Glens and Valleys

Here are some words for valley, glen and related things that are found in some or all of the Celtic languages, and related words in other languages.

Strath Croe
Strath Croe

Words marked with a * are reconstructions.

Proto-Celtic *stratos = valley
Old Irish (Goídelc) srath = grassland, swarth
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) srath, sreth, sraith = grass, sward, valley, bottom, meadow or grassy place near a river, fine, tax
Irish (Gaeilge) srath [sˠɾˠa(h)] = river valley, low-lying land along a river
srathach = bottom, low-lying, marshy
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) srath [sdrah] = strath, wide valley, vale
srathach = pertaining to or abounding in straths / wide valleys
Manx (Gaelg) strah = level valley, plain, strath, flatness
Proto-Brythonic *strad = valley
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) ystrad, istrad, ystrat = (floor of a) valley, vale, plain
Welsh (Cymraeg) ystrad [ˈəsdrad] = (floor of a) valley, vale, plain
Old Cornish stræt = flat valley, low lying land, lowland
Middle Cornish (Cernewec strat = flat valley, low lying land, lowland
Cornish (Kernewek) stras = flat valley, low lying land, lowland
Old Breton (Brethonoc) strat = bottom, low ground
Middle Breton (Brezonec) strat = bottom, low ground
Breton (Brezhoneg) stad [strɑːt] = bottom, low ground

Etymology: the Proto-Indo-European *str̥h₃tós (stretched, spread), from *sterh₃- (to spread, extend, stretch out [Source]. Words from the same roots include sternum, strategy, stratus, stray, street (a type of cloud) and stratosphere in English, estrato (layer, stratum, stratus [cloud]) in Spanish, and sarnu (to trample, tread, ruin) in Welsh [Source].

Cwm Idwal
Cwm Idwal

Proto-Celtic *kumbā = valley
Transalpine Gaulish *cumba = valley
Gaulish *kumba = valley
Irish (Gaeilge) com [kʌmˠ] = coomb, cirque, mountain recess
Proto-Brythonic *komm = valley
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) cum, cwm(m), kwm = a deep narrow valley, dale, dingle
kwm(m)an = hump, stoop, hunchback, rump
kwmarch, cwmaearch = ravine, dingle, little valley
Welsh (Cymraeg) cwm [ˈəsdrad] = a deep narrow valley, coom, glen, dale; hollow, bowl-shaped depression
cwmach = a stoop
cwman = hump, stoop, hunchback, rump
cwmanu = to stoop, hunch
cwmanllyd, cwmanog = hunchbacked, crooked, bent
cwmarch = ravine, dingle
Middle Cornish (Cernewec cum = a valley opening downwards, from a narrow point, a dingle
Cornish (Kernewek) komm = cirque, corrie, cwm
Middle Breton (Brezonec) comm = combe, small valley, (water) trough, river-bed
Breton (Brezhoneg) komm [ˈkɔ̃mː] = combe, small valley, (water) trough, river-bed
komman, kommañ = to form hollows
kommek = forming hollows

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *kumbʰos / *kumbʰéh₂, either from PIE *kew- (bend) or a from non-Indo-European substrate [Source].

Words from the same roots include cwm, combe (a valley or hollow, often wooded and with no river; a cirque) in English, combe (combe) in French, and coma (combe, cwm, cirque; an alpine meadow situated between two peaks) in Catalan [Source].

A dingle is a small, narrow or enclosed, usually wooded valley [Source].

Glenfinnan / Gleann Fhionnain
Glenfinnan / Gleann Fhionnain

Proto-Celtic *glendos = valley
Old Irish (Goídelc) glenn [ɡʲlʲen͈] = valley
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) glenn = valley, hollow, depression
glennach = having vales or hollows, curly (hair)
Irish (Gaeilge) gleann [ɟlʲɑun̪ˠ(h) / ɟlʲɑːn̪ˠ / ɟlʲan̪ˠ] = glen, hollow
gleann = abounding in glens, hollow-backed, wavy (hair)
gleanntán = small glen, dell, dale
gleanntóir = glensman, dalesman
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) gleann [glaun̪ˠ] = glen, valley
gleannach [glan̪ˠəx] = having or related to glens, steep sided
gleannan [glan̪ˠan] = small glen / valley
gleann crochte = hanging valley
gleann sgoraidh = rift valley
Manx (Gaelg) glion(e) [ɡlʲɔᵈn] = valley, glen, vale, creek
Proto-Brythonic *glɨnn [ɡlɨnː] = glen, dale, valley
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) glynn, glyn = glen, dingle, dale, dell (wooded) valley
Welsh (Cymraeg) glyn [ɡlɨ̞n / ɡlɪn] = glen, dingle, dale, dell (wooded) valley, gloom, distressing experience
Middle Cornish (Cernewec glen, glyn = valley (through which a river flows), a woody valley, dale
Cornish (Kernewek) glynn, glydn = deep wooded valley, glen
Middle Breton (Brezonec) glenn, glen = earth, country
Breton (Brezhoneg) glen = bottom, low ground

Etymology: the Proto-Indo-European *glendos (shore). Words from the same root include klit (dune) in Danish, klettur (rock, crag, cliff) in Icelandic, and cleit (rocky outcrop, cliff, reef) in Scottish Gaelic [Source].

The Irish word ailt refers to a steep-sided glen, ravine, height or cliff. There are cognate words in other Celtic languages, such as allt (hill, slope, cliff) in Welsh [More details].

Nant Gwrtheyrn
Nant Gwrtheyrn

Proto-Celtic *nantos / nantus = stream, valley
Gaulish nanto, nantu = valley
Proto-Brythonic *nant [nant] = stream, river, valley
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) nant = river, stream, brook
Welsh (Cymraeg) nant [nant] = river, stream, brook, rivulet; torrent, ditch, valley, glen, dale; ravine, gorge
nentig, nennig = small stream
Middle Cornish (Cernewec nans = valley, dale, ravine
Cornish (Kernewek) nans [nans / nænz] = dale, vale, valley
krognans = hanging valley
Old Breton (Brethonoc) nant = valley with watercourses
Middle Breton (Brezonec) nant, ant = valley with watercourses
Breton (Brezhoneg) nant [nãnt] = valley with watercourses (found in place names – archaic)

Etymology: possibly from Proto-Celtic *nemetom (sacred place, sanctuary), from the Proto-Indo-European *nem- (to give, take, distribute) [source].

The Francoprovençal word nant (stream) comes from the same Proto-Celtic roots [source], as does the French place name Nanterre [source], the Irish word neimheadh (sanctuary, privilege of rank, holy thing), and the Breton word neved / neñved (sanctuary) [source].

More details of words for Streams and Currents in Celtic languages.

Old Welsh (Kembraec) t(o)nou = valley, vale, hollow, dale
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) tnou, tonou, tyno, tino = valley, vale, hollow, dale
Welsh (Cymraeg) tyno = valley, vale, hollow, dale, plain, green
Cornish (Kernewek) tnow = dale, valley-bottom
Old Breton (Brethonoc) tenou, tnou = bottom, lower part, valley
Middle Breton (Brezonec) tnou [trãw] = bottom, lower part, valley
trauyen = valley
Breton (Brezhoneg) traoñ, traou [trãw] = bottom, lower part, valley (found in place names)
traoñienn [ˈtrãw.jɛn] = valley

Etymology: unknown [Source].

Another Welsh word for valley is dyffryn [ˈdəfrɨ̞n / ˈdəfrɪn], which comes from dwfr (water) and hynt (course, way). There are no cognates in other Celtic languages, as far as I can discover [Source].

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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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