Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Latin link between Maltese and Welsh

A Latin link between Maltese and Welsh

On a visit to Malta just before Christmas 2013, I came by chance across a sign including the Maltese words “wirja ta' presepju”.  The last word was immediately transparent to me, because of its similarity to the Welsh word preseb, meaning a manger. The Chrismas carol Away in a manger is I orwedd mewn preseb in Welsh.

Both presepju and preseb have a common ancestor in Latin. Both come from Latin praesaepe, literally "enclosure, stall, manger, hive," from prae-  + saepire "to fence".

The crib on the island is a beautiful tradition but not an ancient one.  In fact, it is likely that the first crib known  in Malta goes back to the year 1826, and was probably an import from Sicily.


  1. I think you should have mentioned Italian "presepio" "presepe" which gave birth to Maltese "presepju".

    There is a lot of Italian vocabulary in Maltese (together with Arabic words of course)

    Felic Novi Jar

    Joël Landais

  2. Saluton

    Mi dankas vin pro la informo.

    I don't speak Italian, so I had not seen the link to that language. I am grateful to you.