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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BERBAID 'boils, cooks' mainly appears in the context of food-preparation, but there are also a surprising number of occurrences of this verb in Early Modern Irish medical texts. To cure paralysis, for example, the attending physician or carer is instructed: in corp do glanad le huisgi ara mberbtar sindach co himlan 'scour the body with water wherein an entire fox has been boiled' (Rosa Ang. 36a)!

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DANAR first appeared in tenth-century annals meaning 'a Dane'. Over time, the word developed to refer to Vikings in general, to foreigners in general, and in particular to marauding foreigners. Some accounts of the Battle of Downpatrick (1260) say that Brian Ua Néill was killed 're danaruibh' (Misc. Celt. Soc. 156). Given that the forces opposing Brian were organised by Normans, it seems likely that DANAR is used here simply as a derogatory term for a (violent) outsider.

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ÁILLECÁN 'a toy, plaything' appears in the proverbial expression 'áilleacán a láim leinb' (a toy in the hand of a child), i.e. something that is easily taken away. Thus, in the tale of the Battle of Magh Léana, Conall mac Aonghusa effectively warns that Eoghan Mór might prove difficult to displace, saying: as deimhin leam-sa nach áilleagán a láimh leinibh Eire a láimh Eóghain 'I am certain that Ireland in Eoghan's hand is not a toy in the hand of a child' (ML² 102).

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CAILECH was a male bird, and so we have LACHU 'a duck' and CAILECH LACHAN 'a drake'. A CAILECH FEDA 'cock of the wood' may have been a capercaillie and the Egerton Glossary gives us also CAILECH OIDCHE 'cock of the night' for an owl. The latter became 'cailleach oidhche' (old woman of the night) in Scottish Gaelic. Modern Irish, though, continues to use 'ceann cait' (literally, head of a cat) for an owl, a phrase which has been in use since at least the eighteenth century.

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