Celtic Pathways – Flowers

In this episode we’re look into words for flowers and related things.

View from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig

In Proto-Celtic, the word *blātus meant flower of blossom. It comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *bʰleh₃- (bloom, flower) [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • bláth [bˠl̪ˠɑː/bˠl̪ˠaː] = blossom, flower; bloom, beauty, prime; prosperity or abundance in Irish
  • blàth [bl̪ˠaː] = bloom, blossom, flower, consequence, effect or heyday in Scottish Gaelic
  • blaa [bleː] = bloom, blossom, flower, heyday or pride in Manx
  • blodyn [ˈblɔdɨ̞n / ˈbloːdɪn] = flower, bloom, blossoms, florets, flowering plant or petal in Welsh
  • bleujen [ˈblɛdʒən] = blossom or flower in Cornish
  • bleuñv [blœ̃w] = flowers, flowering, apogee or menstruation in Breton

The Proto-Celtic word *blātus became *blātōnā (flower) in Gaulish, which was borrowed into Medieval Latin as blādōna (mullein – plants of the genus Verbascum), which became belladonna (a.k.a. deadly nightshade / Atropa belladonna) in Italian [source].

English words from the same PIE root include bloom, blossom, blade, flower, flour, flourish, foliage and folio [source].

Incidentally, words meaning flour in some Celtic languages come from the same PIE root, via Anglo-Norman, Old French, Latin and Proto-Italic. They include fflŵr/fflowr in Welsh, flooyr in Manx, flùr in Scottish Gaelic, and plúr in Irish, which also means flower [more details].

More details of flower-related words in Celtic languages can be found on the 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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