The Origin of Their Name The complexity of the science of etymology is a well-known fact. Once it becomes a part of a language, a word evolves both in meaning and form; sometimes it even loses its original meaning. This is often the case with proper names.
The name the ancient inhabitants of the country gave themselves, or under which they were known by their contemporaries, is still one of the mysteries of the history of France. Even having recognized somewhat different pronunciations, such as "Celta," "Galli," "Galatia," "Walah," or "Gaul," which are their common names, as we shall see these are actually all derived from only one root.
Biblical Implications In studying the Israelite origin of the Celtic peoples, one of the first questions which comes to mind is of the name which they carried through the centuries. One even wonders if the name under which they were known was of a historic or generic nature. Even though the Israelites lost their identity, their language, and, later, their nationality, their name seems to have kept the two natures.
Moses, according to the instructions of the Eternal, gave to the Reubenites and Gadites "from Areor, which is by the river Arnon, and half mount Gilead," Deuteronomy 3:12, 16, while the tribe of Manasseh received the rest of Gilead.
In the book of Chronicles (I Chronicles 5:3-10) we find, in part, the list of descendants of Reuben, of Gad, and of Manasseh, and we learn that part of the Reubenites lived "eastward... unto the entering in of the wilderness from the river Euphrates; because their cattle were multiplied in the land of Gilead."
Note already the striking similarity between the words "Galaad" (French for Gilead, the land in which part of the Reubenites lived), and Galli or Gaul (the land where they settled after their captivity!). Anyone who is learned in etymology would easily recognize the common base of these two terms.
Even evolving through the centuries, this name was preserved, as it is shown on Biblical atlases. In the time of Jesus, the regions to the north of Trans-Jordan (Gilead), were still called "Gaulonitis." Even today the Arabs call this land "Jaulan."
Historical Facts But then how does one explain the fact that the terms "Celtica," "Galli," "Galatia," or again "Gaul," had not been given to the inhabitants of Gaul until after their arrival and establishment in the land?
Several answers are possible; first, as we said in the preceding chapter, the Gauls migrated into Europe under the name "Khumri" (or Cimbri or Cimmerians). The Encyclopaedia Britannica affirms that the ancients, speaking of the Gauls and the Cimbri, always associated them with the first Cimmerians (Article "Celt").
On the other hand, it is nearly certain that the Celts gave themselves that name, under different forms, before other nations called them that. Some historians recognize this fact:
"This name Celt, they gave themselves. Some also called them Galates. The Romans called them Galli," writes Brentano (The Origins).
Naturally, from the Latin words Gallus or Galli is derived the French "Gaulois" and the English "Gaul."
The Terms "Celtae," "Galatae," and "Galli" The difference between these diverse terms appears especially in the linguistic domain. They all have a common origin; in the course of years, and because of different pronunciations the people gave them, these terms have taken forms more or less varied (Les Celtes, Hubert, p. 25).
In other words, it was a term mainly geographic. Explaining this point, Hubert tells us that in the third century A.D., a new name, that of "Galates," appeared for the first time in the works of the historian Jerome of Cardis, who recounts their invasion of Macedonia and Greece, before they settled in Asia Minor. But Hubert states with certainty "that the Gauls gave themselves the name Kymrois" (Les Celtes, Hubert, pp. 31-32).
All these different names then are synonyms, and apply to the same peoples interchangeably.
The Rapport Between the Different Terms Some of the most esteemed French historians have already succeeded in establishing a connection between these diverse terms.
"The name given to the Celtic tribe of the Gauls, taken from the German form Walah, applies to the Valaques, or Wallons, or Gallois, to the Gauls themselves. The Germans derived Walah from a name that they mispronounced.... Also derived from Walah is the term Welsh," declares Brentano (The Origins, pp. 31-32).
In turn, Jubainville states that the adjective "walahise" became Welsch in the German tongue, which is of the same derivation as Walah, Wealh, or Gaul: "Gaul is the same as the old German Walah; Wales (French: Galles) is derived from Wealh" (The First Inhabitants of Europe, p. 420).
But why had these Celtic peoples taken a Germanic name? The answer certain linguists give us is quite surprising and harmonizes perfectly with the facts of history. Thus Pelloutier says "Waller, Galler, and Galli" signify stranger or wanderer; he adds that these people had given themselves this name because they had had to leave their country in a voluntary exile!
"It appears that the Celts... giving themselves the name Waller or Galler thus indicated that they had been chased from their ancient home, or that they had voluntarily condemned themselves to exile" writes James Grant (Thoughts on the Gael, p. 156).
This remarkable explanation precisely describes the condition of the nation of Israel, which, after having rejected the Eternal, lost the right to call themselves by the name that the Eternal had given them (Ezekiel 39:7).
But what is more interesting and remarkable still, is the significance even of the term "Scyth," another name the Israelites were known under at one time. (See the chapter on the "Scythians" and the "Sacae.") Indeed, it is curious to note that the word "Scyth," in the Celtic language, has exactly the same meaning as the Celtic word "Gael," that is to say "stranger" or "wanderer" (Collectanea de Rebus Hebernicia, Vol. II, Beauford, p. 225).
In light of this fact, it appears evident that the diverse names that the Israelites gave themselves, after their liberation from the Assyrian captivity, signify more or less the same thing, that is, a nation in exile, or foreign wanderers, strangers in a strange land!
Let us say, by way of conclusion, that in Hebrew (the ancient language of the Israelite tribes), the word for exile is "Golah," pronounced "Gau-lau"! The first Biblical mention of the Hebrew word is found in the Second Book of Kings (II Kings 15:29), where it is written that the inhabitants of the country of Naptali, thus of Gilead and of Galilee, were "taken away captive" ("Golah") into Assyria (Strong's Concordance, No. 1540).