Lowender Peren

This weekend I’m in Newquay in Cornwall for the Lowender Peren festival of Celtic music and dance. This is the first time I’ve been to this particular festival, but I have been to pan-Celtic festivals in the Isle of Man before. There are performers and visitors here from all the Celtic lands – Cornwall, Brittany, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. I know quite a few of the people from the Isle of Man who are here, and a few from Scotland.

Lowender Peren

The name Lowender Peren means ‘Perran’s Mirth’ in Cornish. The word perran features in some Cornish places names, including Perranporth (Porthperan in Cornish), Perranzabuloe (Pyran yn Treth in Cornish) and Perranarworthal (Peran ar Wodhel in Cornish). It comes from Saint Piran (Peran in Cornish), a 5th century Cornish abbot who became the patron saint of tin miners, and is regarded as the patron saint of Cornwall.

The festival was offical opened last night with a speech in Cornish, and English, by a member of the Gorsedh Kernow, the Gorsedh of the Bards of Cornwall, possibly the Grand Bard herself. Gorsedh is ‘a meeting of bards’. She sounded fairly fluent, and I could actually understand some of the Cornish. I haven’t found anyone else here who speaks Cornish, apart from a few phrases.

Last night there was dancing to a local band, and then a trio of singers, members of the Lorho-Pasco family from Brittany, sang for us in Breton, and we improvised some dances. It was the first time I’d heard that style of Breton music. It works well for dancing, though I’m not sure if I’d want to listen to it for too long on its own.

I also spoke a bit of Manx with people I know from the Isle of Man, and some Scottish Gaelic with Joy Dunlop, a dancer and singer from Scotland who I know from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.


This morning there was an interesting talk about the history of Newquay. Then I went for a wander around the town. This afternoon we went for a guided walk around Newquay seeing some of the things that were mentioned in the talk.

There will be a lot more music, singing and dancing over the next few days. There was even a music session going on in the hotel where the festival is taking place when I went past not long ago.

Tykki Duw

Last week I learnt that a butterfly in Cornish is a tykki Duw [tɪkˑi’dyˑʊ / tɪkˑi’diˑʊ], or literally “God’s pretty thing”. A moth is a tykki Duw nos or “God’s pretty thing of the night”).

The word tykki comes from teg (pretty, attractive), and Duw comes from the Proto-Celtic *dēwos (god), from the Proto-Indo-European *deywós (god), from *dyew- (sky, heaven).


Names for butterflies are interesting in other languages as well:

  • Welsh: glöyn byw (glowing ember); iâr fach yr haf (little hen of the summer); pili-pala; plufyn bach yr haf (little feather of the summer), colomen fyw (lively pigeon); glöyn Duw (god’s ember/coal); eilir (spring).
  • Scottish Gaelic: féileagan; dealan-dé (god’s lightning); sglapaid; teine-dé (god’s fire); teillean-dé (god’s bee); tormachan-dé (god’s ptarmigan); dealman-dé; strainnsear (stranger); gogag
  • Manx: foillycan, follican
  • Irish: féileacán; guagóg; uallán
  • Breton: balafenn; barbellig; bobelan; aelig
  • Swedish: fjäril
  • Danish: sommerfugl (summer bird)
  • Spanish: mariposa
  • German: Schmetterling
  • French: papillon
  • Italian: farfalla
  • Russian: бабочка (babochka)

What about in other languages?

Sources: Gerlyver Kernewek, Wiktionary, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, Geiriadur yr Academi, Am Faclair Beag On-line Manx Dictionary, Dictionnaire Favereau, bab.la


As you may or may not be aware, I have another blog called Multilingual Musings, which was where I practised using languages I’m learning, and posted interesting words that come up in the French conversation group I go to.

Recently I transfered all the content from there to this blog, and renamed that blog Celtiadur. I am now building an etymological dictionary of Celtic languages there.

It will contain information about the six modern Celtic languages: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish and Breton, as well as their historical versions and ancestors.

