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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BÉL survives in Modern Irish as BÉAL 'mouth', but the original sense was 'lip' and the plural was used to mean 'mouth'. It is the plural which occurs in the medieval Irish legal phrase DERGMÍR I MBÉLAIB. Meaning literally 'a red morsel in the mouth', this phrase seems to have referred to property acquired illegally. One of the examples cited has to do with a church seizing the property of a monk who died there but who belonged to another church. The Laws state that the church in which he dies is entitled only to his burial-clothes, seven cakes and a funeral-feast (étach reilge ┐secht bairgen ┐fleg crólige, Laws v 432). Anything else would be considered a 'red morsel'.

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CORRGUINECHT is associated with satire, divination and other supernatural acts. It is associated also with an unusual physical stance. O'Davoren's Glossary defines CORRGUINECHT as 'being on one foot, one hand and one eye' while satirising. In the tale of Bruiden Da Choca also, a woman utters a prophecy while standing on one foot with one eye closed. And Togail Bruidne Da Derga describes how a seer woman chants thirty-two different names 'on one foot and in one breath'. Because of the emphasis on standing on one foot, scholars have sometimes wondered whether the first part of the word CORRGUINECHT might be CORR 'heron, stork'!

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NECHTAR means 'one of two, either'. NEMNECHTAR does not seem to occur in the early language, but NEMNECHTARDAE is found as an adjective meaning 'belonging to neither'. It is used to refer to the neuter gender in the Old-Irish glossary Sanas Cormaic (i.e. not belonging to either masculine or feminine), and it turns up again in Early Modern medical texts to describe old people (who are neither completely well nor ill) and people recovering from illness.

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CONGANCHNES means 'horn-skin'. It is so closely associated with the impenetrable layer of armour worn by Cú Chulainn's foster-brother, Fer Diad, that he is sometimes known as In Conganchnes (The Horn-Skin). In the Irish account of the destruction of Troy, though, Hector uses the word to refer to himself. Ultimately, of course, Cú Chulainn stabs Fer Diad in the heart 'dar brollach in chonganchnis' (over the chestpiece of the horn-skin) before finally killing him in what is perhaps the most tragic episode of early Irish literature.

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