Brushes and Broom

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


Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) scúap [skuə̯b] = brush, broom, sheaf, bundle
scúapad = act of sweeping
scúapaire = sweeper
Irish (Gaeilge) scuab [sˠkuəbˠ] = besom, broom; brush; sheaf, armful, bundle; to sweep
scuabach = sweeping, flowing; gusty
scuabachán = sweeping, sweepings
scuabadh = to sweep, wash
scuabadóir = sweeper
scuabán = little besom, little brush, little sheaf, armful, bundle
scuab fiacla = toothbrush
scuab ghruaige = hairbrush
scuab ingne = nailbrush
scuab phéinte = paintbrush
sreangscuab = wire brush
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) sguab [sguəb] = broom, besom, brush, sheaf
sguabte = brushed, swept
sguabanta = tidy, trim, clean
sguabadh = brushing, sweeping
sguabachan = brush
sguabag = gusty, wind, whisk, sheaf (of corn)
sguabadair = vacuum cleaner
sguabair = sweeper
sguab-aodaich = clothes brush
Manx (Gaelg) skeab = besom, broom
skeabey = brush, brushing, brush over, brush up, sweep, sweeping
skeabit = brushed, swept
skeaban daah, skeaban-slaa = paintbrush
skeaban feeackle = toothbrush
skeaban folt/fuilt = hairbrush
Proto-Brythonic *ɨskʉb = brush, broom
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) escup, yscub, ysgub = brush, broom
Welsh (Cymraeg) ysgub [ˈəsɡɨ̞b / ˈəsɡɪb] = sheaf, wheatsheaf, bundle; brush, broom, besom, quiver of arrows
ysgubell = brush, broom, besom, mop, bunch (of flowers)
ysgubo = to brush, sweep (away), make into sheaves
ysgubol = sweeping
ysgubor = barn, granary, farm building
ysgubwr = sweeper, sweep
ysgub blu = feather duster
priodas (coes) ysgub = informal wedding in which the parties jump over a broomstick in the presence of witnesses
Middle Cornish scibia = to sweep, brush
sciber = barn, any large room
scubilen = whip, scourge
Cornish (Kernewek) skub = sweeping
skubell, skubyllen = broom, brush
skubellik = paintbrush
skubell sugna = vacuum cleaner
skubell-wolghi = mop
skuber, skubores = sweeper
skubus = sweeping
skubya = to brush, sweep
skubyllen dhes = toothbrush
skubyon = refuse, sweepings
Breton (Brezhoneg) skub = broom, brush, blade; sweep
skubell = broom, brush, blade; sweep
skubell-vroust(añ) = scrubbing brush
skuberez = sweeper

Etymology: from the Latin scōpa (broom) Proto-Indo-European *skeh₂p- (to prop) [source]. Words from the same Latin root include scopa (broom) in Italian, escoba (broom) in Spanish, and shqopë (heather, heath, briar) in Albanian [source].


Proto-Celtic *banatlo- = broom (shrub)
Gaulish *balano- = broom (shrub)
Celtiberian *bálago-, *bálaco- = broom (shrub)
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) bealaidh [bɛl̪ˠɪn] = broom (shrub)
bealaidh-Frangach, bealaidh-Sasannach = laburnum
Proto-Brythonic *banatlo- = broom (shrub)
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) banadil, banadyl, banadl = broom (shrub)
Welsh (Cymraeg) banadl, banal = broom (shrub)
banadl Ffrainc = laburnum
Old Cornish banathel = broom (shrub)
Middle Cornish banal = broom (shrub)
Cornish (Kernewek) banadhel = broom (shrub)
Middle Breton balzazn = broom (shrub)
Breton (Brezhoneg) balan = broom (shrub)

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰenH-tlom (way, path) in the sense of “cleared path (in a wood)” [source].

The French word balai (broom, broomstick, brush) comes from the Gaulish *balano-, via Old French, Middle Breton and Old Breton [source]. The Spanish word bálago (straw, Spanish broom), comes from the same Gaulish root, via the Celtiberian *bálago-/*bálaco-,

The shrub known as broom in Britain and Ireland is also known as common broom or Scotch broom, or Cytisus scoparius in Latin. It is a deciduous leguminous shrub native to western and central Europe. Broom can also refer to similar plants, such as French broom and Spanish broom [source]. .

Twigs from the broom, and from other plants, can be tied to a stout stick and used to sweep things. Such implements are tradtionally known as besoms or broom besoms, and became known simply as brooms [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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