Word Family - Celts

June theme: Celtic Iron Age


June's theme is linguistic effects of the Celtic Hegemony of the early Iron Age. The rest of the month will focus on words that were borrowed from Gaulish into Latin (things like very iconic Latin word gladius being borrowed from Gaulish, which appears in today's), but I'm going to start out with exploring some of the names of Celtic peoples. This was originally going to be a compare and contrast of two different families, but it ballooned into 3-4.

There are 3 interesting take aways from this:

The fairly ridiculous fact that Latin word Gallus/Gallia is unrelated to the French Gaule/Gaulois (whence English Gaul) of the same meaning. The regular descendant in French of Gallia would be Jaille, which does in fact appear in a handful of place names in western France, e.g. La Jaille-Yvon, Saint-Mars-la-Jaille. Gaule is from Frankish instead, and is cognate to English Wales.

The geographical breadth of Celtic peoples in the Iron Age, from Turkey to Portugal.

From our perspective on this time period, we tend to group the Celtic peoples in with the Germanic people of the era, as the barbarians. In many languages at the time, the Celtic peoples were grouped instead with the Romans; In many ways this is a more accurate classification.

Celt/Keltoi/Celtae may be from the same origin as Gallus, but might not. I present Celt and Gallus from two different sources here, but both are uncertain, being only attested in borrowings and not in any native forms. Either could actually be from the source shown for the other.

The Irish Gael is from another source again: Proto-Celtic *wēdelos: "woodsy, woodsman".

Nota Bene: Even just within English words, descendants of *walhaz refer to foreigners of at least three different branches of Indo-European: Celtic (the Welsh), Italic (the Walloons and Wallachians), and Indo-Iranian (the Vlax Romani).

Nota Bene 2: In Irish Gael means "Irish", gall means "not Irish". Gall-Ghàidheal (English Galloway) is a compound of the two meaning "Foreign-Irish", the Gaelic-speaking descendants of Norse settlers in south-west Scotland.


  1. Galatians, Donegal, Galloway, Dougal, Doyle, gallium, Galicia, Portugal
  2. Vlach, Wallachia, Wales, Cornwall, Gaul, Walloon, Welsh, walnut
  3. Celt, Mathilda, Zelda, glaive, gladiator, gladiolus, claymore, hilt, holt, coupe, coppice
  4. Gael, gallowglass, Galloway