The name Celtiadur is one I coined which combines the word celt and the Welsh suffix -adur, which appears in such words as geiriadur (dictionary), dyddiadur (diary), gwyddoniadur (encyclopedia) and ieithiadur (grammar, dictionary, vocabulary). It is also used in Breton.

There isn’t much there yet, but I will be transferring all the words in my Celtic Cognates section, and adding many more.

Not seeing the wood for the trees

Recently a friend asked if there is an idiom in English like I cannot see the wood for the trees, which refers to hearing. We couldn’t think of any, but maybe you can.

This expression means that you “cannot see, understand, or focus on a situation in its entirety due to being preoccupied with minor details” [source]. Apparently in North America the equivalent is “I cannot see the forest for the trees”. The wood refers to a small forest, rather than the material that comes from trees.

Here be trees!

There is an equivalent idiom in Esperanto: Li en arbaro sidas kaj arbojn ne vidas (He sits in the forest and doesn’t see trees).

The equvalent in Italian is avere gli occhi foderati di prociutto (to have one’s eyes lined with ham).

Are there similar idioms in other languages?

In Russian the word for tree is дерево (derevo), which came up in my Russian lessons today. It is comes from the Proto-Slavic *dervo (tree), from Proto-Indo-European *dóru (tree), which is also the root of the English word tree, and of the Welsh derw and the Cornish derow (oak trees) [source].

The photo is one I took of Ashley Jones Field in Bangor.

Cows, beef and shepherds

Cows among the heather in Cregneash, Isle of Man

Yesterday I learnt the Russian word for beef, говядина [ɡɐˈvʲædʲɪnə], and the promotely forgot it. So I thought I’d investigate its etymology to help me remember it.

говядина comes from говядо [ɡɐˈvʲadə] and old word for cattle. This comes from the Proto-Slavic *govędo (head of cattle, bull, ox), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʷew-n̥d-, from *gʷṓws (cattle) [source].

The usual Russian word for cow is корова [source], which comes from the Proto-Slavic *kőrva (cow), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱerh₂- (horn) [source].

*gʷṓws is also the root of:

  • gak = boar (Albanian)
  • govs = cattle, cow (Latvian)
  • говядо = beef (Ukrainian)
  • говедо = cattle (Bulgarian, Macedonian & Serbian)
  • govedo = cattle (Croatian & Slovenian)
  • hovado = brute (Czech & Slovak)
  • gowjedo = cow (Lower Sorbian)
  • *kūz = cow (Proto-Germanic)
  • Kuh = cow (German)
  • koe = cow (Dutch)
  • ku = cow (Norwegian)
  • ko = cow (Swedish, Danish, North Frisian)
  • coo, kye = cow (Scots)
  • βοῦς = cow (Ancient Greek)
  • bōs = cow, bull, ox (Latin)
  • bou = ox (Catalan)
  • bue = ox, beef (Italian)
  • bife = steak (Portuguese)
  • bou= ox, idiot (Romanian)
  • buey= ox. steer (Spanish)
  • bœuf = cow, ox, beef, jam session (French)
  • *bāus = cow (Proto-Celtic)
  • *bōws = ox (Proto-Celtic)
  • bu, buw = cow, bullock, head of cattle (Middle Welsh)
  • buwch = cow (Welsh)
  • bugh = cow (Cornish)
  • bu, buoc’h = cow (Breton)
  • bó = cow (Irish)
  • booa = cow (Manx)
  • bò = cow (Scottish Gaelic)

The English words beef and bovine come ultimately from the same root. Beef comes from the Middle English beef, bef, beof, from the Anglo-Norman beof, from the Old French buef, boef (ox). from Latin bōs (“ox”)

The Proto-Indo-European word *gʷowkólos, from *gʷṓws (cow) & *kʷel- (to revolve, move around, sojourn) gives us the following words in the Celtic languages [Source].

