Celtic Pathways – Beer

In this episode we are investigating words for beer and related things.


In Proto-Celtic beer was *kormi or *kurman, which comes from the Proto-Indo-European *kremH- (to burn), or from *ḱr̥h₃-m- (porridge, soup), or from *ḱh₁erh₂- (to mix) [source].

Descendants in the Celtic languages include:

  • coirm [kɞɾʲəmʲ] = ale, drinking-party, feast, banquet in Irish
  • cuirm [kurʲum] = feast, banquet, entertainment; ale, beer (archaic) in Scottish Gaulish
  • cuirrey = banquet, feast in Manx
  • cwrw [ˈkʊru / ˈkuːru] = beer, ale in Welsh
  • korev, kor = ale, beer in Cornish
  • korev = ale, beer in Breton

The Latin word cervēsa (beer) comes from the same Proto-Celtic roots. From this we get the Spanish word cerveza (beer), the Portuguese word cerveja (beer), the French word cervoise (ale, beer – archaic), and the Italian word cervogia (beer – archaic) [source].

Other words for beer in Celtic languages include:

  • beoir [bʲoːɾʲ] = beer in Irish
  • beòir [bjɔːrʲ] = beer in Scottish Gaulish
  • beer = beer in Manx
  • bir = beer, ale in Welsh
  • bier = ale, beer in Breton

The words in the Goidelic languages come from the Old Norse bjórr (beer), from the Proto-Germanic *beuzą [ˈbeu̯.zɑ̃] (beer), from the Proto-Indo-Eurpean *bʰews- (dross, sediment) [source]. The Welsh word were borrowed from English, and the Breton word was borrowed from French.

Sláinte! Slàinte! Slaynt! Iechyd da! Yeghes da! Yec’hed mat! (Good health! / Cheers!)

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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