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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BUIDE CHONNAILL is based on BUIDE ‘yellow’ and CONDALL ‘stalk; straw’. It might seem like an appealing phrase drawn from nature, but this was actually a disease which is said to have caused ‘mortalitas magna’ (great mortality) in Ireland in the early 550s. The name suggests that the disease in question was characterised by a yellow, straw-like colour and it is thought that BUIDE CHONNAILL referred to relapsing fever, which is spread by lice or ticks, and is often accompanied by jaundice.

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DAMÁN ALLAID (Modern Irish DAMHÁN ALLA) seems to translate literally as ‘wild little ox’ – which is very odd as this refers to a spider. In a 17th-century source, and still sometimes today, the first word is given as DUBHÁN ‘little black thing’, which is similar in pronunciation to DAMHÁN and makes a lot more sense! Despite Middle-Irish references to insects called CERNDUBÁN and SPECDUBÁN, however, there do not seem to be any early uses of this word to refer to a spider, and the form DAMÁN ALLAID is attested from the early 9th century onwards…

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CITH and FRAS both mean ‘shower’ and were often used in medieval Ireland to refer to the falling of rain or snow. In the early 17th century, however, Tadhg Ó Cianáin used both in his attempt to find appropriate words for what seems to be the first description in Irish of fireworks. Of a display which he witnessed in Rome, Tadhg says: gur choimhlinatar meid airighthi don aer etaruas uassan gcaislen do na cethoibh ┐do na frossoibh teinntidhe ro leicset ‘they filled a portion of the atmosphere over the castle with the showers and fiery flames they sent forth’ (Fl. Earls 188). Happy New Year/Athbhliain Faoi Shéan 's Faoi Mhaise/Bliadhna Mhath Ùr to all our followers!

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ÍSSUCÁN is sometimes translated as ‘Jesukin’. It is a diminutive form of the name ÍSSU ‘Jesus’ and serves as a term of affection, just like MACCUCÁN, which comes from MACC ‘boy’ and means roughly ‘little lad’, and CÚCUCÁN, which was a pet name given to the Ulster warrior CÚ CHULAINN!

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