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 aven (sinkhole, pot hole) in French, avenc (chasm, gulf sinkhole) in Catalan, abeneiro (black alder tree) in Galician, amieiro (alder) in Portuguese, 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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