Celtic nations

The Celtic nations are territories in western Europe where Celtic languages or cultural traits have survived.[1] The term "nation" is used in its original sense to mean a people who share a common identity and culture and are identified with a traditional territory.

The six territories widely considered Celtic nations are Brittany (Breizh), Cornwall (Kernow), Wales (Cymru), Scotland (Alba), Ireland (Éire) and the Isle of Man (Mannin or Ellan Vannin).[1][2] These together are commonly referred to as the "Celtic fringe". In each of the six nations a Celtic language is spoken to some extent: Brittonic or Brythonic languages are spoken in Brittany, Cornwall, and Wales, while Goidelic or Gaelic languages are spoken in Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man.[3]

Before the expansions of Ancient Rome and the Germanic and Slavic tribes, a significant part of Europe was dominated by Celts, leaving behind a legacy of Celtic cultural traits.[4] Territories in north-western Iberia —particularly northern Portugal, Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria (historically referred to as Gallaecia and Astures), covering north-central Portugal and northern Spain — are considered Celtic nations due to their culture and history.[5] Unlike the others, however, no Celtic language has been spoken there in modern times.[5][6][7]

A genetics study from an Oxford University research team in 2006 claimed that the majority of Britons, including many of the English, are descended from a group of tribes which arrived from Iberia around 5000 BC, before the spread of Celts into western Europe.[4] However, three major genetic studies in 2015 have instead shown that haplogroup R1b in western Europe, most common in traditionally Celtic-speaking areas of Atlantic Europe like Ireland and Brittany, would have largely expanded in massive migrations from the Indo-European homeland, the Yamnaya culture in the Pontic-Caspian steppe, during the Bronze Age along with carriers of Indo-European languages like proto-Celtic. Unlike previous studies, large sections of autosomal DNA were analyzed in addition to paternal Y-DNA markers. They detected an autosomal component present in modern Europeans which was not present in Neolithic or Mesolithic Europeans, and which would have been introduced into Europe with paternal lineages R1b and R1a, as well as the Indo-European languages. This genetic component, labelled as "Yamnaya" in the studies, then mixed to varying degrees with earlier Mesolithic hunter-gatherer and/or Neolithic farmer populations already existing in western Europe.[8][9][10]

Map of Celtic Nations-flag shades
The six Celtic nations

Six Celtic nations

Each of the six nations has its own Celtic language. In Wales, Ireland, Brittany, and Scotland these have been spoken continuously through time, while Cornwall and the Isle of Man have languages that were spoken into modern times but later died as spoken community languages.[11][12] In the latter two regions, however, language revitalisation movements have led to the adoption of these languages by adults and produced a number of native speakers.[13]

Ireland, Wales, Brittany and Scotland contain areas where a Celtic language is used on a daily basis; in Ireland the area is called the Gaeltacht on the west coast; Y Fro Gymraeg in Wales, and in Brittany Breizh-Izel.[14] Generally these communities are in the west of their countries and in more isolated upland or island areas. The term Gàidhealtachd historically distinguished the Gaelic-speaking areas of Scotland (the Highlands) from the Lowland Scots (i.e. Anglo-Saxon-speaking) areas. More recently, this term has also been adopted as the Gaelic name of the Highland council area, which includes non-Gaelic speaking areas. Hence, more specific terms such as sgìre Ghàidhlig ("Gaelic-speaking area") are now used.

In Wales, the Welsh language is a core curriculum (compulsory) subject, which all pupils study.[15] Additionally, 20% of school children in Wales go to Welsh medium schools, where they are taught entirely in the Welsh language.[16] In the Republic of Ireland, all school children study Irish as one of the three core subjects up until the end of secondary school, and 7.4% of primary school education is through Irish medium education, which is part of the Gaelscoil movement.[16] In the Isle of Man, there is one Manx-medium primary school, and all schoolchildren have the opportunity to learn Manx.

Other territories

Parts of the northern Iberian Peninsula, namely Galicia, Cantabria, Asturias and Northern Portugal, also lay claim to this heritage.[5] Musicians from Galicia and Asturias have participated in Celtic music festivals, such as the Ortigueira's Festival of Celtic World in the village of Ortigueira or the Breton Festival Interceltique de Lorient, which in 2013 celebrated the Year of Asturias.[17] Northern Portugal, part of ancient Gallaecia (Galicia, Minho, Douro and Trás-os-Montes), also has traditions quite similar to Galicia.[5] However, no Celtic language has been spoken in northern Iberia since probably the Early Middle Ages.[18][19]

Irish was once widely spoken on the island of Newfoundland before largely disappearing there by the early 20th century. Vestiges remain in some words found in Newfoundland English, such as scrob for "scratch", and sleveen for "rascal"[20] There are no fluent speakers of Irish Gaelic in Newfoundland or Labrador today. Knowledge seems to be largely restricted to memorized passages, such as traditional tales and songs.[20]

Canadian Gaelic dialects of Scottish Gaelic are still spoken by Gaels in other parts of Atlantic Canada, primarily on Cape Breton Island and adjacent areas of Nova Scotia. In 2011, there were 1,275 Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia,[21] and 300 residents of the province considered a Gaelic language to be their "mother tongue".[22]

Patagonian Welsh is spoken principally in Y Wladfa in the Chubut Province of Patagonia with sporadic speakers throughout Argentina by Welsh Argentines. Estimates of the number of Welsh speakers range from 1,500[23] to 5,000.[24]

Celtic languages

The Celtic languages form a branch of the greater Indo-European language family. 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).[25]

The other two, Cornish (a Brittonic language) and Manx (a Goidelic language), died in modern times 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.

