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Type: lexical
Meaning: 'ability, strength, valour'
Language: Celtic
Phonemic analysis: /gal/-
From PIE: *gelH- 'gain power'
From Proto-Celtic: *gal-
Attestation: ritukalos


A Celtic base *gal- '(having) power, strength, valour' is attested lexically in MIr. gal 'valour, fighting spirit, fury', MW gal 'ferocity, hatred, enmity' < PC *galā (Matasović 2009 s.v.). The existence of lexical gal- 'power, ability' in Gaulish is demonstrated by ModFr. gaillard 'strong, vigorous' < Gallo-Latin *gali̯a 'strength' (whether the suffix -i̯- is Gallo-Latin or whether this formation was present in Gaulish is cannot be determined; FEW: 30 f.). These words are usually connected with the root of MW gallu 'to be able; to take (away)', OBret. gal 'might, ability' < PC *galnV- < PIE *gl̥-n(e)-H- (Matasović 2009 s.v. *gal-n-) from the PIE root *gelH- 'to gain power over sth.' (IEW: 351, LIV²: 185 f.) → verbal noun *gl̥H-eh₂ 'power, might' > *galā; see also galat- on the ti-abstract *gelH-ti-s 'having power (over sth.), endowed with might/valour' > *galatis. Alternative accounts of the etymology and exact semantics are proposed by Driessen 2003 and McCone 2008: 96–103: Driessen reconstructs a separate root *g̑ʰelh₂- 'to be furious' → *g̑ʰl̥h₂-eh₂- 'fury' > *galā, while McCone identifies the root of *galā as *g̑ʰelh₃- 'yellow' and opts to also derive *galnV- from it rather than from *gelH- (arguing that light/fire, fury, and power/strength are all included in the concept of the furor heroicus). A merger of phonetically and semantically similar roots in PC *gal- may certainly be considered.


Driessen 2003 C. Michiel Driessen, "Evidence for *ǵʰelh₂-, a New Indo-European Root", Journal of Indo-European Studies 31 (2003), 279–305.
FEW Walther von Wartburg, Französisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, Bâle: 1922–2002.