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Did you know that there are ten words for survey in early Irish?

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Introduction to the Concise Edition

The concise edition of the electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language, which is aimed at the non-specialist user, is a dictionary of early Irish covering the period c.700 CE- c.1700 CE. It draws on the larger, scholarly edition, also available on this site.

The concise edition gives just the dictionary headword and associated definitions without the grammatical information and historical citations that accompany the full edition. Typing in a search term in English will produce a list of all entries in which that word appears in a definition. This includes entries in which it appears in the definition of compound words and phrases, so be wary that not all results will be a direct equivalent of your search term. You should also note that we do not display any entries where there is some doubt about the existence of the word (preceded by a query in the full dictionary).

You can view the full, scholarly entry at any stage by clicking on the headword or by clicking on the 'Switch Edition' button.

The Dictionary contains much information on words relating to agriculture, medicine, law, music, religion and society that will be of particular interest to historians and archaeologists, and it traces the origin and development of words over a period of a thousand years. The rich vocabulary of the Dictionary is also ripe for exploitation by creative writers and thinkers in the modern languages, and by making it available now in a concise edition we hope to make it more accessible to the general user with no knowledge of Irish in the medieval period.

To read a brief explanation of the spelling and pronunciation of early Irish, and for further reading, see here.

Word of the Week[See More]


CLOICTHECH is the early Irish term for a round tower, one of the numerous wooden or stone towers that were constructed close to monasteries between the ninth and eleventh centuries. Although the first part of the word is CLOC ‘bell’, it is clear that other objects were stored in round towers, possibly for protection. The Annals of Ulster, for example, record that ‘books and precious things’ were lost when a tower burned in 1097. In literary sources, round towers make their mark on account of their great height; a Middle-Irish text even includes in a list of impossible things ‘jumping over a round tower’ (léim tar cloicthech)!

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SPITÉL is perhaps best-known today from An Spidéal, the name of a village in Galway Bay, which is anglicised as Spiddal. The word is actually a borrowing from Anglo-Norman, referring to a hospital, and in early examples it is often attached to Irish TECH ‘house’ to give TECH SPITÉL. Under the year 1245, for example, the Annals of Connacht record that the castle of Sligo was built using stones and lime from the ‘hospital-house’ of the Trinity (tech spitel na Trinnoite).

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MÉITHE was the name of a hill in Mag Mugna, according to a scribal note in the Book of Leinster, and CÉITHE was the name of another hill. Neither, it would seem, was very high, for the expression DE MÉITHE FOR CÉITHE appears in several texts and seems to refer to swapping a thing of little value or use for something equally insignificant. In an early glossary, going from MÉITHE to CÉITHE is compared to going ‘from a piglet to a lamb, i.e. from a small thing to a small thing’ (de urc for uan .i. de bec for bic).

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DAIR or DAUR is the name of the oak tree in early Irish and also the name of the letter D. In the latter sense, it appears in the ‘word’ DAURÚN in a medieval Irish collection of obscure glosses and linguistic puzzles. The text explains that DAURÚN is the same as DÚN ‘fort’ and we are left to work out for ourselves that the author has given the name of the letter D rather than just writing it. A comparable scenario in English would be to write ‘emum’ to represent the word ‘mum’!

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