Northeastern Hispano-Celtic
Native toIberian Peninsula
Extinctattested 2nd century BC – 1st century AD[1]
Celtiberian script
Language codes
ISO 639-3xce
  Celtiberian in the context of the Paleohispanic languages

Celtiberian or Northeastern Hispano-Celtic is an extinct Indo-European language of the Celtic branch spoken by the Celtiberians in an area of the Iberian Peninsula between the headwaters of the Douro, Tagus, Júcar and Turia rivers and the Ebro river. This language is directly attested in nearly 200 inscriptions dated from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD, mainly in Celtiberian script, a direct adaptation of the northeastern Iberian script, but also in the Latin alphabet. The longest extant Celtiberian inscriptions are those on three Botorrita plaques, bronze plaques from Botorrita near Zaragoza, dating to the early 1st century BC, labeled Botorrita I, III and IV (Botorrita II is in Latin).


Under the P/Q Celtic hypothesis, and like its Iberian relative Gallaecian, Celtiberian is classified as a Q Celtic language, putting it in the same category as Goidelic and not P-Celtic like Gaulish or Brittonic.[2]

Under the Insular/Continental Celtic hypothesis, Celtiberian and Gaulish are grouped together as Continental Celtic languages but this grouping is paraphyletic: no evidence suggests the two shared any common innovation separately from Insular Celtic. According to Ranko Matasovic in the introduction to his 2009 Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic : "Celtiberian...is almost certainly an independent branch on the Celtic genealogical tree, one that became separated from the others very early."[3]

Celtiberian has a fully inflected relative pronoun ios (as does, for instance, Ancient Greek), an ancient feature that was not preserved by the other Celtic languages, and the particles -kue 'and' < *kʷe (cf. Latin -que, Attic Greek τε te), nekue 'nor' < *ne-kʷe (cf. Latin neque), ekue 'also, as well' < *h₂et(i)-kʷe (cf. Lat. atque, Gaulish ate, OIr. aith 'again'), ve "or" (cf. Latin enclitic -ve and Attic Greek ē < Proto-Greek *ē-we). As in Welsh, there is an s-subjunctive, gabiseti "he shall take" (Old Irish gabid), robiseti, auseti. Compare Umbrian ferest "he/she/it shall make" or Ancient Greek δείξῃ deiksēi (aorist subj.) / δείξει deiksei (future ind.) "(that) he/she/it shall show".


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Celtiberian was a Celtic language that shows the characteristic sound changes of Celtic languages such as:[4]

PIE Consonants

Final *-m is preserved in Celtiberian (and Lepontic), a further indication of these dialects' conservatism. It is generally fronted to -n in Gaulish (exceptional cases, for instance on the Larzac tablet, are probably due to influence from Latin): boustom "stable."[9]

Consonant clusters


Syllabic resonants and laryngeals

Exclusive developments


Noun and adjective cases

Case Singular   Plural
ā-stem o-stem i-stem u-stem r-stem ā-stem o-stem i-stem u-stem r-stem
Nominative *arznā *veizos / *vamos (n. *-om) *gentis *loutus duater *arznās / *arznī *veizoi (n *-a) *gentis *loutoves *duateres
Accusative *arznām *veizom *gentim *loutum *duaterem *arznās < -*ams *veizus < *-ōs < -*oms *gentīs < -*ims *loutūs < -*ums *duaterēs < -*ems
Genitive *arznās *veizo *gentes[14] ? *duateros *arznaum *veizum < *weidʰ-y-ōm *gentizum < *isōm *loutoum < *ewōm ?
Dative *arznāi *veizūi < *weidʰ-y-ōi *gentei *loutuei[15] ? ? *veizubos ? ? ?
Ablative *arznaz[16] *veizuz < *weidʰ-y-ōd / *vamuz < *up-m̥ōd *gentiz *loutuez *duaterez < -*ed ? *veizubos ? ? ?
Locative *arznai *veizei *gentei ? ? ? ? ? ? ?


An -n- stem can be seen in melmu nom.sg. < *-ōn, melmunos gen. sg. (from Botorrita III, probably a name).

It is notable that the genitive singular -o- stem ends in -o in Celtiberian, unlike the rest of Celtic (and Italic) where this ending is -ī[19][20]

There is also a potential Vocative case, however this is very poorly attested, with only an ambiguous -e ending for o-stem nouns being cited in literature.

Demonstrative pronouns

Case Singular   Plural
masculine feminine neuter masculine feminine neuter
Nominative *so: so viros 'this man' *sa: sa duater 'this daughter' *soz: soz bezom < *so-d *bʰedʰ-yom 'this mine'. *sos < *so-s ? *sas < *sa-s ? *soizos < so-syos < *so-sy-os ?
Accusative *som: 'to this' *sam: 'to this' *sozom < *so-sy-om? *sus < *sōs < *so-ms *sās < *sa-ms *soizus < so-syōs < *so-sy-oms ??
Genitive ? ? ? soum < *so-ōm 'of these' saum < *sa-ōm 'of these' soizum < *so-sy-ōm 'of these'
Dative somui < *so-sm-ōi 'for this' somai < *so-sm-ai 'for this' ? ? ? ?
Locative somei < *so-sm-ei 'from this' samei < *sa-sm-ei 'from this' ? ? ? ?


Relative pronoun

Forms of the masculine singular relative pronoun *yo- can be found in the first Botorrita plaque: The form io-s in line 10 is the nominative singular masculine of the relative pronoun from Proto-Indo-European *yo- (Sanskrit ya-, Greek hos), which shows up in Old Irish only as the aspiration[clarification needed] for leniting relative verb forms. Line 7 has the accusative singular io-m and the dative singular io-mui of the same root.[22]

Verbal endings

The Indo-European third person verbal ending system seems to be evident, though the exact meaning of many verbs remains unclear: primary singular active *-ti in ambitise-ti (Botorrita I, A.5), '(that someone) builds around > enclose' < *h₂m̥bi-dʰingʰ-s-e-ti, and auzeti, secondary *-t > /θ/ written <z> in terbere-z (SP.02.08, B-4) and perhaps kombalke-z; primary plural active *-nti in ara-nti (Z.09.24, A-4) and zizonti "they sow" (or perhaps "they give" with assimilation of the initial do the medial <z>),[23] secondary *-nt perhaps in atibio-n (Z.09.24, A-5), middle voice *-nto in auzanto (Z.09.03, 01) and perhaps esianto (SP.02.08 A-2).

A third person imperative *-tо̄d > -tuz perhaps is seen in da-tuz "he must give" (Bronze plaque of Torrijo del Campo), usabituz, bize-tuz (Botorrita I A.5) and dinbituz 'he must build' < *dʰingʰ-bī-tōd. A possible third person singular subjunctive may be asekati.

A possible infinitive form may be seen in ambi-tinko-unei (Botorrita I A.5), though the exact etymological source for such an ending remains unclear, and in ta-unei ‘to give’.[24][25]


Celtiberian syntax is considered to have the basic order Subject - Object - Verb.[26] Another archaic Indo-European feature is the use of the relative pronoun jos and the repetition of enclitised conjunctions such as kwe.

Sample texts

First Botorrita plaque, side A

One of four bronze plaques found in Botorrita, this text was written in eastern Celtiberian script. The other side consists of a list of names. (K.01.01.A)

trikantam : bergunetakam : togoitos-kue : sarnikio (:) kue : sua : kombalkez : nelitom
nekue [: to-ver-daunei : litom : nekue : daunei : litom : nekue : masnai : dizaunei : litom : soz : augu
aresta[lo] : damai : uta : oskues : stena : verzoniti : silabur : sleitom : konsklitom : gabizeti
kantom [:] sanklistara : otanaum : togoitei : eni : uta : oskuez : boustom-ve : korvinom-ve
makasiam-ve : ailam-ve : ambidiseti : kamanom : usabituz : ozas : sues : sailo : kusta : bizetuz : iom
asekati : [a]mbidingounei : stena : es : vertai : entara : tiris : matus : dinbituz : neito : trikantam
eni : oisatuz : iomui : listas : titas : zizonti : somui : iom : arznas : bionti : iom : kustaikos
arznas : kuati : ias : ozias : vertatosue : temeiue : robiseti : saum : dekametinas : datuz : somei
eni touzei : iste : ankios : iste : esankios : uze : areitena : sarnikiei : akainakubos
nebintor : togoitei : ios : vramtiom-ve : auzeti : aratim-ve : dekametam : datuz : iom : togoitos-kue
sarnikio-kue : aiuizas : kombalkores : aleites : iste : ires : ruzimuz : Ablu : ubokum
soz augu arestalo damai[27]
all this (is) valid by order of the competent authority
soz: all this (< *sod).
augo: final, valid (< *h₂eug-os 'strong, valid', cf. Latin augustus 'solemn').
arestalo: of the competent authority (gen. sing. arestalos < *pr̥Hi-steh₂-lo 'competent authority' < *pr̥Hi-sto 'what is first, authority').
damai: by order (instrumental fem. sing. < *dʰoh₁m-eh₂ 'establish, dispose').
(Translation: Prospér 2006)
saum dekametinas datuz somei eni touzei iste ankios iste es-ankios[28]
of these, he will give the tax inside of this territory, so be fenced as be unfenced
saum: of these (< *sa-ōm).
dekametinas: the tithes, the tax.
datuz: he will pay, will give.
eni: inside, in (< *h₁en-i).
somei: of this (loc. sing. < *so-sm-ei 'from this').
touzei: territory (loc. sing. < *touzom 'territory' < *tewt-yo).
iste ankios: so (be) fenced.
iste es-ankios: as (be) unfenced.
(Transcription: Jordán 2004)
togoitei ios vramtiom-ve auzeti aratim-ve dekametam datuz
In Togotis, he who draws water either for the green or for the farmland, the tithe (of their yield) he shall give
(Translation: De Bernardo 2007)

