Home Forums Ancients Help Pronoucing Gallic Names

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    Avatar photoGone Fishing

    …and a few German.

    I’m currently getting the blood up for my next great project, Caesar’s Gallic campaign (in 54mm!), feasting on roast boar and drinking large quantities of undiluted wine; but a challenge has arisen that I hope you can help me with.

    As I’ve only read – and never heard – most of these names the pronunciation of Gaulish names has proved something of a poser. For example, all my life I’ve said ‘versing-GET-orix’ but now learn it is actually ‘VER-sing-GET-orix. It is such revelations as these that try the nerdic soul. So, with that in mind, I’m hoping some of you might step forward to help.

    The main problems seem to revolve around stress and the sound of ‘ae’, ‘er’ and ‘ii’ in Gallic names. I’m also confused over how to pronounce ‘i’ in Gallic and German: is it prounouced ‘eye’ or ‘ee’? With that said, help would be greatly appreciated with the following (and if you could sound them out as you would for a half-witted schoolboy it would help immensely):

    1.) Aedui – AY-doo-ee (?)

    2.) Nervii – NURV-ee-ee; NAYRV-eye-eye (?); also Boii, etc.

    3.) Arverni – arr-VUR-nee (?)

    4.) Allobroges – ahlo-BRO-jees (?)

    5.) Ariovistus – AH-rio-VIS-tus (?)

    6.) Suebi – SWAY-bee; SWAY-bai (?); also Chatti

    Help with any or all of these would help me be the pedant I’ve always desired to be. Thank you for any help!

    Avatar photoGone Fishing

    Just heard on another forum that all these follow Latin pronunciations. Suppose I should have known that. If anyone sees major errors above I’d love correction, otherwise I’m pretty well set.

    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage

    Latin ‘C’s are hard, and Latin ‘V’s are doubled – Weni, Wedi, Weki. And the Latin alphabet lacks a ‘U’.

    Just sayin’ 😉


    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    Avatar photoOB

    There have been a number of language shifts over time so you’d need someone like Prof’ JT Koch to mark your card properly and of course we are dealing with Latin versions of Celtic names.  Any way the following sounds like are my guesses.

    That said the C is always hard in Celtic so Verkingetorix would be more like it.  It translates something like great warrior king.

    1.) Aedui could be Aydwei or Ayd-oo-i

    6.) Suebi  Sway-bi might be about right.  We still have Swabians today.

    We have a couple of Bretons posting here they might well shed some light on your question.


    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    1.) Aedui – AY-doo-ee (?) –  Eye doo ee

    2.) Nervii – NURV-ee-ee; NAYRV-eye-eye (?); also Boii, etc. -NURV-ee-ee, (if latin Nerwee ee) Bow ee ee or possibly Boy ee

    3.) Arverni – arr-VUR-nee (?) Yes although if latin Arwernee

    4.) Allobroges – ahlo-BRO-jees (?) No – Alobrogays (g is always hard in Welsh and latin)

    5.) Ariovistus – AH-rio-VIS-tus (?) We could argue about the initial ‘A’ but near enough for jazz (although if it is a latin text Ariowistus)

    6.) Suebi – SWAY-bee; SWAY-bai (?); also Chatti – more Sooaybee, and (possibly) Cattee or Chattee.


    (schoolboy Latin – many years ago, and half decent modern Welsh speaker) So probably wrong!


    Oh yes – if this is Latin – as NCS says – gawd knows what the ‘U’ is standing in for!

    Avatar photoGone Fishing

    Thank you all for taking the time to respond. With the exception of the ‘u’ I’m glad to see the original renderings weren’t too far off. I’m aware the ‘v’ is pronounced as a ‘w’ in classical Latin, but somehow can’t bring myself to use it – it just sounds too silly to my modern ears, like something out of a Python skit. At least usually.

    Guy, point taken on Allobroges. Thank you!

    Just to be sure: would Belgae be pronounced ‘BELL-guy’? Insecurities speaking here…

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    Yep- Belguy – despite Belgium now!

