Celtic Pathways – Druids

In this episode we’re looking at words for druids and related people.


The Proto-Celtic *druwits means priest or druid, and comes from the Proto-Celtic *daru (oak) and *wid-/*windeti (to know, to see), from the Proto-Indo-European *dóru (tree) and *weyd (to see, know) [source].

Descendants in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • draoi [d̪ˠɾˠiː] = druid, wizard, magician, augur, diviner, trickster, and draoíocht (magic, druidism, witchcraft, enchantment) in Irish
  • draoidh [drɯj] = druid, sorcerer, magician, wizard, and draoidheachd (magic, sorcery, druidism) in Scottish Gaelic
  • druaight = charm, druid and druaightagh (smithcraft, smithery) in Manx
  • dryw [drɨu̯/drɪu̯] = druid, seer, and derwydd (prophet, wise man, druid) in Welsh
  • drewydh = druid in Cornish
  • drouiz = druid in Breton

The English word druid comes from the French druide (druid), from the Latin as druidae (the druids), from the Gaulish *druwits (druid) [source].

The Proto-Brythonic word *drüw (druid) was borrowed into Old English as drȳ (sorcerer, magician), which became drī(mann)/driʒ(mann) (sorcerer, magician) in Middle English [source]. A few modern druids use the word drymann, or something similiar, to refer to themselves.

Here’s a traditional Welsh tune called Y Derwydd (The Druid) played by me on the mandolin:

Here’s another version of it:

You can find the dots for this tune on The Session.

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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