Celtic Pathways – Sacks

In this episode we are looking into the origins of words for sacks, bags and bellys in Celtic languages.


The Proto-Celtic word *bolgos means sack, bag or stomach. It comes from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰólǵʰ-o-s (skin bag, bolster), from *bʰelǵʰ- (to swell) [source].

Descendants in the Celtic languages include:

  • bolg [ˈbˠɔlˠəɡ] = belly, stomach, abdomen; bag; bulge, broad part, middle; bellows in Irish
  • bolg [bɔl̪ˠɔg] = blister, bulge, (light) bulb in Scottish Gaelic
  • bolg [bolg] = stomach, abdomen, belly, tummy, corporation, bilge, bowl (of lamp) in Manx
  • bol [bɔl] = belly, paunch, abdomen, stomach, bowels; tripe; appetite, desire, gluttony, liking; womb; swelling, bulge, surface, side in Welsh
  • bolgh [bɔlx] = breach, gap, opening in Cornish
  • bolc’h = flax pod in Breton

The related Gaulish word *bolgā (sack, bag, stomach) was borrowed into Medieval/Late Latin as bulga (knapsack, wallet, satchel, purse, womb), and became bouge (sack, purse, small bag) and bougette (budget – purse for carrying coins) in Old French; bouge (hovel, dive, shanty, bulge, protuberance) in modern French; bulge, bilge and budget in English, and possibly bolgia (pit, bedlam, madhouse, shambles) in Italian [source].

Other words for the PIE root *bʰelǵʰ- (to swell), include belly, bellows, Belgium, billow, bolster, fool and folly in 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.

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