Barnacles & Limpets

Words for barnacle, limpet and related things in Celtic languages.

Limpet Family at Sunny Cove

Words marked with a * are reconstructions.

Proto-Celtic *barinākos = barnacle, limpet
Gaulish *barinākā = barnacle, limpet
Old Irish (Goídelc) *bairnech = limpet
Middle Irish (Gaoidhleag) bairnech, báirnech = limpet(s)
Irish (Gaeilge) bairneach [ˈbˠɑːɾˠn̠ʲəx] = limpet
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) bàirneach [baːr̪ˠn̪ʲəx] = barnacle, limpet
Manx (Gaelg) baarnagh, barnagh, bayrnagh = barnacle
guiy bayrnag = barnacle goose
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) brennik = limpets
Welsh (Cymraeg) brennig = limpets
brenigen = limpet
Middle Cornish brennic = limpets
brennigen = limpet
Cornish (Kernewek) brennik = limpets
brenigen, bernigen = limpet
Middle Breton brennik = limpet
Breton (Brezhoneg) brennig [ˈbrɛ.nːik] = barnacles, limpets
brennigenn = barnacle, limpet
brennika = to fish for limpets
brennikaer = limpet fisherman

Etymology: from the Proto-Celtic *barinā (rocky ground), and *-ākos (involved with, belonging to) [source].

Words from the same Proto-Celtic roots, via the Gaulish *barinākā and the Latin barnēca (barnacle goose, barnacle, limpet), include bernache (barnacle) in French, barnacle in English, barnacla (brent/brant goose – Branta bernicla) in Spanish [source].

Barnacle Geese

Old Irish (Goídelc) gigrann = barnacle goose
Middle Irish (Gaoidhleag) gigrann, giugrann = wild goose, barnacle goose
Irish (Gaeilge) giúrann = barnacle, shipworm, barnacle (goose)
giúrannach = encrusted with barnacles
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) giùran [gʲuːran] = barnacle
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) gwyran = barnacle goose, barnacles
Welsh (Cymraeg) gwyran = barnacle goose, barnacles
Old Breton (Brethonoc) goirann = barnacle goose, barnacles

Etymology: possibly from the Proto-Celtic *gezdā (goose) – probably of imitative origin [source]. For more details of words for goose in Celtic languages, this post.

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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One thought on “Barnacles & Limpets

  1. On the coast of western Bro Gerne (Cornouaille, Finistère), limpets are “birinnig” in local Breton (sometimes erroneously written “birinik” or “birinic”). The old narrow-gauge train that crossed the Bro Vigoudenn area until the 1960’s was dubbed “Train Birinik” because of its slow pace, and because of the location of its terminus sation at Penmarc’h, on a rocky portion of the Atlantic coast.

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