Full Text

  • Proto-Indo-European *gelH-?
    • Celtic *galā valor, ability
      • Brythonic
        • Welsh gallu ability, might, power
      • Old Irish gal valor, fighting spirit
        • Irish gal valor, fury, steam
          • Irish láth gaile warrior
          • Irish tuirbín gaile steam turbine
      • Gaulish ? tribe name meaning "valorous"?
        • Classical Greek Γᾰλᾰ́της Galátēs
          • Classical Greek Γᾰλᾰτῐ́ᾱ Galatíā Galatia, Gaul
            • Latin Galatia Galatia place in Asia Minor settled by Celtic peoples around 4th C BCE
              • English Galatia
                • English Galatians
        • Latin Gallia
          • Western Romance
            • French Jaille
              • French Saint-Mars-la-Jaille place name lit. "Holy Mars the Gaul"
              • French La Jaille-Yvon place name lit. "The Gaul-Yew"
          • Classical Greek Γᾰλλῐ́ᾱ Gallíā Gaul
            • Greek Γαλλία Gallía France
          • Old Irish gall foreigner, Gaul, Norseman
            • Irish gall foreigner, Gaul, Norman, Englishman, Anglified Irish person
            • Welsh gelyn enemy, foe
            • Old Irish
              • Irish Dún na nGall Donegal lit. "Fort of the Norsemen"
                • English Donegal
            • Old Irish gall óglaigh foreign/norse warrior, gallowglass
              • Irish gallóglaigh gallowglass
                • English gallowglass
            • Old Irish Gall-Goídel Norse-Irish, foreign-Irish Gaelic speaking descendants of Norse settlers
              • Scottish Gaelic Gall-Ghàidhealaibh
                • English Galloway
            • Old Irish
              • Irish Dubhghall Dark-(haired)-Norseman/Foreigner personal name
                • English Dougal
                • Irish Ó Dubhghaill descendant of Dubhghall surname
                  • English (O')Doyle
          • New Latin gallium
            • Translingual Ga
            • English gallium
        • Latin Gallaeci
          • Latin Gallaecia land of the Gallaeci
            • Western Romance
              • Spanish Galicia
                • English Galicia
              • Latin Portus Callus Port of Callus
                • Western Romance
                  • Portuguese Porto
                    • English port (wine)
                • Portuguese Portugal
                  • English Portugal
          • Latin Callus
  • Proto-Indo-European *gʷʰe(H?)lk? hawk? [1]
    • Celtic *wolkos hawk? [1]
      • Brythonic
        • Welsh gwalch hawk, rogue, rascal [1]
      • Gaulish Uolk-? tribe name of unknown native form [1]
        • Latin Volcae Gaulish tribe
        • Germanic *walhaz foreigner, southerner, speaker of a Celtic or Romance language
          • East Germanic
            • Gothic *walhs
              • Slavic *vòlxъ Roman, Romance speaker
                • East Slavic волохъ voloxŭ
                  • Russian волох volox Romanic person, Italian, Romanian archaic
                • South Slavic
                  • Serbo-Croatian Вла̏х Vlȁh Vlach/Romanian, an (Eastern) Orthodox Christian (perjorative), Italian (archaic)
                    • Hungarian olasz Italian
                  • Old Church Slavonic влахъ vlaxŭ
                    • Byzantine Greek Βλάχος Blákhos Eastern Romance speaker, Vlach
                      • Greek Βλάχος Vláchos Vlach/Romanian
                      • Turkish Eflak Wallachia
                    • Hungarian oláh Vlach/Romanian
                    • English Vlach
                      • English Vlax
                • West Slavic
                  • Polish Włoch an Italian
                    • Polish Włochy Italy
                • German Walachei Wallachia
                  • English Wallachia
          • North Germanic
            • Old Norse Valir Southerners, Celts, Romans
              • Old Norse Valland Land of the Celts/Romans, Gaul [2]
          • West Germanic
            • Old English wealh foreigner, Celt, Welshman, slave, serf
              • Old English Wealas foreigners, the Welsh, Wales
                • English Wales
                • Old English Cornwealas the Cornish Welsh, Cornwall
                  • English Cornwall
            • Old High German walh
              • German Walen-
                • German Walensee place name lit. "Roman Sea"
                • German Walchwil place name lit. "Romanville"?
            • Frankish *walh
              • French Gaule Gaul
                • English Gaul
              • Dutch Waal
              • Walon walon endonym French-speakers in Belgium
                • French wallon French-speakers in Belgium, walloon
                  • English Walloon
          • Germanic *walhiskaz foreign, Celtic, Roman
            • North Germanic
              • Old Norse
                • Swedish välsk southern, foreign, esp. French or Italian
            • West Germanic
              • Old English wilisċ foreign, not English, esp. Celtic/British/Welsh
                • English Welsh
              • Frankish *walsk
                • Dutch Waals Walloon
              • Old High German walahisc
                • German welsch pertaining to Romance-speaking parts of Switzerland, Welsh, foreign
                  • English welsh onion
                  • German Rotwelsch a cant from southern Germany lit. "red-foreign", where "red" is used to mean "beggar, itinerant"
                    • English Rotwelsch
          • Germanic *walhahnuts walnut [3]
            • North Germanic
              • Old Norse valhnot walnut
                • Danish valnød walnut
                • Icelandic valhneta walnut
            • West Germanic
              • Old English walhhnutu walnut
                • English walnut
              • Frankish
                • Dutch walnoot walnut
              • Old High German
                • German Walnuss walnut
                • Yiddish וועלשענער נוס velshener nus walnut
      • Celtic *katuwolkos battle-hawk personal name/epithet? [1]
        • Brythonic
          • Welsh cadwalch hero
        • Gaulish Cativolcus Battle-Hawk? personal name
    • Italic
      • Latin falcō falcon [1]
        • Germanic *falkô falcon [1]