Taken together, there were roughly one million native speakers of Celtic languages as of the 2000s. In 2010, there were more than 1.4 million speakers of Celtic languages.[26]

The chart below shows the population of each Celtic nation and the number of people in each nation who can speak Celtic languages. The total number of people residing in the Celtic nations is 19,596,000 people and, of these, the total number of people who can speak the Celtic languages is approximately 2,818,000 or 14.3%.

The Celtic nations and languages
Nation Celtic name Celtic language People Population Competent speakers Percentage of
Ireland Éire Irish
(Éireannaigh, Gaeil)
6,399,115 1,944,353 total: 29.7%
  • ROI 38.6%
  • NI 7.2%
 Scotland Alba Scottish Gaelic
5,313,600 92,400[30] 1.2%[31]
 Brittany Breizh Breton
4,300,000 206,000[32] 5%[32]
 Wales Cymru Welsh
3,000,000 750,000+ total: 21.7%[38]
 Cornwall Kernow Cornish
500,000 2,000[39] 0.1%[40][41]
 Isle of Man Mannin,
Ellan Vannin
84,497[42] 1,662[42] 2.0%[42]

Celtic identity

Formal cooperation between the Celtic nations is active in many contexts, including politics, languages, culture, music and sports:

The Celtic League is an inter-Celtic political organisation, which campaigns for the political, language, cultural and social rights, affecting one or more of the Celtic nations.[43]

Established in 1917, the Celtic Congress is a non-political organisation that seeks to promote Celtic culture and languages and to maintain intellectual contact and close cooperation between Celtic peoples.[44]

Festivals celebrating the culture of the Celtic nations include the Festival Interceltique de Lorient (Brittany), the Pan Celtic Festival (Ireland), CeltFest Cuba (Havana, Cuba), the National Celtic Festival (Portarlington, Australia), the Celtic Media Festival (showcasing film and television from the Celtic nations), and the Eisteddfod (Wales).[7][45][46][47]

Inter-Celtic music festivals include Celtic Connections (Glasgow), and the Hebridean Celtic Festival (Stornoway).[48][49] Due to immigration, a dialect of Scottish Gaelic (Canadian Gaelic) is spoken by some on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, while a Welsh-speaking minority exists in the Chubut Province of Argentina. Hence, for certain purposes—such as the Festival Interceltique de LorientGallaecia, Asturias, and Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia are considered three of the nine Celtic nations.[7]

Competitions are held between the Celtic nations in sports such as rugby union (Pro14—formerly known as the Celtic League), athletics (Celtic Cup) and association football (the Nations Cup—also known as the Celtic Cup).[50][51]

The Republic of Ireland enjoyed a period of rapid economic growth between 1995–2007, leading to the use of the phrase Celtic Tiger to describe the country.[52][53] Aspirations for Scotland to achieve a similar economic performance to that of Ireland's led the Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond to set out his vision of a Celtic Lion economy for Scotland, in 2007.[54]


The term "Celtic nations" derives from the linguistics studies of the 16th century scholar George Buchanan and the polymath Edward Lhuyd.[55] As Assistant Keeper and then Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (1691–1709), Lhuyd travelled extensively in Great Britain, Ireland and Brittany in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Noting the similarity between the languages of Brittany, Cornwall and Wales, which he called "P-Celtic" or Brythonic, the languages of Ireland, the Isle of Man and Scotland, which he called "Q-Celtic" or Goidelic, and between the two groups, Lhuyd published Archaeologia Britannica: an Account of the Languages, Histories and Customs of Great Britain, from Travels through Wales, Cornwall, Bas-Bretagne, Ireland and Scotland in 1707. His Archaeologia Britannica concluded that all six languages derived from the same root. Lhuyd theorised that the root language descended from the languages spoken by the Iron Age tribes of Gaul, whom Greek and Roman writers called Celtic.[56] Having defined the languages of those areas as Celtic, the people living in them and speaking those languages became known as Celtic too. There is some dispute as to whether Lhuyd's theory is correct. Nevertheless, the term "Celtic" to describe the languages and peoples of Brittany, Cornwall and Wales, Ireland, the Isle of Man and Scotland was accepted from the 18th century and is widely used today.[55]

These areas of Europe are sometimes referred to as the "Celt belt" or "Celtic fringe" because of their location generally on the western edges of the continent, and of the states they inhabit (e.g. Brittany is in the northwest of France, Cornwall is in the south west of Great Britain, Wales in western Great Britain and the Gaelic-speaking parts of Ireland and Scotland are in the west of those countries).[57][58] Additionally, this region is known as the "Celtic Crescent" because of the near crescent shaped position of the nations in Europe.[59]

Endonyms and Celtic exonyms

The Celtic names for each nation in each language illustrate some of the similarity between the languages. Despite differences in orthography, there are many sound and lexical correspondences between the endonyms and exonyms used to refer to the Celtic nations.

