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    Dictionaries of Irish

Main dictionaries
Smaller dictionaries
Vocabulary aids
Historical dictionaries

There are a number of dictionaries available for Irish. The standard works for the modern language are Bhaldraithe (1957). English-Irish Dictionary. Ó Dónaill (1977) Foclóir Gaeilge - Béarla. [Irish-English dictionary] along with the older Dinneen (1927 [1924]) Irish - English Dictionary.

A major new English-Irish dictionary was planned some time ago. Nothing had appeared at the time of de Bhaldraithe’s death in 1996 nor has anything been published since. However, the project still exists and there is a dedicated website for it: New English-Irish Dictionary.

Unfortunately, there is no dictionary of modern Irish with etymological information. To trace the meaning of a word through history one must use the Dictionary of the Irish Language (published by the Royal Irish Academy) which is based on Old and Middle Irish material. However, there is a modern Irish index for this dictionary, de Bhaldraithe (1981). Alternatively, one could consult the etymological dictionary by Vendryes (1959-78) Lexique étymologique de l’irlandais ancien which, unfortunately, remains incomplete.


Left: de Bhaldraithe, Tomás (1957). English-Irish Dictionary

Right: Ó Dónaill, Niall (1977) Foclóir Gaeilge - Béarla [Irish-English dictionary]

Sample page from Ó Dónaill Foclóir Gaeilge Béarla.

This work is not what it purports to be. Although the cover of this CD suggests that it contains an electronic version of the Ó Dónaill dictionary, it contains only a small part of the material of this work. The number of lexical entries is a fraction of that in the dictionary and the entries are all considerably shorter than in the original dictionary. For example, there is virtually none of the syntactic or phraseological information given in Ó Dónaill. Furthermore, although released in late 2007 the program used to access the data on the CD is an old, Windows 95 application (16 bit) and falls well short of the standards of user-friendliness which one can expect of lexical software today, such as the electronic dictionaries produced by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press or Longmans. For instance, it is not possible to copy the information displayed by the program, one can just look at the entries. There are, however, two additions vis á vis the printed dictionary: the list of lexical entries can be displayed as an Irish or an English list and a certain amount of grammatical information, such as tables of verbs, is provided.

Dinneen, Patrick (1927 [1924]) Irish - English Dictionary

There is currently an on-going project to digitise this dictionary in which the French lexicographer Julianne Nyhan is involved as well as the coordinator of the Corpus of Electronic Texts (Celt), Beatrix Färber. Information on the project is available on the CELT website at the following addressing:

There is also a section of the CELT website which is dedicated to a Lexicon of Medieval Irish, a project set up by Julianne Nyhan and which is accessible at This should be viewed together with the electronic for of the Dictionary of the Irish Language, eDIL (see below also).

Recently, smaller, practical dictionaries have come on the market, e.g. Mac Mathúna and Ó Corráin (1997) Collins Pocket Irish Dictionary, Ó Cróinín (2000) Oxford Pocket Irish Dictionary.

Mac Mathúna, Séamus and Ó Corráin, Ailbhe (1997) Collins Pocket Irish Dictionary

Breandán Ó Cróinín (2005) Collins Irish Dictionary, Revised edition.

Ó Cróinín, Breandán (2000) Oxford Pocket Irish Dictionary

There are also two dictionaries by the government deparment, An Gúm: Foclóir Póca and Foclóir Scoile.

An Gúm: Foclóir Póca

Foclóir Scoile

Irish-English, English-Irish Dictionary (Educational Company of Ireland)

Ó Ruairc, Maolmhaodhóg 1996. Díolaim d’Abairtí Dúchasacha. [An anthology of native sayings] Dublin: An Gúm.

Ó Doibhlin, Breandán 2008. Gaoth an Fhocail. Foclóir analógach. [The suggestion of the word. An analogical dictionary]. Second edition. Dublin: Coiscéim and Sáirséal Ó Marcaigh.

Dictionary of the Irish Language

As of Summer 2007 the Dictionary of the Irish language has been available online in a searchable form. To access this, use the following link.

eDIL website

de Bhaldraithe, Tomás (1957). Innéacs Nua-Ghaeilge don Dictionary of the Irish Language

Dictionaries of the Irish language go back some considerable time. By the middle of the 19th century an English-Irish dictionary was available for those studying the Irish language.

Daniel Foley’s English-Irish Dictionary (1855)

In addition to the above dictionaries there is an unfinished etymological dictionary of the Irish language, begun by the French Celtologist Joseph Vendryes (1875-1960) and partially completed by his compatriots Édouard Bachallery and Pierre-Yves Lambert. Seven volumes have been published to date, covering the following letters: 1: A; 2: M, N, O, P; 3: R, S; 4: T, U; 5: B; 6: C; 7: D).