Word of the Week

LUPAIT

LUPAIT seems to have been a term for a young pig, which some sources say was killed on the Feast of St Martin. According to O’Dovoren’s Glossary, there were eight different names for types of pig in medieval Irish, including also COMLACHTAID 'a piglet', DEIL 'a two-year-old pig' and CRÓ, which must have been a pig kept in a sty. Pig-Ogham, a system for identifying the names of letters in the Ogham alphabet using the names of pigs, gives us also ORC 'a young pig' and FORORC, which the dictionary defines as 'a big pig'!

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11/11/2020
SAMAIN

SAMAIN, the 1st of November, is a word for which medieval Irish scholars had a number of different explanations. The suggestion that it derives from SAM 'summer' and FUIN ‘end’ is well-known, but there was also a tradition that the second part came from the word SÚAN and that the whole meant 'summer-sleep'. One medieval Irish tale says that common people called this time of year FÉIL MOINGFHINNE 'the festival of Moingfhinn'. Moingfhinn was a scheming Otherworld woman who died at Hallowe’en, having drunk poison which she had prepared for her brother.

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01/11/2020
BODAR

BODAR (Modern Irish BODHAR) means ‘deaf’ but the word is used also to describe an indistinct or hollow sound and it is the latter sense which lies behind BODHRÁN, the name of a traditional Irish frame drum generally made of goatskin. What seems to be the earliest mention of the BODHRÁN actually occurs in a late copy of the medical text Rosa Anglica. Here, it is claimed that one of the signs of tympanites (the swelling of the abdomen with air or gas) is that, on being struck, the belly makes a sound ‘mar bhodhrán’ (like a drum)!

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23/10/2020
CRIDE

CRIDE 'heart' indicates the physical heart of a living thing, but it can be used figuratively also to refer to the middle. In the latter sense, CRIDE is often used along with words for other parts of the body. CRIDE LÁIME, for example, is 'the palm of the hand' (the phrase 'heart of the hand' is used in the same way in Hiberno-English) and CRIDE COISE, literally 'the heart of the foot', denotes the centre of the sole.

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18/10/2020
SECAL

SECAL 'rye' and TAES SECAIL 'rye dough' are mentioned often in medieval Irish texts, but the most remarkable references are not to rye as a crop or food-stuff but to people rubbing rye-dough on their skin in order to disguise themselves as lepers. One tale tells how a character named Rón Cerr had calf's blood and rye-dough (FUIL LÆIG ┐ TÁES SECAIL) rubbed on himself so that he might be mistaken for a leper. Another text says that a woman called Macha once rubbed rye dough and bog water (TÁES SECAIL ┐ ROTA) on herself to achieve the same effect.

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09/10/2020
CROICCENN

CROICCENN 'hide, skin' survives into Modern Irish as CRAICEANN. Medieval forms of the word occur in Irish versions of some familiar phrases. The Irish account of ‘The Destruction of Troy’ suggests IN CROCUNN ÓRDA for ‘The Golden Fleece’, and a verse preserved in the bottom margin of the famous 15th-century manuscript, An Leabhar Breac, has an Irish equivalent of 'wolf in sheep's clothing': FOEL I CRAICEND CHOERECH, literally 'a wolf in the skin of a sheep'.

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02/10/2020
TÍAG

TÍAG is an early Irish word for 'a bag, a satchel' and TÍAG LEBUIR was specifically 'a book-satchel'. In the medieval Irish version of the Passion of John the Baptist, two monks are said to transport John’s head in one such book-satchel (INA TÉIG LIBAIR), and the late eighth-century (?) Faddan More Psalter, which was discovered in a bog in Co. Tipperary, in July 2006, came complete with what seems to be pig-skin satchel, the straps or thongs of which were lying nearby.

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25/09/2020