Celtic connections

The six Celtic languages currently spoken are divided into two branches: Goidelic or Gaelic, and Brythonic or British. The former branch consists of Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic, while the latter branch includes Welsh, Cornish and Breton. While there are many similarities between the languages in each branch, there are fewer similiarities between the two branches as they have had thousands of years to grow apart.

Differences in spelling and sound changes can disguise related words, but there are quite a few cognates that appear in most or all of the Celtic languages. In some cases the words in one language might be archaic or only used in place names, and more cognates can be found in earlier versions of the the languages. Some words are cognate within each branch of the Celtic languages, but not between the branches.

Words marked with an asterisk are archaic and/or used only in place names. The Cornish words shown are in Common Cornish (Kernewek Kemmyn). The Breton words are in Peurunvan/Modern Standard Spelling.

Sound changes

  • Some words beginning with p or b in the Brythonic or P-Celtic languages begin with c, k or qu (/k/) in the Goidelic or Q-Celtic languages. For example, head is pen in Welsh and ceann in Irish.
  • Some words beginning with gw in the Brythnoic languages begin with f in the Goidelic languages. For example, hair is gwallt in Welsh and falt in Scottish Gaelic.
  • Some words beginning with s(e/i) /ʃ/ in the Goidelic languages begin with h in the Brythnoic languages. For example, old is sean in Irish and hen in Welsh.

Cognates that appear in all or most of the Celtic languages

Adjectives | Pronouns | Verbs | People | Animals | Birds | Fish | Parts of the body | Colours | Numbers | Time expressions | Musical terms | Other words

Parts of the body

Gaeilge
(Irish)
Gàidhlig
(Gaelic)
Gaelg
(Manx)
Cymraeg
(Welsh)
Kernewek
(Cornish)
Brezhoneg
(Breton)
English
béal beul beeal ceg ganow geol (genoù) mouth
bil bil meill byl (gwefus) gwelv muzell, gweuz lip, edge
bolg bolg bolg bol bol kof, sac'h-boued belly, stomach
bos bas bass bos* (cledr y llaw) boz palm
cas cos cass coes garr gar leg
ceann ceann kione pen penn penn head
cluas cluas cleaysh clust skovarn skouarn ear
cnámh cnàimh craue asgwrn askorn askorn bone
dorn dòrn doarn dwrn dorn meih-dorn fist
dromlach, cnámh droma cnàimh-droma craue drommey, jialg meingefn livenn-gein spine, backbone
folt, gruaig folt folt gwallt gols blew blev hair
géag, lámh gàirdean, làmh roih braich bregh brec'h arm
glúin glùin glioon pen-glin, glin glyn glinn, penn glin knee
gualainn gualainn, slinnean geaylin, geayliney, shlinganagh ysgywdd skoedh skoaz shoulder
ionga ìne, ionga yngin ewin ewin ivin (finger/toe) nail
inchinn eanchainn inçhyn ymennydd ympynyon empenn brain
lámh làmh laue llaw lof lau hand
méar meur mair bys bys biz finger
muineál muineal mwannal gwddf, mŵn*, mwnwgl* conna gouzoug, goûg neck
scornach, sceadamán sgòrnan, sgloige, sgòrn, sgoige scoarnagh, troat gwddf lonk gouzoug, goûg throat
súil sùil sooill llygad lagas skouarn eye
srón sròn stroin trwyn troen fri nose
teanga teanga çhengey tafod taves teod tongue /
language
uillinn uileann, uilinn uillin penelin, elin elyn ilin, klin-brec'h elbow

Notes

  • geol = muzzle, snout. genoù = mouth (BR)
  • meih-dorn = fist, dorn = hand (BR)
  • byl = edge, gwefus = lip (CY)

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Links

Stòr-fhaclan Co-dhàimheil Ceilteach (Database of Celtic cognates)
http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/gaidhlig/faclair/scc/lorg.php

McBain's Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language
http://www.ceantar.org/Dicts/MB2/

Other pages about Celtic languages