Sails in the North—New Perspectives on an Old Problem



The origin of sail has been debated for a long time, but the linguistic evidence has rarely been taken into account. The word sail has a cognate in two Celtic languages, and a good linguistic chronology is available for these. The reconstructed historical development of Celtic and Germanic words indicates that the word existed in West Germanic well before the Anglo-Saxon migrations and the confinement of Celtic to the British Isles. An origin of both word and technology in the Celtic world is proposed, both being passed into the Germanic world in the Rhine region.