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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DAMSA ‘dancing’ does not seem to be attested before the sixteenth century and the first example we have of RINCE ‘dancing, a dance’ is from the seventeenth century. In Irish texts from earlier periods, LINGID ‘leaps’ and LÉIM ‘a leap’ are used to refer to dancing. Some of the clearest instances occur with reference to the dance Salome performed for Herod and for which she demanded the head of John the Baptist.

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DÉ ‘smoke’ could be used of the smoke from a campfire, a volcano or a gun, but it was most common as a word for the smoke from a fire within a house. A number of medieval Irish tales claim that individuals, including Fíngin Fathliaig, Conchobar’s physician, could tell from the smoke rising from a hearth how many people in that house were suffering from illness and what types of illness were to be found there.

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IRÚATH is used to medieval Irish to indicate some kind of legendary giant bird. It has been suggested that the word is based on Latin ‘herodius’, which is a stork or similar bird, but it seems unlikely that the Irish had any real bird in mind. One text tells us that this creature came from India but otherwise it is identified only by its remarkable size and is used as shorthand way of expressing something that has no equal. Presumably, in earlier times any Irish person would have been flattered to be told: tú an ioruaidh ós gach ealta ‘you are the IRÚATH above all birds’ (3 C 13, 752.7).

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AITHBEÓAIGID is an early Irish verb meaning ‘comes back to life’. There is an example of the past tense in the tale of Cairpre mac Feradaig. According to this, Cairpre was killed and his head was cut off, but a cleric, Ciarán of Clonmacnoise, reunited his head with his body ‘co roaithbeōaig Cairbri ō marbaib’ (and so Cairpre came back to life from the dead). The process was not a complete success, however, for Cairpre's neck remained crooked, and afterwards he was known as Cairpre Crom ‘Bent Cairpre’.

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