Celtic Pathways – Top Tips

In this episode we’re looking into words for top, tip and related things in Celtic languages.

Snowdon / Yr Wyddfa

The Proto-Celtic word *barros means top, point or peak. Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • barr [bˠɑːɾˠ] = tip, point, top, summit, upper part, surface, etc in Irish.
  • bàrr [baːr̪ˠ] = apex, crest, crown, summit, tip, top, zenith, surface, etc in Scottish Gaelic
  • baare = apex, cap, climax, end, point, summit, tip, top, crest (of a wave), etc n in Manx
  • bar [bar] = head, top, summit, crest, bush, tuft or branch in Welsh
  • barr = summit in Cornish
  • barr = summit, surface, access or paroxysm in Breton [source]

Words from the same Proto-Celtic roots, via Gaulish and Latin, include baràz (bramble) in Romansh, and barra (garret, loft, upper platform) in Galician [source].

Words from the same PIE roots include barley in English, farine (flour) in French, bara (bread) in Welsh, Cornish and Breton, bairín (loaf) in Irish, and related words in Celtic languages [source].

Incidentally, the unrelated Galician word barra (sandbank, bar, rod) possibly comes from a Gaulish word, via the Vulgar Latin barra [source].

You can find more details of these words on the Celtiadur blog. I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog.

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