Celtic languages

Formerly widespread in Europe; today Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, Patagonia, Nova Scotia and the Isle of Man
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
ISO 639-2 / 5cel
Linguasphere50= (phylozone)
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

The Celtic languages (usually k/, but sometimes l-/)[4] are a group of related languages descended from Proto-Celtic, or "Common Celtic"; a branch of the greater Indo-European language family.[5] The term "Celtic" was first used to describe this language group by Edward Lhuyd in 1707,[6] following Paul-Yves Pezron who had already made the explicit link between the Celts described by classical writers and the Welsh and Breton languages.[7]

Modern Celtic languages are mostly spoken on the north-western edge of Europe, notably in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man. There are also a substantial number of Welsh speakers in the Patagonia area of Argentina and some speakers of Scottish Gaelic on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. Some people speak Celtic languages in the other Celtic diaspora areas of the United States,[8] Canada, Australia,[9] and New Zealand.[10] In all these areas, the Celtic languages are now only spoken by minorities though there are continuing efforts at revitalisation. Welsh is the only Celtic language not classified as "endangered" by UNESCO.

During the 1st millennium BC, they were spoken across much of Europe, in the Iberian Peninsula, from the Atlantic and North Sea coastlines, up to the Rhine valley and down the Danube valley to the Black Sea, the northern Balkan Peninsula and in central Asia Minor. The spread to Cape Breton and Patagonia occurred in modern times.

Living languages

SIL Ethnologue lists six living Celtic languages, of which four have retained a substantial number of native speakers. These are the Goidelic languages (i.e. Irish and Scottish Gaelic, which are both descended from Middle Irish) and the Brittonic languages (i.e. Welsh and Breton, which are both descended from Common Brittonic).[11]

The other two, Cornish (a Brittonic language) and Manx (a Goidelic language), died in modern times[12][13][14] with their presumed last native speakers in 1777 and 1974 respectively. For both these languages, however, revitalisation movements have led to the adoption of these languages by adults and children and produced some native speakers.[15][16]

Taken together, there were roughly one million native speakers of Celtic languages as of the 2000s.[17] In 2010, there were more than 1.4 million speakers of Celtic languages.[18]


Language Native name Grouping Number of native speakers Number of people who have one or more skills in the language Main area(s) in which the language is spoken Regulated by/language body Estimated number of speakers in major cities
Welsh Cymraeg / Y Gymraeg Brittonic 562,000 (19.0% of the population of Wales) claim that they "can speak Welsh" (2011)[19][20] Around 947,700 (2011) total speakers
Wales: 788,000 speakers, 26.7% of the population of Wales,[19][20]
England: 150,000[21]
Chubut Province, Argentina: 5,000[22]
United States: 2,500[23]
Canada: 2,200[24]
Y Wladfa, Chubut
Welsh Language Commissioner (Meri Huws)
— The Welsh Government
(previously the Welsh Language Board, Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg)
Cardiff: 54,504
Swansea: 45,085
Newport: 18,490[25] Bangor: 7,190
Irish Gaeilge/ Gaedhilge Goidelic 40,000–80,000[26][27][28][29]
In the Republic of Ireland, 94,000 people use Irish daily outside the education system.[30]
Republic of Ireland:
United Kingdom:
United States:
Ireland Foras na Gaeilge Dublin: 184,140
Galway: 37,614
Cork: 57,318[31]
Belfast: 30,360[32]
Breton Brezhoneg Brittonic 206,000 356,000[33] Brittany Ofis Publik ar Brezhoneg Rennes: 7,000
Brest: 40,000
Nantes: 4,000[34]
Scottish Gaelic Gàidhlig Goidelic 57,375 (2011)[35] in Scotland as well as 1,275 (2011) in Nova Scotia[36] 87,056 (2011)[35] in Scotland Scotland Bòrd na Gàidhlig Glasgow: 5,726
Edinburgh: 3,220[37]
Aberdeen: 1,397[38]
Cornish Kernowek Brittonic Unknown.[39] 3,000[40] Cornwall Cornish Language Partnership (Keskowethyans an Taves Kernewek) Truro: 118[41]
Manx Gaelg/ Gailck Goidelic 100+,[15][42] including a small number of children who are new native speakers[43] 1,823[44] Isle of Man Coonceil ny Gaelgey Douglas: 507[45]

Mixed languages

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Kelties
Alemannisch: Keltische Sprachen
العربية: لغات كلتية
aragonés: Luengas celtas
azərbaycanca: Kelt dilləri
تۆرکجه: سلت دیللری
беларуская: Кельцкія мовы
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Кельцкія мовы
български: Келтски езици
bosanski: Keltski jezici
brezhoneg: Yezhoù keltiek
čeština: Keltské jazyky
davvisámegiella: Kelttalaš gielat
dolnoserbski: Keltiske rěcy
español: Lenguas celtas
Esperanto: Kelta lingvaro
føroyskt: Keltisk mál
한국어: 켈트어파
hornjoserbsce: Keltiske rěče
hrvatski: Keltski jezici
Bahasa Indonesia: Rumpun bahasa Keltik
interlingua: Linguas celtic
italiano: Lingue celtiche
kernowek: Yethow Keltek
Кыргызча: Кельт тилдери
latviešu: Ķeltu valodas
lietuvių: Keltų kalbos
Limburgs: Keltische taole
Lingua Franca Nova: Linguas celta
lumbaart: Lenguv celtich
македонски: Келтски јазици
მარგალური: კელტური ნინეფი
Nederlands: Keltische talen
Nedersaksies: Keltiese talen
日本語: ケルト語派
Nordfriisk: Keltisch
norsk nynorsk: Keltiske språk
Nouormand: Langue Celtique
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Kelt tillari
Piemontèis: Lenghe séltiche
português: Línguas celtas
română: Limbi celtice
Runa Simi: Kilta rimaykuna
Simple English: Celtic languages
slovenčina: Keltské jazyky
slovenščina: Keltski jeziki
српски / srpski: Келтски језици
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Keltski jezici
Türkçe: Kelt dilleri
Türkmençe: Kelt dilleri
українська: Кельтські мови
vepsän kel’: Kel'tižed keled
Tiếng Việt: Ngữ tộc Celt
walon: Gayel
West-Vlams: Keltische toaln
žemaitėška: Keltu kalbas