Words for snake in Celtic languages.


Proto-Celtic *natrixs = snake
Old Irish (Goídelc) nathir [ˈnaθirʲ] = snake
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) nathir = snake
Irish (Gaeilge) nathair [ˈn̪ˠæhəɾʲ] = snake
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) nathair [n̪ˠahɪrʲ] = snake, serpent, viper, adder
Manx (Gaelg) aarnieu / ardnieu = adder, serpent, snake, viper
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) nadret, nadred, neidyr = snake, serpent
Welsh (Cymraeg) neidr [nei̯dr / ˈnei̯dɪr] = snake, serpent
Old Cornish nadar = snake
Middle Cornish (Cernewec) nader = snake, viper, adder
Cornish (Kernewek) nader = adder
Old Breton natrolion = snakes
Middle Breton nazr, azr, aër, aer = snake
Breton (Brezhoneg) naer = snake

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)neh₁tr- (adder), or from *(s)neh₂- (to swim) [source].

The English word snake comes from a different root: the Old English snaca (snake, serpent, reptile), from the Proto-Germanic *snakô (snake), from *snakaną (to crawl), from the Proto-Indo-European *sneg- (to crawl; a creeping thing) [source].

Welsh (Cymraeg) gwiber = viper, adder, poisonous snake, water-snake, mythical flying serpent, the devil, scoundrel, scold, venomous woman
colwiber snake, serpent, viper
Breton (Brezhoneg) wiber = viper

Etymology: from the Latin vīpera (viper), possibly from vivus-pario (one that gives live young) [source].

Welsh (Cymraeg) sarff = serpent, snake, scorpion; hero, warrior, leader, chieftain
Cornish (Kernewek) serpont = snake, serpent
sarf = serpent
Breton (Brezhoneg) sarpant = snake, dragon, kite

Etymology: from the Latin serpēns (snake), from serpō (I creep, crawl), from the Proto-Indo-European *serp- (to creep, crawl) [source].

Words marked with a * are reconstructions.

Sources: Wiktionary, Am Faclair Beag, MacBain’s Dictionary, In Dúil Bélrai English – Old-Irish Glossary,, On-Line Manx Dictionary, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, Gerlyver Kernewek, Dictionnaire Favereau

2 thoughts on “Snakes

  1. The English word adder comes from the Middle English addere, a rebracketing of “a naddere” as “an addere”, from the Old English nǣdre, nǣddre (snake, serpent, viper, adder), from Proto-Germanic *nadrǭ (snake, viper), from the same PIE root as neidr, etc in Celtic languages [ source].

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