Connections with other languages


Which I get very mixed up with cwlwm - knot.


Well i don’t know if it can be useful to other language natives to remember the difference, however:
cwmwl = cumulo (cumulus) means heap. A cloud looks a bit like a heap of snow, doesn’t it.

I hadn’t heard cwlwm before. I’m sure I would remember because, it sounds exactly like a latin word that means…oh, well…bum! :grin: (of course there’s a similar word also in Italian)

But you can also find it as a component of other words, like in curriculum, that I now see that in Welsh is written cwricwlwm in fact!


Well, this was why my mind jumped from cwmwl ‘cloud’ to nef ‘heaven’: cumulus is going to be most familiar to English speakers not as ‘heap’ (although maybe it should be, given ‘accumulate’) but as the meteorological term ‘cumulo-nimbus’ – basically Latin for ‘a heap of rain-cloud’ – and yes, nimbus is another version of nef.

Interesting exchange on Twitter the other day, when picked the word melys ‘sweet’ and someone asked if there was a link between melys and mêl ‘honey’. There is, and this got us onto the two different basic Indo-European words for honey. One root gives us mêl and melys, as well as French and Spanish miel, Catalan and Portuguese mel, Italian miele etc. Also English ‘mellifluous’ (‘flowing like honey’, borrowed from Latin), and the name ‘Melissa’ from the Greek for a honey-bee; and when I looked for any modern words from the native Germanic version of the word, I found that English ‘mildew’ is from the Old English for ‘honey-dew’. Puts a whole new spin on Kubla Khan, I can tell you.

Then someone – @Iestyn, I think, if he was running the account at the time – asked about other branches of the family, and that got us onto the other root, *medhu- that is used in Indo-European for ‘honey’ or ‘mead’ and, by extension, other alcoholic drinks like wine (at least in some languages). And of course that gives us ‘mead’ and Welsh medd, as well as meddw ‘drunk’ and meddwi ‘get drunk’; further afield, all the Slavonic words for ‘bear’, such as Russian medved, basically mean ‘honey-eater’; the Ancient Greek word for wine (and Modern for getting drunk) share the root meth- and, thanks to chemistry, give us Modern English ‘meths’.

Personally, I think I’ll stick to mead, even if it is usually too melys.


And that’s exactly what I say when I find cwlwms in my daughter’s hair!



here’s some medicinal mead


I will be brewing a few things like this next year and some unusual traditional Welsh beverages - there are many and if anyone is interested in tasting them just say.


I wonder if this is relevant as well


Tempting, but I checked, and I think the root is reckoned to be IE *med- rather than *medh-. Shame, really – there was a nice thing about mead in Golwg a while back where the brewers were saying they’d made some that wasn’t too sweet, so I’d have been up for a glass of leech’s orders…

I have to confess that I started reading this as an article about a line of vegetarian doctors, and had to mentally readjust when I suddenly realized they were herbalists :smile:

Discoveries from the other day: it turns out that the start of wastad ‘always’ is apparently the same gwa-/gwo-/go- (originally *wo-) as in guotig -> wedy and go iawn: the second half, though, is related to ‘stand’, ‘statue’, ‘status’ etc. And I came across a reference to an IE root which I won’t attempt to transctibe here (too many special symbols) but which I nonetheless recognized as gwraidd ‘root’ (as in “where are you from yn wreiddiol?”): I then looked that up online and found it was the same not only as English ‘wort’ (bladderwort, St John’s Wort, etc., German Wurz) but also Greek rhiza as in the botanical word ‘rhizome’, and (dropping the ‘w’) as Latin/Greek radix – whence ‘radical’ and ‘radish’!

So: either ‘where are you from radically’ or ‘where are you from radishly’…


The etymology from med isn’t necessarily certain though. The Physicians of Myddfai have an English Wikipedia page as well and I was always told correctly or not that these were the royal physicians, who were regarded as the top of their field. They have recipes written down from the Red Book of Hergest and many of these were herbal meads.

I came across meodyglyn (sometimes called meddyglin - or metheglin in relation to medical infusions - there were many recipes and Chaucer even mentions it in the Canterbury tales - the Miller’s Tale: “Her mouth was swete as braket or the meth” (braket being braggot from the Welsh Bragaud, derived from a drink made from grain (old irish has a similar word for grains and cereals) , the brag route also gave us Bragdy for brewery etc).

Metheglin was also supposed to be a favourite drink of Queen Elizabeth who received an annual stock and who knows may even have been treated by the descendants of the Physicians of Myddfai - some of their descendents were well respected into the last century and even had a Surgeon General, claiming ancestry from them.

I think there’s quite a bit of stuff here that makes me think an open mind on the etymoology might be a good idea? Welsh Meddyg and English Medic/Medicine from Medicus, sound like they have the same etymology and GPC and other sources say that they do - it would be nice to see how people have linked the two words other than through their apparent similarities though. There is a term I think for when a similar sounding word for a similar thing can oust or blend with the original word, so maybe we did indeed borrow Medicus and it became overlaid with an existing word derived from Medd?

I have heard Welsh speakers on the radio say Ysbytol for hospital and it’s clearly ysbyty derived, but sounds very much like a Welsh valleys version of (H)ospital.