  • Proto-Indo-European *kelh₂- to beat, to break, to fight
    • Proto-Indo-European *kelh₂-ti primary verb form
      • Balto-Slavic
        • Lithuanian kálti to hammer
      • Celtic *kel-to to fight, to war
        • Celtic *kellāko fight, war
          • Old Irish
            • Irish cellach battle, strife, contention
        • Gaulish ? tribe name meaning "warriors"?
          • Classical Greek Κελτοί Keltoí Celts, Gauls
            • Greek Kελτοί Kéltis Celts, Gauls
            • Latin Celtae [4]
              • English Celt
                • Japanese ケルト人 kerutojin Celt
              • Latin Celtiberi Celtiberian
                • English Celtiberian
      • Hellenic
        • Classical Greek κλάω kláō
      • Italic *kello to beat
        • Italic *perkello to thoroughly beat
          • Latin percellō to beat down, to overthrow, to smite
    • Proto-Indo-European *kelh₂tís
      • Germanic *hildiz battle
        • East Germanic
          • Gothic 𐌷𐌹𐌻𐌳𐍃 hilds
        • North Germanic
          • Old Norse hildr battle
            • Icelandic hildur
            • Old Norse Gunnhildr Battle-Maiden personal name, lit. "battle-battle but in naming context, "battle maiden"
              • Middle English Gunilda personal name
                • Middle English Domina Gunilda a huge ballista mounted at Windsor Castle in the 14th C
                  • English gun
        • West Germanic
          • Frankish *hildija
            • Frankish *Mahthildija Might-Battle (personal name)
              • French Mathilde
                • English Mathilda
        • Germanic *Grīsahildiz Grey-Battle (personal name)
          • West Germanic
            • Old English
              • English Griselda
                • English Zelda
        • Germanic *Hildirīks Battle-King (personal name)
          • East Germanic
            • Vandalic *Hildireiks
              • Latin Hildericus
                • Western Romance
                  • Italian Ilderico
                • English Hilderic
          • West Germanic
            • Frankish *Hildirīk
              • Latin Childericus
                • Western Romance
                  • French Childéric
                    • English Childeric
              • Dutch Hilderik
      • Italic
        • Latin clādes a breaking, destruction
    • Proto-Indo-European *kl̥h₂dos
      • Hellenic
        • Classical Greek κλᾰ́δος kládos branch, twig, arm
          • Greek κλάδος kládos branch, bough, clade
          • English clade
      • Celtic *kladiwos
        • Gaulish *kladyos
          • Latin gladius
            • Western Romance
              • French glaive gladius, short sword
                • English glaive
              • Italian ghiado dagger
            • English gladius
            • Italian gladio sword, rapier
            • Latin gladiātor swordsman, gladiator
              • English gladiator
            • Latin gladiolus little sword, knife, sword lily, gladiolus
              • English gladiolus
        • Old Irish claideb sword
          • Irish claíom
          • Scottish Gaelic claidheamh sword
            • Scottish Gaelic claidheamh mòr great sword
              • English claymore
    • Proto-Indo-European *kelh₂do
      • Germanic *heltą handle, hilt
        • North Germanic
          • Old Norse hjalt hilt
            • Danish hjalte
            • Icelandic hjalt hilt
        • West Germanic
          • Old English hilt
            • English hilt
          • Old High German helza
    • Proto-Indo-European *kolh₂do
      • Germanic *hultą wood, timber, grove
        • North Germanic
          • Old Norse holt
            • Danish holt
            • Icelandic holt hillock, wood
        • West Germanic
          • Old English holt wood, timber, grove
            • English holt
          • Frankish holt
            • Dutch hout wood, stick
          • Old High German holz wood
            • German Holz wood, grove
    • Proto-Indo-European *kl̥h₂yo-
      • Celtic *kallī-
        • Brythonic
          • Welsh celli copse, grove, woodland
        • Old Irish caill forest, woodland
    • Proto-Indo-European *kolh₂-ti
      • Balto-Slavic
        • Lithuanian kùlti to hit
        • Slavic *kòlti to stab, to sting
          • East Slavic
            • Russian коло́ть kolótʹ to stab, to break, to split, to prick
          • South Slavic
            • Serbo-Croatian кла̏ти klȁti to chop, to cut, to butcher
          • West Slavic
            • Polish kłuć to prick, to prickle
    • Proto-Indo-European *kolh₂-p?-yos [5]
      • Hellenic
        • Classical Greek κολάπτω koláptō knock, peck, hew [5]
          • Classical Greek δρυοκολάπτης dryokoláptis woodpecker
            • Greek δρυοκολάπτης dryokoláptis woodpecker
          • Classical Greek κόλᾰφος kólaphos a buffet, a blow, a peck
            • Greek κόλαφος kólafos a slap
            • Latin colaphus a blow, a cuff
              • Western Romance
                • French coup blow, hit, strike, any fast action
                  • English coup
                  • French coupé cut, shortened
                    • English coupe
                • Italian colpo blow, shock, shot
                • Spanish golpe blow, knock, bump, beat, rhythm, surprise
              • Vulgar Latin *colpāre to strike, to cut
                • Vulgar Latin *colpaticium having been cut
                  • Old French copeiz
                    • English coppice
                      • English copse
  • Proto-Indo-European *h₁weydʰ- woods, wilderness
    • Proto-Indo-European *weydʰos wild, woodsy
      • Celtic *wēdus
        • Brythonic *guɨðel woodsman, Irishman
          • Breton Gouezel Gael
          • Welsh Gwyddel Irishman
          • Old Irish Goídel Irishman, Gael
            • Irish Gael Gael
            • Scottish Gaelic Gàidheal Gael, highlander
              • English Gael
            • Old Irish Gall-Goídel Norse-Irish, foreign-Irish Gaelic speaking descendants of Norse settlers
              • Scottish Gaelic Gall-Ghàidhealaibh
                • English Galloway
        • Old Irish fíad wilderness, uncultivated land, wild animals, game
          • Irish fia deer


