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 *kow-sto- / *kuwo- = hollow, cavity
Old Irish (Goídelc) cúas = hollow, cavity
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) cúa = hollow, cavity
Irish (Gaeilge) cuas = cavity, hollow, recess, cove, creek
cuasach = cavernous, hollow, concave
cuasacht = concavity
cuasfhuinneog = bow-window
cuas-súileach = hollow-eyed
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) cuas [kuəs] = hollow, cavity, cave
cuasan = hole, cavity
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) cev, keu, kau = hollow, closed
Welsh (Cymraeg) cau = hollow, empty, sunken, fig. false, deceitful; enclosing, shut, closed; vacuum, cavity, inwards, bowels
yghau = closed, shut
Cornish (Kernewek) kew = hollow
Old Breton cau = covered
Middle Breton queu = covered
Breton (Brezhoneg) kew = hollow

Etymology from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱowh₁ós (hollow) from *ḱewH- (to swell) or *kewh₂- (vault, hole) [source].

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), frp, 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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