  • *boukolyos = herdsman (Proto-Celtic)
  • *bʉgöl = herdsman (Proto-Brythonic
  • bugail = shepherd, pastor (Welsh)
  • bugel = child, shepherd (Cornish)
  • bugel = child (Breton)
  • búachaill = cowherd (Old Irish)
  • buachaill = boy, herdsman, servant, boyfriend (Irish)
  • bochilley = shepherd, herdsman (Manx)
  • buachaill, buachaille = cowherd, herdsman, shepherd, youth (Scottish Gaelic)

Snow falls

As there has been some snow here this week, and it’s snowing at bit as I write this, I thought I’d look at some words for snow.

Snow / Eira
A bit of snow in my garden yesterday morning

In Romanian snow is zăpadă [zəˈpadə], which comes from the Slavic word zapadati (to fall) [source]. To snow is a ninge, and snowfall is ninsoare, which both come from the Latin ningere (to snow), utimately from the Proto-Indo-European *sneygʷʰ- (to snow) [source].

The English word snow comes from Middle English snow/snaw, from the Old English snāw (snow), from the Proto-Germanic *snaiwaz (snow), from the Proto-Indo-European *snóygʷʰos (snow), from the root *sneygʷʰ- (to snow).

Many of the words for snow in other European languages come from the same Proto-Indo-European root. However, words for snow in Welsh (eira), Cornish (ergh) and Breton erc’h, come from the Proto-Celtic *argyos (white), via the Proto-Brythonic *ėrɣ (snow) [source].

Beards and chins

Illustration of a beard

One of the Romanian lessons I did today was about parts of the body. One word that came up was bărbie [bərˈbi.e], which I guessed meant beard, but actually means chin. I suppose beards usually grow on chins, so this isn’t too surprising.

Bărbie comes from the Vulgar Latin *barbilia, from the Latin barba (beard; wool; down on a plant). Or from the Romanian barbă (beard) +‎ -ie (a noun suffix) [source].

In Spanish chin is barbilla [barˈβiʎa] – barba (beard) with a diminutive suffix, so it could be translated as “little beard” [source].

The English word beard comes from the Middle English berd, bard, bærd, from the Old English beard, from Proto-Germanic *bardaz, from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰardʰeh₂, all of which mean beard. The PIE word *bʰardʰeh₂ is also the root of words for beard in Germanic, Slavic, Romance and Iranian languages [source], and in Welsh (barf) Cornish (barv) and Breton (barv) [source].

In the Gaelic / Goidelic languages however, the words for beard are different: féasóg in Irish, feusag in Scottish Gaelic, and faasaag in Manx. The come from the Old Irish fésóc, from fés (lip; body hair) [source].

Are words for beards and chins similar in other languages?

The Foreshortening Dark

December in various languages

In many languages this month is known as December, or something similar, which comes ultimately from the Latin *decumo-mēnsris (of the tenth month) – the Roman calendar started in March (mārtius) [source].

However in some languages December has a completely different name:

In Welsh December is Rhagfyr [ˈr̥aɡvɨ̞r], which means the ‘foreshortening’, from rhagfyrhau (to foreshorten), from rhag (a prefix with various meanings) and byr (short, small) [source].

In Breton December is miz Kerzu [miz ˈkɛʁ.zy] – which means ‘very dark month’. The Cornish for December is similar and has the same meaning: Mys Kevardhu [source].

In Scottish Gaelic December is Dùbhlachd, From dubh (dark), so it’s a dark time [source].

In Irish December is Mí na Nollag (the month of Christmas). Nollag is the genetive of Nollaig, which comes from the Old Irish Notlaic (Christmas), from Latin nātālīcia (a birthday party), from nātālis (natal), from nātus (born) [source].

In Finnish December is joulukuu (Christmas/yule moon) [source], which was also the meaning of the Old English word for this month: Gēolmōnaþ.

In Czech December is prosinec [prɔsɪnɛt͡s], which comes from prosinoti (flashing, shining) [source].

In Polish December is grudzień [ˈɡru.d͡ʑɛɲ], from the Proto-Slavic *grudьnъ, from *gruda (heap, lump) & *-ьnъ [source].