Image is a visual representation of the text content above.

Collected English words

Galatia, Galatians, Donegal, gallowglass, Galloway, Dougal, (O')Doyle, Ga, gallium, Galicia, port (wine), Portugal, Vlach, Vlax, Wallachia, Wales, Cornwall, Gaul, Walloon, Welsh, welsh onion, Rotwelsch, walnut, Celt, Celtiberian, gun, Mathilda, Griselda, Zelda, Hilderic, Childeric, clade, glaive, gladius, gladiator, gladiolus, claymore, hilt, holt, coup, coupe, coppice, copse, Gael


  1. ^

    The Gaulish tribe name is assumed to mean "hawk", either as a totem or metaphorically meaning "warrior/hero" based on comparison to Welsh gwalch: "hawk", Welsh cadwalch: "hero", and Gaulish personal name Cativolcus.

    This Celtic word for hawk has a complicated possible relationship with the Latinate falcō/falcon

    The Celtic root is generally reconstructed as *wolkos, but there's no actual evidence against *gʷolkos instead. /*w/ and /*gʷ/ both merge into gw in Welsh. They would be different in Gaulish, but I believe that difference would be easily lost in Latinized Gaulish, due to the details of the Latin letter V. If we had an Irish form, we would know whether it was **golc from *gʷolkos or **folc from *wolkos, but as far as I can tell, we don't have an Irish form.

    If the Celtic root is *gʷolkos instead of *wolkos, that could come from PIE *gʷʰolkos, which would give Latin *folcos for "hawk"; at which point descent from a slightly different morphological form to falcō is within the realm of speculation.

    falcō is clearly connected to Germanic *falkô, but there's no good evidence of which way the borrowing went. If it was borrowed from Germanic into Latin, it is derivable from PIE *pelH-: "pale, grey" (compare fallow from Germanic). But if it is from Latin to Germanic, there's no established origin. Since there is also no established origin for Celtic *wolkos, at that point it makes sense to speculate a PIE (or possibly Pre-Italo-Celtic) something like root *gʷʰe(H?)lk: "hawk, falcon".

    Obviously there are other descendants of Latin falcō and Germanic *falkô, but since they are a very tenuous connection, I didn't fill out those branches.

  2. ^

    Appears, among other places, in Snorri's Heimskringla's description of how a piece of France/Gaul became Normandy:

    "Ganger-Hrólf went afterwards over sea to the West to the Hebrides, or Sudreys; and at last farther west to Valland, where he plundered and subdued for himself a great jarldom, which he peopled with Northmen, from which that land is called Normandy"

    According to the Heimskringla, "Ganger-Hrólf" ("Rolf the Walker") is the same as "Count Rollo", first duke of Normandy, and William the Conqueror's great-great-great-grandfather. The Heimskringla gives him as the son of Jarl Rognvald Eysteinsson, kinsman and ally of Harald Fairhair, first King of Norway. Neither of these facts can be confirmed. Other accounts of Rollo have some shared details as Snorri's, but diverge on other points.

  3. ^

    Germanic *walhahnuts: "walnut". I assumed it was like "welsh onion" and was just generic "foreign". But then I found that walnuts were called nux gallica in Latin: "Celtic nut", so Germanic *walhahnuts is probably a calque of the Latin. They were probably called nux gallica because they were imported from Persia via Celtic Galatia in modern day Turkey. Iran and Turkey remain to this day the #3 and #4 producers of walnuts. (#1 and #2 are the United States and China, whose rankings have more to do with overall size of national industry rather than any special connection to walnuts).

  4. ^

    Caesar, in the first sentence of his "Commentaries on the Gallic War", says the southeastern Gauls called themselves "Celtae":

    "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur. "

    "All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, and third those who are called in their own language Celts, in ours Gauls."

    The Belgae in northeast Gaul were also Celtic-speakers, and are the namesake of Belgium. The Aquitani in southwest Gaul were probably related to the Basque, not Celts, and are the namesake of Aquitaine.

  5. ^

    I can't explain where the /p/ in koláptō comes from. Every other part of this word looks exactly like it derives from *kelh₂-, with the one exception that there is no PIE morphology I know of that should result in any sound in that position that could become a /p/. I guess it could be *kolh₂-h₁epi, "knock upon?", but I think that would usually be formed *h₁epi-kolh₂- instead.