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

Carchar Lisbon / Lisbon Prison

Old Irish (Goídelc) carcar [ˈkarkar] = prison, captivity
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) carcar = prison, captivity, bondage, strong-room
Irish (Gaeilge) carcair [ˈkaɾˠkəɾʲ] = prison, place of confinement; stall, pen
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) carcair [karxgɛrʲ] = prison, coffer, sink, sewer, hermit’s cell
Manx (Gaelg) carchyr = imprisonment, jail
carchyragh = gaolbird, prisoner
Proto-Brythonic *karxar = prison, jail
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) karchar, carchar, carcar = prison, gaol
karcharaur, carcharawr = prisoner
Welsh (Cymraeg) carchar [ˈkarχar] = prison, gaol, pen, stable, bond, fetter, band, chain, hobble, restriction, obstruction, impediment, constipation
carcharbwll = dungeon, prison-pit
carchardy = prison house, gaol
carchardig = imprisoned, incarcerated, confined
carchardigaeth = imprisonment, confinement
carchargell = prison cell
carchariad = imprisonment, confinement
carchariad, carcharor = prisoner
carcharu = to imprison, impound, confine, shackle, fetter, hobble, restrict, obstruct
Middle Cornish (Cernewec) carhar = jail, prison
Middle Breton (Brezonec) carchar, charc’har, karc’har = prison, jail
karc’hariañ = to imprison
karc’hariadigezh = imprisonment
Breton (Brezhoneg) karc’har = dungeon
karc’harel = prison
karc’hariañ = to imprison
karc’hariadigezh = imprisonment

Etymology: from Latin carcer (prison, jail, jailbird, beginning, starting gate), from Proto-Italic *karkos (enclosure, barrier), from PIE *kr̥-kr̥- (circular), a reduplication of *(s)ker- (to turn, bend) [source].

Words from the same Latin root include incarcerate in English, carcere (jail, prison, imprisonment) in Italian, cárcere (jail, prison) in Portuguese, kerker (dungeon) in Dutch, and карцер (lockup, punishment cell, sweatbox) in Russian [source].

English words from the same PIE roots include circle, circus, corona, crisp, cross, crown and ring [source].

Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) prísún, brísún = prison
prísúntacht = imprisonment
Irish (Gaeilge) príosún [ˈpʲɾʲiːsˠuːn̪ˠ] = prison, imprisonment
príosúnach = prisoner
príosúnacht = imprisonment
príosúnaigh = to imprison
príosúnú = imprisonment
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) prìosan [prʲiːsən] = prison, jail
prìosanach = prisoner
prìosanachadh = imprisoning, incarcerating
Manx (Gaelg) pryssoon = brig, gaol, glasshouse, jail, lock-up, penitentiary, prison, clink
pryssoonagh = captive, detainee, internee, prisoner
pryssoonaght = detention, imprisonment, incarceration
pryssooneyder = gaoler imprisoner
Cornish (Kernewek) prison = gaol, jail, prison
prisonya = to imprison, incarcerate
prisonyans = imprisonment
Middle Breton (Brezonec) prizon = prison, jail
prizoniad = prisoner, detained
prizoniadur, prizonierezh = imprisonment
prizon(i)añ = to imprison
prizon(i)er = prisoner
Breton (Brezhoneg) prizon = prison, jail
prizoniad = prisoner, detained
prizoniañ = to imprison

Etymology: from the Middle English prisoun (prison, jail, dungeon), from the Anglo-Norman pris(o)un (prison, jail, dungeon), from the Old French prison (prison) from the Latin prehensiō (seizing, apprehending, arresting, capturing), from prehendō (to seize). The Breton probably comes directly from Old French [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, Dictionaire Favereau, TermOfis, English – ProtoCeltic WordList (PDF), Etymological Dictionary Of Proto Celtic

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