Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Irish Words that Came to America

Laura Breck

I was fascinated when I found out how many Irish words are used in the English language. Here are a few of my favorites.











banshee

(from Irish bainsídhe/beansídhe, "female fairy")(M-W), "woman of the fairies" (AHD) or "...of a fairy mound" (RH). The Modern Irish word for woman is bean /bæn/ and síd(h) (or in modern spelling) is an Irish term referring to a 'fairy mound'.

bog

(from bogach meaning "marsh/peatland") a wetland (OED).

brogue

A strong regional accent, especially an Irish one. Presumably used originally with reference to the footwear of speakers of the brogue (OED).

clock

O.Ir. clocc meaning "bell"; also Welsh cloch but the giving language is Irish mediated by Irish missionaries. The same source has German Glocke "bell".

cross

The ultimate source of this word is Latin crux, the Roman gibbet which became a symbol of Christianity. Some sources say the English wordform comes from Old Irish cros. Other sources say the English comes from Old French crois and others say it comes from Old Norse is a technical word in geology.

galore

(from go leor meaning "til plenty") a lot (OED).

hooligan

(from the Irish family name Ó hUallacháin, anglicised as O'Houlihan) one who takes part in rowdy behaviour and vandalism.

kibosh, kybosh

to finish, to end. The OED says the origin is obscure and possibly Yiddish. Other sources, suggest that it may be from the Irish an chaip bháis meaning "the cap of death" (a reference to the "black cap" worn by a judge passing sentence of capital punishment.

Leprechaun

(from leipreachán or leath bhrogán) (OED).

phoney

(probably from the English fawney meaning "gilt brass ring used by swindlers", which is from Irish fainne meaning "ring") fake.

slew

(from sluagh meaning "a large number") a great amount (OED). Note: as in a slew of new products, not as in slay.

slob

(from slab) mud (OED).

smithereens

small fragments, atoms. In phrases such as 'to explode into smithereens'. This is the word smithers (of obscure origin) with the Irish diminutive ending. Whether it derives from the modern Irish smidrín or is the source of this word is unclear (OED).

whiskey

(from uisce beatha meaning "water of life") (OED).
Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_words_of_Irish_origin


Here's hoping your Saint Patrick's Day was full of Leprechauns galore, a slew of Irish whiskey, and only a smithereen of hooliganism!

Laura

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3 comments:

Jannine Gallant said...

The Irish have some colorful words. My fav is Hooligan! Thanks for a fun post, Laura.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Fascinating, Laura. I use quite a few of these and wonder if I heard them growing up. My grandfather was full blooded Irish.

Jerri Hines said...

My husband is having the best time telling words not to use in Ireland that have completely different meanings here in the US. Just what I need...to think before I speak.