Are there interesting names for December in other languages?

How many roads?

How many roads?

Last week I learned that there are quite a few words for roads in Irish. These include:

bóthar [ˈbˠoːhəɾˠ] = road; way, manner. From the Proto-Celtic *bow-itros (cow path).

Related words in other Celtic languages:

– bóthar [boː.ər] = alley, lane (Scottish Gaelic)
– bayr [bajr] = avenue, drive, lane, pad, roadway (Manx)
– beidr [beidɪr] = lane, track (Welsh)
– bownder [‘bɔʊndɛr] = lane (Cornish)

bóithrín = country lane, boreen (diminutive of bóthar)

bealach [ˈbʲalˠəx] = way, road track; pass. From the Old Irish belach (gap, pass, road, path).

Related words in other Celtic languages:

– bealach [bjal̪ˠəx] = pass; access; detour; breach, gap, opening; inlet (Scottish Gaelic)
– bollagh = channel, course, curving uphill road, gap, gorge, lane, passage, route, thoroughfare (Manx)

ród [rˠoːdˠ] = road, highway. From the Old Irish rót (road, highway).

Related words in other Celtic languages:

– rathad [ra.ad] = road, way, route (Scottish Gaelic)
– raad [reːd̪, raːd̪] = avenue, drive, lane, pad, roadway (Manx)
– rhawd [r̥aud] = course, career (Welsh)
– roud = route, trace (Breton)

slí [ʃliː] = way, road, track, route, passage. From the Old Irish slige (gap, pass, road, path).

Related words in other Celtic languages:

– slighe [ʃl̪ʲi.ə] = path, track, trail, way; course, passage, route (Scottish Gaelic)

cosán = path; footway, track; way, passage; direction. From the Old Irish casán (path, footpath), from cás (foot).

Related words in other Celtic languages:

– casan [kasan] = path; supporting beam; treadle; wattle (Scottish Gaelic)
– cassan [keːzən] = passage, path, pathway, sidewalk, thoroughfare; walk, footpath; trajectory (Manx)

cabhsa = causeway; path, lane

sráid [sˠɾˠɑːdʲ] = street; level (surfaced) ground around house; village. From the Old Irish sráit (street, road, path, way), from the Old Norse stræti (street), from Late Latin strāta (a paved road).

Related words in other Celtic languages:

– sràid [sdraːdʲ] = street (Scottish Gaelic)
– straid = street; farmyard; thoroughfare (Manx)
– stryd [striːd] = street (Welsh)
– stret [strɛ:t] = street (Cornish)
– straed = alley, lane (Breton)

Incidentally, the English word road comes from the Middle English rode/rade, from the Old English rād (riding, hostile incursion), from the Proto-Germanic *raidō (a ride), from the Proto-Indo-European *reydʰ- (to ride).

Sources: teanglann.ie, Wiktionary, Fockleyreen, Am Faclair Beag, Dictionnaire Favereau breton, cornish dictionary / gerlyver kernewek

Celtic conversations

This week I’ve had quite a few conversations in Manx. I only speak it when I come to the Isle of Man, and when I meet Manx learners at polyglot events. At the beginning of the week my Manx was decidedly rusty, but it’s starting to flow now. When I don’t know a word or phrase in Manx, I switch to Irish, and often get away with it. It helps that some of the Manx speakers I know here also speak Irish.

As well as Manx, and English, I spoke some Welsh last night, and odd bits of Scottish Gaelic, Cornish and Breton.

The performers here for the festival are from the Isle of Man, Scotland and Ireland. The songs have been in English and Manx, and the evening concerts have been introduced bilingually in Manx and English. There aren’t any performers here from Wales, Cornwall or Brittany this year, but there have been in previous years.

Tomorrow I’m off to Glencolmcille (Gleann Cholm Cille) in Donegal in the northwest of Ireland. I will speak plenty of Irish there, and probably other languages, and learn more traditional Irish songs and tunes.