Gaulish language

als:Gallische Sprache de:Gallische Sprache wa:Glws nl:Gallisch zh:高盧語

Missing image

Gaulish is the name given to the Celtic language that was spoken in Gaul before the Vulgar Latin of the late Roman Empire became dominant in Roman Gaul. The language is known from several hundred inscriptions on stone, on ceramic vessels and other artefacts, and on coins, and occasionally on metal (lead, and on one occasion zinc). They are found on the entire area of Roman Gaul, i. e. mostly in the area of modern France, as well as parts of Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Belgium (Meid 1994).

Gaulish is grouped with Celtiberian and Lepontic as Continental Celtic.



  • vowels:
    • short: a, e, i, o u
    • long ā, ē, ī, (ō), ū
  • semivowels: w, y
  • occlusives:
    • voiceless: p, t, k
    • voiced: b, d, g
  • resonants
    • nasals: m, n
    • liquids r, l
  • sibilant: s
  • affricate: ts

χ is an allophone of k before t.


The alphabet of Lugano used in Gallia Cisalpina for Lepontic:


The alphabet of Lugano does not distinguish voiced and unvoiced occlusives, i. e. P represents /b/ or /p/, T is for /t/ or /d/, K for /g/ or /k/. Z is probably for ts. U /u/ and V /w/ are distinguished. Θ is probably for /t/ and X for /g/.

The Eastern Greek alphabet used in Gallia Transalpina:


χ is used for [χ], θ for ts, ου for /u/, /ū/, /w/, η and ω for both long and short /e/, /ē/, /o/, /ō/, while ι is for short /i/ and ει for /ī/.

Latin alphabet (monumental and cursive) in use in Roman Gaul:


G and K are sometimes used interchangeably. Ð, ð, ds and s may represent ts. X, x is for [χ] or /ks/. EV can be used interchangeably with OV (e.g. L-3, L-12). Q is only used rarely (eg Sequanni, Equos) and may be an archaism. Ð and ð are used here to represent the letter Tau Gallicum, which has not yet been added to Unicode. In contrast to Ð the central bar extends right across the glyph.

Sound laws

  • Gaulish changed PIE voiceless labiovelars kw to p (hence P-Celtic), a development also observed in Brythonic (as well as some Italic languages), while the other Celtic, 'Q-Celtic', retained the labiovelar. Thus the Gaulish word for "son" was mapos (Delmarre 2003 pp.216-217), contrasting with Ogham Old Irish maqi (Sims-Williams 2003 pp.430-431). Similarly one Gaulish word for horse was epos while Old Irish has ech, both derived from Indo-European *ekuos(Delmarre 2003 pp.163-164)
  • Voiced labiovelar gw became w, e. g. uediiumi < gwediūmi "I pray".
  • PIE tst became ts, and later ð, e.g. neððamon from *nedz-tamo.
  • PIE ew became ow, and later ō, e.g. *teutā > touta, tota.


Gaulish has six or seven cases (Lambert 2003). There were some areal (or genetic, see Italo-Celtic) similarity to Latin grammar, and the French historian A. Lot argued that this helped the rapid adoption of Latin in Roman Gaul.


Cardinal numerals from the La Graufesenque graffiti

  1. cintux[so
  2. allos
  3. tritios (Welsh trydydd, Old Irish treide)
  4. pentuar[ios (Welsh pedwarydd)
  5. pinpetos (Welsh pymhed, OIr coiched)
  6. suexos (maybe mistaken for suextos, Welsh chwech, Oir seissed)
  7. sextametos
  8. oxtumeto[s (OIr ochtmed)
  9. namet[os (OIr nomed)
  10. decametos, decometos (Welsh degfed, OIr dechmad, Celtiberian dekametam)


The Gaulish corpus is edited in the Receuil des Inscriptions Gauloises (R.I.G.), in four volumes:

  • Vol. 1: Inscriptions in the Greek alphabet, edited by Michel Lejeune (items G-1 –G-281)
  • Vol. 2.1: Inscriptions in the Etruscan alphabet (Lepontic, items E-1 – E-6), and inscripions in the Latin alphabet in stone (items L1 – L-16), edited by Michel Lejeune
  • Vol. 2.2: inscriptions in the Latin alphabet on instruments (ceramic, lead, glass etc.), edited by Pierre-Yves Lambert (items L-18 – L-139)
  • Vol. 3: The calendars of Coligny (73 fragments) and Villards d'Heria (8 fragments), edited by Paul-Marie Duval and Georges Pinault
  • Vol. 4: inscriptions on coins, edited by Jean-Baptiste Colbert de Beaulieu and Brigitte Fischer (338 items)

The longest known Gaulish text was found in 1983 in L'Hospitalet-du-Larzac (Template:Coor dm) in Aveyron. It is inscribed in Latin cursive script on two small sheets of lead. The content is a magical incantation regarding one Severa Tertionicna and a coven of witches (mnas brictas "magical women"), but the exact meaning of the text is incomprehensible.

The Coligny calendar was found in Coligny near Lyons, France with a statue identified as Apollo. The Coligny Calendar is a lunar calendar that divides the year into two parts with the months underneath. SAMON "summer" and GIAMON "winter". The date of SAMON- xvii is identified as TRINVX[tion] SAMO[nii] SINDIV.

Another major text is the lead tablet of Chamalieres (L-100), written on lead in Latin cursive script, in 12 lines, apparently a curse or incantation addressed to demons or deities, including one Mapon. It was buried near a spring.

The graffito of La Graufesenque, Millau ([1] ( Template:Coor dms), inscribed in Latin cursive on a ceramic plate, is our most important source for Gaulish numerals. It was probably written in a ceramic factory, referring to furnances numbered one to ten.

A number of short inscriptions are found on whorls. They are among the latest testimonies of Gaulish. These whorls where apparently presented to young girls by their suitors, and bear inscriptions such as moni gnatha gabi / buððutton imon (L-119) "my girl, give my a kiss" and geneta imi / daga uimpi (L-120) approx. "I am a pretty girl".


The earliest Gaulish inscriptions, dating to as early as the 6th century BC, are in the Lepontic dialect, found in Gallia Cisalpina and were written in a form of the Old Italic alphabet. Inscriptions in the Greek alphabet are found from the 3rd century BC, especially in the area near the mouths of the Rhone, while later inscriptions dating to Roman Gaul are mostly in the Latin alphabet.

Gregory of Tours wrote in the 6th century that some people in his area could still speak Gaulish.


  • Delamarre, X. (2003). Dictionaire de la Langue Gauloise (2nd ed.). Paris: Editions Errance. ISBN 2-287772-237-6
  • Lambert, Pierre-Yves (2003) La language gauloise (2nd ed.) Paris: Editions Errance. ISBN 2-87772-224-4
  • Meid, Wolfgang (1994) Gaulish Inscriptions. Budapest: Archaeolingua. ISBN 963-846-06-6
  • Sims-Williams, Patrick (2003) The Celtic Inscriptions of Britain: phonology and chronology, c.400-1200 Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 1-4051-0903-3

See also

External links


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools