is an important resource. Electric power stations, thermal and nuclear, pull their cooling water from the river. Half the water used in the Paris region, both for industry and for consumption, and three quarters of the water used in the area between Rouen and Le Havre, is taken from the river.


In ancient times the Seine was known by the Latin name Sequana.
Dredging in the 1960s mostly eliminated the tidal bore ("le mascaret") formerly present in the Seine.

Until the administrative reorganization in the 1960s, Seine was also the name of département number 75. It was named after the river and containing the city of Paris and the surrounding area. It was split into four départements in 1968: Paris, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis and Val-de-Marne. See: Seine (département).

The Banks of the Seine in Paris were added to the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1991.   

Credits : This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Seine".


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