D-AW in this thread (on tweets from Dinneen’s Irish dictionary) linked to the poem “From The Irish” by Ian Duhig, and it seemed to make an excellent follow-up post. So without further ado:

According to Dinneen, a Gael unsurpassed
in lexicographical enterprise, the Irish
for moon means ‘the white circle in a slice
of half-boiled potato or turnip’. A star
is the mark on the forehead of a beast
and the sun is the bottom of a lake, or well

Well if I say to you your face
is like a slice of half-boiled turnip,
your hair is the colour of a lake’s bottom
and at the centre of each of your eyes
is the mark of the beast, it is because
I want to love you properly, according to Dinneen.

I recommend going to the link so you can read the amusing introduction and hear the whole thing pleasingly read by the author in an accent I am not familiar with.


  1. The best comments on Dinneen were made by the immortal Myles.
    A companion volume is Dwelly’s Gaelic Dictionary, which will give you the correct terms for the different ways to clip an animal’s ear and other useful information.

  2. I understand Dineen worked extensively with a piglet in a red jacket with a shilling in one pocket and some tobacco in the other.

  3. Eimear Ní Mhéalóid says

    Biddy Jenkinson, herself a poet, has a charming volume of short stories featuring An Duinníneach as a Sherlock Holmes/Father Brown type detective. See the publisher’s page and Ciarán Carson’s interesting review (in English) here;

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