Words for salmon in the Celtic languages. The species of salmon most common found around Celtic speaking lands is the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Other species of salmon are available.

There are three words for salmon in Proto-Celtic: *esoxs / *esāk, *φenk-īnjo and *φorko. Only the first one has descendents in the modern Celtic languages.

Proto-Celtic *esoxs / *esāk = salmon
Gallaecian *īsis = salmon
Gaulish *esoks = salmon
Old Irish (Goídelc) eo [eːo̯] = salmon
Irish (Gaeilge) eo [oː / ɔː] = salmon; noble being, prince
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) [jɔː] = salmon (archaic)
eog = salmon
Proto-Brythonic *esāx = salmon
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) ehawc = salmon
Welsh (Cymraeg) eog [ˈɛ.ɔɡ / ˈeː.ɔɡ] = salmon, sea-trout, sewin, samlet
Old Cornish ehoc = salmon
Cornish (Kernewek) eghek = salmon
Middle Breton eheuc = salmon
Breton (Brezhoneg) eog = salmon

Etymology: possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *peysḱ- (fish).

Old Irish (Goídelc) bratán = salmon
Irish (Gaeilge) bradán [bˠɾˠəˈd̪ˠaːn̪ˠ / ˈbˠɾˠad̪ˠaːnˠ / ˈbˠɾˠɑd̪ˠɑnˠ] = salmon
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) braden [bradan] = salmon
Manx (Gaelg) braddan = salmon

Etymology: from the Old Irish brat (captivity, bondage, robbery) and án (diminutive suffix).

Welsh (Cymraeg) samon / samwn = salmon
Cornish (Kernewek) sowman = salmon
Breton (Brezhoneg) somon = salmon

Etymology: from the English salmon, from the Middle English samoun, samon, saumon (salmon), from the Anglo-Norman saumon (salmon), from the Old French saumon, from the Latin salmō (salmon), either from the Proto-Celtic *esoxs / *esāk, or from the Latin saliō (to leap).

Salmon Jumping Falls (NPS/D. Jacob)

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, TermOfis

4 thoughts on “Salmon

  1. I wonder if the Gaulish term “esoks” (and similar words here) have any relationship to “sockeye” salmon, a common variety in the US.

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