Irish language

How twitter can take you back to the mysteries of medieval Irish

THE GOLDEN ORB SPIDER: You probably won’t see these boyos rushing under your sofa in Andytown or the Bogside but you have to admit it is one of the prettier arachnids. An old word for spider in Irish was “aershníthid” - an air spinner 
Robert McMIllen


Go mbeannaí Dia daoibh agus bhur gcéad míle fáilte isteach chuig the Bluffer’s Guide to Irish.

Well, the irregular verbs are done an dusted so let’s look at something that is even more fun - na meáin shóisialta - social media.

Yes, Gaeilgeoirí from Bangor to Boston are tweeting in Irish, chatting to each other on facebook i nGaeilge, sending grianghraif - photos on Instagram and Snapchat from Tory Island and proving that Irish is more than capable of thriving in the 21st century. 

The Bluffer is sure you can meet a Gaeilgeoir on tinder but has been warned not to go near it!

An bhfuil tú ar facebook? Are you on facebook is what you can ask a Gaeilgeoir you meet who you want to make friends with.

The range of stuff in Irish on social media is bewildering but here are a few of the Bluffer’s favourites.

Some people think the Irish language is a code made up by Eamon DeValera in the 1930s – seriously, some people actually believe that!

SeanGhaeilge - Old Irish starts around the 6th century. 

MeánGhaeilge or Middle Irish was used from the 10th to 12th centuries; An Nua-Ghaeilge Mhoch is early Modern Irish, spoken from the 13th to the 18th century , its literary form is called an Ghaeilge Chlasaiceach - Classical Irish and what we speak and tweet today is An NuaGhaeilge or new Irish.

One of my favourite twitter sites is eDil_dictionary which is an electronic dictionary of the Irish language up until around 1650.

In it, life is breathed into ancient words. You can almost feel the breath of the people who spoke it in bygone centuries but that gives it an archaic feel when people in, say, the 15th century thought the world had reached its apotheosis with the coming of the printing press. The felt as modern as we do today.

The latest entry in eDil is about the word athbeóaigid meaning comes back to life - and it has a great story illustratiing its use,   bran was the medieval Irish word for a raven, Sug na Cáelán - Guts’ Juice seems to have been a nickname in 11th-century Ireland and a spider in Old Irish was an aershníthid - air-spinner or an etershníthid a between-spinner.

There are loads of other  words that come alive in eDil. For instance, I didn’t know that pell was a rare word for horse and Lúan meaning Monday could also mean Doomsday in early Irish because people thought the world would end on a Sunday.

The provinces each had their stereotypes - Iaruss fis. Tuadus cath. Aithis bláth. Teissus séis - knowledge in the west, battle in the north, prosperity in the east, music in the south.

ChronHib is another good site for looking at things medieval (and good craic as well) while @kingdonncha - Dennis King - is very instructive too although he tweets mostly in Irish.  

From Dennis, the Bluffer learned that the word súóg means “a stain left by tears.”

Now probably the best known twitter page for those interested in modern Irish, is @theirishfor and we’ll be taking a look at that and much twittery more next week. 


na meáin shóisialta (ne maan hoshyalta) - social media

grianghraif (greeanfraaf) - photos 

An bhfuil tú ar facebook? (un wil too er facebook) - Are you on facebook

SeanGhaeilge (shaangaylick)  - Old Irish

MeánGhaeilge (maangaylick) - Middle Irish

An Nua-Ghaeilge Mhoch (un nua-gaylick wawkh) - early Modern Irish

an Ghaeilge Chlasaiceach (un faylick khlaseekakh) - Classical Irish

An NuaGhaeilge (un nooa-gaylick) - modern Irish

athbeóaigid (avyawagith) - comes back to life

bran (bran) - a raven

Sug na Cáelán (soo na caylaan) - Guts’ Juice 

aershníthid (ayr-neehith) - air-spinner

etershníthid (eterneehith) - between-spinner

pell (pell) - a horse Lúan (looan) - Monday, doomsday

Iaruss fis (eeruss feesh) - knowlede in the east

Tuadus cath (tooaus cah) - battle in the north

Aithis bláth (aheesh blah) - prosperity in the east 

Teissus séis (tesshus shaysh) - music in the south

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access


Irish language

Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: