Celtic Pathways – Wagons and Carts

In this episode we’re looking at words for wagons, carts and related vehicles.


One Proto-Celtic word for wagon was *karros, which comes from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱr̥sós (vehicle), from *ḱers- (to run) [source].

Descendants in the Celtic languages include:

  • *karros = wagon in Gaulish
  • carr [kɑːɾˠ / kæːɾˠ] = car in Irish
  • càr [kar] = car, cart, raft in Scottish Gaulish
  • carr = car, cab, van in Manx
  • car [kar] = vehicle, car, sled, dray; rack, stand in Welsh
  • karr [karː / kær] = car in Cornish
  • karr = car, coach, carriage, trailer, vehicle in Breton

The Gaulish word *karros was borrowed into Latin as carrus (wagon, cart, cartload), which became carro (wagon, cart, van, lorry, truck) in Italian; carro (cart, car, bus) in Spanish; car (bus, coach) in French, car, carriage and chariot in English, and related words in most other Indo-European languages [source].

Words from the same PIE roots include currus (chariot, car, wagon) in Latin, horse in English, hors (mare, female foal, frivolous woman) in Norwegian (Nynorsk), and hross (horse) in Icelandic [source].

The Proto-Celtic word *karbantos means (war) chariot or wagon and is possibly related to the Proto-Celtic word *korbos (wagon, basket). [source].

Descendants in the Celtic languages include:

  • carbad [ˈkaɾˠəbˠəd̪ˠ] = chariot in Irish
  • carbad [karabad] = chariot, coach, carriage, wagon, vehicle, bier, jaw(bone) in Scottish Gaulish
  • carbyd = bus, coach, vehicle, bier, hearse in Manx
  • cerbyd [ˈkɛrbɨ̞d / ˈkɛrbɪd] = car, carriage, chariot, wagon, coach; clumsy fellow, bungler in Welsh
  • cerpit = chariot, wagon in Old Cornish
  • karbed = vehicle in Breton

The French word charpente (framework, structure) comes from the same Proto-Celtic root, via the Gaulish carbantos and the Latin carpentum (carriage, chariot, wagon, cart) [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.

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