Old Cornish, is an ancient Celtic language that was spoken in Cornwall over a thousand years ago. In this learning material, we will explore Old Cornish and its most famous document, the Cottonian Vocabulary.

Section 1: Old Cornish and Its Evolution

1.1 Historical Context:

  • Old Cornish and Welsh were once very similar languages.
  • Over time, they grew apart due to geographical separation and influence from other languages.
  • During the early Norman period (around the 12th century), Old Cornish and Welsh (especially Southern Welsh) were so alike that they were often mistaken for each other.

Section 2: The Cottonian Vocabulary

2.1 What is the Cottonian Vocabulary?

  • The Cottonian Vocabulary, also known as the Vocabularium Comicum or Old Cornish Vocabulary, is a list of Old Cornish words with their Latin translations.
  • It covers a wide range of topics, including body parts, animals, plants, church terms, and more.
  • The document even includes a Cornish calendar and information about Cornish and Welsh saints.

2.2 Historical Significance:

  • The Cottonian Vocabulary is one of the oldest surviving pieces of Old Cornish from the 12th century.
  • Initially, it was mistaken for a Welsh vocabulary because of the words “Vocabularium Wallicum” (Welsh vocabulary) written at the end.

2.3 Rediscovery:

  • Mr. John Antis discovered the Cottonian Vocabulary in the Cottonian Library during the early 1700s.
  • He questioned its classification and sought the expertise of Edward Lhuyd, a well-known Celtic scholar.

2.4 Edward Lhuyd’s Confirmation:

  • Edward Lhuyd recognized that the document was, in fact, Old Cornish and not Welsh.
  • He stated, “When I had seen the book, I knew very well that it was not a Welsh vocabulary… but a Cornish vocabulary.”

Section 3: Importance of the Cottonian Vocabulary

3.1 Linguistic Significance:

  • The manuscript is an invaluable resource for studying Old Cornish.
  • It is one of the earliest and longest texts in the language, shedding light on its development over time.

3.2 Insights into Culture and Religion:

  • The Cottonian Vocabulary provides insights into the culture and religion of Medieval Cornwall through its descriptions of saints and religious terms.

3.3 Preservation and Research:

  • This document is crucial for preserving the history of the Cornish language as it is one of the few sources of Old Cornish.
  • Scholars like Edward Lhuyd studied it extensively to better understand the language and its evolution.


The Cottonian Vocabulary offers a window into the world of Old Cornish, a language that once thrived in Cornwall. Its rediscovery and recognition by Mr. John Antis and Edward Lhuyd have been pivotal in understanding the linguistic and cultural heritage of this ancient Celtic language. Studying the Cottonian Vocabulary helps us appreciate the rich history of Cornwall and the importance of preserving linguistic diversity.


  • Old Cornish: An ancient Celtic language spoken in Cornwall.
  • Cottonian Vocabulary: A 12th-century manuscript with Old Cornish words and Latin translations.
  • Edward Lhuyd: A well-known Celtic scholar who confirmed the nature of the Cottonian Vocabulary.
  • Norman Era: A period in English history from the Norman Conquest in 1066 to the death of King John in 1216.
  • British Library: The current repository of the Cottonian Library, which contains the Cottonian Vocabulary.


