In this post we’re looking into words for revenge and related things in Celtic languages.

Revenge illustration

Proto-Celtic *dīgalā = revenge, vengeance
Old Irish (Goídelc) dígal [ˈdʲiːɣal] = revenge, vengeance, punishment
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) dígal = avenging, punishing; vengeance, punishment
Irish (Gaeilge) díoghail = vengeance, retribution, punishment; to avenge, punish
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) dìoghail [dʲiə.al] = revenge, vengeance
dìoghailte = revenged, avenged, retaliated
Manx (Gaelg) jeeyll, jeeill = damage, harmfulness, havoc, injury, prejudice, vandalism
Proto-Brythonic *diɣal = (?)
Old Welsh digal = vengeance, revenge, retribution, punishment
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) dial = vengeance, revenge, retribution, punishment
dialaeth = vengeance, revenge, punishment
Welsh (Cymraeg) dial [ˈdɪ.al/ˈdiː.al] = vengeance, revenge, retribution, punishment
dialaeth = vengeance, revenge, punishment
dialaethaf, dialaethu = to wreak vengeance upon, punish
dialaf, diala, dialu = to avenge, revenge, retaliate
dialaidd = revengeful, retributive
dialbren = gallows, gibbet, rack
dialedd = vengeance, retribution, nemesis, pain, disease, plague
dialeddwr = avenger, punisher
Middle Cornish (Cernewec) dyal, dial = revenge
Cornish (Kernewek) dial = retribution, revenge
Middle Breton (Brezonec) dial = vengeance, revenge
Breton (Brezhoneg) dial = vengeance, revenge, to take revenge

Words marked with a * are reconstructions.

Etymology: from *dī- (from, of) and‎ *galā (might, ability), possibly from Proto-Indo-European *ḱley- (naked, head) [source]. Words from the same PIE root include callow in English, kaal (smooth, bland, plain, bald) in Dutch, and kahl (bald, hairless, barren) in German [source].

Other words from the Proto-Celtic root *galā include gal (ardour, valour, fury) in Irish, gal (ardour, valour, fury, vapour, steam) in Scottish Gaelic, gaal/gall (vapour) in Manx, gâl (enemy, adversary) in Welsh, gal (outcast, villain) in Cornish, and gal (violent, intense, urgent) in Middle Breton [source].

The Proto-Celtic word *galnati (to be able) comes from the same root. Descendents include gallu (to be able to, to have power (to)) in Welsh, gallos (to be able to, can, ability, might, power) in Cornish, and gallout (to be able to) in Breton [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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One thought on “Revenge

  1. Simon: The IPA pronunciation of díoghail in Gaeilge appears to have been carried over from the post named ‘Baskets’ on 24th February. Also, in Gaelg, jeeyl can be spelled jeeyll or jeeill, but never jeeyal. These are minor matters: I’m really grateful for this continuing Celtiadur series, which I find fascinating.

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