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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BOTH DHÍAMHAIR ‘a secluded hut’ is sometimes mentioned in Early Modern Irish texts as a place in which poems were composed. Fear Flatha Ó Gnímh, who was active around 1600, actually railed against another poet for composing outdoors with a view of mountains, presumably implying that the other was breaching professional etiquette. And Martin Martin’s ‘Description of the Western Isles of Scotland’, which was published in 1695, gives a similar account of the process of poetic composition. He says: ‘they shut their doors and windows for a day’s time, and lie on their backs, with a stone on their belly … and indeed they furnish such a style from the dark cell as is understood by very few’.

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FULLA on its own seems to have been an early term for a vagrant, for it is explained as a person ‘who travels from place to place’ (bis for sibal a hinad d'inad). What is, presumably, the same word turns up in a puzzling phrase, DLAÍ FULLA. The first word here means ‘a wisp’ or ‘a tuft’, and according to various medieval texts, a person on whom the DLAÍ FULLA is put becomes mad or restless. That some kind of supernatural ritual was involved is suggested by the fact that Núadu Fullón, a ‘druí’ (druid), is said to have been the first person ever to administer the DLAÍ FULLA.

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ÚATHACH ‘horrible’ is found as a name in a number of medieval Irish sources. Perhaps the most interesting individual to be so-called is Eithne Úathach. Her name is said to refer to the fact that, as a girl, she was given the flesh of children to eat so that she would grow faster. In the 17th century, Geoffrey Keating responded to Classical writers who claimed that there was cannibalism amongst the Irish in pre-Christian times, arguing that Eithne was an isolated case. He did not mention an entry in the Annals of Ulster for the year 1318, which comments that the during Robert the Bruce’s Irish campaign ‘people undoubtedly ate each other throughout Ireland’.

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DAMSA ‘dancing’ does not seem to be attested before the sixteenth century and the first example we have of RINCE ‘dancing, a dance’ is from the seventeenth century. In Irish texts from earlier periods, LINGID ‘leaps’ and LÉIM ‘a leap’ are used to refer to dancing. Some of the clearest instances occur with reference to the dance Salome performed for Herod and for which she demanded the head of John the Baptist.

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