Great inscription from Peñalba de Villastar

An inscription in the Latin alphabet in the Celtiberian sanctuary of Peñalba de Villastar, in the current municipality of Villastar, Teruel province. (K.03.03) Other translations, which differ dramatically from this and from each other, may be found in P. Sims-Williams' treatment of the Celtic languages in The Indo-European Languages.[29]

eni Orosei
uta Tigino tiatunei
erecaias to Luguei
araianom komeimu
eni Orosei Ekuoisui-kue
okris olokas togias sistat Luguei tiaso
eni Orosei uta Tigino tiatunei erecaias to Luguei araianom comeimu
In Orosis and the surroundings of Tigino river, we dedicate the fields to Lugus.
eni: in (< *h₁en-i).
Orosei: Orosis (loc. sing. *oros-ei).
uta: and (conj. cop.).
Tigino: of Tigino (river) (gen. sing. *tigin-o).
tiatunei: in the surroundings (loc. sing. *tiatoun-ei < *to-yh₂eto-mn-ei).
erecaias: the furrows > the land cultivated (acc. pl. fem. erekaiās < *perka-i-ans > English furrow).
to Luguei: to Lugus.
araianom: properly, totally, (may be a verbal complement > *pare-yanom, cfr. welsh iawn).
comeimu: we dedicate (present 3 p.pl. komeimu < *komeimuz < *kom-ei-mos-i).
eni Orosei Ekuoisui-kue okris olokas togias sistat Luguei
In Orosis and Equeiso the hills, the vegetable gardens [and] the houses are dedicated to Lugus.
Ekuoisui: in Ekuoisu (loc. sing.) -kue: and (< *-kʷe).
okris: the hills (nom. pl. < *h₂ok-r-eyes).
olokas: the vegetable gardens (nom. pl. olokas < *olkās < *polk-eh₂-s > English fallow).
togias: (and) the roofs > houses (nom. pl. or gen. sg. togias < tog-ya-s > Old Irish tuige "cover, protection).[30]
sistat: are they (dedicated) (3 p.pl. < *sistant < *si-sth₂-nti).
Luguei: to Lug (dat. Lugue-i).
(Transcription: Meid 1994, Translation: Prósper 2002[31])

Bronze plaque of Torrijo del Campo

A bronze plaque found in Torrijo del Campo, Teruel province in 1996, using the eastern Celtiberian script.

derkininei : es
kenim : dures : lau
ni : olzui : obakai
eskenim : dures
useizunos : gorzo
nei : lutorikum : ei
subos : adizai : ekue : kar
tinokum : ekue : lankikum
ekue : tirtokum : silabur
sazom : ibos : esatui
Lutorikum eisubos adizai ekue Kartinokum ekue Lankikum ekue Tirtokum silabur sazom ibos esatui (datuz)
for those of the Lutorici included in the duty, and also of the Cartinoci, of the Lancici and of the Tritoci, must give enough money to settle the debt with them.
Lutorikum: of the Lutorici ( gen. masc. pl.).
eisubos: for those included ( < *h1epi-s-o-bʰos).
adizai: in the assignment, in the duty (loc. fem. sing. < *adittia < *ad-dik-tia. Cfr. Latin addictio 'assignment').
ekue: and also (< *h₂et(i)kʷe).
Kartinokum: of the Cartinoci ( gen. masc. pl.).
Lankikum: of the Lancici ( gen. masc. pl.).
Tirtokum: of the Tritoci ( gen. masc. pl.).
silabur: money.
sazom: enough (< *sātio < *seh₂t-yo).
ibos: for them (dat.3 p.pl. ibus < *i-bʰos).
esatui: to settle the debt (< *essato < *eks-h₂eg-to. Cfr. Latin ex-igo 'demand, require' & exactum 'identical, equivalent').
datuz: must give (< *dh₃-tōd).
(Transcription and Translation: Prósper 2015)

