Words for water and related words in Celtic languages.

There are several words for water in Proto-Celtic: *akʷā-, *boglo-, *dubro-, *iskā-, *lawo-, *udeskio-, *utso-, *φeno-, *φono- and *stagro-. Only a few of them have descendents in the modern Celtic languages.

Afon Ogwen River

Proto-Celtic *dubros = water, dark
*dubrokū = otter (“water dog”)
*dubro-jarā = water-hen
Gaulish uerno-dubrum = name of a river
Old Irish (Goídelc) dobur [ˈdovur] = water, river
doburchú [ˈdovurˌxuː] = otter (“water dog”)
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) dobrán = water
Irish (Gaeilge) dobhar = water; flood, torrent; darkness, dullness, obscurity
dobhartha = watery, wet; dull, gloomy.
dobharchú = otter (“water dog”)
dobharchlog = water clock
dobhardhroim = watershed
dobhareach = hippopotamus
dobharlí = water-colour
dobhrán = otter; dull-witted, stupid, person
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) dobhar [do.ər] = water (archaic)
dobhar-chù [do.ərxu] = otter, beaver (“water dog”)
dobhar-lus [r̪ˠɔːhdəx] = (water)cress
dòbhran [dɔːran] = otter
Manx (Gaelg) dooarchoo = otter, beaver (“water dog”)
doour = reservoir, dam
Proto-Brythonic *duβr = water
*düβrgi = otter
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) dwfyr [ˈduvər] = water
Welsh (Cymraeg) dŵr [duːr], dwfr [dʊvr] = water; urine; pus
dyfrgi, dwrgi = otter (“water dog”)
dyfrgiad = watering, irrigation, urination
dyfrio, dyfru = to water, to irrigate, to run, to urinate
dyfrig = dripping, foaming (of a horse)
dyfraidd = aqueous, waterish, aquatic
Cornish (Kernewek) dowr [doʊɹ] = water; river
dowrgi = otter (“water dog”)
dowra = to water
dowrhe = to irrigate
dowrvagh = hippopotamus
dowrliw = water-colour
Middle Breton dour = water
Breton (Brezhoneg) dour [ˈduːr] = water; rain, tears, sweat, saliva
dourgi = otter (“water dog”)
douraerouant = hydra
dourliv, dourlivadur = water-colour
dournijerez = seaplane, flying boat, hydroplane

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *dʰubrós (dark) from *dʰewb- (deep) [source].

Proto-Celtic *udenskyos = water
Old Irish (Goídelc) uisce [ˈusʲkʲe] = water
Irish (Gaeilge) uisce [ˈɪʃk̟ɪ] = water; rain, tears, saliva
uisceadán = aquarium
uiscebhealach = waterway
uiscedhath = watercolour
uiscedhíonach = waterproof
uisce-obach = watertight
uiscerian = aqueduct
uiscigh = to water, irrigate
uisciú = irrigation
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) uisge [ɯʃgʲə] = water; rain; river (in place names)
uisgeadan [ɯʃgʲədan] = aquarium; body of water
uisge-dhath, dath-uisge = watercolour
uisge-dhìonach = waterproof, impervious; watertight
uisgrian = aqueduct
fuar-uisge = cold rain, cold water
slighe-uisge = waterway
uisgich [ɯʃgʲɪç] = to water, irrigate
uisgeachadh [ɯʃgʲəxəɣ] = watering, irrigation
Manx (Gaelg) ushtey [ˈuʃtʲə] = water
ushteydane = aquarium
bollagh ushtey, coorse ushtey, raad ushtey = waterway
ammyr ushtey, droghad ushtey = aqueduct
ushtaghey = to water, irrigate, steep, watering irrigation

Etymology from the Proto-Indo-European *udén, from *wódr̥ (water) [source].

Slieve League / Sliabh Liag

Proto-Celtic *sālos = saltwater
Old Irish (Goídelc) sál [saːl], sáile [ˈsaːlʲe] = salt water, brine, seawater; sea, ocean (poetic)
Irish (Gaeilge) sáile [ˈsˠɑːlʲə] = sea water, sea, salt water, brine
Manx (Gaelg) sailley = salt water
Proto-Brythonic *salī = salt, sea water
Welsh (Cymraeg) hâl [haːl] = salt, salty, saline, akaline
heli = brine, salt water, pickle, sea-water, sea
Cornish (Kernewek) hyli = salt water
Breton (Brezhoneg) hal = salt water, salt
hili = brine, strong sauce

Etymology from the Proto-Indo-European *séh₂ls (salt) [source].

Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) bùrn [buːr̪ˠn̪ˠ] = (fresh) water, amount of water, (act of) raining
bùrn-éirigh = spring water
bùrn-iarainn = mineral water
bùrn mìn = fine drizzle

Etymology from the Scots burn (a small river), from the Middle English bourne (small stream), from the Old English burne, burna (spring, fountain), from Proto-Germanic *brunnô (stream, brook). the Proto-Indo-European *bʰrun- (a bubbling forth; a fountain, wellspring, source) [source].

Words marked with a * are reconstructions.

Sources: Wiktionary, Am Faclair Beag, Online Manx Dictionary, Teanglann.ie, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, Gerlyver Kernewek, Dictionaire Favereau

One thought on “Water

  1. All the words for ‘otter’ (or ‘otter/beaver’) in the first box above
    (those coming from the stem dhubrós) literally mean ‘water-dog’

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