Are There Any Celtic Words in English? – Written By Nicholas C. Rossis

400-year-old labyrinth carvings on the rocks in Rocky Valley, North Cornwall, England

Long-time followers of my blog may remember my post on the origins of English. The language tree in that post shows that English is largely derived from Germanic, specifically Anglo-Frisian.

So, where are the Celts? Are there no Celtic words in English?

As several of Quora answers explain, there are several – but far fewer than might be expected. Take one of my favorite British English colloquialisms, “smashing,” which is used to mean “really rather good.” Smashing may actually be an Anglicization of the Scottish Gaelic phrase is math sin, “that is good” (although some linguists question that).

The English word “twig” in the sense of suddenly catch on, and the hippy word “dig,” meaning to be really involved in, both come from Scots Gaelic tuig, understand.

Then there are several irish, Celtic, and Cymraeg (Welsh) words that have made their way into modern English, such as smithereens (smidrín), bog, galore (go leor), spree, slew, brogue (a type of shoe; brogue means shoe). Or banshee, breeches, whisky (uisce), clan, lug (ear), slob (slab), phony (fáinne), slogan (sluagh-ghairm), and gob (mouth). Or how about snug from snog, “good.”

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The Origins Of English

Nicholas C. Rossis published a phenomenal article about the origins of English. Thanks so much, Nicholas. This is exciting!

Nicholas C. Rossis

TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Educator Claire Bowern and Director Patrick Smith have produced a great little film that explains the origins of English. As they explain, when we talk about ‘English’, we often think of it as a single language. But what do the dialects spoken in dozens of countries around the world have in common with each other, or with the writings of Chaucer? The Origins Of English traces the language from the present day back to its ancient roots, showing how English has evolved through generations of speakers.

Going Further Back

However, illustrator Minna Sundberg went even further back. She has captured in an elegant infographic a linguistic tree which reveals some fascinating links between different tongues, illustrating how most of the different languages we speak today can actually be placed in only a couple of groups by their…

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Language Generator for Fantasy and Sci-Fi

Kristen Twardowski informs us with an exciting blog post about “Vulgar”, a language generator for Sci-Fi and Fantasy writers. Thanks so much Kristen.

Kristen Twardowski

I’ve talked about my fascination with language before, but sometimes writers need a little help creating words that make sense in their nascent worlds. I recently found something that streamlines that process.

Vulgar (pardon the terrible name) is a constructed language generator. The generator creates fully realized languages; if you were truly ambitious you could learn some of them. The program attempts to mimic real languages, so there are patterns to the words that develop. For instance, in 50% of generated languages, the word for “tongue” is the same as the word for “language”, and words often share roots as is the case for:

pson /pʂon/ n. paint; v. paint
psopru /ˈpʂopru/ n. painter

I’ve played around with the generator quite a bit and am highlighting a few sample languages below.

Vulgar Zulia.JPG via Vulgar

Vulgar Nahis.JPG via Vulgar

The above screenshots simply capture the summaries for the languages. The full pages, however…

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