Celtic Pathways – Protruberances

In this episode we’re looking at Celtic words for hill and breast and related things.

Snowdonia in the sun

A Proto-Celtic word for hill is *brusnyos, which comes from Proto-Celtic *brusū (belly, abdomen, breast), possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰrews- (belly, to swell) [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • broinne = breast, bosom, brink, verge in Irish.
  • broinne [brɤin̪ʲ] = belly, stomach, womb, bulge in Scottish Gaelic
  • brein = big, great, grand, heavy, tall in Manx
  • bron [brɔn] = breast, bosom, thorax, hill-side, slope in Welsh
  • bronn [brɔn] = breast, hill in Cornish
  • bronn [brɔ̃n] = breast in Breton

Words from the same Proto-Celtic root, via the Proto-West-Germanic *brunnjā (chainmail shirt), include: brynja (coat of mail) in Icelandic, Swedish and Faroese, brynje (mail, armour) in Danish, brynje (coat of armour, protective clothing for motorcyclists) in Norwegian, and броня [brɔˈnʲa] (armour, armoured vehicle, shell) in Ukrainian [source].

The English words breast, brisket and bruise come from the same PIE root, as do borst (chest, thorax, breast) in Dutch, and bröst (breast, chest, thorax) in Swedish [source].

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

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