Google has made available many Irish dictionaries that are not well-known to the general public and that are lodged in libaries throughout the world, particularly in the USA. There is a store of information and knowledge to be found within them along with some wonderful words not found in more recently published dictionaries.
These dictionaries can be downloaded free-of-charge as PDF files. However, if one wants to easily perform searches within them, one must view them on-line, using Google’s own search tools.
To view these books, follow these steps on your web browser:
You will find a wide range of books. The old books, whose copyrights have expired, are fully available for viewing.
There are search tools available for you to use on-line or, if you prefer, you can download a PDF version of the books.
If you wish to find a word, you need only type the word into the search box on the left hand side of the page and press “Go” after that. Sometimes the search is not accurate or correct as the system does not understand the Gaelic typeface. (Attention: You have to work on-line to do this - it is not possible to easily search the dictionary when viewed in a PDF reader.)
Here are some gems from the GoogleBooks collection:
Compiled by Conor O’Begly (Conchobhar Ó Beaglaoich) and Hugh MacCurtin (Aodh Bhuidhe Mac Cuirtin) 1732, Paris, France
It is an English-Irish dictionary; Number of pages: 717; Preface: 9 pages
Typeface: Roman typeface and Gaelic typeface with scribal contractions ("noda")
There is guide to Irish grammar on page 674.
This is the first comprehensive Irish language dictionary ever printed and published. It was published in Paris, France in 1732. It is an English-Irish dictionary and is quite large. There is a wealth of information in it. There are prefaces in Latin, Irish, English and French. Along with that, there is a guide to Irish grammar at the back of the book. The English text is printed in Roman typeface while the Irish text is printed in a Gaelic typeface called Cló Phárais (the Paris Typeface). This particular typeface was specially designed for this dictionary, and it looks more like handwriting than any other Gaelic typeface used before.
The Irish is not very clear, and it can be difficult to understand the spelling of certain words. Moreover, scribal contractions are to be found in the Irish spelling. (Note: Scribal contractions are not as painful as they sound, but they do take some getting used to. It helps to think of them as Noda, the equivalent Irish technical term.) If you are unfamiliar with these, it will be difficult to understand the spelling. (See: www.gaelchlo.com to learn more about scribal contractions, Noda). Even though the English words are clearer, they are printed in an old Roman typeface, using letters that are no longer in currency (the long s in particular, which is easily confused with the letter f). Older spellings of certain English words can be seen too, such as ‘busie’ for ‘busy’, ‘ruine’ for ‘ruin’, ‘taylor’ for ‘tailor’ and so on. Irish is not the only language to have standardised its spelling since then.
Not only are the words classified alphabetically but they are also classified and grouped by the two letters that follow the first letter, such as with the sequences ABU, ACA, ACC, ACE, etc., which makes it easier to find words.
This dictionary is full of phrases along with the headwords. Here are some samples based on the word “Acquaintance” (Page 11) Acquaintance – Caidreamh I have little acquaintance with him – Atá caidreamh beag agam leis I brought him acquainted with the best families – Do rugas é ag caidreamh na muinntear is fearr I will make [or I will get] you acquainted with him – Do bheárad caidreamh duit leis.
There is a wealth of information in this dictionary. Just reading the words and phrases that were used in English and Irish at the time is an entertainment in itself. Lewd words are listed in this dictionary too, as indeed they should be in any self-respecting dictionary. These words and phrases are an illustration of the disposition and temperament of the people of the time. See page 71 “A bitch – forainm scanalach do mhnaoi mhnádhamhúil” (literally translated as ‘a scandalous name for any lady-like woman’). See also on page 16 “To have an affair with a woman – cumann, nó cluain do bheith le mnaoi.” And then: “I shall piss upon your grave – Múinfidh mé ar huaighe, nó mairfead tar héis.” (Page 539). There are many many more words that are not to be found in the de Bhaldraithe dictionary.
And what about these pearls of wisdom: “If you can’t bite, never shew your teeth – Muna bhféada tú cagnadh, ná tesbéan t’fhiacla.” (Page 71. Take note of the old spelling of the word show in English). “Many do kiss the hands they wish to see cut off – Pógaid mórán na lámha ba miann leo do staladh, nó do stathadh, is minic cealg ambun na póige (Page 385). This dictionary is a treat for anyone who enjoys etymology and the richness of words.
John O’Brien (Seán Ó Briain)
Published in Paris, France, 1768
Number of pages: 522
Preface: There is a preface from pages i to xlvii.
