I read on Wikipedia that Germanic people most likely originated from what today is Denmark, and expanded from there, displacing and possibly intermingling with the older Celtic populations.

Are there linguistic traces of this, e.g. words of Celtic origin that trace back to that time? Linguists can reconstruct the Proto-Indo-European language, which is much more ancient, so presumably tracing any Celtic influences is doable.

  • Most of the linguistic traces of the Celtic languages still present today in German can be found in place names and other geographic terminology, and in dialects.
    – tofro
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 8:08

2 Answers 2


There are lots of remnants that can be traced back to Celtic languages in German - Especially in place names and names of rivers (Rhein, Main, Lech, Inn, even Donau). A typical example could be place names in southern Germany that start on "Kräh-" (like Krähbühl, for example) and don't normally trace back to the birds, but rather to the Celtic craig (rock).

But there are also just "normal" words that can be traced back to Celtic, like

  • Amt - ambactos - "office" or "charge"
  • Apfel - afal(?) - "apple"
  • Eibe - eburo - "yew"
  • Beil - bitlon - "hatchet"
  • Eisen - isarnon - "iron"
  • Geisel - gistlos - "hostage"
  • Glocke - cloccos - "bell"
  • Leder - letro - "leather"
  • Leinen - linno - "linnen"

Some of them made it into today's English as well, probably from the same Celtic roots. From a lot of these terms it is not always easy to trace them directly to Celtic origin or whether they have to be treated as "re-imports" from other languages.

Obviously, there are Celtic terms like Menhir and Dolmen that are used for the same thing in German - I wouldn't consider them as direct holdovers of Celtic in German, however.

Wikipedia has a page of Celtic remnants in various European languages, including the interesting claim the 20-based number system in French was actually of Celtic origin.

  • 1
    Could you share your sources, too?
    – Janka
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 12:46
  • Looks like a partial alphabetical listing, TBH.
    – user27384
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 19:32
  • @MaxB you seem to try to tell me something, but I don’t get it...
    – tofro
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 20:00
  • 1
    They are examples pulled from various sources, and I didn't bother to sort them alphabetically. I'm sorry, I have no exhaustive list.
    – tofro
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 5:52
  • 3
    I have a suspicion that some of these are not of Celtic origin, but the Celtic and Germanic words have the same root. E.g. the precursor to apple seems to already exist in Proto-Germanic.
    – Chieron
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 16:00

Ja. Hans Ulrich Schmid (Einführung in die deutsche Sprachgeschichte, 3. Auflage 2017, S. 248) verweist auf zwei Sach- und Wortbereiche, in denen Lexeme aus den keltischen Sprachen durch die Germanen übernommen wurden.

  • Technik: Die Kelten der Antike waren in der Metallgewinnung und -verarbeitung wesentlich weiter fortgeschritten als die Germanen [...] Das fand seinen Niederschlag in einer Reihe von Wörtern, die zusammen mit der Sache ins Germanische übernommen wurden und noch in heutigen germanischen Sprachen vorhanden sind. Neuhochdeutsch Eisen beispielsweise geht über althochdeutsch īsan zurück auf germanisch *īsarn [...] Zugrunde liegt wohl ein keltisches Wort mit der Bedeutung ›Brust‹. Dem englischen lead ›Blei‹ entspricht deutsch Lot (davon abgeleitet löten). Beides weist zurück auf ein urgermanisches Grundwort, das aus dem Keltischen übernommen worden ist.
  • Herrschaft und Verwaltung: Die Kelten [...] verfügten auch über eine effektivere Sozialordnung [als die Germanen]. Aus dem Keltischen stammt die ganze Wortsippe um neuhochdeutsch Reich und reich, zu der auch das Namenssegment in Fried-rich, Hein-rich usw. gehört [...], ebenso das Wort Amt. Neuhochdeutsch Zaun geht [...] zurück auf germanisch *tūnaz, das ›eingefriedeter Platz‹ bedeutet haben muss. Grundlage dafür war wiederum keltisches dūnos [...]

Es ist im Allgeneinen allerdings nicht so leicht, Wörter etymologisch auf keltische Sprachen zurückzuführen. Siehe hierzu Elmar Seebold, The lexicon of Germanic, in: Klein/Joseph/Fritz, Handbook of Comparative and Historical Indo-European Linguistics, Band 2, 2017, S. 974-985, hier S. 981:

Connections to the Celtic languages are very complex: a portion of the Germanic-Celtic etymologies are certainly due to their joint Indo-European heritage, while just as surely another part comprises borrowed words (well attested in the lexical fields of Amt and Reich/reich); but in many cases it cannot be decided which of the two options is correct. Further complicating matters, an etymology can sometimes be due to both factors, as when an Indo-European root or form inherited by both branches has been subject to a special development in Celtic, and Germanic has applied that development to its native form.

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