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 but incorporates corrections and additions to thousands of entries.

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Citing the Dictionary

There are two ways of citing the Dictionary. You can cite using the traditional method, for example, eDIL s.v. focal, or you can use the permanent URL displayed on the left-hand side of the page under the headword, for example, dil.ie/2345. Although the spelling of headwords may change in the light on new knowledge, these numbers will always remain the same and this link will always take you to the same entry.

In your bibliography, please cite as:

eDIL 2019: An Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language, based on the Contributions to a Dictionary of the Irish Language (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 1913-1976) (www.dil.ie 2019). Accessed on [access date].

Word of the Week[See More]


BOLG is a long-established Irish word used to denote bubbles, blisters and swellings of various types. Bricriu mac Carbada, who features as a troublemaker in the Ulster Cycle of tales, is pictured as having a purple swelling, as big as a man's fist, which would rise up on his forehead when he tried to keep a secret. According to one account, when this happened, Bricriu used to say MEBAIS DIN BOILGG INNOCHT 'the bubble will burst tonight'!

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CÍRMAIRE was an early Irish word for a comb-maker. There are signs that comb-makers were not held in very high regard in medieval Ireland. In the Life of St Colmán, for example, the saint proclaims that only shoe-makers and comb-makers will descend from anyone who turns against him. That said, in describing how the CÍRMAIRE acquired materials for this craft, an early legal text has an intriguing suggestion of supernatural powers. According this source, the CÍRMAIRE is to be found ‘chanting on a dunghill so that what there is below of horns and bones comes up’ (Celtica xxi 231). https://fermanaghastoryin100objects.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/the-drumclay-bird-headed-comb/

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BEL seems to have been an old Irish word for 'a path' which survives only as part of Modern Irish BEALACH 'road, track' and perhaps IMEALL 'border, edge'. BEALACH itself appears in the phrase BEALACH NA BÓ FINNE 'the path of the white cow', an Irish name for the Milky Way. In Scottish Gaelic, meanwhile, the Milky Way is known as SLIGHE CHLOINN UISNICH 'the way of the sons of Uisneach'. The three sons of Uisneach are said to have been treacherously murdered after being lured back to Ireland after a period of exile in Scotland.

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AIRTEM was an early Irish word for a measure of length, seemingly equivalent to a man’s fist with the thumb extended. It is often used in medieval literature to express extraordinary physical size or bodily contortion. The nose, mouth and penis of Ulster hero Fergus mac Róich, for example, are all said to have measured seven AIRTIM and, in the Irish version of the Destruction of Troy, Troilus’ eyes extend an AITEM outside his head when he comes under attack from the Myrmidons.

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