Brushes and Broom

Today we’re looking at the words for brush, broom and related things in Celtic languages.


Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg) scúap [skuə̯b] = brush, broom, sheaf, bundle
scúapad = act of sweeping
scúapaire = sweeper
Irish (Gaeilge) scuab [sˠkuəbˠ] = besom, broom; brush; sheaf, armful, bundle; to sweep
scuabach = sweeping, flowing; gusty
scuabachán = sweeping, sweepings
scuabadh = to sweep, wash
scuabadóir = sweeper
scuabán = little besom, little brush, little sheaf, armful, bundle
scuab fiacla = toothbrush
scuab ghruaige = hairbrush
scuab ingne = nailbrush
scuab phéinte = paintbrush
sreangscuab = wire brush
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) sguab [sguəb] = broom, besom, brush, sheaf
sguabte = brushed, swept
sguabanta = tidy, trim, clean
sguabadh = brushing, sweeping
sguabachan = brush
sguabag = gusty, wind, whisk, sheaf (of corn)
sguabadair = vacuum cleaner
sguabair = sweeper
sguab-aodaich = clothes brush
Manx (Gaelg) skeab = besom, broom
skeabey = brush, brushing, brush over, brush up, sweep, sweeping
skeabit = brushed, swept
skeaban daah, skeaban-slaa = paintbrush
skeaban feeackle = toothbrush
skeaban folt/fuilt = hairbrush
Proto-Brythonic *ɨskʉb = brush, broom
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) escup, yscub, ysgub = brush, broom
Welsh (Cymraeg) ysgub [ˈəsɡɨ̞b / ˈəsɡɪb] = sheaf, wheatsheaf, bundle; brush, broom, besom, quiver of arrows
ysgubell = brush, broom, besom, mop, bunch (of flowers)
ysgubo = to brush, sweep (away), make into sheaves
ysgubol = sweeping
ysgubor = barn, granary, farm building
ysgubwr = sweeper, sweep
ysgub blu = feather duster
priodas (coes) ysgub = informal wedding in which the parties jump over a broomstick in the presence of witnesses
Middle Cornish scibia = to sweep, brush
sciber = barn, any large room
scubilen = whip, scourge
Cornish (Kernewek) skub = sweeping
skubell, skubyllen = broom, brush
skubellik = paintbrush
skubell sugna = vacuum cleaner
skubell-wolghi = mop
skuber, skubores = sweeper
skubus = sweeping
skubya = to brush, sweep
skubyllen dhes = toothbrush
skubyon = refuse, sweepings
Breton (Brezhoneg) skub = broom, brush, blade; sweep
skubell = broom, brush, blade; sweep
skubell-vroust(añ) = scrubbing brush
skuberez = sweeper

Etymology: from the Latin scōpa (broom) Proto-Indo-European *skeh₂p- (to prop) [source]. Words from the same Latin root include scopa (broom) in Italian, escoba (broom) in Spanish, and shqopë (heather, heath, briar) in Albanian [source].


Proto-Celtic *banatlo- = broom (shrub)
Gaulish *balano- = broom (shrub)
Celtiberian *bálago-, *bálaco- = broom (shrub)
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) bealaidh [bɛl̪ˠɪn] = broom (shrub)
bealaidh-Frangach, bealaidh-Sasannach = laburnum
Proto-Brythonic *banatlo- = broom (shrub)
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) banadil, banadyl, banadl = broom (shrub)
Welsh (Cymraeg) banadl, banal = broom (shrub)
banadl Ffrainc = laburnum
Old Cornish banathel = broom (shrub)
Middle Cornish banal = broom (shrub)
Cornish (Kernewek) banadhel = broom (shrub)
Middle Breton balzazn = broom (shrub)
Breton (Brezhoneg) balan = broom (shrub)

Etymology: from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰenH-tlom (way, path) in the sense of “cleared path (in a wood)” [source].

The French word balai (broom, broomstick, brush) comes from the Gaulish *balano-, via Old French, Middle Breton and Old Breton [source]. The Spanish word bálago (straw, Spanish broom), comes from the same Gaulish root, via the Celtiberian *bálago-/*bálaco-,

The shrub known as broom in Britain and Ireland is also known as common broom or Scotch broom, or Cytisus scoparius in Latin. It is a deciduous leguminous shrub native to western and central Europe. Broom can also refer to similar plants, such as French broom and Spanish broom [source]. .

Twigs from the broom, and from other plants, can be tied to a stout stick and used to sweep things. Such implements are tradtionally known as besoms or broom besoms, and became known simply as brooms [source].

Words marked with a * are reconstructions.

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, Gerlyvyr Cernewec, Dictionaire Favereau, TermOfis, Le dictionnaire diachronique du breton, Geriafurch, English – ProtoCeltic WordList (PDF), Etymological Dictionary Of Proto Celtic

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Words for dwelling / settlement / town in Celtic languages.

Proto-Celtic *trebā = dwelling
Gaulish Atrebates = name of a tribe
Old Irish (Goídelc) treb = house, farm; household; tribe
Irish (Gaeilge) treibh [ˈtʲɾʲɛv] = house, homestead, farmstead; household, family; tribe, race
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) treabh [tro] = farming village
treubh [treːv] = tribe
Proto-Brythonic *treβ [ˈtrɛːβ] = town, settlement
Middle Welsh (Kymraec) tref [ˈtrɛːβ] = town, settlement
Welsh (Cymraeg) tre(f) [treːv] = town; town centre; dwelling(-place), habitation, residence, home; house (and surrounding land), homestead, farm, estate, cluster of houses; township; tribe
Cornish (Kernewek) trev [trɛ:v /tre:v] = farmsteads (singular: treven)
Old Breton treff = town, settlement
Breton (Brezhoneg) trev = town

Meni Bridge / Porthaethwy

From the Proto-Indo-European *treb- (dwelling, settlement) [source].

This is also the root of the archaic English word thorp(e) (a group of houses standing together in the country; a hamlet; a village), which appears in place names such as Milnthorpe and Scunthorpe.

Related words in other languages include German Dorf (hamlet, village, town), Danish torp (village), Swedish torp (farm, cottage, croft), Icelandic þorp (village, farm), and Albanian trevë (country, region, village) [source].

Words marked with a * are reconstructions.

Sources: Wiktionary, Am Faclair Beag,, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, Gerlyver Kernewek, Dictionnaire Favereau