Pindo
Dark Peak or Mountain

 
 

In Galicia (Spain), in the municipality of Carnota, in the province of A Coruña, there is a mountain known as Pindo. There are numerous legends about this mountain, which some romantic Galician historians considered the Celtic Olympus.

With the intention of shedding some light on the origin of the name of this famous Galician mountain, let us have a look at its physical features. Pindo is an immense mass of dark granite with a maximum height of 627 meters. Pindo, the parish where it is located, owes its name to the mountain.

As we have already said, its dark color is one of the main characteristics of Pindo. We can see it clearly in the following image.

Pindo celtic Galician Galicia Scotland Ireland Gaels Pictish

Mount Pindo (Carnota-A Coruña-Galicia-Spain)

Place-names often reflect the topographic features characteristic of a given area, and such descriptive place-names are common in the indigenous languages of the different areas of the world.

Since Galicia has always been considered a land occupied by the ancestors of the local inhabitants over countless generations, without massive immigration of outsiders, a large number of Galician place-names should reflect similar descriptive toponyms.

However, in addition to place-names easily decipherable in the Galician language, we find place-names which allow no easy interpretation. As in other areas of the globe, such unintelligible place-names may reflect languages spoken earlier in the region, but which have later died out, leaving the descriptive place-names unintelligible in the present-day languages of the area.

Since Galicia was clearly a Celtic region at the time of the Roman conquest, let us have a look at the place-name Pindo from the perspective of the Celtic languages – more specifically from the perspective of the Goidelic or Gaelic branch of the Celtic languages.

LANGUAGE

WORD

MEANING

Irish Gaelic

binn

peak,mountain top (by ext. mountain)

Scottish Gaelic

beinn

peak,mountain top (by ext. mountain)

In Irish Gaelic, binn means “peak”, “mountain top” and, by extension, at times it is used in reference to a mountain. In Scottish Gaelic, beinn also means “peak”, “mountain top” and, by extension, at times it is used in reference to a mountain too.

In Irish Gaelic, however, the sound represented by the letter b retains its voicing. Thus, the sound is quite similar to a Galician b /b/ in word-initial position. This, however, can be deceptive in the written languages, since the Galician b lenites to a soft sound like /v/ in word-medial or word-final position, while the Irish letter b is not lenited in such positions.

In Scottish Gaelic, b is pronounced as the unvoiced, unaspirated consonant /p/, very similar to the Galician consonant p /p/.

LANGUAGE

WORD

MEANING

Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic

dubh

dark

Irish Gaelic

binn dubh

dark peak /dark mountain top

Scottish Gaelic

beinn dubh

dark peak /dark mountain top

In both Gaelic languages, dubh means “dark”. In Northern Irish dialects and in Scottish Gaelic, the final consonant, pronounced like the Spanish consonant b inter-vocalically and represented by the digraph bh, is elided. Therefore the word dubh is pronounced /du/.

First let us look at one image of Beinn Dubh, “dark peak” or “dark mountain top”, in the Trossachs National Park, close to the village of Luss, Scotland – height, 978 meters.

Pindo celtic Galician Galicia Scotland Ireland Gaels Pictish

Beinn Dubh (Scotland)

Now we see an image of Binn Dubh in the Connemara National Park, Ireland – height, 696 meters.

Pindo celtic Galician Galicia Scotland Ireland Gaels Pictish

Binn Dubh (Ireland)

The physical similarity between Pindo, Binn Dubh and Beinn Dubh is obvious. Keeping in mind the way each one of them is pronounced, the similarity between the place-names is evident too, though there is a difference between the stress patterns of the syllables in the Galician vs. the Gaelic place-names.

We believe the adaptation to the Galician Romance language from either of the two Gaelic place-names which we have seen is quite clear and leaves no room for any reasonable doubt.

(Scottish Gaelic) Beinn Dubh > Pindo (Galician)
dark peak/mountain top

(Irish Gaelic) Binn Dubh > Pindo (Galician)
 “dark peak/mountain top

 

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If you wish more information, we recommend reading our documents. They are all based on the relationship between the Gaelic languages and the Galician and Portuguese languages.