Celts , or Kelts  (kelts ).—The peoples which speak languages akin to those of Wales, Ireland, the Highlands of Scotland, and Britanny, and constitute a branch or principal division of the Indo-European families. Formerly these peoples occupied, partly or wholly, France, Spain, northern Italy, the western parts of Germany, and the British Islands. Of the remaining Celtic languages and peoples there are two chief divisions, viz., the Gaelic , comprising the Highlanders of Scotland, the Irish, and the Manx, and the Cymric , comprising the Welsh and Bretons.

Irish, because of its more extensive literature and greater antiquity, is considered to be the chief branch of the Gaelic group. Modern Erse or Scotch is thought to be a more recent dialect of Irish. Manx is the dialect spoken by a small number of persons in the Isle of Man. Welsh is the best preserved of the Cymric group. It has a literature nearly if not quite as rich as that of Irish, and is spoken by a larger population than any other Celtic language found in the British Isles. Low Breton, or Armorican, is the speech found in Lower Brittany, in France. It is spoken by nearly two-thirds as many persons as are all other Celtic dialects combined.

This “Celtic” race seems to have had its main center of dissemination in the highlands of the Alps of midwestern Europe. While all Celtic-speaking peoples are mixed races, those of the British Isles are distinctly long-headed and tall, in fact, are among the tallest of all Europe. It is almost impossible to give the population of the Celtic race—that is, of those whose ancestral language was Celtic—since most of its members now speak English or French only.