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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SINNACH is ‘a fox’ and NA SINNAIG ‘the Foxes’ is an offensive pseudonom associated with the men of Tethbha, Co. Meath. According to the Annals of Ulster, the name commemorates the killing of the poet Cúan úa Lothcháin in 1024. Supposedly, the men who killed Cúan became putrid within the hour as a result of a FIRT FILED, a poet’s spell, and because of the foul smell they emitted, their descendants were called NA SINNAIG ‘the Foxes’.

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GAILLIT was used in early Irish laws to refer to a treasure or curiosity brought from overseas. It seems to have applied to three things in particular: a British mare, the horn of a wild ox and ‘an exquisite nut’ (CNÚ GNÓE). The phrase CNÚ GNÓE turns up again, in an eighth-century legal text which deals with items given as pledges from one person to another. According to this text, such nuts could be accepted only by kings, bishops and hermits. In light of the obvious value attached to the item, it has been suggested that CNÚ GNÓE refers to a tropical drift seed such as the Entada gigas, commonly known as a ‘sea bean’.

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SCAM is found only in the plural, as SCAIM ‘lungs’. Outside of medical texts, the word occurs (sometimes alongside a word for the liver) in expressions which describe how people have opened their mouth so widely that their internal organs can be seen. During Cú Chulainn’s ‘warp spasm’, for example, we are told that ‘his lungs and his liver came fluttering into his mouth’ (tancatar a scoim ┐ a thromma co m-batar ar eittelaig ina bél). Another medieval tale tells how people once laughed so hard ‘that their lungs were almost visible’ (acht naptar ecnái a scaim)!

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ID is used to refer to a number of hoop-shaped objects such as spancels and torques. In early Irish literature, it occurs also in the phrase ID MORAINN ‘the Collar of Morann’. According to tradition, Morann mac Maín, the owner of the item, was a judge and this collar used to tighten around his neck whenever he gave a false judgement and grow loose again when the judgement was true. Later writers expanded on this to claim that the collar could be put around the neck of someone giving evidence to ensure that they would tell the truth.

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