1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Irish
  4. >
  5. Interesting similarities betw…


Interesting similarities between Irish and Italian words.

  • 2560

During my journey in the Irish language I noticed some words that share an unusual resemblance with Italian ones, while being completely different from the English counterparts, which should be the most influential language for Irish. Here is a list:

  • Ubh - uovo (egg)
  • Maidin - mattina (morning)
  • Léigh - leggere (to read)
  • Can - cantare (to sing)
  • Cara - amico... but caro/a = dear, darling
  • Creid - credere (to believe)
  • Corp - corpo (body)
  • Croí - cuore (heart)
  • Anam - anima (soul)
  • Marbh - morto (dead)
  • Leaba - letto (bed)
  • Leabhar - libro (book)
  • Srád - strada (road)
  • Roth - ruota (wheel)
  • Scríobh - scrivere (to write)
  • Ciseán - cesto (basket)

Most probably, some of these came into Irish with Latin (and Christianity: creid, anam), but the other ones might be inherited directly from the common Indo-European language. It's interesting to see that two languages which evolved separately still retain such striking similarities.

April 17, 2015



A really interesting topic, and a very complex one. Some words are loanwords from Latin, usually from Latin to Old Irish, but sometimes to Middle and Classical Irish too, especially words to do with the ecclesiastic and legal spheres. A few words might have come from Old French and Middle English into Middle and Classical Irish too. Some other words are from common roots, shared either with the whole gamut of Indo-European languages, or due to the seeming slightly closer relationship between the so-called Italic and Celtic branches of the IE tree. Nothing is cut and dried though, there is a huge amount of debate over which words can be explained by what process, the deus/dia relationship being one hugely problematic example.


I suspect many of them came through French, which at one time had a large influence on Irish. Almost all the ones on your list are similar to the corresponding word in French, or a closely related one. In at least one case it's closer to the Norman dialectal form than the standard French one, but that would be no surprise in view of the history of Britain and Ireland. The ones more closely associated with religion are more likely to be from Latin, of course, even where the French form is similar.

An example where the word is clearly French is seomra. That's almost identical in pronunciation, though not of course in spelling, to French chambre. It's considerably farther from Latin/Italian camera.


Most of the words on his particular list are in fact from Latin, but there is a French influence on Irish. It's not as large as the Norse and Latin influences though.

  • 1530

Well, a significant amount of linguists thinks that both Italic (from which Latin descended) and Celtic language have a common ancestor, more recent that proto-indo-european.


I've noticed a similar thing with some French words, though, I must admit not knowing enough of both Languages to be able to determine whether or not a word has been borrowed or if it was part of the language ever since the split.


I've have noticed that in my post I haven't been clear enough on the speculative nature of my post, so let me be clear. I am not saying that there is an actual relationship between the Italic and Celtic language families other than the proven P.I.E. one, but am saying it is an interesting point of investigation.

  • 2560

I guess jgstcd's hypothesis is the most reasonable for most words, though in your article it is stated that:

Other similarities include the fact that certain common words, such as the words for common metals (gold, silver, tin, etc.) are similar in Italic and Celtic yet divergent from other Indo-European languages.

(Ór - Aurum, Airgead - Argentum come to my mind).


I must admit not knowing enough of both Languages to be able to determine whether or not a word has been borrowed or if it was part of the language ever since the split.


A number of other similarities continue to be pointed out and debated.

Definitely, we're not going to figure it out either :)


Some word similarities are partially hidden due to Irish not having an initial P in their cognates, such as iasc vs. pesce.


According to a Gaelic speaking relative the 'p' sound at the beginning of irish words disappeared a lot in old irish. I don't know if that is true but it explains. Iasc/pesce and athair/Pater(later padre in italian- p switches with and 'f' sound in Germanic languages 'vater'- father)


Love indo-european languages!

P.s. Language- lengua originally deanga (change possibly due to similarity to the verb to lick) much more similar to teanga!