Names of the Celtic nations (and related terms) in the living Celtic languages

Breton (Brezhoneg) Irish[60] (Gaeilge) Scottish Gaelic[61] (Gàidhlig) Welsh (Cymraeg) Manx (Gaelg) Cornish[62] (Kernowek)
Brittany Breizh
[bʁɛjs] or [bʁɛχ]
an Bhriotáin
[ən̪ˠ ˈvʲɾʲit̪ˠaːnʲ]
a' Bhreatainn Bheag
[əˈvɾʲɛhdəɲ ˈveg]
yn Vritaan Breten Vian
Cornwall Kernev-Veur
[ˈkɛʁnev ˈvøːr]
Corn na Breataine
[ˈkoɾˠn̪ˠ n̪ˠə ˈbʲɾʲat̪ˠənʲə]
a' Chòrn
yn Chorn Kernow
Ireland Iwerzhon
Nerin Wordhen
Isle of Man
[ˈẽːnes vɑ̃ˈnaw]
Oileán Mhanann
[ˈilʲaːn̪ˠ ˈvˠan̪ˠən̪ˠ]
Eilean Mhanainn
Ynys Manaw
[ˈənɨs ˈmanau̯]
Ellan Vannin
Enys Vanow
Scotland Bro-Skos
[ˈbʁo ˈskos]
yr Alban
[ər ˈalban]
Nalbin Alban
Wales Kembre
an Bhreatain Bheag
[ən̪ˠ ˈvʲɾʲat̪ˠənʲ ˈvʲəɡ]
a' Chuimrigh
Bretin Kembra
Celtic nations broioù keltiek
[ˈbʁoju ˈkɛltjɛk]
náisiúin Cheilteacha
[ˈn̪ˠaːʃuːnʲ ˈçelʲtʲəxə]
nàiseanan Ceilteach
[ˈnˠaːʃanən ˈkʲeldʲəx]
gwledydd Celtaidd
[gʷˈlei̯ð ˈkʰɛltʰai̯ð]
ashoonyn Celtiagh broyow keltek
Celtic languages yezhoù keltiek
[ˈjeːsu ˈkɛltjɛk]
teangacha Ceilteacha
[ˈtʲaŋɡəxə ˈçelʲtʲəxə]
cànanain Cheilteach
[ˈkaːnanɪɲ ˈçʲeldʲəx]
ieithoedd Celtaidd
[ˈjei̯θɔɨ̯ð ˈkʰɛltʰai̯ð]
çhengaghyn Celtiagh yethow keltek
Great Britain Breizh-Veur
[ˈbʁɛjs ˈvøːr]
an Bhreatain Mhór
[ən̪ˠ ˈvʲɾʲat̪ˠənʲ ˈvˠoːɾˠ]
Breatainn Mhòr
[əˈvɾʲɛhdəɲ ˈvoːɾ]
Prydain Fawr
[ˈpr̥ətʰai̯n ˈvau̯r]
Bretin Vooar Breten Veur

Territories of the ancient Celts

Celts in Europe
Diachronic distribution of Celtic peoples:
  core Hallstatt territory, by the 6th century BC
  maximal Celtic expansion, by 275 BC
  Lusitanian area of Iberia where Celtic presence is uncertain
  the six Celtic nations which retained significant numbers of Celtic speakers into the Early Modern period
  areas where Celtic languages remain widely spoken today

During the European Iron Age, the ancient Celts extended their territory to most of Western and Central Europe and part of Eastern Europe and central Anatolia.

The Continental Celtic languages were extinct by the Early Middle Ages, and the continental "Celtic cultural traits", such as an oral traditions and practices like the visiting of sacred wells and springs, largely disappeared or, in some cases, were translated. Since they no longer have a living Celtic language, they are not included as 'Celtic nations'. Nonetheless, some of these countries have movements claiming a "Celtic identity"

Iberian Peninsula

Ethnographic Iberia 200 BCE
Iberian Peninsula at about 200 BC.[63]

The Iberian Peninsula was an area heavily influenced by Celtic culture, particularly the ancient region of Gallaecia (about the modern region of Galicia and Braga, Viana do Castelo, Douro, Porto, and Bragança in Portugal) and the Asturian region (Asturias, León, Zamora in Spain). Only France and Britain have more ancient Celtic place names than Spain and Portugal combined (Cunliffe and Koch 2010 and 2012).

Some of the Celtic tribes recorded in these regions by the Romans were the Gallaeci, the Bracari, the Astures, the Cantabri, the Celtici, the Celtiberi, the Tumorgogi, Albion and Cerbarci. The Lusitanians are categorised by some as Celts, or at least Celticised, but there remain inscriptions in an apparently non-Celtic Lusitanian language. However, the language had clear affinities with the Gallaecian Celtic language. Modern-day Galicians, Asturians, Cantabrians and northern Portuguese claim a Celtic heritage or identity.[5] Although the Celtic cultural traces are as difficult to analyse as in the other former Celtic countries of Europe, because of the extinction of Iberian Celtic languages in Roman times, Celtic heritage is attested in toponymics and language substratum, ancient texts, folklore and music.[5][64] At the end, late Celtic influence is also attributed to the fifth century Romano-Briton colony of Britonia in Galicia.

Tenth century Middle Irish mythical history Lebor Gabála Érenn (Irish: Leabhar Gabhála Éireann) credited Gallaecia as the point from where the Gallaic Celts sailed to conquer Ireland.


Principal sites in Roman Britain, with indication of the Celtic tribes.

In Celtic languages, England is usually referred to as "Saxon-land" (Sasana, Pow Sows, Bro-Saoz etc.), and in Welsh as Lloegr (though the Welsh translation of English also refers to the Saxon route: Saesneg, with the English people being referred to as "Saeson", or "Saes" in the singular). The mildly derogatory Scottish Gaelic term Sassenach derives from this source. However, spoken Cumbric survived until approximately the 12th century, Cornish until the 18th century, and Welsh within the Welsh Marches, notably in Archenfield, now part of Herefordshire, until the 19th century. Both Cumbria and Cornwall were traditionally Brythonic in culture. Cornwall existed as an independent state for some time after the foundation of England, and Cumbria originally retained a great deal of autonomy within the Kingdom of Northumbria. The unification of the Anglian kingdom of Northumbria with the Cumbric kingdom of Cumbria came about due to a political marriage between the Northumbrian King Oswiu and Queen Riemmelth (Rhiainfellt in Old Welsh), a then Princess of Rheged.

