Celtic Pathways – Bards and Poets

In this episode we’re looking at words for bards, poets and related people.

Eisteddfod Maes 2009

In Proto-Celtic one word for bard was *bardos, which comes from the Proto-Indo-European *gʷr̥dʰh₁-ó-s from *gʷerH- (to express approval, praise, elevate) [source].

Descendants in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • bard [bˠɑːɾˠd̪ˠ / bˠæːɾˠd̪ˠ] = poet, bard, scold in Irish
  • bàrd [baːr̪ˠd] = poet, versifier, bard, rhymer in Scottish Gaelic
  • bard = poet, bard in Manx
  • bardd [barð] = poet, bard, literary person, author, prophet, philosopher, priest in Welsh
  • bardh [barð] = bard, poet in Cornish
  • barzh = bard, poet in Breton

The English word bard was borrowed from Scottish Gaelic in the 15th century. The Proto-Celtic word *bardos was borrowed into Latin as bardus (bard), which became barde in French and bardo in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese [source]

The Proto-Celtic word *weless means seer or poet. It comes from the Proto-Celtic *weleti (to see) from the PIE *wel (to see) [source].

Descendants in modern Celtic languages include:

  • file [ˈfʲɪlʲə] = poet, song-maker, lyricist, satirist, scold in Irish
  • filidh [filɪ] = minstrel, poet (traditionally a member of one of the seven ranks of poets, all of which are above the bàrd) in Scottish Gaelic
  • feelee = poet in Manx

Words for to see in Welsh (gweld), Cornish (gweles) and Breton (gwelet) come from the Proto-Celtic *weleti, as to parts of the verb to be in Irish (bhfuil), Scottish Gaelic (bheil) and Manx (vel) – apparently they came from the imperative form of the verb and the meaning shifted from “see!” to “there is” to “is” [source].

The Swedish word leta (to search, look for) comes from the same PIE root, as does the word lait (to seek, search for, inquire), which is or was found in some UK dialects of English [source].

More details about these words on Celtiadur, a blog where I explore connections between Celtic languages in more depth.

I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

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Celtic Pathways – Family

In this episode we’re looking at words for family, tribe and related things.

Corgi Puppies 21

In Proto-Celtic a word for family or kindred was *wenyā, which comes from the Proto-Indo-European *wenh₁- (to wish, seek, desire, love, win) [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • fine [ˈfʲɪnʲə] = family, kin, clan, tribe, race in Irish
  • fine [finə] = family group, race, territory of a family group in Scottish Gaelic
  • gouenn = race in Breton

The name of Vannes [van], a town in Brittany, comes from the same Proto-Celtic root, via the Latin Veneti [source]

Words from the same PIE root include venom, Venus, wonder, wean and winsome in English, vän (friend) in Swedish, and gwenwyn (poison, venom) in Welsh [source]

The Proto-Celtic word *genos (family, clan, birth) is the root of iníon [ˈɪnʲiːnʲ] (daughter, girl maiden, (young) woman, Miss) in Irish, nighean [ɲiː.an̪ˠ] (daughter, girl, lass) in Scottish Gaelic, and inneen [ɪnˈjiːn] (daughter, girl) in Manx [source].

It also makes up part of the Irish name Eoghan [oːn̪ˠ], the Scottish Gaelic name Eòghan [joː.ən̪ˠ], both of which are thought to come from the Proto-Celtic name *Iwogenos, from *iwos (yew) and *genos (born, family) [source].

The name Morgan possibly comes from the Old Welsh name Morgen from *mor (sea) and *gen (born), from the Proto-Celtic *genos [source].

The Proto-Celtic word *tegeso-slougo- means family or household. It comes from the Proto-Indo-European *tegos (cover, roof) [source] and *slowgʰos / *slowgos (entourage) [source].

Descendents in modern Celtic languages include:

  • teaghlach [ˈtʲalˠəx] = household, family, domestic establishment, retinue in Irish
  • teaghlach [ˈtʲɤːɫ̪ˠəx] = family, household in Scottish Gaelic
  • thielagh = family, household in Manx
  • teulu = family, tribe, nation, household in Welsh
  • teylu = family in Cornish
  • tiegezh = household, farm, family in Breton

More details about these words on Celtiadur, a blog where I explore connections between Celtic languages in more depth.

I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

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Celtic Pathways – People

In this episode we’re looking at words for person, human and related things.

Fem Fest

In Proto-Celtic a word for person was *gdonyos, which comes from the Proto-Indo-European *dʰéǵʰom-yo- (earthling, human), from *dʰéǵʰōm (earth, human) [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • duine [ˈd̪ˠɪnʲə] = human, man, mankind, person in Irish
  • duine [dɯn̪ʲə] = fellow, person, man, husband in Scottish Gaelic
  • dooinney [ˈd̪uːnʲə] = human, man, fellow, husband in Manx
  • dyn [dɨːn / diːn] = man, human being; person, and dynes [ˈdənɛs] = woman in Welsh
  • den [dɛ:n / de:n] = man, guy, human, person in Cornish
  • den [ˈdẽːn] = human being, person, man, husband in Breton

Another Proto-Celitc word from the same PIE root is *gdū (place), which became (place, inheritance; native, natural, proper, fitting) in Modern Irish, dùth (natural, hereditary, proper, fit, suitable) in Scottish Gaelic, and dooie (complement, inherent, natural, patriotic) in Manx [source].

