Celtic connections - colours

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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


airgead airgead argid arian arghans arc'hant silver
buí buidhe bwee melyn melyn melen yellow
dearg dearg jiarg coch kogh ruz red
donn donn dhone dwn* (brown) gorm duard
brown, dun
dubh dubh doo du du du black
fionn fionn fynn gwyn gwynn gwenn white, blond
glas glas glass glas glas glas blue, green, grey
gorm gorm gorrym gwrm* blou
(gorm = brown)
gwer blue, green
glas gris
buidhe jiarg-bwee
oren rudhvelyn orañjez


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Stòr-fhaclan Co-dhàimheil Ceilteach (Database of Celtic cognates)

McBain's Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language

Other pages about Celtic languages

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