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

Musical terms

Gaeilge
(Irish)
Gàidhlig
(Gaelic)
Gaelg
(Manx)
Cymraeg
(Welsh)
Kernewek
(Cornish)
Brezhoneg
(Breton)
English
ceol ceòl kiaull cerddoriaeth / miwsig ilow / menystrouthi sonerezh / muzik music
ochtach ochdach shiaull wythawd eizhvetez octave
scála sointread scaail graddfa skeul skeulenn scale
mór mòr / màidsear mooar mwyaf muiañ major
mion mion / meanar myn lleddf leiañ minor
nóta pong / punc / soin notey nodyn notenn note
gléas / eochair uchdach gleaysh allwedd / cleff alc'hwez / kelc'h key / clef
cliath cleeah erwydd regenneg stave
géar geur gear llonnod lemm sharp
maol meayl meddal bouc'h flat
soprán soprane soprano soprano soprano
alt alto alt alto alto alto
teanór tennor tenor ténor, tenored tenor
baratón baraton baritone baritôn usvoud, bariton baritone
dord beus / borbhanach cronney / dord bas boud bass

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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