Movements of population between different parts of Great Britain over the last two centuries, with industrial development and changes in living patterns such as the growth of second home ownership, have greatly modified the demographics of these areas, including the Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall, although Cornwall in particular retains unique cultural features, and a Cornish self-government movement is well established.[65]

Brythonic and Cumbric placenames are found throughout England but are more common in the West of England than the East, reaching their highest density in the traditionally Celtic areas of Cornwall, Cumbria and the areas of England bordering Wales. Name elements containing Brythonic topographic words occur in many areas of England, such as: caer 'fort', as in the Cumbrian city of Carlisle; pen 'hill' as in the Cumbrian town of Penrith and Pendle Hill in Lancashire; afon 'river' as in the Rivers Avon in Warwickshire, Devon and Somerset; and mynydd 'mountain', as in Long Mynd in Shropshire. The name 'Cumbria' is derived from the same root as Cymru, the Welsh name for Wales, meaning 'the land of comrades'.

Formerly Gaulish regions

Map Gallia Tribes Towns
Repartition of Gaul ca. 54 BC

Most French people identify with the ancient Gauls and are well aware that they were a people that spoke Celtic languages and lived Celtic ways of life.[66] Nowadays, the popular nickname Gaulois, "Gaulish people", is very often used to mean 'stock French people' to make the difference with the descendants of foreigners in France.

Walloons occasionally characterise themselves as "Celts", mainly in opposition to the "Teutonic" Flemish and "Latin" French identities.[67] Others think they are Belgian, that is to say Germano-Celtic people different from the Gaulish-Celtic French.[67]

The ethnonym "Walloon" derives from a Germanic word meaning "foreign", cognate with the words "Welsh" and "Vlach". The name of Belgium, home country of the Walloon people, is cognate with the Celtic tribal names Belgae and (possibly) the Irish legendary Fir Bolg.

Italian Peninsula

The Canegrate culture (13th century BC) may represent the first migratory wave of the proto-Celtic[68] population from the northwest part of the Alps that, through the Alpine passes, had already penetrated and settled in the western Po valley between Lake Maggiore and Lake Como (Scamozzina culture). It has also been proposed that a more ancient proto-Celtic presence can be traced back to the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age (16th-15th century BC), when North Westwern Italy appears closely linked regarding the production of bronze artifacts, including ornaments, to the western groups of the Tumulus culture (Central Europe, 1600 BC - 1200 BC).[69] La Tène cultural material appeared over a large area of mainland Italy,[70] the southernmost example being the Celtic helmet from Canosa di Puglia.[71]

Italy is home to the Lepontic, the oldest attested Celtic language (from the 6th century BC).[72] Anciently spoken in Switzerland and in Northern-Central Italy, from the Alps to Umbria.[73][74][75][76] According to the Recueil des Inscriptions Gauloises, more than 760 Gaulish inscriptions have been found throughout present-day France—with the notable exception of Aquitaine—and in Italy,[77][78] which testifies the importance of Celtic heritage in the peninsula.

The French- and Arpitan-speaking Aosta Valley region in Italy also presents a claim of Celtic heritage.[79] The Northern League autonomist party often exalts what it claims are the Celtic roots of all Northern Italy or Padania.[80] Reportedly, Friuli also has a claim to Celticity (recent studies have estimated that about 1/10 of Friulian words are of Celtic origin; also, a lot of typical Friulian traditions, dances, songs and mythology are remnants of the culture of Carnian tribes who lived in this area during the Roman age and the early Middle Ages. Some Friulians consider themselves and their region as one of the Celtic Nations[81])

Central and Eastern European regions

Celtic tribes inhabited land in what is now southern Germany and Austria.[82] Many scholars have associated the earliest Celtic peoples with the Hallstatt culture.[83] The Boii, the Scordisci,[84] and the Vindelici[85] are some of the tribes that inhabited Central Europe, including what is now Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia, Poland and the Czech Republic as well as Germany and Austria. The Boii gave their name to Bohemia.[86] The Boii founded a city on the site of modern Prague, and some of its ruins are now a tourist attraction.[87] There are claims among modern Czechs that the Czech people are as much descendants of the Boii as they are from the later Slavic invaders (as well as the historical Germanic peoples of Czech lands). This claim may not only be political: according to a 2000 study by Semino, 35.6% of Czech males have y-chromosome haplogroup R1b,[88] which is common among Celts but rare among Slavs. Celts also founded Singidunum near present-day Belgrade, though the Celtic presence in modern-day Serbian regions is limited to the far north (mainly including the historically at least partially Hungarian Vojvodina). The modern-day capital of Turkey, Ankara, was once the center of the Celtic culture in Central Anatolia, giving the name to the region—Galatia. The La Tène culture—named for a region in modern Switzerland—succeeded the Halstatt era in much of central Europe.[89]

Celtic diaspora

In other regions, people with a heritage from one of the Celtic nations also associate with the Celtic identity. In these areas, Celtic traditions and languages are significant components of local culture. These include the Permanent North American Gaeltacht in Tamworth, Ontario, Canada which is the only Irish Gaeltacht outside Ireland; the Chubut valley of Patagonia with Welsh-speaking Welsh Argentines (known as Y Wladfa); Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, with Scottish Gaelic-speaking Scottish Canadians; and southeast Newfoundland with traditionally Irish-speaking Irish Canadians. Also at one point in the 1900s there were well over 12,000 Gaelic Scots from the Isle of Lewis living in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada, with place names that still exist today recalling those inhabitants.

