formerly widespread in europe; today cornwall, wales, scotland, ireland, brittany, chubut province, nova scotia and the isle of man
north-west indo-european (?)
continental celtic† (geographic)
iso 639-2 / 5
distribution of celtic speakers:
hallstatt culture area, 6th century bc
maximal celtic expansion, c. 275 bc
lusitanian area; celtic affiliation unclear
areas where celtic languages are widely spoken in the 21st century
part of a series on
list of indo-european languages
phonology: sound laws, accent, ablaut
old irish glosses
alternative and fringe
paleolithic continuity theory
chalcolithic (copper age)
domestication of the horse
nordic bronze age
painted grey ware
northern black polished ware
peoples and societies
anatolian peoples (hittites)
religion and mythology
ancient iranian religion
j. p. mallory
copenhagen studies in indo-european
encyclopedia of indo-european culture
the horse, the wheel and language
journal of indo-european studies
indogermanisches etymologisches wörterbuch
indo-european etymological dictionary
the celtic languages (usuallyk/, but sometimesk/) are a group of related languages descended from proto-celtic. they form a branch of the indo-european language family. the term "celtic" was first used to describe this language group by edward lhuyd in 1707, following paul-yves pezron, who made the explicit link between the celts described by classical writers and the welsh and breton languages.
during the 1st millennium bc, celtic languages were spoken across much of europe and in asia minor. today, they are restricted to the northwestern fringe of europe and a few diaspora communities. there are four living languages: welsh, breton, irish and scottish gaelic. all are minority languages in their respective countries, though there are continuing efforts at revitalisation. welsh is an official language in wales and irish is an official language of ireland and of the european union. welsh is the only celtic language not classified as endangered by unesco. the cornish and manx languages went extinct in modern times. they have been the object of revivals and now each has several hundred second-language speakers.
irish, scottish and manx form the goidelic languages, while welsh, cornish and breton are brittonic. all of these are insular celtic languages, since breton, the only living celtic language spoken in continental europe, is descended from the language of settlers from britain. there are a number of extinct but attested continental celtic languages, such as celtiberian, galatian and gaulish. beyond that there is no agreement on the subdivisions of the celtic language family. they may be divided into p-celtic and q-celtic.
the celtic languages have a rich literary tradition. the earliest specimens of written celtic are lepontic inscriptions from the 6th century bc in the alps. early continental inscriptions used italic and paleohispanic scripts. between the 4th and 8th centuries, irish and pictish were occasionally written in an original script, ogham, but the latin alphabet came to be used for all celtic languages. welsh has had a continuous literary tradition from the 6th century ad.
During the 1st millennium BC, Celtic languages were spoken across much of Europe and in Asia Minor. Today, they are restricted to the northwestern fringe of Europe and a few diaspora communities. There are four living languages: Welsh, Breton, Irish and Scottish Gaelic. All are minority languages in their respective countries, though there are continuing efforts at revitalisation. Welsh is an official language in Wales and Irish is an official language of Ireland and of the European Union. Welsh is the only Celtic language not classified as endangered by UNESCO. The Cornish and Manx languages went extinct in modern times. They have been the object of revivals and now each has several hundred second-language speakers.