SSi Forum

Welsh Etymology (Word Origins)


I still remember our second year Latin teacher’s joke “mea mater sus mala est” - suitably puerile for twelve year olds


I’ve still got my copy of “Brevitas” somewhere, from when I did it to ‘O’ level. Unfortunately, I never found it as interesting as you did! Unfortunate, and I find it much more interesting now!

I saw a copy of Tacitus’ biography of Agricola in a second-hand book shop the other day, translated into Welsh and with commentary in Welsh*. I was thinking of buying it for the sake of it, until I saw the price of it even second-hand!

Anyway, referring back to the original topic of this thread, I’m sure Latin would help you with Welsh etymology! Not only are there loads of words from Latin borrowed into Welsh, the relative similarity between Celtic and Latin (far less than between the Romance languages amongst themselves, of course!) - could be of help.

When you come across words in Welsh formal literary writing like “credant” and “canant”, (for “they believe” and “they sing”), they would look right at home in Latin! And the general view seems to be that the stems “can~” and “cred~”, (along with of course the “~nt” verbal ending) come via Old Celtic rather than being taken from Latin.

Cherry picking, of course, and that does not illustrate the general similarity of words, but I think it’s striking nevertheless! And also illustrates how difficult it can sometimes be to actually know whether a word in Welsh is from a Latin word or whether they are both from Indo-European!

But yes, a knowledge of Latin means you would pick up on such similarities, and more subtle ones, much quicker than I would!

[*Rather than a commentary on Caesar’s Commentaries.]


From my Instagram account, taken during a trip to the Bay of Naples:

Pericolo = Perygl #WhatTheRomansDidForUs

A photo posted by Robert Bruce (@ydysgwraraf) on Oct 30, 2014 at 7:43am PDT

Really useful 'How to' stuff and other great posts

Someone I knew in Gwynedd years back had 'learned Latin in Welsh" (i.e. through the medium of Cymraeg.) General opinion was that his Latin was much better than that “learned in English”!


Latin could also help you with being a judge, according to
Peter Cook, who wasn’t able to be a judge on account of not having the Latin you know.


Share roots? Of course! There are eight main branches of Indo-European (ranked in order, from biggest to smallest, by number of nativ speakers; # = ‘centum’ branch, ^ = ‘satem’ branch):

  • ^Indo-Iranian: Iranian (Farsi, Pashto, Tajik, et al.) + Nuristani (a few small languages) + Indo-Aryan (Sanskrit, Hindi-Urdu, Bengali, Panjabi, et al.). In India, the world’s second most populous country; and Pakistan and Bangladesh, which also hav big populations; most people speak Indo-Aryan languages.
  • #Italic: Latin, and its descendant Romance languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian et al.
  • #Germanic: English, German, Dutch, Swedish et al.
  • ^Balto-Slavic: Baltic (Latvian, Lithuanian) + Slavic (Russian, Polish, et al.)
  • #Greek (an especially beautiful language, IMO)
  • ^Albanian
  • ^Armenian
  • #Celtic: Brythonic (Welsh, Cornish, Breton) + Goidelic or Gaelic (Irish, Manx, Scotch Gaelic). ‘British’, or Proto-Brythonic, is what they spoke in England, Wales, and part of Scotland before the Anglo-Saxons invaded in the 5th century and brought in what became English. Extinct Celtic languages (a subject which haunts me) include Gaulish, Cumbric (Brythonic; closely akin to Welsh [Cymraeg]), Celtiberian, and Galatian. French and Breton are both Gaulish-influenced. Spoken Breton sounds like French.

There is a beautiful symmetry: two big centum branches, two small centum branches, two big satem branches, two small satem branches.

So all or almost all Indo-European languages hav similar words for numbers 1-10. Welsh pedwar is cognate to English four, Spanish cuatro, etc.: Proto-Indo-European *kw became p in Welsh (in other words, a labiovelar became pure labial); [kw] in Latin, hence [kw] or [k] in Spanish; and *hw in Germanic (in the word four, it exceptionally became *f, probably by analogy with ‘five’).

Germanic languages, Welsh, etc. do hav a number of borrowings from Latin or its descendant Romance languages, hence further shared vocabulary.


Well this is an old topic, but it lasted 5 years and it’s full of people interested in etymology, so I’m adding a new bit.
Does anybody have an idea of the etymology of “naci”?
So far I have only a very tenuous connection to Breton Nach for refusal.


I’ve answered in the “Tiny questions, quick answers” thread, but here it is again.

Naci is the northern spoken form of nage and they both come from nac ef


Thanks. Searched here but missed that in quickies.
[This group is very quick ]