Rivers & Stars

Words for rivers & stars in Celtic languages.

Cwm Idwal

Proto-Celtic *abonā / *abū = river
*abonko- = beaver
Gaulish ambe = river
Old Irish (Goídelc) ab [au̯v] = river
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) ab = river
Irish (Gaeilge) abhainn [əunʲ / əun̠ʲ / oːn̠ʲ] = river
craobh-abhainn = affluent, tributary
tréig-abhainn = distributary
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) abhainn [a.ɪn̪ʲ] = river, stream
abhainneach = fluvial, pertaining to or abounding in rivers
abhainn-deighe = river of ice, glacier
capall-aibhne = hippopotamus
con-abhainn = confluence
leas-abhainn = tributary
tur-abhainn = seasonally dry river
Manx (Gaelg) awin [aunʲ / ˈawənʲ] = river
awiney = freshwater, riverside; of a river
broogh awin = river bank, riverside
beeal/cass awin = estuary, river mouth
crouw-awin = confluence
Proto-Brythonic *aβon [aˈβoːn] = river
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) afon, avon, auon = river
Welsh (Cymraeg) afon [ˈaːvɔn / ˈavɔn] = river, stream, brook
afonfarch = hippopotamus
afonig = rivulet, stream, book
afonog = having (many) rivers or streams; fluvial
Old Cornish auon = river
Middle Cornish (Cernewec) avon = river
Cornish (Kernewek) avon, awon [ˈavɔn] = river
Middle Breton aven, avon = river
Breton (Brezhoneg) aven [ˈɑː.ven] = river

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *h₂ep-h₃ōn-, from *h₂ep- (water, body of water) [source]. The names of the river Avon in England and the river A’an (Avon) in Scotland were borrowed from Proto-Brythonic [source].

Words from the same PIE roots include अप् (ap – water, Virgo) in Sanskrit, and possibly words for ape in English and other Germanic languages [source].

Proto-Celtic *rēnos = river, waterway
Gaulish Rēnos = River Rhein (?)
Old Irish (Goídelc) rían [r͈ʲiːa̯n] = sea, ocean, path, course, way, manner
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) rían = sea, ocean (poetic/archaic); course, route, path, way, manner, state
Irish (Gaeilge) rian = course, path, mark, trace, track, vigour
rianach = having tracks, paths
rianaí = wayfarer, wanderer, tracker, tracer, genealogist
rianaigh = to mark out, trace, indent, chart, track
rianaíocht = wayfaring, wandering
comhrian = corresponding course, contour
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) rian [r̪ʲian] = method, mode, system, arrangement, control, management, order, sense
rianachd = administration
rianadair = arranger, controller, governor
rianail = orderly, methodical
rianaire = administrator
co-rian = system
mì-rian = confusion, disorder
Manx (Gaelg) rane = stanza, track, verse

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *h₃reyH-nós, from *h₃reyH- (to flow, stream) [source]. Names for the river Rhine in many languages come from the same roots, via the Latin Rhēnus and Gaulish [source]

Proto-Celtic *sterā = star
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) ser = star
Proto-Brythonic *ster = stars
Welsh (Cymraeg) sêr [seːr] = stars
Cornish (Kernewek) ster = stars
Breton (Brezhoneg) ster [ˈsteːr] = stars, river

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *h₂stḗr (star), from **h₂eh₁s- (to burn) [source]. It’s possible that the Breton word for ster comes from two different roots, and the river one is not cognate with words for star in other Celtic languages.

Words marked with a * are reconstructions.

Sources: Wiktionary, Am Faclair Beag, Online Manx Dictionary, Teanglann.ie, eDIL – Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language, In Dúil Bélrai English – Old Irish glossary, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, Gerlyver Kernewek, Dictionaire Favereau, TermOfis, Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise, English – ProtoCeltic WordList (PDF), Etymological Dictionary Of Proto Celtic

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One thought on “Rivers & Stars

  1. If I’m not mistaken, the reconstructed Pictish word for river is “*aber” (like in *Aber*deen)

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