Monday, June 14, 2010

Sources on the Internet for Old Irish Translating

To translate simple words from Old Irish to English, and back again required me to use several sources. One source that I used extensively recently went off line – Denis King’s “In Duil Belrai - Old Irish Glossary” ( Therefore I needed to find an adequate replacement. I did discover a “work around” which seemed to produce accurate results. I used a Modern Irish site in combination with an Old Irish one.

I began with “Gaelic Dictionaries On-line” ( This dated site does offer a jumping off point to looking for an Old Irish Dictionary. I used “MacBain’s Etymological Dictionary” ( which I thought was the best for my uses. It was an excellent source for translating from Old Irish to English. Since the search feature on the site does not work, I had to go to the alphabet section, and then use my computer’s search feature. This was long and cumbersome, but did ensure accuracy while I was using the modern language site for translating words from English to Old Irish. In addition, I found “MacFarlane’s Gaelic-English Dictionary” ( to be useful for a second source. Using the two together was helpful with Old Irish words.

Translating from English to Irish, I used “Irish Dictionary On-Line” ( Although, this is a Modern Irish language site, I reasoned that for the simple words I was looking up such as “dog” or “oak” would be unchanged from Old Irish. However, in using this dictionary care is needed. For example, I asked for the translation of “dog” which returned “cu”, which is correct. However, when asking for the translation of “cu”, the result was “greyhound”, “bloodhound”, and a list of words containing “cu”.

Another example is “oak”. Two results were “dair” (noun), and “darach” (adjective). I choose to use the noun form for “oak”. Another thing, I encountered with several popular books on the Ogham was a different spelling for “oak”, which was “duir”. When working in a language you know very little about, it is best to have several sources, and use the ones that are deemed the most reliable.

While working back and forth with these sources, I was able to find translations for basic words. The sources did denote the parts of speech for each work, which for me is helpful. The Modern Irish Dictionary separated verbs from the others, and allowed you to add a fada, which is important in Irish spelling. Meanwhile, the two Gaelic dictionaries were helpful in confirming the Modern Irish one’s results.

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