eDIL - Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language

The electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language (eDIL) is a digital dictionary of medieval Irish. It is based on the ROYAL IRISH ACADEMY’S Dictionary of the Irish Language based mainly on Old and Middle Irish materials (1913-1976) which covers the period c.700-c.1700. The current site contains revisions to c.4000 entries and further corrections and additions will be added in the coming years.

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CLOCH ‘a stone’ appeared in a number of useful expressions in medieval Irish – CLOCH MUILINN, for example, was a mill-stone and CLOCH ISNA HÁIRNIB was a stone in the kidney. Two phrases stand out as particularly nicely constructed, though: CLOCH MEÓIR 'a finger-stone' seems to have been a pebble, a stone that could be picked up between the fingers, while CLOCH GLAICE ‘a hand-stone’ was a larger rock that had to be grasped by the whole hand.

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DÉT is one of several early Irish words for ‘a tooth’. This is the term selected to refer to the ‘tooth of wisdom’ (DÉT FISS) under which Finn mac Cumaill placed his thumb to access supernatural knowledge, but the tooth with which Aillill Ólom bit Mac Con in the cheek signalling that the latter would die within nine days is known in medieval Irish literature as the FÍACAIL FIDBA. FÍACAIL is the word for 'tooth' here; the meaning of FIDBA is not quite clear, but it seems likely to be some kind of bane or malevolent spell.

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TERRIÉIN and MUIR TORRIAN are often taken as medieval Irish terms for the Mediterranean Sea, but these actually come from the name of the Tyrrhenian Sea, a part of the Mediterranean off the western coast of Italy. In the seventeenth century, Geoffrey Keating used the phrase MUIR LÁRTHALMHAN, literally ‘the sea of middle-land’, for the Mediterranean. This was obviously based on Latin MEDITERRANEUS, which is made up of MEDIUS ‘middle’ and TERRA ‘land’. Today, the Mediterranean Sea is known in Irish as AN MHEÁNMHUIR and in Scottish Gaelic as AM MUIR MEADHANACH, both of which mean simply ‘the Middle Sea’.

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APA is a loanword which was used in a number of late medieval Irish texts to mean ‘ape’. In the fourteenth-century Irish account of the travels of Marco Polo, however, the word appears as NAPA. The initial n- probably arose from uses of the word with the definite article (i.e. IN APA ‘the ape’), when scribes were uncertain about how words were to be divided. This phenomenon occurs elsewhere; in grammatical terms, the accruing initial letter is known as a ‘prosthetic n’.

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