See also


  1. ^ Bernd Vath; Sabine Ziegler (2017). "The documentation of Celtic". In Jared Klein; Brian Joseph; Matthias Fritz (eds.). Handbook of Comparative and Historical Indo-European Linguistics. pp. 1168–1188. doi:10.1515/9783110523874-022.
  2. ^ Mallory, J. P. (1989). In Search of the Indo-Europeans. Thames & Hudson. p. 106. ISBN 0-500-05052-X.
  3. ^ Ranko Matasovic 2009 Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic Leiden: Brill, 2009, p.13 https://archive.org/stream/EtymologicalDictionaryOfProtoCeltic/Etymological%20Dictionary%20of%20Proto-Celtic_djvu.txt
  4. ^ Koch, John (2005). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABL-CIO. pp. 1465–66. ISBN 978-1-85109-440-0. Retrieved June 10, 2011.
  5. ^ Matasovic, R. Etymological Dictionary Of Proto-Celtic Brill, 2009, pp. 264-265
  6. ^ Lambert, Pierre-Yves. "Francisco Villar, M.a Pilar Fernandez Álvarez, ed. Religión, lengua y cultura prerromanas de Hispania, Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, 2001 (Acta Salmanticensia, Estudios Filológicos, 283). = Actas del VIII Coloquio internacional sobre lenguas y culturas prerromanas de la Península Ibérica (11-14 mai 1999, Salamanque)". In: Etudes Celtiques, vol. 35, 2003. p. 393. [www.persee.fr/doc/ecelt_0373-1928_2003_num_35_1_2242_t1_0386_0000_2]
  7. ^ De Bernardo, P. "La gramática celtibérica del bronce de Botorrita. Nuevos Resultados". In Palaeohispanica 9 (2009), pp. 683-699.
  8. ^ Schmidt, K. H. "How to define celtiberian archaims?". in Palaeohispanica 10 (2010), pp. 479-487.
  9. ^ Cólera, Carlos Jordán (2007) "Celtiberian," e-Keltoi: Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies: Vol. 6, Article 17. p. 768 Available at: https://dc.uwm.edu/ekeltoi/vol6/iss1/17
  10. ^ De Bernardo Stempel, Patrizia 2009 "El nombre -¿céltico?- de la Pintia vaccea". BSAA Arqueología Nº. 75, (243-256).
  11. ^ Cólera, Carlos Jordán (2007) "Celtiberian," e-Keltoi: Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies: Vol. 6, Article 17. p753. Available at: https://dc.uwm.edu/ekeltoi/vol6/iss1/17
  12. ^ Ranko Matasovic 2009 Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic Leiden: Brill, 2009, p.17 https://archive.org/stream/EtymologicalDictionaryOfProtoCeltic/Etymological%20Dictionary%20of%20Proto-Celtic_djvu.txt
  13. ^ Cólera, Carlos Jordán (2007) "Celtiberian," e-Keltoi: Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies: Vol. 6, Article 17. p.763 Available at: https://dc.uwm.edu/ekeltoi/vol6/iss1/17
  14. ^ Gorrochategui, Joaquín 1991 "Descripción y posición lingiiistica del celtibérico" in "Memoriae L. Mitxelena magistri sacrum vol I (3-32)". Ed. Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea
  15. ^ Beltrán Lloris, F. Jordán Cólera, C. Marco Simón, F. 2005 "Novedades epigráficas en Peñalba de Villastar (Teruel)". Palaeohispánica: Revista sobre lenguas y culturas de la Hispania antigua Nº. 5, 911-956: ENIOROSEI Dat. sg. de un tema en -i. LVGVEI, Dat. sg. de un tema en -u. ERECAIAS, Gen .sg. de un tema en -a, TIASO, Gen. sg. de un tema en -o
  16. ^ Villar Liébana, F. 1996 "Fonética y Morfología Celtibéricas". La Hispania prerromana : actas del VI Coloquio sobre lenguas y culturas prerromanas de la Península Ibérica (339-378): 1) filiación expresada mediante genitivo y cuya desinencia es -as < (*-ās) y 2) origen que se expresa mediante ablativo, cuya desinencia es -az < (*-ād)
