Fields, Meadows and Pastures

There are a number of words for fields in Celtic languages. Some appear only or mainly in placenames. Here’s a selection:

Roman Camp

Old Irish (Goídelc) achad = expanse of ground; pasture, field; field of battle
Irish (Gaeilge) achadh [ˈaxə/ˈaxuː] = field (archaic, used mainly in placenames)
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) achadh [axəɣ] = field, plain, meadow; cornfield newly cut or ready for reaping
achadh-feòir = hayfield
achadh-guail = coalfield
bàn-achadh = fallow field

Etymology: unknown

Proto-Celtic *gortos = fence, enclosure, pen
Old Irish (Goídelc) gort = field, orchard, crop
Irish (Gaeilge) gort [ɡɔɾˠt̪ˠ] = (cultivated) field, orchard, (standing) crop
gortbhriseadh = tilling a field, tillage
gortghlan = to clear (a field) of weeds, to weed out
gortghlanadh = clearance (of a field), weeding
gortghlantóir = weeder
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) gort [gɔrˠʃd] = standing corn; enclosure; small field
Proto-Brythonic *gorθ = field
Welsh (Cymraeg) garth = field, close, enclosure, fold, pen, yard; fort
garthan = entrenchment, encampment, camp, stronghold, field of battle
gartheiniad = camp defender
Cornish (Kernewek) gorth = field
Old Breton orz = field
Breton (Brezhoneg) garz = field

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰortós (enclosure, hedge) [source], which is also the root of words yard and garden in English, via the Proto-Germanic *gardaz (enclosure, court, yard, garden) [source].

Words marked with a * are reconstructions.

Irish (Gaeilge) machaire = plain; stretch of level ground, links, course; field
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) machair [maxɪrʲ] = extensive low-lying fertile plain, level country; extensive beach; ow and level part of a farm
Manx (Gaelg) magher = field, fertile land, campaign, chase, machar, sphere

Etymology: possibly from the Latin mācĕria (wall, enclosure).

Proto-Celtic *rowesyā- = (field, open ground)
Old Irish (Goídelc) róe [r͈oːi̯] = battle-field, level piece of ground, fight, battle
Irish (Gaeilge) [rˠeː] = stretch of ground, level ground, field
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) raon [rˠɯːn] = field, (piece of) ground; plain; zone, area; field (of expertise); ambit
Manx (Gaelg) rheam = gamut, range, field, monarchy
Old Breton runt = mound
Breton (Brezhoneg) run = mound, hill

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *Hrew(H)os (open space, field). The English words rustic and rural come from the same root, via Latin [source].

Proto-Celtic *kagyom = pen, enclosure
Gaulish cagiíun / *kagyom = enclosure
Old Irish (Goídelc) cai = field, orchard, crop
Irish (Gaeilge) [kʲeː] = quay
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) cidhe [kʲi.ə] = quay
cidhe-tìreachaidh = wharf
cidhe-bathair = goods wharf
Manx (Gaelg) keiy = jetty, quay(side), wharf
Proto-Brythonic *kaɨ = animal pen, enclosure, field
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) kay / kae = field, enclosure
Welsh (Cymraeg) cae [kaːɨ̯ / kai̯] = hedge, hedgerow, fence; field, enclosure; circle, sphere; barrier, obstruction
caead = lid, cover, shutter, flap, shell, case, enclosure, case, wall, fence, hedge, field, buckle, clasp, fastener, valve
caeadu = to bind, cover (a book), stop, close
cei [kei̯] = quay
Cornish (Kernewek) ke = hedge, fence
kay = quay
Old Breton cai = hedge
Middle Breton quae = hedge
Breton (Brezhoneg) kae = hedge, quay

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *kagʰyóm (enclosure, hedge) [source], which is also the root English words quay and hedge [source].

The Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx words for quay come from the same Proto-Celtic root, via the Anglo-Norman kay, cail (quay, wharf) and Gaulish [source]. The Welsh and Cornish words for quay also come from the same Proto-Celtic root, via Middle English, Old French and Gaulish [source].

Proto-Celtic *magos = plain, field
Gaulish *magos = field
Old Irish (Goídelc) mag [maɣ] = plain, field
ármag, árbach, ármach = field of slaughter, battlefield
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) magh = plain
Irish (Gaeilge) [mˠɑː / mˠæː] = plain
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) magh [mɤɣ] = level country, plain
Magh Meala = Land of (Milk and) Honey (in mythology)
Magh Meall = elysium
magh na bàire = the plain of battle
Manx (Gaelg) magh = plain
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) mais, maes, meys = open country, plain, field
Welsh (Cymraeg) maes [maːɨ̯s / mai̯s] = open country, level land, plain; field; battle, victory, supremacy; out, away, off, outside, out of doors
maesol = rural, agrarian
maestref = suburb, country town, village, hamlet
maestrefol = suburban
Middle Cornish (Cernewec) maes, mes, meas, meys = open country, plain, field
Cornish (Kernewek) mes = open country
mestrev = suburb
mesya = to field
Old Breton maes = countryside, outside
Breton (Brezhoneg) maez = countryside, open field, outside, wide

Etymology: possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *meǵh- (great) [source].

Proto-Celtic *klowni = meadow
Old Irish (Goídelc) clúain = meadow
Irish (Gaeilge) cluain = meadow
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) cluain [kl̪uən̪ʲ] = green field, pasture, meadow
Old Welsh clun = meadow, moor
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) clun = meadow, moor
Welsh (Cymraeg) clun [klɨːn / kliːn] = meadow, moor; brake, brushwood

Etymology: possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *klopni (wet).

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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