Other words from the same PIE root include: human, humus, bridegroom in English; goom, an old word for man in northern English dialects and Scots; gumi, a poetic word for a man in Icelandic, and hombre (man, husband) in Spanish [source].

Incidentally, the English word dean is not related to these words – it comes from the Middle English de(e)n (dean), from the Anglo-Norman deen and from the Old French deien, from Latin decānus (chief of ten people, dean), from decem (ten) and -ānus (of or pertaining to) [source].

Words for man and people in some Native American languages sound similar to, though are not related to these Celtic words. For example, diné (person, man, people) in Navajo comes from di- (thematic prefix relating to action performed with the arms and legs) and -né (man, person) [source].

There are also words for people in Celtic languages that were borrowed from the Latin populus (people, nation, community):

  • pobal [ˈpˠɔbˠəlˠ] = people, community, parish, population in Irish
  • poball [pobəl̪ˠ] = folk, people, community in Scottish Gaelic
  • pobble = people, population, community in Manx
  • pobl [ˈpʰɔbl̩ˠ / ˈpɔbɔl] = people, public, nation, tribe in Welsh
  • pobel = people in Cornish
  • pobl = people, multitude in Breton

More details about these words on Celtiadur, a blog where I explore connections between Celtic languages in more depth.

I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Celtic Pathways – Languages and Tongues

Celtic Pathways is a new series on Radio Omniglot that will be exploring connections between Celtic languages, and looking for Celtic roots in other languages.

The Six Celtic languages currently spoken are all members of the insular branch of the Celtic language family, which is part of the Indo-European language family. They can be divided into two groups: the Goidelic or Q-Celtic languages: Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic, and the Brythonic or P-Celtic languages: Welsh, Cornish and Breton. They are spoken mainly in the British Isles, Ireland, and Brittany in the northwest of France. There are also Welsh speakers in Patagonia in Argentina, and Scottish Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia in Canada.

Other Celtic languages were spoken in the past in parts of Continental Europe, particularly in what is now France, Spain, Portugual, northern Italy and across central Europe perhaps as far as Turkey. They are all extinct, although there is a little written material in some of them, such as Gaulish, Celtiberian and Leptonic.

I’ve been collecting words that are cognate (related) in some or all of the modern Celtic languages since 2009 and putting them together in the Celtic cognates section of Omniglot. In 2018 I started exploring these words in more depth on the Celtiadur blog. I look for related words in the modern Celtic languages, in earlier versions of the Celtic languages, such as Middle Welsh and Old Irish, and in their extinct and reconstructed relatives, right back to Proto-Celtic. I also look for words from the same roots in other languages, such as English, French and Spanish.

By the way, I speak Welsh and Irish more or less fluently, can get by in Scottish Gaelic and Manx, and have a smattering of Breton and Cornish. I’ve been interested in Welsh for a long time as my mother’s family is mostly Welsh, although she doesn’t speak it. I got into Irish and Scottish Gaelic through a love of tradition music and songs from Ireland and Scotland, and I learnt the others out of interest. While doing an MA in Linguistics at Bangor University, I wrote a dissertation on the Death and Revival of Manx. Find out more in my Language Learning Adventures.

Let’s start this first episode of Celtic Pathways by looking at words for language and tongue.

The Proto-Celtic word for language was *yaxtī, which comes from the Proto-Indo-European *yek- (to utter) [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • iaith [jai̯θ] = language, tongue; people, nation, race, tribe in Welsh
  • yeth [eːθ / jeːθ] = tongue, language in Cornish
  • yezh [ˈjeːs] = language in Breton

The Middle Irish word icht (race, people, tribe; province, district) possibly comes from the same Proto-Celtic root.

Words from the same PIE root include: joke and Yule in English, jul (Yule, Christmas) in Danish and Norwegian, juego (play, game, sport) in Spanish, and joc (game, play, dance) in Romanian [source].

The Proto-Celtic word for tongue was *tangʷāss, tangʷāt, from the Proto-Indo-European *dn̥ǵʰwéh₂s (tongue). Descendents in the modern Celtic langauges include:

  • teanga [ˈtʲaŋə / ˈtʲaŋɡə] = tongue, language in Irish
  • teanga [tʲɛŋgə] = tongue speech, spit (of land) in Scottish Gaelic
  • çhengey [ˈtʃɛnʲə] = bell-clapper, clasp, feather, strap-hinge; catch (of buckle); tongue; language, speech; utterance in Manx
  • tafod [ˈtavɔd / ˈtaːvɔd] = tongue, faculty of speech, power of expression; language, speech, dialect, accent in Welsh
  • taves = language, tongue in Cornish
  • teod [ˈtɛwt] = language, tongue in Breton

Words from the same PIE root include: tongue and language in English, lingua (tongue, language) in Italian, язик [jɐˈzɪk] (tongue) in Ukrainian, and jazyk (tongue, language) in Czech and Slovak [source].

An Old Irish word for language and speech was bélrae [ˈbʲeːl͈re], from the Old Irish bél (mouth). This became Béarla [ˈbʲeːɾˠl̪ˠə] in modern Irish, Beurla [bjɤːr̪ˠl̪ˠə] in Scottish Gaelic and Baarle [bɛːᵈl], all of which mean English (language) [source].

More details about these words on the Celtiadur.

I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

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