  17. ^ Wodtko, Dagmar S. "An outline of Celtiberian grammar" 2003
  18. ^ Václav, Blažek (2013-07-04). "Gaulish language". digilib.phil.muni.cz. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  19. ^ Francisco Beltrán Lloris and Carlos Jordán Cólera (2020) "Celtiberian" PALAEOHISPANICA: revista sobre lenguas y culturas de la Hispania antigua pp. 631-690. I.S.S.N. 1578-5386 DOI: 10.36707/palaeohispanica.v0i20.395
  20. ^ Untermann, J. (1967). "Die Endung des Genitiv singularis der o-Stämme im Keltiberischen." In W. Meid (ed.), Beiträge zur Indogermanistik und Keltologie, Julius Pokorny zum 80. Geburtstag gewidmet, pp. 281-288. Innsbruck: Sprachwissenschaftliches Institut der Universität Innsbruck.
  21. ^ Jordán Cólera, Carlos "La forma verbal cabint del bronce celtibérico de Novallas". En Emerita, Revista de Lingüística y Filología Clásica LXXXII 2, 2014, pp. 327-343
  22. ^ Matasovic, R. Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic. Leiden: Brill. 2006. p. 436
  23. ^ Addenda et corrigenda to Ranko Matasović’s Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic (Brill, Leiden 2009) Zagreb, December 2011, p.10. https://mudrac.ffzg.hr/~rmatasov/EDPC-Addenda%20et%20corrigenda.pdf
  24. ^ Addenda et corrigenda to Ranko Matasović’s Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic (Brill, Leiden 2009) Zagreb, December 2011, p.10. https://mudrac.ffzg.hr/~rmatasov/EDPC-Addenda%20et%20corrigenda.pdf
  25. ^ Francisco Beltrán Lloris and Carlos Jordán Cólera (2020) "Celtiberian" PALAEOHISPANICA: revista sobre lenguas y culturas de la Hispania antigua pp. 631-690. I.S.S.N. 1578-5386 DOI: 10.36707/palaeohispanica.v0i20.395
  26. ^ 2000. Fife J. 2000. Historical Aspects. In: The Celtic Languages. Ed. by Martin j. Ball. with James Fife. Routledge. P.74
  27. ^ Prósper, Blanca María (2006). "SOZ AUKU ARESTALO TAMAI: La segunda línea del bronce de Botorrita y el anafórico celtibérico" (PDF). Palaeohispánica: Revista sobre lenguas y culturas de la Hispania antigua (6). Institución Fernando el Católico: 139–150.
  28. ^ Jordán Cólera, Carlos (2004). "Celtibérico". Monografías de Filología Griega. 16 (IV). Zaragoza: Universidad de Zaragoza. ISBN 84-96214-38-9.
  29. ^ Kapović, M. (editor) The Indo-European Languages Routledge: 2017. p. 360 https://archive.org/stream/MateKapoviTheIndoEuropeanLanguages/Mate%20Kapovi%C4%87%20The%20Indo-European%20Languages_djvu.txt
  30. ^ Matasovic, R. Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic Leiden: Brill. 2009. p. 376
  31. ^ Prósper, Blanca M. 2002: «La gran inscripción rupestre celtibérica de Peñalba de Villastar. Una nueva interpretación», Palaeohispanica 2, pp. 213–226.


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Further reading[edit]

General studies

Specific themes

  • Bernardo Stempel, Patrizia de. "Celtic ‘son’, ‘daughter’, other descendants, and *sunus in Early Celtic". In: Indogermanische Forschungen 118, 2013 (2013): 259–298. doi: https://doi.org/10.1515/indo.2013.118.2013.259
  • Fernández, Esteban Ngomo. “A propósito de matrubos y los términos de parentesco en celtibérico”. In: Boletín del Archivo Epigráfico. Universidad Complutense de Madrid. nº. 4 (2019): 5-15. ISSN 2603-9117
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