What Does It Mean to be a Druid?

Many scholars, who have endeavored in the past to solve word derivations, have concluded the meaning of the word Druid comes from a contraction of two Indo-European, i.e. two Sanskrit words.  The two Sanskrit words Druid is said to derive from are deru meaning oak, and vid meaning wisdom.  The first person to postulate this was the ancient-Roman scholar, Pliny the Elder.  He made this assumption while, ostensibly, endeavoring to explain Druidism to his contemporaries.  In Pliny's descriptions of the beliefs and actions of Druids, among other things, he noted they had a reverence for oaks and proposed the title of Druid derived from the word oak.  Just as Stoicism was a current Greek and Roman Phenomenon in Pliny's time, Druidism was a current Celtic phenomenon. 

It should be pointed out, however, that it was the ancient-Greek word for both tree and oak which was dru.  This was not the word for oak in the languages of the Gaels, the Gauls, the Galicians, or the Galatians.  Considering this, Pliny’s explanation seems convenient, and a little near-sighted.  Pliny the Elder, as a learned Roman, would have been very familiar with the Greek language.  Dru was the word for tree and oak to the Greeks, but not to the Celts.  Perhaps Pliny was misinformed, and guessing to some extent, about Druids.   

It seems all subsequent linguistic scholars who looked into Pliny’s explanation were inclined to consider his assertion correct.  If this is so, it must be that linguists have assumed there was a letter transposition in the language of the Gaels, so that their root-word for oak changed from dur to dru.  Again, it was in ancient-Greek that the root-word for oak was dru.  But in the European languages using variations on the word Druid, there is simply no such letter transposition in their various words for oak.  

In Scottish Gaelic the word for oak is darach.  In Irish the word for oak is dair and darach.  In Early Irish the word for oak is dair.  In Manx Gaelic the word for oak is darragh and darree.  In Welsh and Cornish Gaelic the word for oak is dar.  In Breton the word for oak is derv.  Even the Sanskrit word for oak is deru.  Clearly, pattern of the phrase-sound here is dar.  

By comparison, in Scottish Gaelic the word for Druid is draoi, or druidh.  In Irish the word for Druid is draoi, gen. pl. druadh.  In Early Irish the word is drai, drui, g. druad.  In Manx Gaelic the word for Druid is druaightagh, and Druidism is druaightys.  In Gaulish (ancient-French) the word for Druid is druides.  In Welsh Gaelic the word for Druid is derwyddIn Breton the word for Druid is drouizIn English the word is, of course, Druid.  Only in Welsh Gaelic is the word for Druid not consistent with the drui pattern shown in the rest of the languages, and it is unwise to give weight to the smaller part of the pattern.  Clearly, the overwhelming phrase-sound here is drui.  

While Breton and Gaulish Druids did have a reverence for the majestic oak tree, which is, of course, only natural, Irish Druids historically had more reverence for the beautiful rowan tree.  As a matter of fact, the rowan, or quicken-tree, frequently grows mistletoe throughout Europe, as do all trees related to apples.  Indeed, all Druids seem to have had reverence for apple-branches, mountains, mistletoe, caves, horses, holy-wells, springs, rivers, hazel-bushes, willow-trees, rowans, whitethorns, and apple groves, as well as other things, not to mention the Sun and the Moon.  It is possible that emphasis on the lofty oak has kept researchers from looking at other factors, equally or more important to the Breton and Gaulish Druids.     

Again, the Sanskrit word for oak is deru.  The meaning of the phrase-sound deru has been conserved in various english words.  Deru is the root-word for the word in modern-English: door, durable and durum (a very hard and crackable type of wheat).  The hardness of oak describes these items.  Also, again, Deru is the root-word for the Irish words darach and dair, which mean oak.  In addition, Deru is probably the root-word for the Scottish Gaelic darach, the Manx Gaelic darragh and darree, the Welsh and Cornish Gaelic dar, and the Breton derv, all meaning oak.

However the word dru in Sanskrit means melting, or running, (in regard to fresh water)This Sanskrit word, dru, is the root-word for the modern-English words drip, drop and drizzle  Also, the Sanskrit word dhreg is the root-word for the modern-English words drench and drink. 

