Asked in
History of Ireland
History of Scotland
The Difference Between
Celtic History

What is the difference between the Gaels and the Celts?


User Avatar
Wiki User
July 17, 2015 5:46PM

Brief :

The Celtic nations consist of:

Wales (Brythonic)

Cornwall (Brythonic)

Brittany (Brythonic)

Ireland (Gaelic)

Scotland (Gaelic)

Isle of Man (Gaelic)

So the Gaels are one branch of the 'Celts' to answer the question.

  • There have been a lot of wrong answers here (most of which have been removed). It's quite simple. The Celts were divided into different groups who lived in the European mainland. One group came to Ireland, and another came to Britain. The ones who came to Ireland were called Gaelic, Goidelic or Q-Celtic. The ones who came to Britain were called Brythonic, or P-Celtic. The Gaels or Q-Celts lived in Ireland, and later conquered Scotland and the Isle of Man. The Brythonic or P-Celts lived in Britain, but were driven out of all of it except Wales and Cornwall by Gaelic and Anglo-Saxon invasions.
  • The descendants of the Gaels are found in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. The descendants of the P-Celts are found in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany (where some fled after being attacked by the Anglo-Saxons). These groups of Celts are the only major Celtic peoples left, as the ones who stayed on the mainland of Europe were conquered by the Romans and later invaders.
  • Short answer is that all Gaels are Celts but not all Celts are Gaels. "Celt" is the broader term that include Gaels, but also other groups currently found in Wales, France, and Spain and formerly found all over Europe and The Middle East (e.g., the Galatians of the Bible).
  • In the usage I am familiar with, only the Irish and the Scots are considered Gaels. The Welsh (Cymry) are Celtic, but not Gaelic. ("Welsh" originates from "Wealhas" an Anglo-Saxon term meaning foreigner, "Wales" is no way related to the word "Gaels" or "Gales"). Gaul (roughly what is now France) has a similar word origin, but they were Gallic, not Gaelic, but definitely Celtic.
  • Actually, stating that, "Gaul" is not related to, "Wales" is incorrect. You gotta' go back a little further with your I-E language roots to find that they both come from the same word. The "G" sound wasn't hard, and can resemble a hard aspirate, like the "H/CH" of Chanukah, or the ' in Greek hOi. Galles and Walles (remember, these words were passed down and morphed phonetically before spelling was nailed down) do come from the same root, and "Sojourner" or "Wanderer" is a better translation than, "foreigner".
  • There is some debate over whether the Celts and Gauls were truly separate people - or whether the terms, as stated elsewhere, carry different levels of inclusion. Good links: I think it will take a while for this issue to be settled, by a mixture of haplotype research and further archelogical inquiry, but Gaul and Celt don't necessarily mean the same thing, and the link between the Picts, the Scots, the Gaels, and the Celts is still hotly debated. For more fun, research the Urumchi and Tarim basin mummies, and for even more kicks, the link between Maori face tatooing and Pre-Maori Celts/Gauls in New Zealand.
  • Celtic people are an ancient European peoples that have a far-reaching influence over many parts of Europe. This includes Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, mainland Europe, and towards Asia-minor. According to legend, the Gaels are a tribe descended from Gaedhal of the Very Gentle and the Shining Armour. Gaedhal was a general of the Egyptian Pharaoh in ancient wars including a great war against the Ethiopians. When the Hebrew slaves deserted their Egyptians overlords, Gaedhal and his people supported the Hebrews. As a result they were exiled from the Egyptian lands. However, the Phaoraoh's daughter, Scota, married into the tribe of Gaedhal. Eventually, with recommendation from their druids, they traveled to Spain and eventually to Ireland. Perhaps the tribe of Gaedhal was originally a Celtic tribe, perhaps the tribe of Gaedhal created Celtic culture, or perhaps the tribe of Gaedhal later adapted Celtic culture.
  • OK, I've read everyone's answer so far and read history books, asked my relatives, etc., and no one thus far has really answered the question. I am an American of Gaelic and/or Celtic ancestry as well as Native American. Our family is trying to put together a family tree but it is looking more like a mess than anything else (many dead ends). Short of reading a treatise on the matter, is there any way to get a simple answer on this question? From my perspective in many instances it seems they are the same, in others, quite different. It would be nice to understand the differences.
