To Sleep

Today we’re looking at the words for sleep and related things in Celtic languages.

Curled up sleeping cat

Proto-Celtic *sounos [ˈsow.nos] = sleep
Gaulish *sounos = sleep
*Kissōnyos = Gaulish god associated with Mercury
Old Irish (Goídelc) súan [suːa̯n] = slumber, sleep
súanaid = to sleep
Irish (Gaeilge) suan [sˠuən̪ˠ] = sleep, slumber
sunach = lethargic, sluggish, apathetic, dormant
sunacht = dormancy
suanaí = sleeper, lethargic, sluggish, apathetic person
suanaíocht = dozing, torport, lethargy
suanán = doze, nap
suanchógas, suanlaíoch = soporific
suanlios = dormitory
suanmhar = sleepy, drowsy, somnolent
suansiúl = sleep-walking, somnambulism
suansiúlaí = sleep-walker, somnambulist
suantraí = lullaby
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) suain [suən̪ʲ] = deep/sound sleep, slumber
suain-lann = dormitory
suaineach = drowsy, sleepy
suainealeach = hypnotic
suainealas = hypnosis, hypnotism
suainealachadh = hypnotising, hypnotism
Manx (Gaelg) saveen = doze, nap, slumber
saveeney = to doze
saveeney, saveenaghey = slumber
saveen-hooyl = somnambulism
saveen-hooyleyder = somnambulist
Proto-Brythonic *hʉn [hʉn] = sleep
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) hun = sleep
hunav, hunaw, hunaf = to sleep
Welsh (Cymraeg) hun [hɨːn/hiːn] = sleep, slumber, nap, drowsiness, rest, death
hunaint = lethargy, sleeping-sickness, coma, apathy, torpor
huniad = a sleeping, sleep
huno = to sleep, slumber, nap, fall asleep, die, fall into a state of apathy, indifference or unconcern
hunog, hunol = slumbering, sleepy, drowsy, sleeper, drowsy person
hun-gân = lullaby
Old Cornish hun = sleep
Middle Cornish hun = sleep
Cornish (Kernewek) hun = sleep
hungan = lullaby
Middle Breton hun = sleep
Breton (Brezhoneg) hun = sleep, nap
hunva = dormitory
hunvaleer = somnambulist, sleep walker
hunvre = dream
hunwezher = sleeping pill
hun don = deep sleep

Etymology: possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *supnós (sleep, death), from *swep- (to sleep) [source].

From the same PIE root we get the Latin word cancer (crab, tumor, cancer, lattice, grid), and related words in other languages, such as cancer, canker and incarcerate in English, cangrejo (crab) and cáncer (cancer) in Spanish [source].

Proto-Celtic *toleyo- = sleep
Old Irish (Goídelc) cotlud = sleeping, sleep
Irish (Gaeilge) codail [ˈkɔd̪ˠɪlʲ / ˈkʌd̪ˠɪlʲ] = to sleep
codlatach = sleepy, drowsy, dormant
codlatacht = sleepiness, drowsiness
codlatán = sleeper, sleepy-head, hibernating creature
codlatóir = sleeper
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) caidil [kadʲɪl] = to sleep, slumber, repose, delay
cadal = sleeping, slumbering, sleep, slumber
codaltach = dozy, drowsy, sleepy, soporific
Manx (Gaelg) caddil [ˈkaːðəl] = to sleep
cadley = sleep, sleepiness, asleep, dormant, unawakened

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)tel- (to be still) [source].

Sources: Wiktionary, Am Faclair Beag, Fockleyreen: Manx – English Dictionary,

Proto-Celtic *kuɸsketi, *kuf-sko- = to sleep
Proto-Brythonic *kuskɨd = to sleep
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) kesku, kyscwyt = to sleep
cwsg, cwsc = sleep
Welsh (Cymraeg) cysgu [ˈkəsɡɨ̞ / ˈkəsɡi] = to sleep, slumber, fall asleep; to fall into the sleep of death, to die; to be or become numb, to be torpid; to fall into a state of apathy, indifference or unconcern
cwsg = sleep, slumber, rest, dormancy, numbness, insensitiveness
cysgadur = sleeper, lazy and drowsy person, sleepy-head, hibernating animal
Cornish (Kernewek) koska [‘kɔska / ‘kʊskɐ] = to sleep
kosk = sleep
yn kosk = asleep
sagh-koska = sleeping bag
Breton (Brezhoneg) kousket = to sleep
kousked = sleep
kouskerez = sleeping
sac’h-kousket = sleeping bag, duvet

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱewb- (to bend, turn) [source]. The English word hip comes from the same PIE root, as does the Albanian word sup (shoulder) [source].

Words marked with a * are reconstructions.

Sources: Wiktionary, Am Faclair Beag, Online Manx Dictionary,, eDIL – Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language, In Dúil Bélrai English – Old Irish glossary, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, Gerlyver Kernewek, Gerlyvyr Cernewec, Dictionaire Favereau, TermOfis, Le dictionnaire diachronique du breton, Geriafurch, English – ProtoCeltic WordList (PDF), Etymological Dictionary Of Proto Celtic

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