10 Words from Ireland

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Every year, on March 17th, Irish people all over the world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, and is known for bringing Christianity to Ireland in the 5th century. According to legend, St. Patrick used the shamrock as a tool for explaining the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish (with the leaves representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and so it has become traditional to wear the shamrock symbol on St Paddy’s day.

Here are ten words with Irish roots:

  1. Banshee
    In Irish mythology, a ‘banshee’ is a female spirit who wails when someone is about to die. In English, the word dates back to the eighteenth century and is the phonetic spelling of the Irish ‘bean sidhe’ meaning ‘female of the elves’.
  2. Bog
    The word ‘bog’ dates back to the sixteenth century, and comes from the Gaelic and Irish ‘bogach’ meaning ‘soft, moist’. Here is a traditional Irish folk song about a rattlin’ bog!
  3. Boycott
    The word ‘boycott’ comes from the eponymous Captain Charles Boycott, who was the land agent of Lough Mask in County Mayo. In 1880, when Captain Boycott attempted to evict eleven tenants, he was shunned to the point that he was unable to find anyone to harvest the crops he was in charge of. The story was widespread in the news, and ‘boycott’ has now come to refer to protest through abstaining from consuming a product or interacting with a person or organisation.
  4. Brogues
    The name for these leather shoes comes from the Irish and Gaelic ‘brogan’ meaning ‘shoe’.
  5. Craic
    Craic’ is a chiefly Irish term that describes ‘fun’ or a ‘good time’. The word is pronounced similarly to the English word ‘crack’.
  6. Galore
    While ‘galore’ is used to indicate that something is in abundance, the word actually comes from the Irish ‘go leór’ meaning ‘sufficiently’. ‘Go leór’ in turn comes from the Old Irish ‘roar’ meaning ‘enough’.
  7. Fleadh
    A ‘fleadh’ is a festival of Irish or Celtic music and dancing. The term comes from the Irish ‘fleadh ceoil’ meaning ‘music festival’.
  8. Puss
    Have you ever heard the term ‘sour puss’ and pictured a miserable, pouting cat? What about ‘glamour puss’? Actually, the word ‘puss’, in these cases,comes from the Irish ‘pus’ meaning ‘face’ – no cats involved!
  9. Phoney
    In the nineteenth century, swindlers used to trick people into believing they were paying for valuable jewellery while actually selling them brass rings with painted stones. These were called ‘fawney rings’. One theory is that the word ‘phoney’ is an alteration of ‘fawney’, which in turn derives from the Irish ‘fainne’ meaning ‘ring’.
  10. Trousers
    The word ‘trousers’ originates from the Gaelic or Middle Irish ‘triubhas’ meaning ‘close-fitting shorts’.

If you enjoyed this post, why not check out some of our other articles on words from around the world?

We hope you have a fun day celebrating!

16 Mar 2015
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