Languages and Tongues

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

Proto-Celtic *tangʷāss, tangʷāt = tongue
Old Irish (Goídelc) tengae [ˈtʲeŋɡe] = tongue, language
Irish (Gaeilge) teanga [ˈtʲaŋə / ˈtʲaŋɡə] = tongue, language
teangach = tongued, lingual, wordy, loquacious
teangachruthach = tongue-shaped, linguiform
teangaigh = to tongue (in music)
teangaire = interpreter
teangeolaí = linguist, expert in linguistics
teangeolaíocht = linguistics
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) teanga [tʲɛŋgə] = tongue, speech, spit (of land)
teangan = tongue
teangaidh = tongue, speech
teangach = abounding in tongues, loquacious, langued (in hearldry)
teangair = linguist, interpreter, orator, philologist
Manx (Gaelg) çhengey [ˈtʃɛnʲə] = bell-clapper, clasp, feather, strap-hinge; catch (of buckle); tongue; language, speech; utterance
çhengeyr çhyndaader = interpreter
çhengeyder = linguist
çhengoaylleeaght = linguistics
çhengey ny mayrey = mother tongue
daa-hengagh = bilingual
yl-çhengagh = polyglot
Proto-Brytonic *tau̯āt, *tavọd = tongue
Old Welsh tauawt = tongue, language
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) tauaut = tongue, language
Welsh (Cymraeg) tafod [ˈtavɔd / ˈtaːvɔd] = tongue, faculty of speech, power of expression; language, speech, dialect, accent
tafod aur = pleasant or witty talk, eloquence (“gold tongue”)
tafod bach = uvula
tafod cloch = clapper (of bell)
tafodiaeth = language, vernacular or native language, dialect, pronunciation, articulation, verbal expression
tafodi = to scold, rebuke, chide, berate, cheek, abuse (verbally), tongue (in music)
tafodiad = a scolding or berating, pronunciation
tafodwr = speaker, talker
Old Cornish tauot = language, tongue
Middle Cornish tawes = language, tongue
Cornish (Kernewek) taves = language, tongue
tavosa = to scold, tell off
tavosek = talkative, verbose
tavoseth = idiom, jargon
Old Breton tavod = tongue
Middle Breton teaut, teut = tongue
Breton (Brezhoneg) teod [ˈtɛwt] = tongue
teodel = oral
teodek = talkative, gossipy
teodyezh = speech, dialect, way of speaking
teodyezhañ = to speak
teodyezher = speaker

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *dn̥ǵʰwéh₂s (tongue) [source].

Words from the same PIE root include: tongue and language in English, lingua (tongue, language) in Italian, язик [jɐˈzɪk] (tongue) in Ukrainian, and jazyk (tongue, language) in Czech and Slovak [source].

Proto-Celtic *yaxtī = language
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) icht = race, people, tribe; province, district
Proto-Brythonic *jeiθ, *i̯ekti = tongue
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) ieith, yeith = language, nation, race
Welsh (Cymraeg) iaith [jai̯θ] = language, tongue; people, nation, race, tribe
ieithiadur = grammar
ieithio = to pronounce, proclaim, express
ieithog = having language or several languages, multilingual, polyglot
ieithydd = one who has thorough knowledge or command of a language or languages, linguist, grammarian, philologist, interpreter, speark, poet
ieithyddiaeth = linguistics, philology, grammar
ieithgi = one who is interested in the study of language (rather than of literature), philologist
Cornish (Kernewek) yeth [eːθ / jeːθ] = tongue, language
yeth le-usys = minority language
yethador = grammar
yethel = linguistic
yethonieth = linguistics
yethor, yethores = linguist
Middle Breton yez = language
Breton (Brezhoneg) yezh [ˈjeːs] = language
yezhadur = grammar
yezhadurel = grammatical
yezhel = linguistic
yezher = speaker
unyezher = unilingual
divyezher = bilingual
liesyezher = polyglot

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *yek- (to utter). It is uncertain if the Middle Irish word icht is cognate with the Brythonic words [source].

Words from the same PIE root include: joke and Yule in English, jul (Yule, Christmas) in Danish and Norwegian, juego (play, game, sport) in Spanish, and joc (game, play, dance) in Romanian [source].

Old Irish (Goídelc) bélrae [ˈbʲeːl͈re] = language, speech
bélrae Féne = legal language
bélrae na filed = acrane vocabulary, poetic language
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) bérla(e) = speech, language
Irish (Gaeilge) béarla = speech (archaic)
béarlachas = Anglicism
béarlagair = jargon
béarlamhail = having command of language, fluent (archaic)
Béarla [ˈbʲeːɾˠl̪ˠə] = English (language)
Béarlóir = English speaker
Béarlóireacht = (act of) speaking English
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) Beurla [bjɤːr̪ˠl̪ˠə] = English (language)
Beurlachas = Anglicism
Beurla Leathann = Broad Scots
Manx (Gaelg) Baarle [bɛːᵈl] = English (language)
Baarlagh = of or pertaining to the English language
Baarlaghys = Anglicism
Baarleyr = English-speaker, anglophone
Baarle Albinagh = Scots, Lallans
Baarle Ghaelagh, Baarle Vanninagh = Anglo-Manx (language)
Baarle Heenagh = pidgin
Baarle chiart = the Queen’s English

Etymology: from the Old Irish bél (mouth) and -ra (collective suffix) [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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