This connection is also seen in the languages of the Gaels.  In fact, drùdhadh means oozing, penetrating or soaking in Scottish Gaelic.  This is cognate with Sanskrit dru, dráva, both meaning melting with or running with.  Drùchd is one word in Scottish Gaelic for dew, as drúchd is Irish for dew, and as Early-Irish for dew is drúcht.  In Manx-Gaelic, druight means steam, dew, dewfall, fog.  Also in Manx-Gaelic druighteen means dewdrop, bead (of dew), light dewIn Scottish Gaelic drùidh means, to penetrate, ooze through, influence, affect, soak.  Other cognate words are: Gothic ufar-trusian, besprinkle, Norse drjúpa, drip , Gaulish Druentia, as well as the Gaelic Druie, a river in Strathspey.  In fact, all of the Sanskrit words with the root of dru seem to relate to wetness or being soaked by water; even a word meaning wet-clothes. Clearly, the phrase-sound conserved here is dru.   

It should be pointed out that not all "water" words in Irish, Breton, Gaulish or the different Gaelics begin with dru.  But there are many words relating to moisture that begin with dru in those languages, and there are no words pertaining to oak that begin with dru.  

Once again, the Sanskrit word for wisdom is vid or veid, and this is the root for the word wisdom in modern-English.  Interestingly, the Sanskrit word vid or veid seems to be the root word for wood as well.  Apparently, they considered trees to be inseparably connected to wisdom.  

The modern-Irish word is fios and the Old-Irish word is fiss, both meaning knowledge.  The pronunciation of an Irish "f" sounds like the English “v”.

A contraction of “drúdhadh-fios”(pronounced drutha-vios), could be taken to mean “knowledge soaked” or “oozing with knowledge”.  An Old-Irish contraction of this might be something like, “drúdhadh-fiss”(drutha-viss).   

If one wanted to reduce the amount from “knowledge soaked” to “dewy with knowledge” one might make a contraction in Early-Irish of “drúcht-fiss”.  

An English contraction relating to these might be "drenched-with-wisdom".  


My conclusion from the above:     

It is more likely that the English word druid, the Irish draoi, the Early Irish drui, the Manx Gaelic druaightagh, the Gaulish druides, and the Breton drouiz, derive from a contraction of two Sanskrit words, but different Sanskrit words than most linguists would presently assert.  It is more likely that the word Druid derives from a contraction of these two Sanskrit words: dru, dráva, both meaning melting or running (relating to fresh water), and vid or veid meaning knowledgeThis would produce the contraction of dru-veid or dráva-veidDru-veid would roughly translate to “running with knowledge”, ergo, “soaked or drenched with knowledge” or “drenched with wisdom”.  

Hence, it is probable that the word Druid should be understood to mean: running-with-knowledge, or drenched-with-wisdom.  

It seems the most likely usage of the word Druid might be, and might have been, as a title or degree.  This corresponds with the practice in seventeenth century Ireland of stating Bards had reached the level of Running Stream when they had reached their seventh and last year of training.    

Druids are said to have undergone even more extensive training.  One might try to surmise what this was, but it is difficult to know with certainty.  Pliny states the training was fully 30 years long.  Perhaps a Druid's training spanned the length of one 19 year Metonic-cycle, the time of one complete Solar/Lunar cycle; wherein the pattern again repeats.    

In any case, these ancient scholars do seem to have been soaked-with-wisdom.  They served in various occupations; as Judges, Physicians, Botanists, Natural Philosophers, Meteorologists, Astronomers, et. al.  Possibly some of them served in many of these capacities at the same time.  It is reported, or inferred, that some of these ancient-Druids knew how to predict eclipses, others, how to use sneezes to decipher the guilt of a person, and still others, how to predict weather by clouds, by the Moon, and by the flight and song of birds.  Wisdom-soaked, that is, Druveid, seems to be a very accurate title. 

Yielding even more poignancy, consider the sacred connotations of rivers and streams for the ancient-Celts.  Being soaked with fresh, running, stream-water, in itself, would be metaphorical for being soaked with grace and inspiration.  Understood in this way, Drenched-with-wisdom becomes a title set apart from titles that are merely knowledge oriented, since water itself is sacred.  

Druidic, then, should be understood to be a subtle description; a title given to a man or woman who is soaked with inspired wisdom.  

Druidism, likewise then, should be understood to be a belief system which regards sacred waters as paramount; as a source of inspiration and the essence of life.  


If Catholic means: to be of broad or liberal scope; comprehensive; the state of including or concerning all humankind; universal.  And so, Catholicism: the belief that one should act in a manner universal to others, that one should be all inclusive. 

Then Druidic should be understood to mean: The state of being drenched with inspired knowledge of sacred waters, the trees that grow from them and the pastoral life that abounds among them.  And so, Druidism: the belief that one should act in a manner that promotes sacred waters, sacred trees, and pastoral life; generally knowing that human life and nature are inseparable, and generally taking great joy in nature.  



Copyright © J. G. Jones