There are four pages of corrections (errata) in the dictionary. The corrections are to be found at the back of the book. (Unfortunately, these pages are not numbered.)
This is an Irish-English dictionary. Both the Irish and the English are printed in Roman typeface, making them easy to read. Warning! Old spelling is used in both the Irish and the English. Old typefaces are used in the English, as seen with the letter S in particular. It is easy to mistake the long s for an f. See here for more information on the long s.
Typesetters were not able to add diacritics (síntí fada) to the uppercase vowels in the Irish headwords. Instead they opted to print apostrophes, for example U’RGHRA’NNA, a practice that is found in other languages today, such as Italian.
The Irish headwords are printed in uppercase letters while the English words that follow them are printed in lowercase letters. This is a most attractive and beautiful dictionary in terms of decoration. The beginning of every chapter is decorated as are the first words in each chapter.
Not only are translations of Irish words made available in this dictionary, but etymological information is provided too.
Thaddeus Connellan (Tadhg Ó Coinnialláin), 1814, Dublin
Number of pages: 145
Preface from iii to vii
There is a glossary explaining some contractions on page vii.
It is an English-Irish dictionary.
Irish words are in the Gaelic typeface, while Ehglish are in Roman.
This dictionary was intended for students of the Irish language. It is short, at only 145 pages and 8,000 words. In most of the dictionary one Irish word is given as a correspondence for each English word, with no additional entries.
The typeface used in Irish was called Parker and was significant as it was apparently the first typeface that was actually designed in Ireland. The typesetter, Stephen Parker, seems to have based his work on the Paris typeface (See above). It is not all that clear to read.
The Irish translations are rich. For example, Bedlam is translated as bruighean mhire. Bin is ionad taisge. Mechanic – céarduigh, saor. For the English word Park a set of words is given as possible translations: cluan, ion, crota, mothar, maigh, magh, machaire.
Although this is not a large dictionary, there is some useful material in it.
By Edward O’Reilly, 1821, Dublin
Irish - English
Preface: 5 pages
A grammar section or 26 pages leads the dictionary.
Tyeface: Roman and Gaelic with contractions
This dictionary was published in a least three editions - in 1821, 1832 and 1864. They are almost the same. The greatest difference between them seems to be in the quality of the typeface, the latest being the most clear.
This is a fairly comprehensive Irish-English dictionary, and large. Sometimes the Irish text is not totally clear, and this is not helped by the use of the contractions. However, the editors also present the Irish text in Roman capitals (unfortunately without the diacritics, i.e. the fadas).
The numerous meanings of some words are fully explained. For example, the word Caise: Caise – a stream of any kind; Caise – a wrinkle, fold, twist, plait; Caise – a cake; Caise – passion, quickness; Caise – a mushroom; Caise – the private parts of a female; Caise – discord, enmity, hatred; Caise / Cais – love, affection, regard
This dictionary did not use page numbers, so refering to a page number is not possible.
John O’Brien (Seán Ó Briain), 1832, Dublin
Number of pages: 470
Preface from page i to xlix
As well as being a dictionary, this contains much historical information, with a particular focus on notable individuals.
The Irish is in Gaelic typeface, which is not very clear, while the English is in Roman.
Thomas de Vere Coneys, 1849, Dublin
Number of pages: 382
Preface from page v to vii. Abbreviations are explained on page iv.
It is an Irish-English dictionary.
The Irish is in a Gaelic typeface called Fry (See Scríbhinn: Fry for more details). The English is in Roman. Both are clear and easy to read.
The editor’s objective was to help people to read the Bible in Irish, so it is full of biblical references.
Daniel Foley (Domhnaill Ó Foghludha), 1855, Dublin
English - Irish dictionary
Number of pages: 384
Preface: 2 pages, from iii to iv
Typeface: Roman and Gaelic
This dictionary was prepared with university students of Irish in mind. The layout is clear. The Irish is in the Petrie typeface (See: Scríbhinn).
The translations are rich. For example Method: órdughadh, módh, aonta, gleus, slighe, riaghail, cuma. Even less common words have elegant translations. See Zephyr: gaoth an shiar, séimh ghaoth, iar-ghaoth. The modern Ó Dónaill has Steifir as the correct translation. Which would you prefer?
The English words are also a testimony to the times, so the dictionary features some now rare words, such as algidity: Fuachd, siocamhlachd (fuacht, siocúlacht in modern Irish). It is easy to know what the words mean if one reads the Irish words but the English words might leave you reaching for an English dictionary. How about: absterge, accolent, allodium, alogy, amain, ambages, marcid. They are all there.