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Alternative Name: Celtiberian.

Overview. Hispano-Celtic was a continental Celtic language spoken in northern Spain in the last centuries BCE. Sometimes, a distinction is made between Hispano-Celtic and Celtiberian: the first includes all Celtic languages of the Iberian Peninsula while Celtiberian refers to that spoken in the northeast of the Peninsula. Celtiberian is the best known Hispano-Celtic language while the status of other Hispano-Celtic languages is uncertain due to lack of evidence.

Classification. Indo-European, Celtic, Continental Celtic, Q-Celtic. According to one hypothesis, Celtic languages are divided into P-Celtic and Q-Celtic. P-Celtic links the Brythonic insular languages (Welsh, Cornish, Breton) with continental Gaulish. Q-Celtic links the Goidelic insular languages (Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx) with continental Hispano-Celtic. In P-languages the Proto-Celtic labiovelar * became p; in Q-languages it became k.

Distribution. Hispano-Celtic languages were spoken in the north-central region of the Iberian Peninsula. Celtiberian, in particular, in the northeastern region of the Peninsula.

Status. Extinct. Spoken at least from 200 BCE to 200 CE.


Main Documents. Hispano-Celtic is attested by nearly two hundred inscriptions:

  1. The longest are three bronze plaques, from Botorrita, near Zaragoza (1st c. BCE).

  1. 20 tesserae hospitales, 'hospitality tablets', small bronze plaques with very short inscriptions for granting hospitality to foreigners.

  1. 17 rock-inscriptions of Peñalba de Villastar in Latin script.

  1. There also many coins with legends indicating their provenance. 


Vowels. Hispano-Celtic had five short and four long vowels as well as several diphthongs.

  1. monophthongs (9):


  1. diphthongs (6): ai, au, ei, eu, oi, ou

Consonants. Hispano-Celtic, like Gaulish, had labiovelar consonants. The nature of the sound transliterated as s has not been determined, it could have been a fricative ([ð] or [z]), or an affricate ([ts] or [dz]). It is different from [s] that is usually transcribed as ś.



Most Celtiberian inscriptions were written in the Celtiberian script, a local adaptation of the Iberian script which, in turn, was based on the Greek and Phoenician alphabets. It was partly syllabic and partly alphabetic. Late Celtiberian inscriptions employed also the Latin alphabet.


  1. Nominal. Nouns, adjectives and pronouns were inflected for gender, number and case.

  1. gender: masculine, neuter, feminine.

  1. number: singular, plural.

  1. case: nominative, accusative, instrumental?, dative, ablative, genitive, locative.

  2. Declensional endings vary according to the final sound of the stems. The most common stems are those ending in ā and o. There are also other vowel-ending stems (in i and u) and stems ending in a consonant.

  1. pronouns: only very few personal pronouns are attested, most of them clitic forms. The demonstrative pronoun so/sā is attested, as well as the relative pronoun yo, which in contrast to Gaulish, is inflected.

  1. derivation: relied on prefixation, suffixation and compounding.

  1. Verbal. Due to insufficient evidence, the reconstruction of the verbal system is tentative. Verbs were marked for tense, voice, mood, person and number.

  1. person and number: 1s, 2s, 3s; 1p, 2p, 3p.

  1. tense and aspect: present, preterite, future are the basic Continental Celtic tenses. In Hispano-Celtic there seems to be an imperfect and there is some evidence for perfective aspect (the perfectivizer Con- is prefixed to a verbal adjective).

  1. mood: indicative, subjunctive, imperative. The subjunctive is characterized by the infix -se-. The imperative is attested in the 2nd person singular taking the form of the bare present stem. There is also a 3rd. person singular imperative ending in -Tus. Imperative verbs are placed at the end of a clause while other verbal forms may be clause-final or not.

  1. voice: active. Up to now there is no clear evidence of middle or passive voice.

  1. non-finite forms: Hispano-Celtic did not have infinitives but used nominalized verbs instead. Those attested are formed with -un- and are inflected in the dative case. The past passive participle, used as a verbal adjective and ending in -to/-, is also attested.                                    


Hispano-Celtic word order is predominantly Subject-Object-Verb though the position of the verb is not strict. Subject pronouns may be dropped. Attributive genitives precede their head nouns but adjectives follow them. Adjectives agree with their nouns in case, number, and gender; subject and verb agree in person and number. Subordinate clauses usually follow main clauses. It uses prepositions and postpositions.

Basic Vocabulary. Knowledge of Celtiberian words is very limited.

three: tiriś

six: śueś

hundred: cantom

man: viro

daughter: tuater

  1. © 2013 Alejandro Gutman and Beatriz Avanzati                                                                               

Further Reading

  1. -Ancient Languages of the Hispanic Peninsula. J. M. Anderson. University Press of America (1988).

  2. -The Celts in the Iberian Peninsula. e-Keltoi, volume 6.  M. Alberro & B. Arnold (eds). Center for Celtic Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2008). Available online at:


  4. -'Continental Celtic'. J. F. Eska. In The Ancient Languages of Europe, 165-188. R. D. Woodard (ed). Cambridge University Press (2008).

  5. -'Hispano-Celtic'. J. F. Eska & D. E. Evans. In The Celtic Languages, 31-34. M. J. Ball & N. Müller (eds). Routledge (2009).

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