Caves, hollows and related words in Celtic languages.

Deeper in the cave

Proto-Celtic *oumā = cave
Old Irish (Goídelc) úam = cave
Irish (Gaeilge) uaimh [uəvʲ] = cave, souterrain, underground chamber, cellar, crypt, vault, den of thieves, pit
uaimheadóireacht = exploration of caves, potholing
uaimheolaí = speleologist
uaimheolaíocht = speleology
uaimheolaí = speleologist
uaimh ifrinn = pit of hell
uaimh ladrann = den of thieves
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) uamh [ũə̃v] / uaimh = cave, den, hollow, grave, grotto
uamh-thalmhainn = souterrain, underground passage
Manx (Gaelg) oghe = cave, oven
ooig = den, cavern, grotto, antar, pit, stope, hotbed, cave
ooig-oaylleeaght = speleology
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) guocof, guocob, gogof = cave
Welsh (Cymraeg) (g)ogof [ˈɔɡɔv / ˈoːɡɔv] = cave, cavern, grotto, cleft, cavity, den, lair
ogof l(l)adron = den of thieves
Cornish (Kernewek) gogow = cave, cavity

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁ewn- (empty) [source].

Proto-Brythonic *fowyā = den, lair, cave
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) ffeu = den, lair, cave
Welsh (Cymraeg) ffau = den, lair, burrow, set, covert, cave
Cornish (Kernewek) fow = cave

Etymology: from the Latin fovea (pit, hole in the ground, snare) the Proto-Indo-European *bʰow- (pit, hole) [source].

Proto-Celtic *tullos/*tullom = pierced, perforated, hole
Old Irish (Goídelc) toll = perforated, pierced, hole
tollaid = to pierce, perforate
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) toll = pierced, perforated; hollow, empty, tonsured, vain, ineffective; hole, fault; buttocks
tollad = act of piercing, attacking, penetrating, impugning
tollaid = piereces, penetrates
tollus = perforation
tretholl = piereced, hollow
tuille = hollowness
Irish (Gaeilge) toll [t̪ˠoːl̪ˠ/t̪ˠəul̪ˠ/t̪ˠʌl̪ˠ] = hole, hollow, posterior, buttocks, piereced, perforated, empty, deep (voice), to bore, pierce, perforate
tolladh = borning, perforation
tolladóir = borer, piercer, perforator
tolladóireacht = (act of) boring
tollán = tunnel
tollmhór = big-bottomed, bumptious
tolltach = piercing, penetrating
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) toll [tɔul̪ˠ] = hole, penetration, hole, hold (of a ship); to bore, perforate, gore
toll-guail = coalpit
toll-iuchrach = keyhole
toll-putain = buttonhole
toll-sìolaidh = plughole
tolltach [tɔul̪ˠdəx] = full of holes, holed
tolta [tɔul̪ˠdə] = bored, perforated, gored
tollan [tɔl̪ˠan] = orifice
Manx (Gaelg) towl = aperture, bore, cavity, crater, hole, hollow, leak, penetration, pothole, shaft, vent
towl buird = pigeonhole
towl conning = rabbit hole
towl dhull = plughole
towl doo = black hole
yn towlagh = penetrable
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) tull, twll, twlh = hole, hollow, pit
Welsh (Cymraeg) twll [tʊɬ] = hole, aperture, dimple, hollow, pit, cave, burrow, den, orifice
twll agoriad, twll (y) clo = keyhole
twll botwm = buttonhole
twll cath = cat-flap, cat-door
twll cesail. twll y gesail = armpit
twll cwinngen = rabbit burrrow
twll du = black hole
twll (y) grisiau = stairwell
Middle Cornish (Cernewec) toll = hole, perforation
tolcorn = flute, fife (“horn with holes”)
tollec = full of holes, perforated, hollow
tolly = to make a hole, to perforate
Cornish (Kernewek) toll = burrow, hollow, hole, opening, orifice
toll alhwedh = keyhole
toll boton = button hole
toll konin = rabbit burrow
toll lavrek = fly (in trousers)
toll y’n fos = cash dispenser (“hole in the wall”)
tollek = holed, leaky, perforated
Old Breton tull = foramen (aperture or opening produced by boring)
Middle Breton (Brezonec) toull = pierced, leaky, deep, hollow, empty; hole
toulladur = digging, excavation, piercing
Breton (Brezhoneg) toull [ˈtulː] = holed, pierced, hole, embrasure, entrance
toull du = black hole
toulled = thole (pin)
toullet = perforated

Etymology: from Proto-Indo-European *tewk- (to push, press, beat, pierce, perforate), from *(s)tew- (to push, hit) [source].

Words from the same Proto-Celtic root include tollo (hole in the ground where hunters hide, rainwater puddle) in Spanish, toll (pool, puddle) in Catalan, tol (ditch, dam) in Galician [source].

Words from the same PIE root possibly include tkát (to weave) in Czech, tkać (to weave, stick, tuck) in Polish, and тъка [tɐˈkɤ] (to spin, plait, entwine, weave) in Bulgarian [source].

Proto-Celtic *kuwo-/*kawyos = hollow
Old Irish (Goídelc) cúas = hollow, cavity, cave
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) cúa, cuae, cua, cúe = hollow, empty’ bell-shaped cup, nut
cuäch, cúach = cup, goblet, bowl, cauldron
cúachda, cuachda = cupped, hollow
cúas, cús = hollow, cavity, cave, cavern, lair, den, shelter
cuithe = put, pitfall, prison, dungeon, well, pool, whirlpool
Irish (Gaeilge) cuas = cavity, hollow, recess, cove, creek
cuasach = cavernous, hollow, concave
cuasacht = concavity
cuasán = (small) cavity
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) cuas [kuəs] = hollow, cave, cavity
cuasach [kuəsəx] = cavernous
cuasan [kuəsan] = small hollow/cavity, small cave
Proto-Brythonic *kow = hollow
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) cev, keu, cau = hollow, empty, sunken
Welsh (Cymraeg) cau = hollow, empty, sunken, false, deceitful, enclosing, shut, closed, vacuum, cavity, inwards, bowels
yghau = closed, shut
Middle Cornish (Cernewec) *kew = hollow
Cornish (Kernewek) kew = hollow
Middle Breton (Brezonec) queu, keu, kev = hollow, concave, deep
que = cavity, cave
Breton (Brezhoneg) kev = crypt, excavation

Etymology: from Proto-Indo-European *kewh- (vault, hole) [source]. , or from *ḱowh₁ós (hollow), from *ḱewh₁- (to swell) [source]. The English words cave and cavity come from the same roots.

The Breton word kavarn (cave, cavern, den, lair) comes from the same PIE root, probably via the Latin caverna (hollow, cavity, cave, cavern), from cavus (hollow, concave), from the Proto-Italic *kawos [source].

Other words in Breton for cave are groc’h, mougev and roc’h toull. There don’t appear to be any cave-related words that are cognate with the other Celtic languages.

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, Dictionaire Favereau, TermOfis, English – ProtoCeltic WordList (PDF), Etymological Dictionary Of Proto Celtic

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