20 July 2008


We once counted, and there are 37 dictionaries in the Phouka house -- a dozen or so in English (from a lovely 1894 dictionary to medical speciality books to the latest Oxford English Dictionary on CD), and the remaining in other languages. Why, yes, every household does need a Latin-English dictionary, just in case. And Spanish, German, Greek, Swedish and others....you know, you might need to look up some strange reference. It happens!

I love dictionaries and have been known to just sit down and read them. So, when I embarked on learning Irish, I immmediately compiled a goodly list of Irish dictionaries, based on recommendations from a number of of the Gaelic sites. The links are to Amazon, although these books are often found on eBay, and can be ordered from Irish Books and Media or Litriocht.com

At the very least, the primary recommendation for learners is Foclóir Scoile English-Irish/Irish English Dictionary published by An Gum, which is one of the few with complete phonetic pronunciation hints for about 30,000 words. It has the basics for everything in the classes that I've looked through.

The "Master" Irish dictionary is the Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla (Irish-English) originally compiled by Ó Dónaill (and currently edited by de Bhaldraithe). This couple-pound tome has Irish headwords only and definitions and idiom in English. This is has been updated several times and the current version (also published by An Gum) no longer has the archaic spellings or Irish fonts. I have an older version that I picked up on eBay that is the "old" typography, and while it is quite lovely, I appreciate the modern typeset version. It's still a bit difficult to use, if you're not familiar with Irish word-forms, and the Gaeltacht Minnesota folks have put together a nice document offering some help on how to look things up that I've found invaluable. A few more hints are here.

A reference dictionary of English-Irish only, edited by de Bhaldraithe is also published by An Gum. The headwords are English only, with definitions and idioms in Irish. This won't tell you what a particular Gaelic word means, but if you are stuck with trying to translate your English sentence, this is the most complete dictionary I've found. It is the companion volume to the Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla.

There are a few little pocket dictionaries, useful to carry around a decipher newspapers and signs, but not really useful for doing classwork, in my opinion. Of course, I still have two -- The Oxford Irish Minidictionary, which is quite nice, and the Foclóir-Póca, a miniaturized version of the Foclóir-Scoile listed above, which includes pronunciation help. There is also a Collins pocket dictionary.

There are a few good online dictionaries:
For the word-philes among us, there is a great CD set of the Corpas na Gaeilge, which is a reference collection of Gaelic language from 1600-1882, listing all instances of words in historic books. I picked mine up in Ireland, on a whim, and haven't really had a chance to look at it much. It's definitely not a learner's tool -- it's more academic/historic in nature.

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