Axes and Hatchets

In this post we’re looking at the words for axe and related things in Celtic languages.

Axe in wood

Words marked with a * are reconstructions.

Proto-Celtic *tāxslo- = axe
Old Irish (Goídelc) tál = adze
Middle Irish (Gaoidhleag) tál = adze
Irish (Gaeilge) tál [t̪ˠɑːlˠ/t̪ˠæːlˠ] = adze
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) tàl [taːl̪ˠ] = adze
tàl-fuinn = hoe
Manx (Gaelg) taal = adze

An adze cutting tool that has a curved blade set at a right angle to the handle and is used in shaping wood. [source].

Etymology possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *tetḱ-(dʰ)lo-, from *teḱ- (to sire, beget) [source]. Words from the same roots include architect, technical, text and textile in English, цясла́ [t͡sʲasˈɫa] (adze) in Belausian, тесло [tʲɪsˈɫo] (adze) in Russian, and teslă (adze) in Romanian [source].

Old Irish (Goídelc) túag = axe, hatchet
Middle Irish (Gaoidhleag) túag = axe, hatchet
túagaid = to hew, chop, strike with an axe
túagrótae = roadway cleared with an axe
Irish (Gaeilge) tua [t̪ˠuə] = axe, hatchet
tuadóir = axe-man, hewer, chopper
tuadóireacht = (act of) hewing, shaping, chopping
tuaigh = to chop (with an axe)
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) tuagh [tuəɣ] = axe
tuaghadair = axeman, axe-wielder
Manx (Gaelg) teigh = axe, chopper, hatchet

Etymology possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)tewk- (to push, press, strike, beat, pierce), from *(s)tew- (to push, hit) [source]. Words from the same roots include tkát (to weave) in Czech, tkać (to weave, stick, tuck) in Polish, and тъка [tɐˈkɤ] (to spin, plait, entwine, weave) in Bulgarian [source], and words for hole & hollow in Celtic languages.

Proto-Celtic *biyatlis = (?)
Old Irish (Goídelc) biáil [ˈbʲi.aːlʲ] = axe, hatchet
Middle Irish (Gaoidhleag) bíail, biáil = axe, hatchet, battle-axe
Irish (Gaeilge) biail [bʲiəlʲ] = hatchet
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) biail = axe, hatchet (archaic)
Old Welsh bahell = axe
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) buyall, bwell, bwyeill = axe
bwyellic = small axe, hatchet
bwyallawt = axe stroke
bwiallawc = bearing an axe, armed with an axe; like an axe
Welsh (Cymraeg) bwyall, bwyell, bwell = axe, battle-axe
bwyellan, bwyellig = small axe, hatchet
bwyellangaib = pickaxe, hoe
bwyellod, bwyallod = stroke or cut with an axe, axe stroke
bwyellog, bwyallog = bearing an axe, armed with an axe; like an axe
bwyellwr = woodman
Middle Cornish (Cernewec) biail, boell, bool = axe, hatchet
Cornish (Kernewek) bool = axe, chopper, hachet
bolik = (small) axe, chopper, hachet
Middle Breton (Brezonec) bouhazl, bouchazl, bouchal, boc’hal = axe
Breton (Brezhoneg) bouc’hal [ˈbuː.ɣal] = axe, hammered
bouc’halig = hatchet

Etymology: from Proto-Celtic *bināti (to strike, hit, beat) from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰi-né-h₂-ti, from bʰeyh₂- (to strike, hew) [source]. Words from the same roots include billhook and bone in English, bain (to extract, separate, strike) and béim (a blow, emphasis, beat) in Irish, gofid (grief, sorrow, regret) in Welsh [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, Lexicon Cornu-britannicum: A Dictionary of the Ancient Celtic Language of Cornwall, Dictionaire Favereau, TermOfis, Le dictionnaire diachronique du breton, Etymological Dictionary Of Proto Celtic

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