Celtic Pathways – Barnacle Geese

In this episode we discover the Celtic roots of words like barnacle.


The Proto-Celtic word *barinākos means barnacle or limpet It comes from the Proto-Celtic *barinā (rocky ground), and *-ākos (involved with, belonging to) [source].

Related words in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • bairneach [ˈbˠɑːɾˠn̠ʲəx] = limpet in Irish
  • bàirneach [baːr̪ˠn̪ʲəx] = barnacle or limpet in Scottish Gaelic
  • ba(a)rnagh = barnacle in Manx
  • brennigen = limpet in Welsh
  • brenigen = limpet in Cornish
  • brennigenn = barnacle or limpet in Breton

Words from the same Proto-Celtic roots include bernache (barnacle) in French, barnacle in English, and barnacla (brent/brant goose) in Spanish [source].

The French word bernache was borrowed from Medieval Latin barnēca (limpet), from Gaulish *barinākā. The English word barnacle arrived via Middle English barnakille, and Old Northern French bernaque (barnacle), and the Spanish word barnacla was borrowed from English.

More about words for Barnacles & Limpets and related things in Celtic languages.

You can find more connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur blog. I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog.

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