  • As partly already said, it is very hard to know exactly where any of these acient groups came from but do remember that the word Celt came from the greek 'keltoi' and they aswell as the Romans put this name on anybody that was uncivilised or not romanised for that matter, living outside of the roman empire so this really is a name put onto alot of different groups of people.
  • If you're trying to establish the root of Irishness, recently published genetic research indicates that the vast majority of Irish people are NOT of Celtic origin. Most people seem to have a genetic root in earlier settlers/invaders - perhaps the Fir Bolg or similar.
  • Gaelic and Celtic mean the exact same thing except Gaelic is the Irish version for the word. An ancient race culture from galatia is the source of the Gaelic, ghaelige, ghoidealic, gallic words and it means the spoken language of these people.
  • The Celts were a proud warrior yet diplomatic race. Diplomacy worked inwards towards their own. War like behaviour was aimed at other people who insulted them or annoyed them. The Greeks gave them their Celtic name. The word keltoi means barbarian in greek and the Romans took this from them using the possessive case plural celtae to describe them.
  • The Greeks called us that when they saw us killing some etruscans who annoyed us a long time ago. it started as a tribal joke that's how we must have accepted it. Anyway the name celt stuck. Celtic is an anglicisation in the possessive case.
  • Welsh are cymrians who were called welsh i.e from wales from the Anglo-saxon word wahlra which means foreigners. However not in the way intended the real foreigners were the English who came from a barony of Germany called frisia. they were a tribe called the angles. However please note that many tribes came from Germany inculding the franks which gave their name to France.
  • Welsh Gaelic, Cornwellian (brythonic) Gaelic and brittanic (bretonic) Gaelic come from old brittain around the time of christ just before the roman empire. All of great brittain was simply of Celtic origin before the ancient Romans invaded. The angles and the Saxons were asked to help remove the Romans from the country during the time of queen Boudicea. They came to brittain via anglessy which is German for angle sea i.e angle see.
  • Gallia (Gaul) is the ancient latin word for Western Europe and the Celtic peoples who occupied Western Europe. Gaels (Goidelic Celts) is a Brythonic (Briton) word, probably meaning, savages? The Britons spoke a P-Celtic language and the Gaels (Irish & Scots) spoke a Q-Celtic language. So in short, the difference between Celts and Gaels is the language they speak. Otherwise, they are the same. The Gaels are one group of Celts.
  • More recent theories have denied a mass invasion of the Isles by Celtic speakers due to lack of archeological evidence. Genetically, the "Atlantic Celts" resemble the Basques rather than Central European Celts. See Collis.
  • Any answer that omits Galicia (Spain) as the European cradle of the Gaels is simply incorrect. There is linguistic proof that Goidelic Gaelic spoken on the British Isles can only have originated from Celts coming from Galicia.
  • We originated in Eastern Europe (Rumania), discovered the bagpipe in Egypt, resettled in Galicia, and conquered the British Isles. Read the Leabhar Ghabhala.
  • The Romans called the unconconquered ( and conquered Tribes) of Europe. Celts...which meant stranger......Even Northern Italian areas were Celtic to them at least at one Milan is originally a Celtic Name....
  • The Anglo-Saxons called the people of Britain Welsh ...which meant stranger
  • The Gaels were the last "Celtic" Tribe to settle in Ireland.....The Welsh called them something similar to Gael...which again meant either stranger,. Barbarian or Foriegner...The Gaels overlorded the existing Celtic tribes......the existing Irish Celtic tribes had a language similar to the welsh and cornish...and indeed the tribe that came to Ireland immediatly before the Gaels...the Laigann ( Leinster is named after them) settled in South west England.....the name "Devon" comes from them......The tales of Arthur / Tristan and Isolde may have links here. The Tribe before the Laigainn were the Erain or Fir Bolg ( Origianly from Belgium)...the tribe brefore them were the Cruithin ( Ireland) and Picts ( Scotland)
  • There is no such thing as a Celt. There are artefacts of Celtic design and there are languages that are described as Celtic: Welsh, Gaelic, Breton and Gallego being the principal examples ('P-Celtic' and 'Q-Celtic' refer to the two branches of these languages, not to any ethnic grouping). There is no demonstrable link between the Celti or Keltoi of Classical sources and the people who live in Scotland, Ireland, Mann, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany or Spain, popularly identified as Celtic areas today, or indeed their kin elsewhere in the world. These can claim descent from Britons and Cymry or from Gaels and that's about it.