A Shovelful of Spades

In this post we’re looking at words for shovel, spade, oar, and related things in Celtic languages.


Words marked with a * are reconstructions.

Proto-Celtic *rāmyos = oar, spade, shovel
Old Irish (Goídelc) ráma = oar
ráïd = to row (with oars), sail, voyage
imm·rá = to row (about), navigate
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) rám(a), rámha = oar, spade
imm-rá, immará = to row (around), navigate, go
Irish (Gaeilge) rámh = oar
rámhach = oared
rámhaíocht = rowing, oarsmanship
rámhainn = spade, spade-length
rámhaí = oarsman
rámhaigh = to row
iomair = to row
iomróir = oarsman, rower
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) ràmh [r̪ˠaːv] = oar, paddle
ràmhach [r̪ˠãːvəx] = row(ing) boat, set of oars
ràmhachd [rˠ̪ãːvəxg] = (act of) rowing, oar-making
ràmhadh [r̪ˠaːvəɣ] = (act of) rowing
ràmhaiche, ràmhair [r̪ˠaːvɪçə / r̪ˠaːvɛrʲ] = oarsman, rower
iomair [imɪrʲ] = to row (a boat)
iomramhaiche [imərəvɪçə] = oarsman, rower
Manx (Gaelg) raue = rowing
raueder = rowing man
ymmyrt = oar, rowing, to row, to launch
ymmyrtagh = oarsman, rower, waterman, ferryman, rowing
reuyrey = to delve, dig (up), root, spade
Proto-Brythonic *rrọβ = shovel, spade
*rruɨβ̃ = oar
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) rau, raỽ, raw, rhaw = shovel, spade
rawyet, rhawieit = shoveful, spadeful
rwyf, rỽyf, rwyff = oar, paddle
rỽyuaỽ, rhwyfo = to row, travel (by sea), voyage, journey
rhwyfwr = oarsman, rower
Welsh (Cymraeg) rhaw [r̥aːu̯ / r̥au̯] = shovel, spade
rhaw(i)aid = shoveful, spadeful
rhawffon = spade, shovel, paddle
rhawiaf, rhawio, rhoddio, rhofio = to shovel, dig
rhawiwr = shoveller
rhwyf = oar, paddle
rhwyfadain, rhwyfaden = fin (of a fish), propeller
rhwyf(i)af, rhwyf(i)o = to row, travel (by sea), voyage, journey, agitate, shake, swing, wave
rhwyfwr = oarsman, rower, sailor, seaman, boatman, mariner
Old Cornish ruif = oar
Middle Cornish (Cernewec) ruif, rev = oar, ruler, king
ruifadur, revadar, ruivadur = rower, oarsman
Cornish (Kernewek) reuv = shovel
reuv arader = ploughshare
rev = oar
revya = to row, paddle
Middle Breton (Brezonec) reuf = spade
reuff, roeuff = oar
Breton (Brezhoneg) roev = spade
roeñv [rwẽʷ] = rowing, oar
roenvier, roevier = rower, oarsman

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁reh₁- (to row). Words from the same PIE root include row, rudder and Russia in English, roeien (to row [with oars]) and riem (oar, paddle) in Dutch, (to row, sail out to fish, rock backwards and forwards) in Icelandic, ro (to row, quickly hand over, pass) in Swedish, rame (oar, paddle) in French [source].

Etymology: the Brythonic words for oar come from Latin rēmus (oar), from Proto-Italic *rē(z)mos, from a PIE *h₁reh₁- (to row) [source].

Old Irish (Goídelc) slúasat = shovel
Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) slúasat, slúasad = shovel, paddle, tooth
slúaistech = shovel-like
Irish (Gaeilge) sluasaid = shovel, shovelful
sluaisteáil = to shovel, gather in large quantities, scoop
sluaisteog = (small) shovelful
sluaisteoir = shoveller
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) sluasaid [sl̪uəsadʲ] = shovel, spade
sluaist [sl̪uəʃdʲ] = shovel, spade
sluaisreadh [sl̪uəʃrʲəɣ] = shovelling, water washing up and down a beach
Manx (Gaelg) sleayst = shovel
sleaystey = to shovel, scoop, mix; shovelling, mixing
sleaysteyder = shoveller, scooper

Etymology: unknown [source].

Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) fàl [faːl̪ˠ] = scythe
fàladair [faːl̪ˠədɪrʲ] = scyther, reaper, mower
fàlaireachd [faːl̪ˠədɪrʲəxg] = scything, mowing
fàlaid [faːl̪ˠadʲ] = scythe
Manx (Gaelg) faayl = turfcutter, turfspade
foll = scythe
folderagh = to cut with a scythe, mowing
Old Welsh (Kembraec) pelechi = cudgel, club, staff
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) pal, pál = spade, shovel
palach = cudgel, club, staff
Welsh (Cymraeg) pâl [paːl] = spade, shovel, dug soil, tilth, a digging,
palach = cudgel, club, staff
Middle Cornish (Cernewec) pal = spade, shove, mattock
Cornish (Kernewek) pal = spade
palas = to dig, excavate
Middle Breton (Brezonec) pal = shovel, spade
Breton (Brezhoneg) pal [pɑːl] = shovel, spade
palad [ˈpɑːlat] = shoveled
palat [ˈpɑːlat] = to dig
palerez [pa.ˈleː.res] = excavator

Etymology: possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *kʷel- (to turn). Words from the same PIE root include collar, cult and wheel in English, and Hals (neck, throat) in German [source].

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Sources: Wiktionary, Am Faclair Beag, Online Manx Dictionary, Teanglann.ie, 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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