    Avatar photozippyfusenet

    Gallic names come down to us through the Romans, so it makes sense to pronounce the written versions that we have by the rules of Latin. However, it’s likely that the Romans hadna’ tha true lilt o’ the Gallic tongue, and mispronounced the names themselves. Henh. I have heard that the ending ‘-ix’ actually stands for a gutteral ‘ch’. I’d pronounce the name Ver-KIN-ge-TOR-ich. You’d know who I meant.

    You'll shoot your eye out, kid!

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    What’s all this Scottish accent then?

    Gallic (then) was probably more Brythonic (Welsh) although the P and Q Celtic had (probably) not split dramatically by then.

    P/Q Example-

    Mab/Ap (Welsh) – son of -apRhys – Price

    Mac (Gaelic) – son of – McDonalds

    Avatar photoGone Fishing

    Guy, thank you kindly for that!

    Zippy, the ‘KIN’ (hard ‘c’) sound in Vercingetorix, as well as the stress, are new to me. Could this mean Wikipedia is wrong? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vercingetorix

    Who’d have thought?

    Avatar photoA Lot of Gaul

    Languages, names, spellings and pronunciations have changed over time. For example, in Classical Latin, there were no “soft” consonants. A “C” could be pronounced as either a “hard C” (i.e. as a “K”) or a “hard G,” the letter “I” could be pronounced either as a “J” or a “long I,” and the letter “V” could be pronounced like a modern “oo” or a “W,” depending on where it occurred in a word. Over time, English added things like a “soft C” (i.e. like an “S”), the pronunciation of “AE” changed from “eye” to “ee,” and so forth.

    Thus “CAIVS IVLIVS CAESAR” would have been pronounced as “Gai-oos Yu-li-oos Kai-zar” in Classical Latin, and as “Gai-us Joo-li-us See-zer” in modern English.

    And “VERCINGETORIX” would have been pronounced as “Wer-kin-ge-to-rikh ” in Gaulish/Classical Latin, and as “Ver-sin-ge-to-rix” in modern English.

    Etc, etc.

    "Ventosa viri restabit." ~ Harry Field

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    Yes, the problem (there are many really) is that we not only have vowel shifts and consonant changes in language over the years but spelling (the characters we assign to sounds) has changed over time and place – we assume all the sounds were available if not always used. There are sounds which are not used in some languages now – you don’t get the Welsh ll for example (a voiceless fricative!) in English, so there is no sign for it in standard English, Latin, based alphabets. As Welsh also used the Latin alphabet it uses the double l to represent the sound. Other odd (to English speakers) sounds in other languages use barred or otherwise marked letters to differentiate basic character sounds. Barred l = ł in Polish for example which sounds similar to an English W  (a W is a V!), but it wasn’t always pronounced uniformly – it was a class marker and frequently pronounced similar to a standard  ‘swallowed’ Russian Л among ‘refined’ Poles about a hundred years ago).

    You see the problems!

    Add in changes over time (like the  ł) and you can get all sorts of problems in working out what written examples of a language that did not itself have a written form (Celtic) from 2000 ish years ago sounded like in reality. Yes there are ‘audit trails’ of transliterations over the centuries that can (you hope) guide you through changes in sound representation, but it is not always as clear cut as it might appear!

    Avatar photoGone Fishing

    A Lot of Gaul, judging from your name, icon and knowledge, you are the perfect fellow to weigh in here. Can’t thank you enough! (As an aside, part of my 54mm project will feature the quite excellent Plastoy Asterix figures to provide general colour.)

    Guy, your discussion of Welsh is illuminating. A lovely language. A university mate was from Wales and I fondly remember the feeling that I could sit and listen to him speak, about anything, for hours on end, just to hear more of that lilt and cadence that is so pleasing to the ear. Living in Southern California (not exactly filled with Welshmen), these days I have to pop in Zulu to hear even the least bit of it. Thanks again for weighing in. If you’ll forgive me being lazy, I’m going to quote what I said on another forum:

    If there is one thing I’ve been reminded of both here and on the other forum where I posted this question, it is that this is an area where even fluent speakers can disagree. I’ve received many different answers, some of them quite different from each other. I remember from my university days how our professors (all Englishmen) used to complain, in a good humoured way, over American pronunciations of Classical Greek; “they sound so American,” they would smile. And the French professors in speaking Greek sounded French, the Germans Germans, and so on and so on…we even had one fellow from the Lone Star State who read Iliad XXIV – Priam beseeching Achilles – in fluid Greek but with a distinct Texan twang! It’s not surprising, really; we follow the sound patterns we are used to. One professor went on to wonder if an actual Greek from 5th century Athens could have understood a single one of us; it’s quite possible they wouldn’t be able to.

