Today we’re looking at the words for corners, backs and related things in Celtic languages.


Proto-Celtic *kūlos = corner
Old Irish (Goídelc) cúl [kuːl] = back, rear
iarcúl = remote place
Irish (Gaeilge) cúl [kuːlˠ] = back, reserve, support, rear, reverse (of coin), counter
cúlaí = back (in rugby, etc)
cúlaigh = to back, move back, reverse, retreat
cúláire = recess, nook, back of throat
cúlaistín = backer, henchman
cúlsráid = back street
iargcúil = remote corner, backward, out-of-the-way place, isolated
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) cùl [kuːl̪ˠ] = back, hind part, tress, shadow
cùl-fraon = background
cùl-chainnt = backbiting, slander, defamation, calumny
cùl-taic = patron, supporter, patronage, support, (military) reserves
cùl-shràid = back street
Manx (Gaelg) cooyl = back, behind, astern, reverse
cooyl-charrey = backer
cooyl-eaishtagh = to eavesdrop
cooyl-pholt(al) = backfire
cooyl-raad = back street
Proto-Brythonic *kil = corner, angle
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) kil = corner, angle
Welsh (Cymraeg) cil [kiːl] = corner, angle, back, nape of the neck, retreat, flight, recess, covert, nook, eclipse, wane
cilaidd = retiring, elusive, furtive
cilio = to retreat, withdraw, depart, recede, retire, pass away
Old Cornish chil = back
Cornish (Kernewek) kil = back, nape of the neck, book, reverse
kilans = recession
kilden = retreat
kildenna / kildedna = to back off, withdraw
kildennans / kildednans = withdrawal
Breton (Brezhoneg) kil = back, reverse, lapel, neck, heel
kiladenn = reverse
kilañ = to return
kilober = feedback
kilseller = retrospective

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)kewH-lo-, from *(s)kewH- (to cover, conceal, hide). The English words such as hide, hose, house and sky come from the same PIE root [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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