Words for plough* and related things in Celtic languages.


*plough = plow for those of you in North America.

Words marked with a * are reconstructions.

Proto-Celtic *aratrom = plough
Old Irish (Goídelc) arathar = plough, ploughing equipment, tillage
airid = to plough
airem = ploughman
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) arathar = plough, ploughing equipment, tillage
airem = ploughman, tiller
airid = to plough, till
airithe = ploughed
Irish (Gaeilge) arathar = ploughing equipment, plough, ploughing (literary)
air = plough (literary)
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) àrach [aːrəx] = ploughshare, utensils for ploughing (archaic)
Manx (Gaelg) erroo = ploughman, tiller of land
errooid = cultivation, tillage, ploughmanship
Proto-Brythonic *aradr [aˈradr] = plough
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) aratrum, aradyr, aradr, aratr = plough
aradrur, aradrwr = ploughman
aradỽy, aradwy = arable or ploughed land
Welsh (Cymraeg) aradr [ˈaradr/ˈaːradr] = plough, the Plough
aradraf, aradu = to plough, till, cultivate
aradrswch = ploughshare
araduriaeth = (act of) ploughing, ploughmanship
aradrwr = ploughman
aradrwy = arable or ploughed land
Old Cornish aradar = plough
Middle Cornish (Cernewec) aradar, ardar, aratum = plough
araderuur, arator = ploughmen
aras = to plough, till
Cornish (Kernewek) arader = plough
araderor = ploughman
aradow = arable
aras = to plough
Middle Breton (Brezonec) ararz, arazr = plough
Breton (Brezhoneg) arar [ˈɑːrar] = plough
aradeg = ploughing, ploughing competition
aradenn = ploughing, surge of anger
arat = to plough, spin

Etymology: from Proto-Indo-European *h₂érh₃trom (plough), from *h₂erh₃- (to plough) and *-trom (instrumental suffix). Words from the same roots include ard (a simple plough consisting of a spike dragged through the soil) in English, arður (plough, profit, gain) in Icelandic, årder (plough) in Swedish, ader (plough) in Estonian and arado (plough) in Spanish [source].

Proto-Celtic *kanktus / *kanxtus = plough, plough beam
Old Irish (Goídelc) cécht = plough-beam
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) cécht, cecht = plough-beam, plough
Irish (Gaeilge) céachta [ˈkeːx.t̪ˠə] = plough
céachtaíl = ploughing
céachtaire = ploughwright
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) ceuchd = plough (obsolete)
Manx (Gaelg) keeaght [ˈki.axt] = plough

Etymology: from Proto-Celtic *kankā (branch), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱank- (branch). Words from the same roots include géag (branch, bough, limb) in Irish, cainc (branch) in Welsh, gancio (hook) in Italian, and gancho (hook, peg) in Spanish [source].

Old Irish (Goídelc) trebaid = to cultivate, till, plough, inhabit
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) trebad = (act of) ploughing cultivating, husbandry
trebaid = to cultivate, till, plough, inhabit, dwell
Irish (Gaeilge) treabh [ˈtʲɾʲavˠ/ˈtʲɾʲəu] = to plough; till, cultivate, occupy, inhabit (literary)
treabhadh = ploughing
treabhdóir = ploughman
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) treabh [tro] = to till (the ground), plough, cultivate, delve
treabhadh = ploughing
treabhta = ploughed, tilled, cultivated
Manx (Gaelg) traaue = to plough (up), till, furrow, cleave, ploughing, tilling
traauee = ploughing, contributing, to tillage
traaueyder = ploughman

Etymology: from Old Irish treb (house(hold), farm, tribe), from Proto-Celtic *trebā (dwelling), from Proto-Indo-European *treb- (dwelling, settlement) [source]. For more related words, see the post about Towns and Tribes.

Middle Welsh (Kymraec) gwyd, guyd = (wooden frame of a) plough
Welsh (Cymraeg) gwŷdd [ɡwɨːð] = plough (North Wales), tree(s), branches, timber, masts, loom
Etymology: from Proto-Brythonic *gwɨð (wood, trees), from Proto-Celtic *widus (wood, trees), from PIE *h₁weydʰh₁- (to separate, split, cleave, divide) [source]. For more related words, see the post about Trees, Wood(s) and Forests.

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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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5 thoughts on “Ploughs

  1. Simon, I have to tell you, from this side of the pond, “plough” just looks so strange. If I didn’t know the word already and the subject matter, I would be very strongly tempted to pronounce this as “ploff”. After all, I already pronounce “trough” as “troff”, and “cough” as “coff”.

    Tell me, just how did this UK vs. US conundrum ever see the light of day? I am flummoxed! Who can I blame?

  2. I think Noah Webster might be responsible for the use of the spelling plow in North America, but both spellings have been around at least since the 15th century, according Google Ngram.

    In Middle English it was written plouh, plow, plugh(e), plough(e) or plouw, from Old English plōh (hide of land, ploughland), and Old Norse plógr (plough), both of which come from Proto-Germanic *plōgaz, *plōguz (plough) [source].

  3. Dear Robert: How about this sentence – “Plough thoroughly through a trough of rough dough in the lough.” Seven different pronunciations of ‘ough’! How do foreigners ever manage to learn English?

  4. Shenn, I can read the whole sentence, except for “lough”. What the heck is a “lough”? Never heard of it.

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