Celtic Pathways – Family

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

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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.

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