Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

So, from a cursory understanding of English history (and I am very happy to say that) I was able to, one might note that the cultural history of those who lived in England might proceed:

  1. Britons who spoke Brythonic
  2. Romans who spoke Latin
  3. Angles, Jutes, Saxons, et. al. (Anglo-saxons) who spoke various Teutonic dialects
  4. Normans (ironically, from the same stock as the former, but trained in French)

My guess (and correct me if I'm wrong) is that the Latin influence in English was more to do with the Church and the Normans than it was to do with the Romans directly, but I was wondering if there are words which may be shown to be direct descendants of the ancient Britons' tounge?

share|improve this question
3  
Have you read this en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brittonicisms_in_English ? –  Unreason Aug 8 '11 at 8:06
    
@Unreason Huh. Well, if you turn that into an answer, I'll definitely give it to you. Don't know how I missed it on Wikipedia. –  cwallenpoole Aug 8 '11 at 8:09
    
Also, non-Church Latin survives in place names, etc. For example, the -chester suffix comes directly from the roman castra meaning a military camp or outpost. –  Robusto Aug 8 '11 at 10:13
    
@Robusto As does cester –  Matt Эллен Aug 8 '11 at 12:12
    
@Matt: Of course. –  Robusto Aug 8 '11 at 12:34
add comment

3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

In just about any language, place names are the oldest words, and are often taken over from the indigenous people from whom the land was taken. So place names in England are going to be your best bet there.

Here's what wikipedia had to say about it:

The principal legacy left behind in those territories from which the Brythonic languages were displaced is that of toponyms (place names) and hydronyms (river names). There are many Brythonic place names in lowland Scotland and in the parts of England where it is agreed that substantial Brythonic speakers remained (Brythonic names, apart from those of the former Romano-British towns, are scarce over most of England). Names derived (sometimes indirectly) from Brythonic include London, Penicuik, Perth, Aberdeen, York, Dorchester, Dover and Colchester[citation needed]. Brythonic elements found in England include bre- and bal- for hills, and carr for a high rocky place, while some such as combe or coomb(e) for a small deep valley and tor for a hill are examples of Brythonic words that were borrowed into English. Others reflect the presence of Brythons, such as Dumbarton – from the Scottish Gaelic Dùn Breatainn meaning "Fort of the Britons", or Walton (several) meaning a 'tun' or settlement where 'walha' (Welsh/Brythons) still lived.

The number of Celtic river names in England generally increases from east to west, a map showing these being given by Jackson. These names include ones such as Avon, Chew, Frome, Axe, Brue and Exe. Also river names containing the roots " der- / dar- / dur- " and " -went " E.G. " Derwent, Darwen,Dart,Deer, Adur, Dour,Darent, Went ". The Celtic origins seem likely, the meanings more controversial: Some associate " Der- / Dar- " with the Brythonic word for " OAK(S) " ( " derv / dervenn" in Breton, " derow / derowenn " in Cornish " derw / derwen " in Welsh. Possible but there would have been a lot of oaks around; maybe there was. As to " -went " some claim this to be a word for " valley " or associated with the Celtic word " nant " for river ( like in Welsh ). This seems a very unlikely derivation, as there is no known initial consonantal changes from " n- " to " w- ". More likely is that the " Der- / Dar- / Dur- " means " water " [ c.f. " Dour " in Breton, dowr in Cornish, Dŵr in Welsh.] and " -(g)wen(n)(t) " means white / pure.

share|improve this answer
add comment

There are many words in modern Welsh that have their roots in the Celtic/Romano common language (something almost equivalent to what we see now with pidgin English). For example:

  • The Welsh for window is ffenest.
  • Day is diwrnod (same Latin root as diurnal).
  • Fish is pysgodyn (same Latin root as pisces and piscatorial) and fishmonger is gwerthwr pysgod.
  • Church is eglwys (from the Latin ecclesia)
  • Bridge is either pont (Latin: pons) or bont depending on the word placed before (linguistic phenomenon called "mutation"). It appears in place names such as Tal-y-bont and Pontardawe.
share|improve this answer
1  
All genuinely interesting, but the question is asking for words in modern English from ancient Brythonic, not modern Welsh words from "the Celtic/Romano common language". –  Hugo Jan 16 '13 at 20:52
add comment

Bryth (surprisingly) comes from ancient Hebrew. It means "covenant". Combined with -ish or -iysh meaning "man", you get the word Brittish, or originally Brythisyh, meaning "covenant man". This (Bryth) was the birthright nation in very ancient times when the Celtic and Caucasian races moved from the Middle East. Too much info to put it all in here. A lot of words in many Europe nations if you understand the sound shifts you can create from the original every word in many languages.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.