Could “braggart” also derive from this perhaps? I’m thinking that boastfulness can result from too much alcohol…


I did as it happens look into Brag, which I guess is related to Braggart? and this is where no-one seems to really know. The English Brag, comes from Middle English Braggen - to make a loud noise, boast etc and may derive from Old Norse Bragr (for poetry, or best) and people have also looked at Icelandic sources apparently. It could also come from old English Braka - to creek.

I don’t think anyone really knows for sure on this one though, so there’s room for lots of possible sources for this one and I wouldn’t rule the Welsh Brag “in or out” just yet. I know I can sometimes have a tendency to Brag a bit after consuming a little tipple from the local Bragdy, but hopefully not behave like a braggart?.


Well, *medh- would work just as well with the Welsh evidence, but only if meddyg isn’t borrowed from Latin.

The problem is that we’re looking for patterns, and reconstructed *dh doesn’t normally give Latin d, but rather an f or a b sound – like in drws/‘door’/foris. I was scratching around trying to find one that be a better comparison for *medh-, and the best I came up with was this:

English ‘red’ is reckoned to go back to a root *h₁rewdʰ-. Ignoring the rather mathematical-looking start to the word, this gives us English ‘d’ (‘red’), Welsh dd (rhudd), Greek th/θ (erythros/ερυθρός), and Latin b (ruber, as in ‘rubric’). (Another good example of Latin b for English ‘d’ is ‘word’/verbum, but I can’t come up with anything else right now.)

So the outcomes for *medh- fit the same pattern as ‘red’ – ‘d’ in ‘mead’, dd in medd, th in ‘meths’ – and we’d expect the Latin to be something like **mebicus if it came from the same root – but it isn’t, so presumably doesn’t.

I’m quite sure you’re right, although I can’t think of the term myself right now. A similar process is what’s called ‘folk-etymology’ where the form or meaning of a word get altered in line with another word that sounds like it is or ought to be related – loads of examples, although the only one I can think of is ‘bridegroom’, that ought to be **bridegoom (where ‘goom’ would be the English equivalent of ‘human’) but has been remodelled under the influence of ‘groom’. Ysbytol sounds kind of similar :slight_smile:

And now I have learnt the words rhudd ‘crimson’ and rhudd-deitl ‘rubric’, which I didn’t know before!


Yes what I was wondering is if words can derive from two different roots merging. If one day hyspital became the norm in Welsh then it could be regarded as an English borrowing, while equally it could be argued that it was just an evolution of ysbyty, while the reality might be a bit of both?

I’m going to keep an eye open for those words that have a wide range of meanings, because the ultimate word may be one with a simple etymology explanation, but there could be different roots which might show some form of blending from different sources?

PS funny how Welsh plumped for coch as the main word for red, apparently from Latin, rather than the red type words that English, Breton, French and several others seem to have done


GPC says the same thing for Gwas - servant?

Waiter in English from old French Guaiter from PIE weg. Is this related?

Are Waiter and always actually PIE related to Gwas and wastad?


One thing I’m wondering about this proto indo European ancestry is whether the so called PIE langauge was tonal - so many we wo wa’s etc sounds like the many tonal languages out there. Music and poetry create idioms and expressions and many of the tonal languages are beautifully crafted in that sense - was it the powerful and the educated leading to written forms that changed things and created language elites - if so is it a good thing?


Apologies if this has been mentioned before, but one cannot help thinking of the obvious similarity between: “ceffyl” (“horse”), and English: “cavalry” (horse solders).

The etymology of English “cavalry” seems to go back to French, 16th cent.

soldiers who march and fight on horseback," 1590s, from Middle French cavalerie (16c.), from Italian cavalleria “mounted militia,” from cavaliere “mounted soldier” (see cavalier (n.)). An Old English word for it was horshere.




mid 16th century: from French cavallerie , from Italian cavalleria , from cavallo ‘horse’, from Latin caballus


Absolutely – although I’ve a feeling that caballus is itself a Celtic loanword into Latin, as the proper classical word is equus. (Celtic equivalent of equus would be epos, and there’s something somewhere about Caesar having a Gaulish secretary who sometimes confused his ps and qs: Epona was some sort of Celtic horse-goddess, and there’s a story in the Mabinogi about a place called Tal Ebolion being supposedly named after colts.)


Hence Mynydd Epynt between Builth and Llanymddyfri.


We have plenty of words about horses here:
Equino, equitazione, equestre from equus.
Ippica, ippodromo from Greek.
Cavallo, cavalleria, cavaliere from caballus. Italian dictionaries say vulgar latin for workhorse, and probable Celtic origin - in fact!

p.s the way I learned the Welsh word and then noticed a similarity (in written form) with Latin was because this sounded like a funny verse and I enjoyed repeating it a bunch of times.
Torrodd hi lawr, tynnodd hi lan
Fel ceffyl cloff neu ceffyl cloff! :smiley:


Llestri - trastes (Spanish)

looking at it now, it may not be obvious how obvious this is to a spanish speaker, but I guessed the word straight away when reading it in a book. Incidentally, (when I went on google translate to make sure) it translated it as “China” (ie the country - we don’t use the word “china” to mean crockery in spanish). I then went to see how it translated it into chinese and it said 中国 (:rofl:) - this is the word for the country as well. the chinese word should be 音柱


Similar words in Welsh and Irish are llong and long, du and dubh, mawr and mór,coes and cos and blas is common to both