Celtic Pathways – Swans

In this episode we are looking into words for swan.

Swans, etc

In Proto-Celtic word for swan was *eli-, which comes from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁el- (swan, bird, waterfowl) [Source].

Related words in modern Celtic language include:

  • eala [ˈalˠə] = swan in Irish
  • eala [jal̪ˠə] = swan in Scottish Gaelic
  • olla(y) = (mute) swan in Manx
  • alarch [ˈalarχ/ˈaːlarχ] = swan, the constellation Cygnus in Welsh
  • alargh = (mute) swan in Cornish
  • alarc’h = swan in Breton

Words from the same Proto-Celtic root include alondra (lark) in Spanish, alouette (lark) in French, and allodola (skylark) in Italian. They were probably borrowed from the Gaulish alauda (skylark), from ala (swan) [Source].

Other words from the PIE root *h₁el- include auk in English, olor (swan) in Latin, alke (auk) in Danish and Norwegian, and álka (razorbill) in Faroese and Icelandic [Source].

More details of words for swan 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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