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Friday, April 1, 2016

words for Fool in Old Irish

I can't stand April Fool's Day, but in the spirit of the holiday (no joke) I thought I'd do a fun short post on the different words for fool in Old Irish and their contexts. Much like my previous blog about the word 'witch', saying fool in Old Irish isn't a straightforward matter because there are a variety of options each with different nuances.
   First we have the words which are used for people with diminished mental capacity - equivalent in English to simpleton or halfwit: amal, amlán/amalán (literally 'little amal'), or ammatán, buicell (but can also be a type of satirist), buicne, cáeptha, óinmit^
  Then we have the legal terms, used to describe mental incompetence: báeth (also used for people lacking morals, implying animalistic behavior), fer lethcuind (halfwit), druith (imbecile)
  Entertainingly there is also a  term for a fool that is also a word for a young cow: báethán
  Straightforward words meaning foolish, unwise people: ainecnae, báethlach (clearly related to the similar legal term, implies boorish behavior), díuit, duí, meile, meraige (someone who is feckless or flaky), óinsech (particularly a foolish woman), tibre (of the sort being mocked by others),
  Professional fools, ie jesters (drúth* is the overall name for this type of fool): boibre, bocmell, buicell, óinmit^, rindainech,

^óinmit is a bit of a special case. It is used to refer to someone who is simple minded but also could be clever in certain regards - what we might call an idiot savant. It is thus also a term for one of the prefessional grades of jesters
*Drúth is a complicated word meaning a variety of contradictory things including a professional jester, imbecile, prostitute, and later confused - probably as a homynym - with druí


  1. I've also seen the word Dreolán used for fool but think it means more silly person. I'm unsure if its also related to the word Dreoilín for Wren.

  2. I'm glad that it's not just me who does not like April Fool's Day. In fact, the older I get, the more truly I despise it. May you and your family be well.