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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Word of the Week[See More]


ROTH can be anything circular. In medieval texts, it is used of a potter’s wheel, torques and brooches, and even an instrument of torture! The most common use is with reference to the wheel of a vehicle, though – which in texts of our period generally meant the wheel of a chariot. In one piece of Early Irish wisdom, the word is used to counsel against taking on a challenge one cannot win. The message is NÍR IMTHIGE FRI ROTH ‘do not race against a wheel' (Tec. Corm. § 19)

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UILG TUILG seems to have been a medieval Irish way of expressing a sound made in sorrow or defeat. It is one of a number of two-word phrases which were used with reference to noises or utterances. GIC GOC was meaningless chatter, GRICC GRÁICC the clanging of a bell, and HÚRLA HÁRLA probably indicated some kind of cheer. MINGUR GRINGUR, meanwhile, may well have been some sort of buzzing or humming sound made by an insect.

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GÉN 'ridicule, mockery' is best-known from the phrase BERRAD GEÓIN 'a shearing for ridicule'. This phrase seems to stem from an incident involving a dispute between Cú Chulainn and Cú Roí mac Dáire. In the end, Cú Roí drives Cú Chulainn into the ground up to his armpits, cuts off his hair and covers his head in cow-dung. In later literature, 'to give someone a BERRAD GEÓIN' serves as a reference to public humiliation. Michael O'Clery's 17th-century glossary even contains a cryptic allusion to 'the BERRAD GEÓIN Philip's wife gave him', but does not tell us who the couple in question were or whether the 'shearing' was literal or figurative!

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CÉT continues in Modern Irish as CÉAD, which means 'a hundred (100)'. In early Irish, though, the word could denote 120. In other medieval languages too, words which now refer to 100 were used to mean 120. In order to avoid confusion, English eventually adopted the terms 'long hundred' or 'twelfty' for 120, and in Ireland 120 became known as GALLCHÉT 'the foreign hundred'. There are, however, some legal references which show CÉT itself being used with this meaning, e.g. 'se fichit in gach ced' (six twenties in every 'cét'; 23Q6,51b43).

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