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.
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
Parts of the body |
Time expressions |
Musical terms |
Fish and other sea creatures
||bradan, eo*, iach*
||morlo, broch môr, moelrhon, rhôn*
||reunig, morleue, leue-mor
|ronnach, murlas, maicréal
||breac-mhara, reannach, macrail
||siorc, cearban, gobag mhòr
- * Words with an asterisk are archaic or obsolete
- The Welsh cognate of breac (GE) is brych (spotted), and the Breton cognate is brec'h (spotted)
If you would like to make any corrections or additions to this page, or if
you can provide recordings, please contact me.
Stòr-fhaclan Co-dhàimheil Ceilteach (Database of Celtic cognates)
McBain's Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language
MAGUS: Multilingual Animal Glossary of Unveiled Synonyms
Other pages about Celtic languages