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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BIGIRECHT and BUCLUAISC are just two of the games mentioned in medieval Irish tales about which we know nothing! The names of some other games are more revealing: COR CLOICHE, for example, means ‘throwing the stone’, CLUICHE PHUILL means ‘the game of the hole’ and CLUICHE LÚIBE IS LÍATHRÓITE means ‘the game of loop and ball’. It has been suggested that the last of these is an early reference to a hurling, the LÚB ‘loop’ denoting the bent willow which was used as a goal.

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COS could be ‘a foot’ or ‘a leg’ in medieval Irish, just as LÁM could be ‘a hand’ or ‘an arm’. The two could also be combined. A 14th-century account of the wars fought between two branches of the Uí Briain kings, for example, refers to CÚAL DO COSLÁMAIB, ‘a pile of leg-arms’, that is ‘a pile of legs and arms'. And the same text mentions also CENDCHOSLÁMA NA CATH ‘the head-leg-arms of the battles’, in other words, the heads and legs and arms that had been cut off in the battles!

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NATHAIR IMCHENN ‘a double-headed snake’ is an early Irish phrase used to designate a line of Ogam script that reads the same in both directions but has the starting-point of the word in the middle. The word is inscribed forwards in one direction and backwards in the other; by way of illustration, a text on Ogam preserved in the 14th-century Book of Ballymote tells us that, as a NATHAIR IMCHENN, the man’s name CELLACH would be: H C A L L E C E L L A C H. How this would be conveyed using Ogam letters can be seen at the bottom of the image below, which is an extract from the Book of Ballymote, fo. 169rb (© Royal Irish Academy 2003)

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CLOCH ‘a stone’ appeared in a number of useful expressions in medieval Irish – CLOCH MUILINN, for example, was a mill-stone and CLOCH ISNA HÁIRNIB was a stone in the kidney. Two phrases stand out as particularly nicely constructed, though: CLOCH MEÓIR 'a finger-stone' seems to have been a pebble, a stone that could be picked up between the fingers, while CLOCH GLAICE ‘a hand-stone’ was a larger rock that had to be grasped by the whole hand.

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