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Welsh language borrowings

Does anyone know of a website which gives the etymology of Welsh words, and also which of them have been absorbed into English? I'm often curious to know whether a Welsh word came from English, French or Latin, or whether an English word came from Welsh (I know there aren't many of the latter). I know I can go to places like Wikipedia for individual words, but it would be useful to access a website set up specifically for Welsh borrowings.

February 28, 2016



Thank you. I was surprised at how few there are. I knew it was a small number, but I had the feeling that it was around 200. A bit disappointing:(


You'd want to ask someone who has actual expertise, but although the word borrows might be minor, there's another area where Welsh has hugely affected English. I believe the biggest influence Welsh has had on English is that it's from Welsh we get our continuous tenses, which have no equivalent (I believe) in any other Germanic language, and they're even constructed in a way that mimics the Welsh. Not a word borrowing, but a whole series of tenses is quite a contribution ;)


Hi, True. I speak both Breton and Dutch (and English, French and German, and learning Welsh here...), due to a mixed family background...

Also studied historical linguistics and I certainly can confirm that:

-English is the weird germanic one and that Dutch is more similar to it than German is, but that both are more similar to each other than either is to English (if that makes sense...)

-besides French and Norse (words mainly), there is a lot of Celtic (britthonic, thus oldest Welsh /Breton/Cornish) influence on English, mainly grammar.

The 2 most obvious ones in 2 English sentences:

Are you eating the apple? Yes I am/I do!

Which in both Dutch and German (or any other Germanic language for that matter) makes no sense at all!

Litteral translation into Dutch (and sounds very, very wrong): Ben jij etende de appel? Ja, ik ben/ik doe!

Real dutch (a lot simpler!): eet jij de appel? Ja! (eat you the apple? Yes!)

Breton (my dialect, standard is a little different): emaoc'h o zebri an aval? Gran.

Litteral (and okay) English translation : are you eating an apple? I do.

In Welsh, but also in the Gaelic languages, it is similar, right?

So continuous tense and a little bit of an obsession with the verb "to do"...

Love it!


By the way, check this (great guy, Paul) https://youtu.be/dmzIunLtRzQ


Interesting. Was it the influence of one language on the other, though, or was it they had, in part at least, a common ancestor in Brythonic?

Primitive Welsh is thought to have arisen, largely from Brythonic, but with Latin, etc, influences by about 500-550 AD, and Old Welsh by about 800 AD.

Similarly, Old English seems to date back to about 450 BC, developing partly from the germanic languages of incomers and traders from the east but also including elements of Brythonic etc.

Of course, both languages then developed alongside each other and with a lot of trading back and forth as the various populations moved around and intermingled, together with what we might expect to be a lot of multi-lingualism.


I believe that the use of auxiliary verbs to create sentences comes from the original British language(s) - you won't find the construction in other teutonic languages or italic ones.


Yes, of course - thanks for the reminder. I had forgotten about that, and hadn't thought of it as a contribution to the English language, but of course this is what makes it so distinctive. Although there are other languages which have a similar construction - but not related to the Germanic ones.


Yes, it does look like it's mainly gone the other way.


Take heart, the Wiki article states at the beginning: "This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it." I once read that 'door' comes from Brythonic 'duir' meaning 'oak'.


EtymOnline disagrees: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=door

Compare German "Tür", Dutch "deur", etc.

Seems much more likely to me that it's a common (inherited) Germanic word, rather than a loanword from Brythonic.


That seems reasonable. Perhaps all these forms of 'door' and 'duir' go back to a common Indo-European root.


If your "'duir' meaning 'oak'" is related to derw meaning 'oak' (in modern Welsh), GPC implies that it is related to English tree, not door.


I watched a short documentary that said English has more in common with the Dutch version of Germanic language than German itself. If that makes sense.. English seems to have a higher level of mutual intelligibility, If I remember correctly. Doesn't mean a speaker of one understands completely the other, but more similarities than is usual.


Two oak species are native to Britain, and the one with its acorns growing directly from twigs (no stalks) is known in English as the durmast oak. According to this web page, it's known in Welsh as either derwen ddaildigoes or derwen ddigoesog, while the other species, with its acorns on stalks, is derwen goesog.


I think it's related to druid, not door. Door in Welsh is drws.


If you look in the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (GPC) - http://geiriadur.ac.uk/gpc/gpc.html - it shows the origins and relations of words as the first line in the entry. You may need to go to the help or background pages to look up what the abbreviations mean, although lots of them pop up if you hover the cursor over the abbreviation.


Thanks for this information.


The GPC dictionary gives etymology, e.g. entry for byd with etymology.

For words from English see e.g. entry for siop.


What always makes me laugh, Is the statement( probably should be on a t- shirt) " You can always tell a Welshman, But not much" I, as an American of Welsh extraction find Humor in this. I don't know if a Welshman would, I would hope he would . I don't find insult in stereotypes I find the humor. My Irish heritage also gets a laugh out of the reference to cobwebs as "Irish Drapes". Stereotypes are so over the top I really don't see why people get so bent out of shape over them . I am of a different generation , but not that different I hope!!


One of my favourite films is full of stereotypes - "Those magnificent men in their flying machines". It's from the 1960s, and I love it.


A bit beside your point, but there are definitely quite a few English borrowings from Welsh. Some will tell you, for instance, that the word 'car' came from Welsh. Y car in Welsh means an agricultural sledge (no wheels) pulled by a beast of burden. Somehow, they say, it became a wheeled vehicle in English. There is a place in South Wales called Rhyd-y-Car, which seems to indicate that it was a river ford shallow enough to facilitate the passage of say a horse-drawn farm sledge. Such sledges were still used quite widely in West Wales in the early 20th Century. I've seen this borrowing quoted quite a few times, but I reckon there must be some more obvious ones. More soon, when I remember some ;-)


I hadn't noticed there were already so many replies. Sure it's a Wiki, but it does have some good examples of borrowings from Welsh. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_words_of_Welsh_origin


Some will tell you, for instance, that the word 'car' came from Welsh.

The consensus seems to be, though, that English got "car" from Latin via French.

Latin got the word from a Celtic language, true, but that was before a separate language known as "Welsh" existed. (And it would be rather Gaulish, spoken on the continent, than a Brittonic language.)

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