  • The ‘Cottonian Vocabulary’ is a 12th-century manuscript with Cornish words and Latin translations
  • It was based on an earlier work by Aelfric, the ‘English-Latin Lexicon’
  • It was wrongly labelled as a Welsh vocabulary until Mr Antis found it in the Cottonian Library and showed it to Edward Lhuyd, a Celtic scholar
  • Lhuyd confirmed that it was a Cornish vocabulary and studied it from 1701 to 1707
  • The manuscript has seven pages of Cornish nouns related to various topics, such as the human body, nature, religion, etc.
  • It also has a calendar with Cornish words and the lives of Cornish and Welsh saints
  • This manuscript is very important for the history of the Cornish language as it is almost the only source of ‘Old Cornish’.
Latin Old Cornish English Translation
Deus omnipotens duy chefuidoc Almighty God
Celum nef Heaven
Angelus ail Angel
Archangelus archail Archangel
Stella steren Star
Sol heuul Sun
Luna luir Moon
Firmamentum firmament Firmament
Cursus redegua Course
Mundus enbit World
Tellus tir Earth
Terram doer Land
Humus gueret Soil
Mare mor Sea
Equor spauen mor Ocean
Pelagus mor difeid Pelagic
Oceanum mor tot Ocean
Homo den Man
Masculus gurruid Male
Femina benenrid Female
Sexus antromet Gender
Membrum esel Limb
Caput pen Head
Vertex divuleuuit Crown
Cerebrum impinion Brain
Cervix chil Neck
Collum conna Neck
Frons tal Forehead
Nasus trein Nose
Nares frue Nostrils
Capillus bleu yn grud Hair
Cesaries gols Beard
Coma cudin Hair
Auris scouarn Ear
Maxilla grud Jaw
Tempus erieu Temple
Facies enuoch Face
Supercilium abrans Eyebrow
Palpebrae bleuenlagat Eyelids
Oculus lagat Eye
Oculi legeit Eyes
Pupilla biuenlagat Pupil
Os genau Bone
Ossa ascorn Bones
Dens dans Tooth
Dentes dannet Teeth
Lingua tauot Tongue
Palatum stefenic Palate
Labia gueus Lips
Guttur briansen Throat
Mentum elgeht Chin
Barba barf Beard
Barban baref Beards
Collum guar Neck
Pectus cluit duiuron Chest
Cor colon Heart
Pulmo sceuens Lung
Jecur aui Liver
Fel bistel Gallbladder
Stomachus glas Stomach
Splen lepilloit Spleen
Adeps blonec Fat
Ruina suif Muscle
Viscus culurionein Organ
Exstum enederen Guts
Sanguis guit Blood
Caro chic Flesh
Cutis he Skin
Pellis croin Hide
Scapula scuid Shoulder Blade
Dorsum chein Back
Venter tor talon Belly
Brachium brech Arm
Ulna elin Forearm
Manus lau lof Hand
Digitus bis Finger
Digiti bess Fingers
Digitum bes Thumb
Unguis euuin Nail
Palma palf Palm
Artus chevals Joint
Latus tenepen Side
Costa asen Rib
Renes duiglun Kidneys
Nervus goiuen Nerve
Vena guid Vein
Femur morboit Thigh
Clunis penclun Buttocks
Genu penclin Knee
Crus fer Leg
Tibia elescher Shin
Talus lifern Ankle
Pes truit Foot
Planta godentruit Sole of the Foot
Allax bis truit Toe
Ungula epincarn Hoof
Patriarcha hupeltat Patriarch
Propheta profait Prophet
Apostolus apostol Apostle
Archiepiscopus archescop Archbishop
Episcopus escop Bishop
Regnum ruifanaid Kingdom
Abbas abat Abbot
Presbiter hebrenchiat plui oferiat Priest
Sacerdos prounder Priest
Clericus cloireg Cleric
Diaconus diagon Deacon
Monachus manach Monk
Monialis manaes Nun
Anachoreta ancar Hermit
Heremita ermit Hermit
Nonna laines Niece
Cantor cheniat Cantor
Cantrix canores Cantress
Lector redior Reader
Lectrix rediores Reader (feminine)
Laicus leic Layman
Conius chespar Mate
Castus guaf Chaste
Incestus sqenip Incest
Pulcher teg Handsome
Formosus faidus Beautiful
Speciosus carder Lovely
Deformis disliu Ugly
Pater tat Father
Mater mam Mother
Avus hendat Grandfather
Abavus hengog Great-Grandfather
Proavus dipog Great-Great-Grandfather
Atavus gurhhog Ancestor
Filius mab Son
Filia much Daughter
Liberi flechet Children
Soboles ach Offspring
Familia goscor pi teilu Family
Frater broder braud Brother
Soror piur Sister
Victricus altrou Stepson
Noverca altruan Stepmother
Privignus els Stepchild
Filiaster elses Stepdaughter
Nepos noi Nephew
Neptis noit Niece
Nutritor tatuat Tutor
Nutrix mamaid Nurse
Alumnus mab meidrin Pupil
Patruus euiter abard tat Paternal Uncle
Avunculus abarhmam Maternal Uncle
Matertera modereb abarh mam Maternal Aunt
Amita abarh tat Aunt
Osculum jmpog cussin Kiss
Basium poccuil Kiss
Propincus nesheuin Cousin