Saint John, New Brunswick has often been called "Canada's Irish City". In the years between 1815, when vast industrial changes began to disrupt the old life-styles in Europe, and Canadian Confederation in 1867, when immigration of that era passed its peak, more than 150,000 immigrants from Ireland flooded into Saint John. Those who came in the earlier period were largely tradesmen, and many stayed in Saint John, becoming the backbone of its builders. But when the Great Irish Potato Famine raged between 1845-1852, huge waves of Famine refugees flooded these shores. It is estimated that between 1845 and 1847, some 30,000 arrived, more people than were living in the city at the time. In 1847, dubbed "Black 47," one of the worst years of the Famine, some 16,000 immigrants, most of them from Ireland, arrived at Partridge Island, the immigration and quarantine station at the mouth of Saint John Harbour. However, thousands of Irish were living in New Brunswick prior to these events, mainly in Saint John.[90]

Partridge Island New Brunswick Canada
Celtic Cross of Partridge Island

After the partitioning of the British colony of Nova Scotia in 1784 New Brunswick was originally named New Ireland with the capital to be in Saint John.[91]

Large swathes of the United States of America were subject to migration from Celtic peoples, or people from Celtic nations. Irish-speaking Irish Catholics congregated particularly in the East Coast cities of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, and also in Pittsburgh and Chicago, while Scots and Ulster-Scots were particularly prominent in the Southern United States, including Appalachia.

A legend that became popular during the Elizabethan era claims that a Welsh prince named Madoc established a colony in North America in the late 12th century. The story continues that the settlers merged with local Indian tribes, who preserved the Welsh language and the Christian religion for hundreds of years.[92] However, there is no contemporary evidence that Prince Madoc existed. An area of Pennsylvania known as the Welsh Tract was settled by Welsh Quakers, where the names of several towns still bear Welsh names, such as Bryn Mawr, the Lower and Upper Gwynedd Townships, and Bala Cynwyd. In the 19th century, Welsh settlers arrived in the Chubut River valley of Patagonia, Argentina and established a colony called Y Wladfa (Spanish: Colonia Galesa). Today, the Welsh language and Welsh tea houses are common in several towns, many of which have Welsh names. Dolavon and Trelew are examples of Welsh towns.

In his autobiography, the South African poet Roy Campbell recalled his youth in the Dargle Valley, near the city of Pietermaritzburg, where people spoke only Gaelic and Zulu.

In New Zealand, the southern regions of Otago and Southland were settled by the Free Church of Scotland. Many of the place names in these two regions (such as the main cities of Dunedin and Invercargill and the major river, the Clutha) have Scottish Gaelic names,[93] and Celtic culture is still prominent in this area.[94][95][96]

In addition to these, a number of people from Canada, the United States, Australia, South Africa and other parts of the former British Empire have formed various Celtic societies over the years.

See also


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Further reading

External links

Brenda Wootton

Brenda Wootton (née Ellery) (10 February 1928 – 11 March 1994) was a Cornish poet and folk singer and was seen as an ambassador for Cornish tradition and culture in all the Celtic nations and as far as Australia and Canada.

Breton nationalism

Breton nationalism is the nationalism of the historical province of Brittany in France. Brittany is considered to be one of the six Celtic nations (along with Cornwall, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales).

Breton nationalism was a political current that appeared in the 1920s in the second Emsav, and claiming the independence of Brittany.

The political aspirations of Breton nationalists include the desire to obtain the right to self-rule, whether within France or independently of it, and to acquire more power in the European Union, United Nations and other international institutions.

Breton cultural nationalism includes an important linguistic component, with Breton and Gallo speakers seeking equality with the French language in the region. Cultural nationalists also seek a reinvigoration of Breton music, traditions and symbols, and the forging of strong links with other Celtic nations.

The French position includes a range of views, from allowing Brittany a devolved government to curbing wishes for independence.


The Bretons (Breton: Bretoned, Breton pronunciation: [breˈtɔ̃nɛt]) are a Celtic ethnic group located in the region of Brittany in France. They trace much of their heritage to groups of Brittonic speakers who emigrated from southwestern Great Britain, particularly Cornwall and Devon, mostly during the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain. They migrated in waves from the 3rd to 9th century (most heavily from 450 to 600) into Armorica, which was subsequently named Brittany after them.The main traditional language of Brittany is Breton (Brezhoneg), spoken in Lower Brittany (i.e. the western part of the peninsula). Breton is spoken by around 206,000 people as of 2013. The other principal minority language of Brittany is Gallo; Gallo is spoken only in Upper Brittany, where Breton is less dominant. As one of the Brittonic languages, Breton is related closely to Cornish and more distantly to Welsh, while the Gallo language is one of the Romance langues d'oïl. Currently, most Bretons' native language is standard French.

