An Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language/National names

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An Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language  (1911)  by Alexander MacBain
National Names


Albion, Great Britain in the Greek writers, Gr. Ἄλβιον, Αλβίον, Ptolemy's Αλοvίων, Lat. Albion (Pliny), G. Alba, g. Albainn, Scotland, Ir., E. Ir. Alba, Alban, W. Alban: *Albion- (Stokes), "white-land"; Lat. albus, white; Gr. ἀλφóς, white leprosy, white (Hes.); O. H. G. albiz, swan.

Armoric, belonging to Brittany, Lat. (Cæsar) Armoricus, Aremoricus (Orosius), *are-mori, "by the sea "(see air and muir in Dict.), M. Br. Armory, Brittany, armor, land by the sea, Br. arvor, maritime.

Britain, G. Breatann, Ir. Breatain, E. Ir. Bretan, n. pl. Bretain, the Britons, W. Brython, Briton, Corn. Brethon, Br. Breiz, Brittany, Lat. Brittania (Cæsar), Brittani, Britons, Βρεττανοί (Strabo). The best Gr. forms are Πρεττανοί, Πρεττανικἠ, W. Prydain, Britain, E. Ir. Cruithne, a Pict, O. Ir. (Lat.) Cruithnii (Adamnan, Cruthini Populi): *Qṛtaniâ, root qṛt, to which Stokes refers G. cruithneachd, wheat, though the usual reference is to G. cruth, picture, form, still retaining the notion of "pictured" men as in the old explanations of Pict. Stokes, Rhys, etc., regard the Lat. Brittania as a word of different origin from the Gr. Πρεττανία, and G. Cruithne: though, as a matter of fact, the Lat. seems to have been a bad rendering of the Greek. The Cruithne or Picts thus gave their name to Britain, as being, about 300 B.C., its then Celtic inhabitants.

Brittany; the Breton language; from Britain above. Britons poured into France in the fifth and sixth centuries.

Caledonia, northern Scotland (Tacitus), Gr. Καληδóνιοι (Ptol., etc.), Lat. Calēdonii (Lucan, Martial, etc.), O. G. Dun-Callden, Duni-Callen, Dun-Keld, fort of the Caledonians, G. Dùn-Chaillinn; explained by Windisch as from *cald, the root of G. coille, the force being "wood-landers." Stokes and others object because of the η (Lat. ē) in Καληδ-; but if the Eng. and Gaelic modern forms are the descendants of the word Caledonia as locally spoken, the objection cannot hold.

Celts, Lat. Celtæ (Cæsar), Gr. Κελτοί, Κελταί, Κελτικóς, appearing in the fifth and fourth cent. B.C. in Herodotus, Xenophon, etc.: *Kelto-s, "the lofty," root qel, raise, go, Lat. celsus, high, Eng. excel, Lit. kéltas, raised. Rhys refers the name to the root qel, slay, Ag. S. hild, war, Norse, hildr, Lat. percello, hit, Lit. kalti, strike: the Celtæ being "smiters."

Cornwall: Cornish, Ag. S. Cornwalas, the Walas or Welsh of the Corn or Horn, E. Ir. i tirib Bretann Cornn (Corm.), in the lands of the Britons of the Corn. For Walas see Wales.
Cruithne, a Pict; see under Britain.
Cumry, the Welsh (pl), Cymraeg, the Welsh name for the Welsh language; the singular of Cymry is Cymro, older Cym-mro: *Com-mrox, pl. Com-mroges or Combroges (cf. Cæsar's Allobroges, "Other-landers"), country-men, "co-landers," from brog, mrog of brugh in Dict., q.v. The E. Ir. Gaelic for Wales is found in the phrase isinchomreic = im Kymrischen (Zim. Zeit.32 162).
Erin; see Ireland.

