Episode 30: The Celtic Legacy

We explore the linguistic legacy of the native Celtic Britons on Modern English. The historical legacy of the legendary Celtic king named Arthur is also examined.

6 thoughts on “Episode 30: The Celtic Legacy

  1. Hi,

    The word “dun” is not obsolete – you just need to hang around a few more ‘horsey’ people. It’s still used as a horse colour term, even if it’s not in common use in daily parlance among the rest of society…although, even my husband, who is less ‘horsey’ than I am, knew what it was.

    We’re enjoying the podcasts and, while we’re relatively late to the party, that just gives us more episodes to look forward to. 😉


    • Thanks for the note. Over the years of doing the podcast, I have learned that no English word is obsolete. It seems that just about every old word lingers on in certain contexts or certain dialects.

      • Hello,

        “Dun Cow” is the name of some pubs.
        Wikipedia says: Book of the Dun Cow (MS 23 E 25) is an Irish vellum manuscript dating to the 12th century. It is the oldest extant manuscript in Irish. Celtic connection there.

        “Brock the badger” is fairly popular in some (older) English children’s literature.
        e.g. SIX TALES OF BROCK THE BADGER by Alison Uttley (Author) (1941)
        A bit of etymology for “badger” and “brock” in this BBC Article.

        In the bilingual place names in Wales all (most?) river names start “Afon” (river in English). For example, Afon Teifi, Afon Clywedog etc. So, somewhat amusingly, the famous “River Avon”, on which Shakespeare’s Stratford developed, translates to “River River” in English.

        Fascinating series.


  2. I came her to say what Laetitia already said; though I wouldn’t limit its use to horses. Also wanted to say that I don’t recall “tor” being used anywhere other than place names. I was expecting to hear the word “dune” mentioned; it’s often cited as an example of Celtic in English. But now that I look into it, it may have come into Germanic before the period discussed in the podcast. It is cognate to English town and survives in many place names, e.g. London, Dundee, and the retirement village Dunworkin.

  3. Oops I jumped in too early there, of course the word “dune” is covered in great detail later on. I think I confused episodes 29 and 30. That’s what happens with binge listening!

  4. Fascinating stuff. Clearly given the lack of contemporary sources we will never know what exactly went on in those ‘lost years’.

    But there is a real enigma here, especially if we accept the currently popular idea that the population remained largely intact and a small group of Germanic invaders just plonked themselves on top of the social structure. In pretty short order it seems the language and culture of that tiny elite — and an illiterate elite at that — had almost completely supplanted that of the natives, despite a vast numerical inferiority.

    This was a feat neither the Romans nor the Normans managed, in spite of the might and organisational genius of both of those cultures.

    I can’t think of another example in history where such a thing has occurred.

    I’m afraid I remain highly sceptical of this scenario.

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