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Type: lexical
Meaning: 'battle, fight'
Language: Celtic
Phonemic analysis: /kat/-
From PIE: *k̑h₂-tu- (?)
From Proto-Celtic: *katu- 'battle, fight'
Attestation: kat, katacinas, katua, katutiniois


The PC u-stem *katu- 'battle, fight' (OIr. cath, OW cat, MW cad, OBret. -cat (in compounds), ModBret. kad, Corn. cas; Matasović 2009 s.v. *katu-, LEIA: C-47 f.) is very common in Celtic onomastics, e.g. Ogam rocatos, OBret. catoc, Celtib. katunos, Gaul. caturix, igocatus, catus (AcS I: 837–865, KGP: 167–169, GPN: 171–175, DLG: 111, Sims-Williams 2003: 440, Delamarre 2007: 216 et passim). The word appears in compounds usually as first (e.g., catuuellaunus), but also as second (e.g., uellocatus) element, and in simplex names with various suffixes (e.g., catulus, catusius, caturo). As pointed out by Evans GPN: 171, any number of simplex names in catt- may be based on catu-names with hypocoristic gemination, but on the other hand, other onomastic elements must be expected to be represented in the large group of potentially relevant names.

The word finds its best IE comparandum in PG *haþu- 'battle', which is equally popular in PNN; otherwise, Hitt. kattu- n. 'enmity, strife', Skt. śátru- 'enemy', śātayati 'throw down', and Gr. κότος 'spite, anger' can be compared (IEW: 534). The non-Celtic etyma can be reconstructed to a root *k̑et- without laryngeal; in that case, the Celtic word has to be a loan from Germanic (cf. Matasović 2009 s.v. *katu-, KGP: 169 with older literature). On the other hand, a root with a laryngeal can account for /a/ in the Celtic form: Kloekhorst 2008 s.v. *kattu- reconstructs a root *k̑h₂et-, while Kroonen 2013 s.v. *haþu- posits PIE *k̑h₃-tu-, which also works for *katu-, and considers a connection with the root *k̑eh₃(i)- 'sharpen' (LIV²: 319 f., NIL: 411–413). Notably, *k̑eh₃(i)- may be continued in the weakly attested OIr. cath 'wise' < *k̑h₃-to- (IEW: 542, LIV²: 320, Irslinger 2002: 292 f.), but the implied semantics for 'battle' – 'sharpening'? 'whetting'? – are questionable. Without a certain root connection, it is also unclear whether /t/ is part of the root or whether all attested forms contain a suffix in t-.

David Stifter, Corinna Salomon


AcS Alfred Holder, Alt-celtischer Sprachschatz, Leipzig: Teubner 1896–1907.
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.