Week eighty-nine: CROMLECH (probability 36757), by David Sutton

A CROMLECH is a prehistoric stone circle, from the Welsh crom, curved plus lech, stone. The 'crom' here is essentially the same element as is found in CASCHROM, a sort of spade with a bent handle formerly found in the Scottish Highlands, though here the word is Gaelic.

Formerly CROMLECH was also applied to what is now called a DOLMEN, which is a prehistoric stone structure, possibly a tomb, comprising upright unhewn stones supporting a flattish stone. This is thought to derive from the Breton dol, table plus men, stone. It appears to be much the same as a TRILITH or TRILITHON.

The 'men' element in DOLMEN brings us on to yet another prehistoric stone structure, the MENHIR, from the Welsh men, stone plus hir, long. It yields an adjective DOLMENIC. And the same element is also found, lenited, in CISTVAEN or KISTVAEN, a kind of stone tomb, 'cist' being the Welsh for chest. Welsh, Breton and Gaelic are of course all Celtic languages, along with Irish, Cornish and Manx, and so fairly closely related, though not to the point of mutual intelligibility.

Another prehistoric stone structure is the TALAYOT, found in the Balearic Islands. This derives from the Spanish atalaya, a lookout tower; ATALAYA is itelf playable.


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