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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FÁS 'growth' appears in the name of a fungus 'fás na h-óenoidche'. Meaning 'one night's growth', the name was obviously inspired by the idea of springing up overnight. That the fungus in question was white is suggested by a reference, in King's Inns MS 15, to 'brat ar dath fáis na henoidchi no ail no cloichi sneachta (a cloak the colour of 'fás na h-óenoidche' or lime or hailstones).

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FÍR can be used as a noun meaning 'what is true or right'. FÍR FER is often translated 'fair play', a phrase which is still prevalent in Hiberno-English. FÍR FER was a guiding principle of medieval Irish society. It could refer to one-to-one combat but, as shown by its use in concluding agreements and non-violent negotiations, the phrase embodied a broad ethical concept of fairness and equal treatment.

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DOÉL 'chafer, beetle' sometimes appears in personal names, like Dubthach Dóel Ulad 'Dubthach, Beetle of Ulster'. Such names were obviously intended to identify the bearer as a person to be feared and are perhaps linked to the tendency in Ireland to regard the beetle, like the worm, as an instrument of dissolution of the body after death. The passing of Aed mac Domnaill úa Néill, tenth-century king of Ailech, for example, is lamented in a poem which states: dursan mac Domnaill do dheól don daol 'alas that Domnall's son is being sucked by the beetle' (Arch. iii 304)!

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COMMÓRTAS 'comparison, competition, rivalry' continues today in phrases such as Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta, an annual Gaelic football competition. The word has a very specific use in the marginalia and notes preserved in medieval and later Irish manuscripts. Scribes and owners of manuscripts often wrote a line or two, attempting to imitiate the letter-forms on the page; an addition of this kind was termed 'commórtas'. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, MS C ii 3 [d] (fo. 21 v) has a nice example in what seems to be Seán Ó Maolchonaire’s hand. It says simply 'comortas lais an sgribhneoir' (an imitation of the writer).

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