    Getting back to Latin I must admit to an indefensible bias: I struggle mightily with the classical ‘w’ sound instead of ‘v’. It just sounds silly to my modern American ears. For example, I was told elsewhere Nervii should be pronounced “NER-wee” (several have pointed out the use of the glottal stop is almost certainly incorrect); to me this sounds like the name of a songbird, or something small and fluffy. Indefensible, I know, but there you are. So what I think I might do is follow, in a general way, the Vulgate. We’ll see…

    Thanks again for the responses!

    Avatar photoAutodidact-O-Saurus

    Being cripplingly monolingual, I have nothing to add to this thread except to say thank you. It’s been quite interesting. Though I might mention the book ‘Empires of the Word–A Language History of the World’ by Nicholas Ostler. It’s an interesting (though somewhat long winded) study as to how and why some language communities have succeeded and others fail. Fascinating stuff.

    Self taught, persistently behind the times, never up to date. AKA ~ jeff
    More verbosity: http://petiteguerre.blogspot.com/

    Avatar photoGone Fishing

    I struggle myself, AOS. Which is why I asked in the first place! Excellent lead on the Ostler book. This is a subject that interests me greatly, so I may have to look that up.

    Avatar photoA Lot of Gaul

    You are very welcome, Gone Fishing! I can’t make any claim to special expertise, but this is my favorite period, and I have looked into this particular issue pretty extensively for my own gaming. To further muddy the waters (and to show you an example of real nerdism), I have explored what the names would likely have been if translated directly from Gaulish or Proto-Germanic directly into English, without having gone through the filter of Latin first. In other words, how the ancient Gauls and Germans might have pronounced their own names, rather than what the Romans would have transliterated the ‘foreign’ sounds into Latin. So I have:

    1) Aedui = Aedui (EYE-dwee) = “Ardent Ones”
    2) Nervii = Neruii (NER-wee-ee) = “Vigorous Ones”
    3) Arverni = Aruerni (ar-WER-nee) = “At the Alder Grove”
    4) Allobroges = Allobroges (AL-lo-BRO-gays) = “Foreigners”
    5) Ariovistus = Harjawīsaz (HAR-ya-WEES-az) = “Certain (Wise) Army Leader”
    6) Suebi =Swēbaz (SWAY-baz) = “Our Own People”
    7) Chatti = Hatti (HAT-ti) = “Angry Ones” or “Haters”

    And so on.

    In any case, personally I would either accept the all of pronunciations as scholars think they actually were (no matter how ‘silly’ some of them may sound to modern ears), or go consistently with the modern Anglicised versions. A weird hybrid, or use of Vulgate pronunciations from a thousand years later would sound strange and ‘inappropriate’ to me. But YMMV, and the bottom line is that you should do what ‘works’ best for you and your own wargaming experience.


    "Ventosa viri restabit." ~ Harry Field

    Avatar photoGone Fishing

    Hi Scott,

    Those alternate pronunciations are most intriguing. Thank you. Honestly, the more I think about this (and yes, talk about a nerd!) the more I think you’re right; better to get over my aversion to the ‘w’ sound and get on with it. And it rather begs the question of why ask for proper pronunciations in the first place if I don’t intend to use them. The problem, I think, is overcoming years of only hearing Latin at mass or from priests. But as I said, time to get over it…

    Lovely to hear this period is your great passion. Do you game in 28mm? Do you have a blog? Not sure if you know this one already – and be warned, it’s in 54mm – but this site has proved a huge inspiration for my gearing up for the Gallic Wars.


    Thank you kindly for all the help,


    Avatar photoGuy Farrish


    No offence Scott, but how do you get to the original pronunciation of the Gauls and Germans without using the Latin and Greek transcripts?

    There are few Gaulish texts about and mostly fragments at that (using Greek or Latin script).


