Ferns and Bracken

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

Maidenhair Spleenwort

Proto-Celtic *ɸratis, *frati- = fern, bracken
Gaulish ratis = fern, bracken
Old Irish (Goídelc) raithnech [ˈr͈aθʲnʲex] = fern, bracken
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) raith = fern, bracken
Irish (Gaeilge) raithneach = fern, bracken
raithneachán = ferny place
raithneachúil = ferny
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) raineach [r̪ˠan̪ʲəx] = fern, bracken; hashish, weed
raith [r̪ˠɛ] = fern, bracken
raineachail = abounding in fern, ferny, like fern
Manx (Gaelg) renniagh = fern, bracken
renniaghoil = ferny
Proto-Brythonic *rrėdɨn = ferns, bracken
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) rhedyn = ferns, bracken
retinoc, redinauc, rhydynog = ferny
Welsh (Cymraeg) rhedyn [ˈr̥ɛdɨ̞n / ˈr̥eːdɪn] = ferns, bracken
rhedynen = fern
rhedyn eryraidd = bracken
rhedyna = to gather ferms
rhedynaidd = ferny
rhedyneg = ferny ground
rhedynog = ferny (land), abounding with ferns, fern-like, made of fern
Old Cornish reden = ferns, bracken
redenen = fern
Middle Cornish reden = ferns, bracken
redenen, redanen = fern
Cornish (Kernewek) reden = ferns, bracken
redenen = fern
Middle Breton reden = ferns, bracken
radenenn = fern
Breton (Brezhoneg) raden = ferns, bracken
radenenn = fern

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *p(t)erH- (fern) [source].

The English word fern comes from the same PIE root, via the Old English fearn and the Proto-West-Germanic *farn [source].

Other words from the same PIE root include paparde (fern) in Latvian, paproć (fern) in Polish, and папрат (fern) in Bulgarian [source].

Words marked with a * are reconstructions.

Sources: Wiktionary, Am Faclair Beag, Online Manx Dictionary, Teanglann.ie, 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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2 thoughts on “Ferns and Bracken

  1. In Swedish \’fern\’ is \’ormbunke\’ (which could be literally translated as \’snake-bowl\’,
    though I do not think that the \’-bunke\’ is the same word as \’bunke\’ for a larger bowl).
    The \’orm-\’ part comes from the same root as English \’worm\’, but in Swedish it has become the word for \’snake\’ instead of \’worm\’ (which is \’mask\’).
    \’Bracken\’ is \’bräken\’, which obviously comes from the same root as the English word.

  2. Simon, when I saw the title of your post, “Ferns and Bracken”, I couldn’t help amuse myself with the notion that the real title was, “Burn and Fracken”. So much so that this hypothetical title got stuck in my head like bad elevator music.

    Yeah, yeah, always a wise-guy. I know.

    Go ahead, smile. It’s allowed. You have the day off :-))


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