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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Euphemisms for Fairies

 It's been a common practice for centuries to refer to fairies by euphemisms, terms that are intentionally more positive than the beings being referred to. I'm going to start a list here which I'll occasionally update of these terms and, where possible, the oldest known dates of their uses. This is a work in progress, if you have references to uses of any of these terms in specific dated works please share in the comments. 

Irish

Aes Sidhe [people of the fairy mounds, modern Aos Sidhe]  circa 7th-9th century Echtra Condla

Daoine Sidhe [people of the fairy mounds]

Daoine Uaisle [Noble People]

Daoine Maithe [Good People]

Daoine Eile {Other People]


Scottish

Daoine Sith [people of the fairy hills or people of peace]

An Sluagh [fairy host]

Sleagh Maith [good people] ref 1691 rev Kirk


Scots

Gude nichtbouris [good neighbours] ref 1585 the Flyting Between Montgomerie and Polwart

Subterranean ref 1691 rev Robert Kirk

Fairfolkis, fairy folk, ffair folk  ref 1518 Douglas's Aenid translation; 1576 Ancient Criminal Trials in Scotland from AD 1488 to AD 1624

Gude Wichtis/Gude Wichts [good beings] ref 1576 Criminal Trials

Seelie Wicht [blessed being] as 'celly vichtys' 1564, William Hay; as 'sillyie wichts' 1572 Criminal Trials

Seelie Court [blessed company] 1783 ballad of Alison Gross

Unseelie Court* [unholy company] ref. 1819 Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany vol 84  


Welsh

Tylwyth Teg/Tylwythen Deg [Fair Family] ref in the 12th century by Giraldus Cambrensis

Plant Annwn [children of the Otherworld]

Bendith Y Mamau [Mother's Blessing]


Manx

Guillyn Veggey [little boys]

Little Fellows


English

Little People ref 1726 https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=little

Wee Folk ref 1819 https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=wee 


Latin**

Pulchrum Populum [fair folk] ref 1586 Bromyard Summa Predicantium


Misc./General

Gentle Folk

Gentry

Honest Folk ref 1908 Simpson Folk Lore in Lowland Scotland

Hill Folk ref 1908 Simpson

Silently Moving People, ref 1900 Campbell, Gaelic Otherworld

Still Folk ref 1900 Campbell

Themselves

Greenies

Greencoaties

Grey Neighbours (Orkney)

Othercrowd

Shining Ones



*Technically not a euphemism, as it is a negative term

**the Latin here was used by an English writer and in my opinion reflects English euphemism of the time

3 comments:

  1. 'But gin ye ca' me seelie wicht,
    I'll be your freend baith day and nicht.'
    Chambers, Robert. Popular Rhymes of Scotland : Original Poems. 3rd Ed., with Additions. ed. Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers, 1858. Select Writings of Robert Chambers. Web.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And from the same source:
      'The fairies are said to have been exceedingly sensitive
      upon the subject of their popular appellations. They con-
      sidered the term ' fairy ' disreputable ; and are thought to
      have pointed out their approbation and disapprobation of
      the other phrases applied to them in the following verses : —
      Gin ye ca' me imp or elf,
      I rede ye look weel to yourself ;
      Gin ye ca' me fairy,
      I'll work ye muckle tan-ie ;f
      Gin guid neibor ye ca' me,
      Then guid neibor I will be'

      Delete
  2. 1621 Burton, Robert. The anatomy of melancholy "subterranean Devils , beside those Fairies , Satires [satyrs] , Nymphs , etc."

    ReplyDelete