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Type: lexical
Meaning: unknown
Language: Celtic
Phonemic analysis: /kass/-
Attestation: kasikos, kasiloi, kasilos, kasilus, kasiuos


kassi- is a very common first element in Continental Celtic compound personal names, e.g. κασσιμοτουλος, κασσιταλος, cassignatus, cassiuratos, cassiuellaunus, casidan(n)os, cassimara, and simplex names, e.g. cassius, cassicus (KGP: 165 f., GPN: 167–171, Birkhan 1967: 121–129, 133–135, DLG: 109 f., Delamarre 2007: 215 et passim). See GPN: 167–170 and Birkhan 1967: 116–121 for overviews of possible comparanda and etymologies, with previous literature.

The most attractive option (Birkhan 2.2) is the comparison with OIr. cais 'love; hate', MW, MBret., Corn. cas 'hate' < PIE *k̑h₂d-ti- or *k̑h₂d-s-i- 'agitation' from the root *k̑eh₂d- (LEIA: C-22, Irslinger 2002: 199 f., Matasović 2009: s.v. *kassi-). (Birkhan's option 2.1, which operates with a separate root *k̑adʰ- 'cover, guard' posited by Pokorny IEW: 517 for OIr. cais 'love' (*k̑adʰ-ti-), Lat. cassis 'helmet' and Germ. *hōda- 'hood', can be discarded.) Another possible PIE etymology (2.0) is */kn̥d-ti- 'distinguished' from the root */kend- (Gk. κέκασται) (Holder 1896–1907: 824 f.), but the absence of lexical comparanda in Celtic renders it doubtful (the root maybe in MW, OBret. cadr 'beautiful' < *kn̥d-ro-; Ir. cais 'propre, pimpant, bien mis, agréable' given by Holder is a chimera). As Birkhan (p. 122 f.) observes, though all PIE etymologies involve dental clusters which result in ss via tau gallicum, no variants of kassi- with overtly spelled tau gallicum are attested (even at La Graufesenque, where the tau gallicum sound is frequently spelled with theta), unless one would count (2.4) the gloss caddos 'sanctus' (Vat.lat. 1468 9r, CGL V 493.30). Whatmough DAG: 557 read cađđos to effect a connection with various names in cassi-/-casses. The notion that a Latin manuscript from ??? at the earliest has a graphic reminiscence of the Đ of late antiquity epigraphic practice in the spelling of a Latin loanword from Gaulish is highly implausible; [dd] is also not a late Gaulish reflex of tau gallicum. If anything, caddos may be connected with OIr. cáid 'holy, pure' (Stokes 1905: 169) and the abovementioned MW, OBret. cadr 'beautiful' from the 'distinguish'-root, but it is rather more likely to be from Hebrew kadósh 'holy' (thus Thes. Gloss. Emend. s.v.). Cf. also LEIA: C-9 f., DLG: 96.

Birkhan further lists comparisons with (2.3) OIr. cas 'curly' (but see below), (2.5) Gaul. casamo 'assector' (?) transmitted in Quintilian (Inst. I 5,8), (2.6) Gaul. *cassicā 'horse' for names like cassicius, with possible older forms in kars-, (2.7) simplex names in kassi- as hypocoristics of compound names with first element kat-, and (2.8) the influence of Greek and Latin words, e.g. Lat. cassis. Not mentioned by Birkhan are Gaul. cassanos 'oak' (also in TNN, GPN: 169, DLG: 109) and (expressly discarded by Evans GPN: 170) Gk. κασσίτερος 'tin'. Unless somehow derived from a Celtic word in κασσιτερίδες (Holder 1896–1907: 828), the Greek name for the unidentified tin islands somewhere near Britain, the word could be a loan via Greek from a Near-Eastern language (Beekes 2010 s.v.). De Bernardo Stempel 1998: 605 f. points to the parallel of Gaul. cassidannos and the (job) title argantodannos 'dispenser/magistrate of silver' to support a meaning 'tin' for Celtic kassi-, though she assumes that the loanword was identified with an inherited kassi- < *kn̥d-ti- 'illustrious, shiny' (which DLG: 110 considers equally possible).

In summary, Continental Celtic kassi- probably has multiple origins (Weisgerber 1931: 196 f., Birkhan 1967: 144, GPN: 169). The second element in ethnonyms -kasses, cf. OIr. cas 'curly, twisted', < *kazdʰ-, referring to the hairstyles worn by Celts in combat, is best kept separate (Thurneysen via Holder 1896–1907: 458, Birkhan 1967: 117 f., 143 f., LEIA: C-44 f., GPN: 167–169, DLG: 109 f., pace Matasović 2009: s.v. *kasso-).

Corinna Salomon


AcS Alfred Holder, Alt-celtischer Sprachschatz, Leipzig: Teubner 1896–1907.
Beekes 2010 Robert Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek [= Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series 10], Leiden/Boston: Brill 2010. (2 volumes)
Birkhan 1967 Helmut Birkhan, "Das gallische Namenselement *cassi- und die germanisch-keltische Kontaktzone", in: Wolfgang Meid (ed.), Beiträge zur Indogermanistik und Keltologie (FS Pokorny) [= Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft 13], Innsbruck: 1967, 115–144.
CGL Georg Goetz, Gustav Loewe, Corpus Glossariorum Latinorum, Lipsiae: Teubner 1888–1923.
DAG Joshua Whatmough, The Dialects of Ancient Gaul. Prolegomena and Records of the Dialects, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press 1970.
De Bernardo Stempel 1998 Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, "Minima Celtica zwischen Sprach- und Kulturgeschichte", in: Peter Anreiter, Lázló Bartosiewics, Erzsébet Jerem, Wolfgang Meid, Man and the Animal World. Studies in Archaeozoology, Archaeology, Anthropology and Palaeolinguistics in memoriam Sándor Bökönyi [= Archaeolingua 8], Budapest: 1998, 601–610.
Delamarre 2007 Xavier Delamarre, Noms de personnes celtiques dans l'épigraphie classique. Nomina Celtica Antiqua Selecta Inscriptionum, Paris: Errance 2007.
DLG Xavier Delamarre, Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise. Une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental, 2nd, revised edition, Paris: Errance 2003.