Word of the Week


In Modern Irish ‘soap’ can be GALLÚNACH and ‘a bar of soap’ can be BLOC GALLÚNAÍ. The first handmade Irish soap company was even called GALLUNAC. The word GALLÚNACH seems to derive from English GALL, as in GALL BLADDER, along with Irish ÚNACH ‘washing’. The first part recognises the fact this soap was made using animal bile! The earliest reference that we have to this bizarre compound-word is in a seventeenth-century medical manuscript known as the Book of the O’Shiels, in which soap is mentioned in the context of cleaning wounds.

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RÓSTAID ‘roasts’ and related words such as RÓSTAIGTHE ‘roasted’ and RÓSTAD ‘roast meat’ have been identified only in Irish texts of the fourteenth century and later. These terms seem to derive from Norman French, just like the terms used in medieval Ireland for game birds such as partridge (PERTRIS) and pheasant (PHESAN, UESION). In all, the linguistic evidence suggests that the arrival of the Normans was connected with changes in the types of poultry consumed on the island and in the ways that food was prepared. Nollaig Shona...Nollaig Chridheil... Nollick Ghennal... Merry Christmas... to everyone who has followed, liked and commented throughout the year 🥳

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BÉO usually means ‘living’ in early Irish and MARB usually means ‘dead’. The ninth-century Triads of Ireland brings the two together and proposes to name TRÍ BÍ FOCHERDAT MARBDILI ‘three living things that produce dead stuff’. According to the text, the living things in question are a deer (which sheds its antlers), a tree (which drops its leaves) and cattle (which lose their 'stinking hair')!

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