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Did you know that there are ten words for survey in early Irish?

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Introduction to the Concise Edition

The concise edition of the electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language, which is aimed at the non-specialist user, is a dictionary of early Irish covering the period c.700 CE- c.1700 CE. It draws on the larger, scholarly edition, also available on this site.

The concise edition gives just the dictionary headword and associated definitions without the grammatical information and historical citations that accompany the full edition. Typing in a search term in English will produce a list of all entries in which that word appears in a definition. This includes entries in which it appears in the definition of compound words and phrases, so be wary that not all results will be a direct equivalent of your search term. You should also note that we do not display any entries where there is some doubt about the existence of the word (preceded by a query in the full dictionary).

You can view the full, scholarly entry at any stage by clicking on the headword or by clicking on the 'Switch Edition' button.

The Dictionary contains much information on words relating to agriculture, medicine, law, music, religion and society that will be of particular interest to historians and archaeologists, and it traces the origin and development of words over a period of a thousand years. The rich vocabulary of the Dictionary is also ripe for exploitation by creative writers and thinkers in the modern languages, and by making it available now in a concise edition we hope to make it more accessible to the general user with no knowledge of Irish in the medieval period.

To read a brief explanation of the spelling and pronunciation of early Irish, and for further reading, see here.

Word of the Week[See More]


CALLANN, the ‘calends’ or first day of a month, is known today from phrases such as Modern Irish LÁ CAILLE ‘New Year’s Day’ and Scottish Gaelic OIDHCHE CHALLAINN ‘New Year’s Eve, Hogmanay’. From it, we get also two memorable medieval Irish words. CAILLEÓRACHT is a term for predicting events according to the day of the week on which 1st January falls or the way the wind is blowing on that day. And CAILLEÓIR is a term for the person who makes such predictions.

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BRATÁN is an early Irish term for a fish. The word has come down to us in Modern Irish as BRADÁN (Scottish Gaelic BRADAN) and it is generally used nowadays to refer to the salmon. In origin, though, BRATÁN is simply the diminutive of BRAT ‘a captive’, so it means literally ‘little captive’ and may have denoted other commonly caught fish before being restricted in meaning to the salmon.

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BALLAIGID is a rare medieval Irish verb which derives from the noun BALL ‘a spot, mark or speckle’. In the tale ‘Caithréim Thoirdhealbhaigh’, it appears as part of a magnificent five-part compound in the statement DO GHEALNÚADDERGDATHBALLAIG IN GRÍAN A GNÚIS ‘the sun bright-fresh-red-colour-speckled its face’!

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MESS is the medieval Irish term for ‘mast’, the nuts, seeds and fruit of trees and shrubs that are eaten mostly by wildlife. It often occurs with MUCC ‘pig’, so that MUCC MESSA is a ‘mast-fed pig’ and MUCC REMI-THUIT MESS is ‘a pig that falls before the mast’. The latter phrase is used of a person who has died prematurely. It appears in the Annals of the Four Masters in reference to Mael Seachlainn mac Murchada who was poisoned at the age of 30 in 1155 (FM ii 1114.13).

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