Diachronic distribution of Celtic peoples, on the traditional view:
 Core Hallstatt territory, by the sixth century BC
 Maximal Celtic expansion by 275 BC
 Lusitanian area of Iberia where Celtic presence is uncertain
 Areas where Celtic languages remain widely spoken today
The Wandsworth Shield-boss, in the plastic style, found in London

The Celts (s/, see pronunciation of Celt for different usages) are[1] a collection of ethnic groups of Europe identified by their use of the Indo-European Celtic languages[2] and cultural similarities.[3] The history of pre-Celtic Europe and the exact relationship between ethnic, linguistic and cultural factors in the Celtic world remains uncertain and controversial.[4] The exact geographic spread of the ancient Celts is disputed; in particular, the ways in which the Iron Age inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland should be regarded as Celts have become a subject of controversy.[3][4][5][6] According to one theory, the common root of the Celtic languages, the Proto-Celtic language, arose in the Late Bronze Age Urnfield culture of Central Europe, which flourished from around 1200 BC.[7]

According to a theory proposed in the 19th century, the first people to adopt cultural characteristics regarded as Celtic were the people of the Iron Age Hallstatt culture in central Europe (c. 800–450 BC), named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria.[7][8] Thus this area is sometimes called the "Celtic homeland". By or during the later La Tène period (c. 450 BC to the Roman conquest), this Celtic culture was supposed to have expanded by trans-cultural diffusion or migration to the British Isles (Insular Celts), France and the Low Countries (Gauls), Bohemia, Poland and much of Central Europe, the Iberian Peninsula (Celtiberians, Celtici, Lusitanians and Gallaeci) and northern Italy (Golasecca culture and Cisalpine Gauls)[9] and, following the Celtic settlement of Eastern Europe beginning in 279 BC, as far east as central Anatolia (Galatians) in modern-day Turkey.[10]

The earliest undisputed direct examples of a Celtic language are the Lepontic inscriptions beginning in the 6th century BC.[11] Continental Celtic languages are attested almost exclusively through inscriptions and place-names. Insular Celtic languages are attested beginning around the 4th century in Ogham inscriptions, although they were clearly being spoken much earlier. Celtic literary tradition begins with Old Irish texts around the 8th century AD. Coherent texts of Early Irish literature, such as the Táin Bó Cúailnge ("Cattle Raid of Cooley"), survive in 12th-century recensions.

By the mid-1st millennium, with the expansion of the Roman Empire and migrating Germanic tribes, Celtic culture and Insular Celtic languages had become restricted to Ireland, the western and northern parts of Great Britain (Wales, Scotland, and Cornwall), the Isle of Man, and Brittany. Between the 5th and 8th centuries, the Celtic-speaking communities in these Atlantic regions emerged as a reasonably cohesive cultural entity. They had a common linguistic, religious and artistic heritage that distinguished them from the culture of the surrounding polities.[12] By the 6th century, however, the Continental Celtic languages were no longer in wide use.

Insular Celtic culture diversified into that of the Gaels (Irish, Scottish and Manx) and the Celtic Britons (Welsh, Cornish, and Bretons) of the medieval and modern periods.[13][14] A modern Celtic identity was constructed as part of the Romanticist Celtic Revival in Great Britain, Ireland, and other European territories, such as Portugal and Spanish Galicia.[15] Today, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, and Breton are still spoken in parts of their historical territories, and Cornish and Manx are undergoing a revival.

Names and terminology

Celtic stele from Galicia, 2nd century: "APANA·AMBO(-) /
SUPERTAM(arica) /
(castello) MAIOBRI /
(ic)·S(ita)·E(st) /

The first recorded use of the name of Celts – as Κελτοί (Keltoi) in Greek – to refer to an ethnic group was by Hecataeus of Miletus, the Greek geographer, in 517 BC,[16] when writing about a people living near Massilia (modern Marseille).[17] In the fifth century BC, Herodotus referred to Keltoi living around the head of the Danube and also in the far west of Europe.[18] The etymology of the term Keltoi is unclear. Possible roots include Indo-European *kʲel 'to hide' (present also in Old Irish ceilid), IE *kʲel 'to heat' or *kel 'to impel'.[19] Several authors have supposed it to be Celtic in origin, while others view it as a name coined by Greeks. Linguist Patrizia De Bernardo Stempel falls in the latter group, and suggests the meaning "the tall ones".[20]

In the 1st century BC, Julius Caesar reported that the people known to the Romans as Gauls (Latin: Galli) called themselves Celts,[21] which suggests that even if the name Keltoi was bestowed by the Greeks, it had been adopted to some extent as a collective name by the tribes of Gaul. The geographer Strabo, writing about Gaul towards the end of the first century BC, refers to the "race which is now called both Gallic and Galatic," though he also uses the term Celtica as a synonym for Gaul, which is separated from Iberia by the Pyrenees. Yet he reports Celtic peoples in Iberia, and also uses the ethnic names Celtiberi and Celtici for peoples there, as distinct from Lusitani and Iberi.[22] Pliny the Elder cited the use of Celtici in Lusitania as a tribal surname,[23] which epigraphic findings have confirmed.[24][25]