    Anyway, if you are very nerdy/sad/feel like brightening your day by removing any mystique that Wikipedia knows anything – have a look at this page from the background talk about Gaulish and wonder that we ‘know’ anything.

    Academics can look away now!

    Gaulish as she is spoke!



    Avatar photoA Lot of Gaul

    First, let me extend my apologies for not replying sooner, but for nearly three weeks I have been unable to log in to the TWW site, instead receiving a notice stating, “503: Service Temporarily Unavailable – Too many IP addresses accessing one secure area.” Mike helped me sort things out, and so now I can log in to the site again. Thanks, Mike! 

    Daryl – I wargame with 15/18mm models, but I think that your 54mm project and the blog you linked to look like great fun, especially your inclusion of Asterix figures as part of your project! I do not have a blog myself, but I do frequent TWW and LAF, as well as Swordpoint and few other game-specific fora. And I wish you great success with your project.

    Guy – No offence taken! As I said before, I have no special expertise in this subject, but I do know that linguists use a number of different tools in attempting to ‘reverse engineer’ and reconstruct ancient languages, e.g. by comparing them with similar aspects of more recent related languages, as well as inscriptions and other contemporary written sources. In this case, there are more than 700 inscriptions written in Gaulish using Greek or Latin lettering, including the Coligny Calendar, the Larzac and other tablets, and a number of shorter funerary and other inscriptions.

    These Gaulish inscriptions written using Greek or Latin script are quite different from texts written in the Greek or Latin language. For example, the Gaulish word “toutious,” meaning “tribal member” or “citizen,” can be written in Greek as “τουτιους” or in Latin as “TOVTIOVS,” but it is still a Gaulish word, i.e. it has no meaning in either Greek or Latin.

    In regard to pronunciation, some Gaulish words were pronounced like their Greek and/or Latin transliterations, and some were not. Linguists also try to trace back from modern Insular Celtic languages such as Breton, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic and Manx, back through known ancestors to the point where Insular Celtic split from Continental Celtic, and then compare those with the inscriptions in Gaulish, Lepontic and Celtiberian to find points of similarity, and speculatively fill in from there, all the way back to the original Indo-European language. This is the same process used to try to recreate the pronunciation of Attic and other ancient Greek languages, as well as Classical Latin.

    As in any speculative art or science, there are a number of different theories for reconstructing these ancient languages, along with a great deal of debate about which reconstruction – or ‘simulation’ if you will – is the most accurate. In the end, one can either pick a plausible-looking reconstruction and stick with it, or just keep things simple and use the modern Anglicized forms. For my own gaming I have chosen to do the former, because I feel that it adds more ‘period feel’ and colour. But in public fora like this one, I use the latter to keep things simple.

    For those who may be interested, here are some online sites (with references), which I have found to be useful:

    The “Gaulish” entry for Omniglot: online encyclopaedia of writing systems and languages: https://www.omniglot.com/writing/gaulish.htm

    The References/Bibliography page for The Modern Gaulish Language site: http://moderngaulish.com/references-bibliography

    Especially useful for Gaulish grammar, syntax and vocabulary is the following resource:

    Piqueron, Olivier (2006) Yextis Keltika, Yahoo Celtica Conlang Files: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/celticaconlang/ (note: file access for group members only)

    For Proto-Germanic, I like the Germanic Lexicon site: http://lexicon.ff.cuni.cz

    This is my favorite Proto-Germanic dictionary: http://www.koeblergerhard.de/germwbhinw.html

    The Reginheim site has also been very useful: http://www.geocities.ws/reginheim/home.html

    Naturally, YMMV and there are many other good resources out there. This is just what has ‘worked’ for me in my own personal miniatures wargaming adventure.

    Cheers and good gaming to you!

    "Ventosa viri restabit." ~ Harry Field

    Avatar photoGone Fishing

    Hi Scott,

    I think we deserve each other: I haven’t checked this thread for a while and so hadn’t seen your excellent post above. Thank you. You’ve really given some thought to this subject and so I especially appreciate your contribution.

    Take care and happy gaming!


    Avatar photoGraham Harrison

    I have only just caught this discussion and thanks to all the contributors for a fascinating read!

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