the thirteenth letter of the Irish alphabet, is not found in
the early Ogham alphabet:
ni bi p isin Gaedilc,
. Indo-germanic p when initial or between
vowels disappeared in the Celtic languages. Consequently all
words beginning with p in Old and Mid. Irish are derivatives
from Latin, British, Romance, and occas. Scandinavian
sources. In the oldest Irish loan-words from Latin (which
came chiefly through a British medium), initial p > c (q), e.g.
cland, corcur, Cothraige (Irish name of St. Patrick) < Lat.
planta, purpur, Patricius. When Ireland came into direct
contact with Latin Christianity and culture, Latin p remained
in loan-words, and subsequently p was legitimized as an Irish
letter and was called pin in the Ogham alphabet,
The account given of p in the
Auraicept 1269 fg.
is obscure; apparently it was regarded as the softening (bocad,
bogad, a term expld. in Gloss. as unvoicing) of b (acc. to
, some Latin grammarians held that bh was written for p,
a view denied by others). Later it received the name peith or
peith bhog (
.); O'Reilly explains peith as =
beith(e), name of the birch-tree and in Ogham of the letter b,
hence peith bhog = `soft b'. (In Hogan Luibh. and
peith = dwarf elder.)
In early Irish orthography the letter p, when initial and in
the groups mp, rp, and pp, stands for the voiceless labial
explosive p; medial between vowels it generally represents
the voiced labial b which replaces it in later notation (O.Ir.
opair = mod. obair). Late Mid.Ir. scribes occas. use p incorrectly to express medial or final lenited b, e.g. gapaid, ro
gap = gabaid (gaibid), ro gab.
In lenition p becomes `f, in early MSS. often written ph
(occas. fp). In O.Ir. lenition of p may have been optional,
Thurn. Hdb. § 231
Initial p and b somet. interchange; for exx. see 2 pell,
bellic, píast, pla(e), plaesc, poc(c), práca.
several words beginning either with b or p, the latter form
being colloquial (`vulgo').
Initial p also interchanges somet. with f in Mid.Ir. and
later; in some cases p is the older form (see pailm, pairche,
pít, promaid), in others f (e.g. O.Ir. fetarlicce > Mid.Ir.
Irish words beginning with p are prob. all originally loan-words; those of the oldest period are borrowed mainly from
Latin, those of later times from Romance sources through the
medium at first (from the end of the 12th to the latter part of
the 14th cent.) of Anglo-French, later of English.