Brittany and its people are counted as one of the six Celtic nations. Ethnically, along with the Cornish and Welsh, the Bretons are Celtic Britons. The actual number of ethnic Bretons in Brittany and France as a whole is difficult to assess as the government of France does not collect statistics on ethnicity. The population of Brittany, based on a January 2007 estimate, was 4,365,500. It is said that, in 1914, over 1 million people spoke Breton west of the boundary between Breton and Gallo-speaking region—roughly 90% of the population of the western half of Brittany. In 1945, it was about 75%, and today, in all of Brittany, the most optimistic estimate would be that 20% of Bretons can speak Breton. Brittany has a population of roughly four million, including the department of Loire-Atlantique, which the Vichy government separated from historical Brittany in 1941. Seventy-five percent of the estimated 200,000 to 250,000 Breton speakers using Breton as an everyday language today are over the age of 65.

A strong historical emigration has created a Breton diaspora within the French borders and in the overseas departments and territories of France; it is mainly established in the Paris area, where more than one million people claim Breton heritage. Many Breton families have also emigrated to the Americas, predominantly to Canada (mostly Quebec and Atlantic Canada) and the United States. People from the region of Brittany were among the first European settlers to permanently settle the French West Indies, i.e. Dominica, Guadeloupe and Martinique, where remnants of their culture can still be seen to this day. The only places outside Brittany that still retain significant Breton customs are in Île-de-France (mainly Le Quartier du Montparnasse in Paris), Le Havre and in Îles des Saintes, where a group of Breton families settled in the mid-17th century.


Brittany (; French: Bretagne [bʁətaɲ] (listen); Breton: Breizh, pronounced [bʁɛjs] or [bʁɛχ]; Gallo: Bertaèyn, pronounced [bəʁtaɛɲ]) is a cultural region in the west of France, covering the western part of what was known as Armorica during the period of Roman occupation. It became an independent kingdom and then a duchy before being united with the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province governed as if it were a separate nation under the crown.

Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain (as opposed to Great Britain, with which it shares an etymology). It is bordered by the English Channel to the north, Normandy to the northeast, Pays de la Loire to the southeast, the Bay of Biscay to the south, and the Celtic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its land area is 34,023 km² (13,136 sq mi).

Brittany is the site of some of the world's oldest standing architecture, home to the Barnenez, the Tumulus Saint-Michel and others, which date to the early 5th millennium BC. Today, the historical province of Brittany is split among five French departments: Finistère in the west, Côtes-d'Armor in the north, Ille-et-Vilaine in the northeast, Loire-Atlantique in the southeast and Morbihan in the south on the Bay of Biscay. Since reorganisation in 1956, the modern administrative region of Brittany comprises only four of the five Breton departments, or 80% of historical Brittany. The remaining area of old Brittany, the Loire-Atlantique department around Nantes, now forms part of the Pays de la Loire region.

At the 2010 census, the population of historic Brittany was estimated to be 4,475,295. Of these, 71% lived in the region of Brittany, while 29% lived in the Loire-Atlantique department. In 2012, the largest metropolitan areas were Nantes (897,713 inhabitants), Rennes (690,467 inhabitants), and Brest (314,844 inhabitants). Brittany is the traditional homeland of the Breton people and is recognised by the Celtic League as one of the six Celtic nations, retaining a distinct cultural identity that reflects its history. A nationalist movement seeks greater autonomy within the French Republic.

Brittany national football team

The Brittany football select (French: Équipe de Bretagne de football, Breton: Skipailh Breizh) is the professional football team of Brittany, France. It is administered by the Breton Football Association (BFA). It is neither affiliated to FIFA nor UEFA but is characterised as one of the six Celtic nations. Its games are held under the auspices of the French Football Federation and FIFA Regulations Amateur football in Brittany is administered by both the Ligue de Bretagne and the Ligue Atlantique, which are regional associations within the French FA.


Carn is the official magazine of the Celtic League. The name, a Celtic word which has been borrowed into English as 'cairn', was chosen for its symbolic value and because it can be found in each of the living Celtic languages. The subtitle is: 'A Link Between the Celtic Nations'.

Celtic Fest Chicago

Celtic Fest Chicago is held the second weekend of May in Chicago's Millennium Park. It had previously been held in the second week in September, the first one having been held in the third week in September 1997 on Columbus Drive and Jackson Boulevard in Grant Park. Not just an "Irish" festival, Celtic Fest Chicago is a cultural celebration of the ancient Celtic nations of Ireland; Brittany, France; Galicia, Spain; Scotland; the Isle of Man; Cornwall and Wales. Celtic music enfolds a variety of rich cultures, as various geographical areas contribute diverse backgrounds and flavors. Celtic Fest Chicago celebrates this long history with music and traditions that date back to 300 B.C.

Celtic League

The Celtic League is a pan-Celtic organisation, founded in 1961, that aims to promote modern Celtic identity and culture in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall and the Isle of Man – referred to as the Celtic nations; it places particular emphasis on promoting the Celtic languages of those nations. It also advocates further self-governance in the Celtic nations and ultimately for each nation to be an independent state in its own right. The Celtic League is an accredited NGO with roster consultative status to ECOSOC (The United Nations Economic and Social Council).

Celtic Media Festival

The Celtic Media Festival, formerly known as the Celtic Film and Television Festival, aims to promote the languages and cultures of the Celtic nations in film, on television, radio and new media. The festival is an annual three-day celebration of broadcasting and film from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man, Cornwall and Brittany. The festival has existed for nearly forty years.

