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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

Adjectives

Gaeilge
(Irish)
Gàidhlig
(Gaelic)
Gaelg
(Manx)
Cymraeg
(Welsh)
Kernewek
(Cornish)
Brezhoneg
(Breton)
English
mór mòr mooar mawr
(bras)
meur
(bras)
meur
(bras)
big, large
beag beag beg bach, bychan byghan bihan small
leathan leathann lhean llydan ledan ledan wide, broad
caol caol keyl cul kul strizh narrow
deas deas jesh braf, hyfryd, neis teg, brav brav nice
maith math, deagh mie da da mat good
droch droch drogh drwg drog drouk bad
mear mear merre miri; llawen meri; lowenek laouen merry, mad, merriment, fun
saor saor seyr rhydd; rhad rydh; dhe wari digoust; marc'hadmat free, cheap
daor daor deyr drud ker koustus expensive
nua nuadh noa newydd nowydh nevez new
úr ùr oor ir; iraidd; newydd yr; kro fresk fresh, new
óg òg aeg ifanc yowynk yaouank young
sean sean shenn hen hen hen, kozh old
bodhar bodhar bouyr byddar bodhar bouzar deaf

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Pronouns

Gaeilge
(Irish)
Gàidhlig
(Gaelic)
Gaelg
(Manx)
Cymraeg
(Welsh)
Kernewek
(Cornish)
Brezhoneg
(Breton)
English
mi mee i/fi/mi me me I
thu oo ti ty te you (sg)
è eh fe/fo/ef ev he
i ee hi hy hi she
muid, sinn sinn shin ni ni ni we
sibh sibh siu chi, chwi hwi c'hwi you (pl)
siad iad ad nhw, hwy, hwynt i int they

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Verbs

Gaeilge
(Irish)
Gàidhlig
(Gaelic)
Gaelg
(Manx)
Cymraeg
(Welsh)
Kernewek
(Cornish)
Brezhoneg
(Breton)
English
bee bod bos bezañ to be
déan dèan jean gwneud gul ober to do
téigh rach goll mynd mos mont to go
mair, cónaigh beò bieau byw byw bevañ to live
labhair labhair loayrt llefaru leverel komz to speak
abair abair; can abbyr; gra dweud leverel; medhes lavaret to say
caint bruidhinn caaynt siarad kewsel komz to talk
abair; can; cas (amhrán) seinn; gabh (òran) gow arrane; cronnaney canu kana kanañ to sing
feic faic faik gweld gweles gwelet to see
amharc; feic coimhead jeeaghyn; cur shilley; cur geeck gweld mires gwelet to look
codladh cadal cadley cysgu koska kousket to sleep
léigh leughagh lhiah darllen redya lenn to read
ith ith ee bwyta, difa* dybri debriñ to eat
ól òl iu, oyl yfed eva evañ to drink
siúil siubhail shooill cerdded kerdhes kerzhout to walk
rith ruith roie rhedeg resek redek to run
léim leum lheim llamu lamma lam to jump
seas seas shass sefyll sevel sevel to stand
suigh siudhe soie eistedd esedha sichañ to sit
nigh nee ymolchi omwolghi gwalc'hiñ, golc'hiñ to wash
lorg lorg lurg chwilio hwilas klask to search
loisc losgadh lostey llosgi leski leskiñ to burn
moladh moladh moylley moli, canmol gormel; kanmel meuliñ to praise
tacht tachd toghtey (ys)tagu taga tagañ to choke

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If you would like to make any corrections or additions to this page, or if you can provide recordings, please contact me.

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


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