Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

SER-nun-nos or Ser-NUN-nos? KER-nun-nos or Ker-NUN-nos?

The Old Gaulish antlered god Cernunnos is hot these days. (Ask me, He's always been hot.) So how do you pronounce His Name?

SER-nun-nos or Ser-NUN-nos? KER-nun-nos or Ker-NUN-nos?

Well, how you pronounce your god's name is up to you and certainly none of my business. But if you'd like to know the historic pronunciation—how, for instance, the sculptor that carved the famous Paris Cernunnos relief (shown here in full modern reconstruction) would have articulated the god's name, there historical linguistics can help you.

Historically speaking, we can rule out the first two pronunciations immediately. In Gaulish, C was always “hard” (i.e. pronounced as K).

So, KER-nun-nos or Ker-NUN-nos? One hears both pronunciations these days. (I've never heard anyone attempt Ker-nun-NOS, bless His Horns.)

Well, we can't say with absolute certainty that it's one or the other, since Gaulish has been a dead language for considerably more than a millennium. According to Dutch linguist Peter Schrijver (Schrijver 20), however, available evidence indicates that, as a rule, the Gaulish language favored stress on the penultimate (next-to-the-last) syllable.

So, if by some chance you should happen to find yourself transported back through time to Roman era Lutetia (Paris) and happen to ask passers-by in the street after Ker-NUN-nos, chances are that they'll understand you well enough to be able to point you to His nearest temple.

Which, under the circumstances, might not be a bad place to start.



Peter Schrijver (1995), Studies in British Historical Phonology. Amsterdam: Rodopi




Last modified on
Tagged in: Cernunnos
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


Additional information