Celtic culture

Celtic culture may refer to:


Ancient Celtic culture

Celtic revival

Celts (modern)

Gaelic cultureThe Celtic culture of the Celtic nations:

Culture of Ireland

Culture of Scotland

Culture of the Isle of Man

Culture of Wales

Culture of Cornwall

Culture of Brittany

Culture of Galicia

Celts (modern)

The modern Celts (, see pronunciation of Celt) are a related group of ethnicities who share similar Celtic languages, cultures and artistic histories, and who live in or descend from one of the regions on the western extremities of Europe populated by the Celts.A modern Celtic identity emerged in Western Europe following the identification of the native peoples of the Atlantic fringe as Celts by Edward Lhuyd in the 18th century. Lhuyd and others equated the Celts described by Greco-Roman writers with the pre-Roman peoples of France, Great Britain and Ireland. They categorised the ancient Irish and British languages as Celtic languages. The descendants of these ancient languages are the Brittonic (Breton, Cornish and Welsh variants) and Gaelic (Irish, Manx and Scottish variants) languages, and the people who speak them are considered modern Celts.

The concept of modern Celtic identity evolved during the course of the 19th century into the Celtic Revival. By the late 19th century, it often took the form of ethnic nationalism, particularly within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, where the Irish Home Rule Movement resulted in the secession of the Irish Free State, in 1922. There were also significant Welsh, Scottish and Breton nationalist movements, giving rise to the concept of Celtic nations. After World War II, the focus of the Celtic movement shifted to linguistic revival and protectionism, e.g. with the foundation of the Celtic League in 1961, dedicated to preserving the surviving Celtic languages.The Celtic revival also led to the emergence of musical and artistic styles identified as Celtic. Music typically drew on folk traditions within the Celtic nations. Art drew on decorative styles associated with the ancient Celts and with early medieval Celtic Christianity, along with folk-styles. Cultural events to promote "inter-Celtic" cultural exchange also emerged.

In the late 20th century some authors criticised the idea of modern Celtic identity, usually by downplaying the value of the linguistic component in defining culture and cultural connection, sometimes also arguing that there never was a common Celtic culture, even in ancient times. These authors usually opposed language preservation efforts. Malcolm Chapman's 1992 book The Celts: The Construction of a Myth led to what the archaeologist, Barry Cunliffe has called a "politically correct disdain for the use of 'Celt'"


Cornwall (; Cornish: Kernow [ˈkɛrnɔʊ]) is a county in South West England in the United Kingdom. The county is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar which forms most of the border between them. Cornwall forms the westernmost part of the South West Peninsula of the island of Great Britain. The furthest southwestern point of Great Britain is Land's End; the southernmost point is Lizard Point. Cornwall has a population of 563,600 and covers an area of 3,563 km2 (1,376 sq mi). The county has been administered since 2009 by the unitary authority, Cornwall Council. The ceremonial county of Cornwall also includes the Isles of Scilly, which are administered separately. The administrative centre of Cornwall, and its only city, is Truro.

Cornwall is the homeland of the Cornish people and the cultural and ethnic origin of the Cornish diaspora. It retains a distinct cultural identity that reflects its history, and is recognised as one of the Celtic nations. It was formerly a Brythonic kingdom and subsequently a royal duchy. The Cornish nationalist movement contests the present constitutional status of Cornwall and seeks greater autonomy within the United Kingdom in the form of a devolved legislative Cornish Assembly with powers similar to those in Wales and Scotland. In 2014, Cornish people were granted minority status under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, giving them recognition as a distinct ethnic group.First inhabited in the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods, Cornwall continued to be occupied by Neolithic and then Bronze Age peoples, and later (in the Iron Age) by Brythons with strong ethnic, linguistic, trade and cultural links to Wales and Brittany the latter of which was settled by Britons from the region. Mining in Cornwall and Devon in the south-west of England began in the early Bronze Age.

Few Roman remains have been found in Cornwall, and there is little evidence that the Romans settled or had much military presence there. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Cornwall (along with Devon, parts of Dorset and Somerset, and the Scilly Isles) was a part of the Brittonic kingdom of Dumnonia, ruled by chieftains of the Cornovii who may have included figures regarded as semi-historical or legendary, such as King Mark of Cornwall and King Arthur, evidenced by folklore traditions derived from the Historia Regum Britanniae. The Cornovii division of the Dumnonii tribe were separated from their fellow Brythons of Wales after the Battle of Deorham in 577 AD, and often came into conflict with the expanding English kingdom of Wessex. The regions of Dumnonia outside of Cornwall (and Dartmoor) had been annexed by the English by 838 AD. King Athelstan in 936 AD set the boundary between the English and Cornish at the high water mark of the eastern bank of the River Tamar. From the early Middle Ages, language and culture were shared by Brythons trading across both sides of the Channel, resulting in the corresponding high medieval Breton kingdoms of Domnonée and Cornouaille and the Celtic Christianity common to both areas.

Historically tin mining was important in the Cornish economy; it was increasingly significant during the High Middle Ages, and expanded greatly during the 19th century, when rich copper mines were also in production. In the mid-19th century, however, the tin and copper mines entered a period of decline. Subsequently, china clay extraction became more important, and metal mining had virtually ended by the 1990s. Traditionally, fishing (particularly of pilchards) and agriculture (notably dairy products and vegetables) were the other important sectors of the economy. Railways led to a growth of tourism in the 20th century; however, Cornwall's economy struggled after the decline of the mining and fishing industries.Cornwall is noted for its geology and coastal scenery. A large part of the Cornubian batholith is within Cornwall. The north coast has many cliffs where exposed geological formations are studied. The area is noted for its wild moorland landscapes, its long and varied coastline, its attractive villages, its many place-names derived from the Cornish language, and its very mild climate. Extensive stretches of Cornwall's coastline, and Bodmin Moor, are protected as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Festival Interceltique de Lorient

The Festival Interceltique de Lorient (French), Gouelioù Etrekeltiek An Oriant (Breton) or Inter-Celtic Festival of Lorient in English, is an annual Celtic festival, located in the city of Lorient, Brittany, France. It was founded in 1971 by Polig.

