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

iron fence

Proto-Celtic *īsarnom = iron
Old Irish (Goídelc) íarn [iːa̯rn] = iron
Irish (Gaeilge) iarann [ˈiəɾˠən̪ˠ] = iron (element, appliance, golf club); iron part of a tool; brass (money)
amhiarann, iarnmhian = iron ore
iarann rocach = corrugated iron
iaranach = irons, iron implements, fetters, ploughshare
iaranaigh = to put in irons, fit, cover with iron
iaranaí = (made of) iron, iron-hard
iaranáil = to iron (clothes)
iarnmhangaire = ironmonger
iarannaois = the Iron Age
iarna = hardware
iarnród = railway
iarnúil = iron-like, ferrous
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) iarann [iər̪ˠən̪ˠ] = iron, (metal) blade; day’s worth cutting peat (for two)
iarnaidh = ferrous, iron-hard, iron-coloured, stingy
iarnaigeadh, iarnachadh = (act of) ironing
iarnair = ironmonger
iarainn-tàthainn, iarann-sobhdraidh = soldering iron
iarann-dreasaigidh = clothes iron
iarann mòlltaichte = cast iron
iarann preasach = corrugated iron
rathad-iarainn = railway
Manx (Gaelg) yiarn = iron; tool, scythe, blade; dough (money); tip (gratuity)
yiarnagh = ferric
yiarnal = iron, ironing
yiarneyder = ironmonger
yiarnrey = hardware
yiarnaghey, yiarney = to cover with iron, to iron
yiarnoil = ferrous
Proto-Brythonic *hijarn = hard, hard metal, iron
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) heirn, hyarn, heyrn, hayarnn, haearn = iron
Welsh (Cymraeg) haearn = iron, iron bar, hardness, strength, resoluteness, hard, strong, unyielding; sword, spear, lance; iron armour, coat of mail; fetters, shackles; branding-iron, pincers; flat-iron; spur
haearnaidd = like iron, ferrous; strong, hard, callous, oppressive
haearneiddio = to harden, make (one) unfeeling or callous
haearnol = of iron, iron-like, hard, unfeeling, rigid, stern
haearnwr = ironmonger, ironworker
haearn bwrw = cast iron
haearn gwaith = wrought iron
haearn gwrymiog = corrugated iron
Middle Cornish heorn, horn, hôrn = iron
Cornish (Kernewek) horn = iron
hornek = ferric, iron
hornell = iron (for clothes)
hornella = to iron
horner = ironmonger
horn margh = horseshoe
hyns horn = railway
Old Breton hoiarn = iron
Middle Breton houarnn = iron
Breton (Brezhoneg) houarn [ˈhuː.arn] = iron; flat iron; horseshoe
houarnek = ferric
houarnus = ferrous
houarnaj = scrap iron
houarnajer = scrap merchant
houarnañ = to shoe (a horse)
houarn-marc’h = horseshoe
houarn da zistennañ = iron (for clothes)
hent-houarn = railway

Words marked with a * are reconstructions.

Etymology: probably from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁ēsh₂r̥no- (bloody, red), from *h₁ésh₂r̥ (blood) [source].

Words for iron in Germanic languages come from the same Proto-Celtic root, via the Proto-Germanic *īsarną (iron), including iron in English, ijzer in Dutch, Eisen in German, and järn in Swedish [source].

Words for blood in Romance languages come from the same PIE root, via the Latin sanguīs (blood, descent, progeny, family), including sang in Catalan and French, sangue in Italian and Portuguese, and sangre in Spanish, and also the English word sanguine (blood red; warm, optimistic, confident) [source].

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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