Latin Gallus (pl. Galli) might stem from a Celtic ethnic or tribal name originally, perhaps one borrowed into Latin during the Celtic expansions into Italy during the early fifth century BC. Its root may be the Proto-Celtic *galno, meaning "power, strength", hence Old Irish gal "boldness, ferocity" and Welsh gallu "to be able, power". The tribal names of Gallaeci and the Greek Γαλάται (Galatai, Latinized Galatae; see the region Galatia in Anatolia) most probably have the same origin.[26] The suffix -atai might be an Ancient Greek inflection.[27] Classical writers did not apply the terms Κελτοί (Keltoi) or Celtae to the inhabitants of Britain or Ireland,[3][4][5] which has led to some scholars preferring not to use the term for the Iron Age inhabitants of those islands.[3][4][5][6]

Celt is a modern English word, first attested in 1707, in the writing of Edward Lhuyd, whose work, along with that of other late 17th-century scholars, brought academic attention to the languages and history of the early Celtic inhabitants of Great Britain.[28] The English form Gaul (first recorded in the 17th century) and Gaulish come from the French Gaule and Gaulois, a borrowing from Frankish *Walholant, "Roman land" (see Gaul: Name), the root of which is Proto-Germanic *walha-, "foreigner, Roman, Celt", whence the English word Welsh (Old English wælisċ < *walhiska-), South German welsch, meaning "Celtic speaker", "French speaker" or "Italian speaker" in different contexts, and Old Norse valskr, pl. valir, "Gaulish, French"). Proto-Germanic *walha is derived ultimately from the name of the Volcae,[29] a Celtic tribe who lived first in the south of Germany and in central Europe and then migrated to Gaul.[30] This means that English Gaul, despite its superficial similarity, is not actually derived from Latin Gallia (which should have produced **Jaille in French), though it does refer to the same ancient region.

Celtic refers to a family of languages and, more generally, means "of the Celts" or "in the style of the Celts". Several archaeological cultures are considered Celtic in nature, based on unique sets of artefacts. The link between language and artefact is aided by the presence of inscriptions.[31] The relatively modern idea of an identifiable Celtic cultural identity or "Celticity" generally focuses on similarities among languages, works of art, and classical texts,[32] and sometimes also among material artefacts, social organisation, homeland and mythology.[33] Earlier theories held that these similarities suggest a common racial origin for the various Celtic peoples, but more recent theories hold that they reflect a common cultural and language heritage more than a genetic one. Celtic cultures seem to have been widely diverse, with the use of a Celtic language being the main thing they had in common.[3]

Today, the term Celtic generally refers to the languages and respective cultures of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, and Brittany, also known as the Celtic nations. These are the regions where four Celtic languages are still spoken to some extent as mother tongues. The four are Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, and Breton; plus two recent revivals, Cornish (one of the Brittonic languages) and Manx (one of the Goidelic languages). There are also attempts to reconstruct Cumbric, a Brittonic language from North West England and South West Scotland. Celtic regions of Continental Europe are those whose residents claim a Celtic heritage, but where no Celtic language has survived; these areas include the western Iberian Peninsula, i.e. Portugal and north-central Spain (Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Castile and León, Extremadura).[34]

Continental Celts are the Celtic-speaking people of mainland Europe and Insular Celts are the Celtic-speaking peoples of the British and Irish islands and their descendants. The Celts of Brittany derive their language from migrating insular Celts, mainly from Wales and Cornwall, and so are grouped accordingly.[35]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Kelte
Alemannisch: Kelten
العربية: كلت
aragonés: Celtas
asturianu: Celta
azərbaycanca: Keltlər
Bân-lâm-gú: Kelt lâng
беларуская: Кельты
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Кельты
български: Келти
Boarisch: Köitn
bosanski: Kelti
brezhoneg: Kelted
català: Celtes
čeština: Keltové
Cymraeg: Y Celtiaid
dansk: Keltere
Deutsch: Kelten
eesti: Keldid
español: Celta
Esperanto: Keltoj
euskara: Zelta
فارسی: سلت‌ها
føroyskt: Keltar
français: Celtes
Frysk: Kelten
Gaeilge: Na Ceiltigh
Gaelg: Ny Celtiee
Gàidhlig: Ceilteach
galego: Celta
한국어: 켈트족
հայերեն: Կելտեր
hrvatski: Kelti
Bahasa Indonesia: Kelt
íslenska: Keltar
italiano: Celti
עברית: קלטים
ქართული: კელტები
қазақша: Кельттер
kernowek: Kelt
Kiswahili: Wakelti
kurdî: Kelt
Кыргызча: Кельттер
Latina: Celtae
latviešu: Ķelti
Lëtzebuergesch: Kelten
lietuvių: Keltai
Limburgs: Kelte
magyar: Kelták
македонски: Келти
მარგალური: კელტეფი
مصرى: كيلت
مازِرونی: سلت
Bahasa Melayu: Celt
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ကဲ့လူမျိုး
Nederlands: Kelten
日本語: ケルト人
norsk: Keltere
norsk nynorsk: Keltarar
occitan: Cèltas
پنجابی: سیلٹ
polski: Celtowie
português: Celtas
Ripoarisch: Kelte
română: Celți
rumantsch: Celts
русский: Кельты
sardu: Tzeltos
Scots: Celts
shqip: Keltët
sicilianu: Celti
Simple English: Celts
slovenčina: Kelti
slovenščina: Kelti
کوردی: کێلتەکان
српски / srpski: Келти
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Kelti
suomi: Keltit
svenska: Kelter
Tagalog: Kelta
tarandíne: Cèlte
Türkçe: Keltler
українська: Кельти
اردو: کیلٹ
vèneto: Celti
Tiếng Việt: Người Celt
West-Vlams: Keltn
Winaray: Celta
吴语: 克尔特人
粵語: 塞爾特人
中文: 凯尔特人