This annual festival takes place in the heart of the city every August and is dedicated to the cultural traditions of the Celtic nations (pays celtes in Brittany), highlighting Celtic music and dance and also including other arts such as painting, photography, theatre, sculpture, traditional artisan as well as sport and gastronomy.

Participants come from Brittany, Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, Wales, Cumbria, the Isle of Man, Cape Breton Island, Galicia, Asturias, Acadia, and the entire Celtic diaspora.


A kilt (Scottish Gaelic: fèileadh [ˈfeːləɣ]) is a type of knee-length non-bifurcated skirt with pleats at the back, originating in the traditional dress of Gaelic men and boys in the Scottish Highlands. It is first recorded in the 16th century as the great kilt, a full-length garment whose upper half could be worn as a cloak. The small kilt or modern kilt emerged in the 18th century, and is essentially the bottom half of the great kilt. Since the 19th century, it has become associated with the wider culture of Scotland, and more broadly with Gaelic or Celtic heritage. It is most often made of woollen cloth in a tartan pattern.

Although the kilt is most often worn on formal occasions and at Highland games and sports events, it has also been adapted as an item of informal male clothing in recent years, returning to its roots as an everyday garment. Particularly in North America, kilts are now made for casual wear in a variety of materials. Alternative fastenings may be used and pockets inserted to avoid the need for a sporran. Kilts have also been adopted as female wear for some sports.

Pacific Islanders rugby union team

The Pacific Islanders was a combined international rugby union team that played from 2004 to 2008. It represented Fiji, Samoa and Tonga; Niue and the Cook Islands also supplied players to the squad for the Pacific Islanders' tour in 2004, despite not being members of the Pacific Tri-Nations competition. The team did not play at Rugby World Cups, where each of the nations continued to represent themselves.


Pan-Celticism (Irish: Pan-Chelteachas), also known as Celticism or Celtic nationalism is a political, social and cultural movement advocating solidarity and cooperation between Celtic nations (both the Gaelic and Brythonic branches) and the modern Celts in North-Western Europe. Some pan-Celtic organisations advocate the Celtic nations seceding from the United Kingdom and France and forming their own separate federal state together, while others simply advocate very close cooperation between independent sovereign Celtic nations, in the form of Irish nationalism, Scottish nationalism, Welsh nationalism, Breton nationalism, Cornish nationalism and Manx nationalism.

As with other pan-nationalist movements such as pan-Slavism, pan-Germanism, pan-Turanianism, pan-Latinism and others, the pan-Celtic movement grew out of Romantic nationalism and specific to itself, the Celtic Revival. The pan-Celtic movement was most prominent during the 19th and 20th centuries (roughly 1838 until 1939). Some early pan-Celtic contacts took place through the Gorsedd and the Eisteddfod, while the annual Celtic Congress was initiated in 1900. Since that time the Celtic League has become the prominent face of political pan-Celticism. Initiatives largely focused on cultural Celtic cooperation, rather than explicitly politics, such as music, arts and literature festivals, are usually referred to instead as inter-Celtic.

Pan Celtic Festival

The Pan Celtic Festival (Irish: Féile Pan Cheilteach) is a Celtic-language music festival held annually in the week following Easter, since its inauguration in 1971. The first Pan Celtic Festival took place in Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland. Its aim is to promote the modern Celtic languages and cultures and artists from all six Celtic nations: Brittany, Cornwall, Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales.

Each participating nation holds its own national selection event to choose its representatives at the Festival. The most successful Celtic nation is Wales, with fourteen wins, with Cornwall close behind, having won ten times. Bénjad, who represented Cornwall in 2012 and 2013, became the first artist in the festival's history to have won twice. The Isle of Man is the least successful nation, having only won once in 2014. The latest winners, as of April 2017, are Ireland, represented by Emer O'Flaherty, Paddy Mulcahy and Angelo Heart with the song Taibhse ("Ghost").

Six Nations

Six Nations may refer to:

PeoplesSix Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, a group of First Nations/Native American people that originally consisted of five nations, later six

Six Nations land cessions

Six Nations of the Grand River, the largest First Nations reserve in Canada

Six Nations Polytechnic, a post-secondary educational institution owned and operated by the reserve

Celtic nations, the six areas of Europe with a recent Celtic history and in possession of Celtic languagesSportsSix Nations Championship, an annual international rugby union competition held between six European men's national teams

Six Nations Under 20s Championship, an annual international rugby union competition contested by the U-20 men's national teams of the countries that contest the Six Nations Championship proper

Women's Six Nations Championship, an annual international rugby union competition held between the women's national teams of the same countries involved in the (men's) Six Nations

Six Nations Tournament (ice hockey), a 1994–1996 European ice hockey club competition

Skanska Amateur Four Nations

The Amateur Four Nations was a rugby league competition contested annually by Wales A, Ireland A, Scotland A and England A. The teams from the Celtic nations would pick players from their domestic competitions, while England's squad would be picked from teams in the Rugby League Conference. Players would also come from university teams and the armed forces. The competition, sometimes referred to as the Four Nations Championship, had previously been sponsored by Cheltenham Regency and Parkhouse Recruitment and Skanska. In 2014 the tournament was renamed the Celtic Nations Cup following England's withdrawal

Pan-Celtic groups
Earth's primary regions
Ancient Celts
Celtic studies
Modern Celts
Celtic Revival

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