Using cognates I have been able to speed my language learning significantly :)

  • 2560

I read somewhere that there was a shift from word-inital /p/ to /k/, at some point in the history of Irish language. That's the reason why they say Cásca and clann where Latin had Pascha and planta.

Using cognates I have been able to speed my language learning significantly :)

Agree, they save you a lot of memorization efforts. I was amazed to find cognates even in Irish, which looks so much different from any other Indo-european language :)


Cool! I never noticed that before. :D I will have to keep my eye out for those now.


It's worth noting that Irish and Italian are both descended from the Italo-Celtic language root. There was a time when Gaulish (an extinct Celtic language) was mutually intelligible with Latin.

some more words: Irish - cat Latin - cattus

Irish - carr Latin – currus

Irish - nóta Latin – nota

Irish - croch Latin – crux

Irish - stair Latin - historia

Irish - cos Latin - crus

  • 1530

While the possible existence of an Italo-Celtic language family is certainly interesting to think about, one has to keep in mind that this is as of yet still speculative.

Most of the words listed as arguments could well have been borrowed since the spread of Christianity and other influences.

While some Celts had writing in the form of Ogham, they only really used it for a bit of book keeping, rather than sharing stories. This leads to the unfortunate fact that we can not really trace the language in writing to before the spread of writing systems that were introduced by Roman influenced cultures.

So while I would certainly encourage everybody to go out and try to both prove and disprove this hypothesis, it should as of yet not be stated as fact that there was a mutually intelligible language between what would become Celtic and what would become Italic other than what would be considered P.I.E.

It should also be noted that all of the words that you have listed here, other than cos/crus can be found in other languages that have borrowed these from Latin.

Carr: (NL) kar, (DE) Karre, (EN) car/cart Nóta: (NL) noot, (EN) note Croch: (NL) kruis, (DE) Kreuz, (EN) cross stair: (EN) story/history

The sole exception here being cos, which according to reconstructions of PIE have the same root as the latin word coxa. I was unable to find the etymology of the word crus.


Irish – laghairt Latin – lacerta

Irish – lacht Latin – lact

Irish – reilig (grave) Latin – relictum (remains)

Irish – úras Latin – urus

Irish – bó Latin – bos

you know there's much more I can't think of, I haven't studied Latin

  • 1530

You can find derived words in the language all you want, but it still doesn't prove anything. Language relationships are determined by finding things like vowel or consonant shifts, the dropping of bits of words or a change in grammar.

The word bó seems to have a quite well known history to it, tracing its way back all the way to P.I.E. Incidentally, the word "buachaill" comes from the old Celtic word for a cow herder, which can also be found in ancient Greek: βουκόλος.


So, by this point it's clear that there are a lot of loan words from Latin, which shouldn't come as a surprise, given the influence of the church throughout Europe and the fact that the native language for the church is Latin.


the English suffix -er as in "builder" in Latin is -ator, as in "senator" In Irish it is -adóir (seanadóir). Sean is cognate with sen/senex. The Irish and Latin word for "shit" is the same too lol (cac). Also, plurals tend to end in an "i" sound. Latin = Celtii (for example). Irish = Ceiltigh.


There are toponyms in Italy derived from celtic languages. Not only is there the P.I.E. theory, but Italy was at times inhabited by celtic tribes. Rome was even briefly sacked by a tribe of celts called the Senones. In general, celtic derived place names exist in north western Italy, but not in the south. In addition to this, the British Isles had a large percentage of Latin speakers for hundreds of years. We live in such a global world that there were black, African Roman soldiers at Hadrian's Wall over 500 years before the invasion of the Angles and Saxons, and about a thousand years before the Normans invaded England. Gobalism has been around since before Christ was born. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Celtic_place_names_in_Italy


I believe, both Irish and Italian have come from same ancestor called proto italo Celtic. Much younger than breakup of Indo European. That's why it's easier to find cognates between italic language like Italian and Celtic language like Irish than Irish to English because the latter is a Germanic language (even English has tons of romance language influence along with William's era)

Learn Irish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.