Today we’re looking at the words for metal, ore, mines and related things in Celtic languages.

The cave at Parys mountain.

Proto-Celtic *mēnis = ore, metal, mine
Old Irish (Goídelc) méin, mían [mʲeːnʲ] = mineral, ore, metal
Middle Irish (Goídelc) méin, mían [mʲeːnʲ] = mineral, ore, metal
míanach = vein of ore, mine
míanaige = miner
Irish (Gaeilge) mianach = ore; stuff, material, substance, quality
mianadóir = miner
mianrach = mineral
mianreolaí = mineralogist
mianreolaíocht = mineralogy
mianadóireacht = mining; burrowing, excavating, digging deep
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) mèinn [mɛːn̪ʲ] = mine, ore
mèinnear, mèinneadair = miner
mèinnireach = mineral
mèinn-guail = coal mine, colliery
mèinn-talmhainn = landmine
mèinn salainn = salt mine
mèinneadh = mining
mèinnearach = mining
mèinn-eòlas = mineralogy
mèinneadh = mineralogical
mèinnearach = mineralogist
Manx (Gaelg) meain = ore, mine
meainagh = ore
meain-oayllys, meaineraght = metallurgy
meain-oaylee, meaineraght = mineralogist
meain arih = gold mine
meain argid = silver mine
meain chobbyr = copper mine
meain gheayil = coal mine, colliery
meain hollan = salt mine
meain leoaie = lead mine
Proto-Brythonic *muɨn = ore, metal, mine
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) mwyn, mŵn = mineral, ore, mine
Welsh (Cymraeg) mwyn = mineral, ore, mine
mwynwr = miner, sapper
mwyn arian = silver ore, silver mine
mwyn aur = gold ore, gold mine
mwyn cellt = quartz
mwyn coch = red lead, red ochre, haematite, other red ores
mwyn copr = copper ore, copper mine
mywn du = blacklead, graphite
mwyn efydd = copper ore, copper mine
mwyn haearn = iron ore
Cornish (Kernewek) moon = fusible metal mineral, mineral
Middle Breton *men = iron
Breton (Brezhoneg) mengleuz = quarry, slate quarry, mine
mengleuzer = slate quarry worker
mengleuzerezh = mining industry
mengleuziañ = to mine
mengleuziek = mining
mengleuzier = quarryman

Words marked with a * are reconstructions.

Etymology: probably from the Proto-Indo-European *mēy(H)nis, from *(s)mēy(H)- (to cut, hew) [source].

The English word mine (an excavation from which ore or solid minerals are taken) comes from the same Proto-Celtic root, via the Old French myne, mine, the Late Latin mina and Gaulish [source].

Middle Irish (Goídelc) mital(l) = metal
Irish (Gaeilge) miotal [ˈmʲɪt̪ˠəlˠ] = metal; mettle, spirit, hardihood
miotalach = metallic; mettlesome, spirited; hardy, wiry
miotalagrafaíocht = metallography
miotalóir = metallurgist
miotalóireach = metallurgic(al)
miotalóireacht = metal-work, metallurgy
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) miotal, meiteal = metal
= miner
meatailteach = metallic
obair-mheatailtean, obair-mheatailt = metalwork, metallurgy
meatailt uasal = precious metal
Manx (Gaelg) metal = metal
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) mettel = metal
Welsh (Cymraeg) metel, metal = metal, metal weapon or armour; substance, mettle, bravery, courage
metelaidd, metelig = metallic
meteleg = metallurgy
metelegol = metallurgical
metelegwr, metelegydd = metallurgist
Cornish (Kernewek) metol = metal
metolyek = metallic
Breton (Brezhoneg) metal = metal
metalerezh = metallurgy
metalour = metallurgist

Etymology (Welsh): from the Middle English metel(l), metal(l) (metal, ore), from the Old French metal (metal), from the Latin metallum (metal, precious metals, mine), from the Ancient Greek μέταλλον (métallon – metal, precious metals, mine) [source].

Etymology (Irish): from the Old French metal (metal), then as above [source].

The English word metal comes from the same roots, via Middle English, Old French, etc [source]. The word mettle (a quality of endurance and courage) was originally a variant of metal, and later came to have a figurative sense [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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