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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SRÓN 'nose' occurs in medieval Irish references to taxes, which were often specified as a certain amount in gold or silver 'for every nose'. The expression seems to be linked to Old Icelandic 'nef-gildi' (nose-tax). As every individual has one nose, a 'nose-tax' was a shorthand way of referring to a tax on every person. This system of reckoning by the nose probably came to Ireland with the Norse, but the concept was ill-understood by the time Leabhar Cloinne Aodha Buidhe was being written in Sligo in the 1680s, for the text claims: uinge d'ór ar gach aontsróin ... nó an tsrón do bhuain 'an ounce of gold for every nose ... or the nose to be struck off' (97.94)!

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GRÁN CRUITHNECHTA 'wheat-grain' and GRÁN EÓRNA 'barley-grain' regularly occur in medieval Irish in agricultural and domestic references, but GRÁN could be used also in a military context. GRÁIN CHATHA, literally 'battle-grains', is still the accepted Modern Irish term for caltrops, the spiked devices which are strewn on the ground to slow the advance of men, horses and vehicles. In the Irish version of the 'Historia Britonum' of Nennius it is claimed that the Romans were hampered by iron caltrops (tres na grainib catha) placed in a ford in the River Thames (Todd Nenn. 60).

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BÍAIL 'an axe' is mentioned in medieval Irish sources as both a tool and a weapon. It is as a weapon that the word appears in a striking phrase from the Middle-Irish tale of the Battle of Mag Tuired. This tale tells us that the Dagda, leader of the Tuatha Dé Danann, vowed that every oak tree would bear the mark of his weapon for ever and so fissures on these trees are known as LÁTHRACH BÉLA IN DAGDA 'the imprint of the Dagda's axe' (CMT2 48).

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SÉN is an omen or portent. To judge by the abundance of attestions in a wide range of texts, concerns about good and bad omens affected almost all areas of Irish life from earliest times. Literary references attach particular importance to the presence of good omens when a child is being born and there are accounts of mothers' attempts to delay birth, sometimes by sitting on a stone. It is claimed, for example, that Túathal Mael Garb or 'rough head' was so called from the lumps and hollows (luicc ┐cnuicc) caused by the stone that his head rested against while his mother waited for a good omen before giving birth to him!

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