Is there a difference between gaelic and celtic

There is a much-renewed interest in the Celtic culture, as well as the other languages that fall under the same them. Here, we are going to look at the Celtic culture and also look at one of the tribes/languages under the Celts, the Gaelic. It will help shed light on the difference between the two and also how they are interrelated. Let’s dive in!


The Celts are a group of tribes that originated from central Europe. This group of people shared similar languages, traditions, cultures, and also religious beliefs. Combined, Celtic refers to the overall culture that binds them together. The origin of it is said to have started as far back as the 1200BC in Austria. It is the Greeks that bestowed the name “Celt’ upon these people.  From there, the Celts spread on to western Europe, occupying the territories of modern-day Britain, Ireland, France, and Spain. Currently, the only place the Celtic culture is still present is in Great Britain and Ireland. There is even evidence of the culture and languages in these areas.

Evidence of the Celts came about in history in roughly 7th or 8th BC, where Romans referred to them. They used the word “Galli” or Gauls to refer to the Celts, and it was translated to barbarians. That was, however, not an accurate representation of who the Celts were, giving that their culture and language still lives on centuries later.

In the 3BC, the Celts dominated most of the area north of the Alps mountain range. It is, however, in the islands off the western part of Europe where the Celtic culture thrived and even survive when the Roman Empire expanded over Europe. In mainland Europe, the narrative was not the same. Julius Caesar in the 1BC launched an attack against the Celts, killing thousands of them and also destroying the culture of those that remained. It was the fact that Caesar was unable to invade Britain that the Celts were able to survive. That is in Britain, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.

As a people, the Celts lived in a society based on honor and ethical codes. They also had unique sculptures, drawings, folklore, jewelry, and architecture that was unique to them. It is said that the Celts were also skilled in farming, blacksmithing, and even diplomacy. It would make sense of how a group of people speaking somewhat different languages were able to remain harmonious for so long. However, fights among tribes were not uncommon, as is with every civilization.


One thing to note is that Gaelic is one of the Celtic languages. It is also referred to as Scottish Gaelic and does belong to the Goidelic branch, a native language in Scotland and part of the old Irish languages. The other languages under Goidelic are Irish and Manx. Gaelic gets spoken in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. Historically, Gaelic is said to have come from Scotland in the 4th and 5th century CE from settlers from Ireland. This population then founded the Gaelic Kingdom though there are archeologists that argue there is no evidence of an invasion or takeover.

For the longest time, Scottish Gaelic was the primary language spoke across Scotland, apart from the Northern Islands. It was during the Middle Ages when it began to fade. That was because the kings of Scotland started speaking English and ended up looking down at their language. The historians state that King Malcolm III was the starting point of the decline. That was because his wife did not speak Gaelic and also gave their children Anglo-Saxon names instead of Gaelic names. He was also responsible for bringing many English religious authorities to Scotland. The situation only got worse when England and Scotland merged, and as a result, the English language ended up taking over.

In the 13th century, Scottish Gaelic was the most spoken during a time called the Middle Irish period. It also got used in Ireland and Scotland down to the 16th century. There is also linguistic evidence that at one point, the whole of modern Scotland spoke Gaelic. Currently, the only places Gaelic gets spoken today is in the Outer Hebrides (Western Isles) and Skye (the most northern part of the Inner Hebrides). There is also Gaelic spoken in the Western Isles is considered a dialect of the Scottish Gaelic with, of course, regional variations of the same language.

In a 2011 census, 1.1 percent of the Scottish population above the age of three would speak Gaelic. That is slightly fewer than those who could speak the language in 2001. Children in Scotland don’t have to learn Gaelic in school, but it is becoming a popular language for them to learn, given it is considered to be part of the Scottish heritage and culture. There is also the Canadian Gaelic spoken in eastern Canada. It has been present since the 18th century. There is, however, a small population of people claiming to know the language, totaling to about 4,000.

In as much as Gaelic is a known language, it is not an official language in the UK or the EU. It is instead classed as an indigenous language, that is, under the European Charter of Regional or Minority Languages. Overall, there has also been enthusiasm form Gaelic speaking parents to educate their children about the language. In the 70s and also the 80s, there was a rise in Gaelic playgrounds to promote the use of the language. A big step was made in 2006 with the first opening of a Gaelic-medium secondary school. In November 2019, Duolingo, a popular language-learning site, started a beta course in Gaelic.

Wrap up

When it comes to the Celtic languages, Gaelic has indeed faired on well compared to other languages that became extinct. There is an increased push for the language to get taught in various institutions which is a step in the right direction. Only the next census can tell us if these actions would have brought about an increased number in the people speaking Gaelic.




1.Kivumbi. “Difference Between Gaelic and Celtic.” February 20, 2011 < >.

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