What languages did people speak?

During Roman times writers documented that Scotland had Picts and Caledonians who were dived into tribal groups. In ancient times it is thought that people in Scotland spoke a form of Welsh called Brittonic or Brythonic. Certain place names in Scotland retain words that are common to Welsh. A complication is that words were borrowed between languages as “et cetera” and “deja vu” are part of everyday English but are Latin and French.

Celtic languages were spoken across Europe and there are many studies showing the roots of languages from India. Finnish and Hungarian are the exceptions to this. In the British Isles the following languages were spoken.


Italian Romans and anyone wishing to do business within the empire


  • Caledonians (Brythonic – Note Brittonic and Pictish also used)
  • Welsh (Cymraeg)
  • Cornish (Kernowek)
  • Breton (Brezhoneg)


  • Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge)
  • Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig)
  • Manx (Gaelg)

Some examples

  1. Words for “head”:
    • P-Celtic (Welsh): pen (pronounced: pen)
    • P-Celtic (Cornish): penn (pronounced: pen)
    • P-Celtic (Breton): penn (pronounced: pen)
    • Q-Celtic (Irish): ceann (pronounced: kyann)
    • Q-Celtic (Scottish Gaelic): ceann (pronounced: kyann)
    • Q-Celtic (Manx): kione (pronounced: kee-uhn)
  1. Words for “water”:
    • P-Celtic (Welsh): dŵr (pronounced: door)
    • P-Celtic (Cornish): dowr (pronounced: dowr)
    • P-Celtic (Breton): dour (pronounced: door)
    • Q-Celtic (Irish): uisce (pronounced: ish-keh)
    • Q-Celtic (Scottish Gaelic): uisge (pronounced: oosh-keh)
    • Q-Celtic (Manx): ushtey (pronounced: ooshtey)

After the Romans with the Viking invaders there were Norse influences and then from Northumberland anglo saxon. Place names in south-west Scotland share similarities with northern England. Interestingly the only places in England with Celtic names are in Cumbria near Carlisle.


The Pictish Language – A Historiography

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