Gaelic, Gael, the name of the language and people of the Scottish Highlands, G. Gàidhlig, Gàidheal, Ir. Gaoidhilig, Gaedhilig, the Irish language, Gaoidheal, Irishman, E. Ir. Góedel (1100 A.D.), Gaideli (Giraldus), W. Gwyddel, Irishman: *Gâdelo-s (for Sc. Gaelic) or *Gâidelo-s (for Irish), root ghâdh, Eng. good, Ger. gut, etc.? The Scotch form seems the best, as its use has been continuous, the race being only a fourth item in Scotland. Stokes gives a proto-Gaelic *Goidelos or *Geidelos, which Bez. compares to the Gaul. Geidumni, and which Stokes compares with Lat. hoedus, goat ("Goat-men," cf. Oscan Hirpini) or Lit. gaidys, cock.

Galli, Gaul, now France, Lat. Gallus, Galli (fourth to first cent. B.C.), Gr. Γαλάτης, Γαλάται (third and second cent. B.C.); from the root gal, bravery, which see in Dict., with discussion of Galli and G. Gall, Lowlander, stranger.

Ireland, Irish; G. ’Eireann, Ir. ’Eire, g. ’Eireann, E. Ir. ’Eriu, ’Erenn, W. Ywerddon, Iwerddon, M. W. Ewyrdonic, Irish, Ptol. Ἰονερvία Ἰέρvη (Strabo), Lat. Hibernia, Iverna (Mela), Ierne (Claudian, fourth cent, a.d.), Evernili, Irish (Adamnan): *Iverjôn-, *Everjôn-, usually referred to Piverjo-, Skr. pī́varî, fat, Gr. Πιερία, the Grecian seat of the Muses, πίων, fat (Windisch, Stokes): "rich-soiled, swelling." Others refer it to G. iar, west, or Skr. ávara (from ava, G. bho), western, lower. No derivation can be satisfactory which does not at the same time account for the similarly named Highland rivers called ’Eire, ’Eireann, Eng. Earn, Findhorn.

Man, Manx; Manx Manninagh, Manx (adj.), Gailck, Gaelk, the Manx Gaelic, E. Ir. inis Manann, Isle of Man, a genitive from *Mana (= Lat. Mona), early W. Manau, Lat. Mona (Cæsar), Ptol. Mονάοιδα, Monapia (or Mona?) The E. Ir. god-name Manannán Mac Lir (son of the Sea) is connected with the Island; Skr. Manu, the Law-giver; Teutonic Mannus (Tacitus), Eng. man.

Picts; G. Cruithnich, for which name see under Britain. The name Picti can scarcely be separated from the Gaul. Pictavi, now Poitiers; and, if this be the case, the usual derivation from Lat. pictus, painted, must be abandoned. Windisch adduces E. Ir. cicht, engraver, carver, for which a Brittonic piht, pict may be claimed as a parallel (*qict); this again leaves the idea of tattooing intact, and so agrees with the historical facts.

Scotland, Scots; E. Ir. Scott, pl. n. Scuit, d. Scottaib, Irishmen; Adamnan—Scotia, Ireland, Scoti, the Irish, Scoti Britanniae, Scots of Dalriada, etc., Scoticus, Irish, Scotice, in the Gaelic language, Lat. (fourth cent.) Scotti, Scôti, *Skotto-s. Stokes translates the name as "masters, owners," allied to Got. skatts, money, Ger. schatz, treasure, stock, Ch. SI. skotŭ, property, cattle. The root skat, hurt, scathe, cut, of Eng. scathe, has been suggested, either as "cutters" or "tattooed ones" (so Isidore of Saville). Rhys has suggested connection with W. ysgwthr, a cutting, carving—"tattooed or painted men."

Wales, Welsh; Ag. S. Wealas, Walas, the Welsh—the name of the people in pl. being used for the country, Wylisc, Welsh, Wylisce men, the Welsh; sing, of Wealas is Wealh, a foreigner, Welshman, O. H. G. walh, foreigner, Celt, Ger. wal- in wal-nuss, Eng. wal-nut: from the Gaul. nation of the Volcae, bordering on the Germans, *Volko-s, *Volkâ, "the bathers," from volc, bathe (see failc in Dict.). Stokes connects the name with Lit. wìlkti, pull, referring to the restless wanderings of the Gauls.