Glossary of Terms
A-G H-N O-Z

A-G

Aigne- a lawyer; one who would plead a client's case to a brithem, and was paid part of the client's reward if he won. An aigne would also help a client in the process of athgabál, if necessary. Found in law texts such as Fergus Kelly's Celtica.Aire - "in laws...used to describe every freeman, 'commoner' as well as noble, who possesses an independent legal status...Occasionally, however, aire is used in the more restricted sense of 'noble.'" (eDIL, quoted from Críth Gablack p.69).
Aire Ardd - "high" noble (MacNeill p.298). Click here for to learn more.

Aire Désa/Aire Désso - lowest rank of noble (Class Notes). Click here to learn more.
Aire Échta - enforcing noble (Class Notes). Click here to learn more.
Aire Forgill - "noble of superior affirmation" (MacNeill p.299-300). Click here to learn more.
Aire Túise - "leading" noble (MacNeill p.298-299). Click here to learn more.


Airberta - the second grade of jurist.


Aititiu - an informal method for concluding a marriage. This was less formal than the urnaidm legal act. Aititiu refers to the act of the relationship simply being recognized by the woman's family. Though less formal, marriages formed in this way were still valid. Found in the Marriage in Early Ireland text.


Athgabál - the process of distraint; legal repossession of goods. If a client won his case but the losing party refused to pay, athgabál would allow the client to take goods from the losing party, equal to what he was owed. It was a strict process, generally overseen by an aigne. Found in law texts such as Fergus Kelly's Celtica.

Baitsech - a lewd woman, any woman who engages in illicit intercourse, any woman who abandons marriage without just cause. In the context of marriage, a man could not give an excessive coibche to a baitsech as this would generate a bad contract. Found in the Marriage in Early Ireland text.

Banchomarba - an heiress. While women could inherit their fathers' property, they had more limited rights than a son would have. For example, an heiress would need guarantors to ensure that she would not use the land wrongfully, and upon her death the property was given to her father's male relatives, rather than her own children. (Donnchadh Ó Corráin, Marriage in Early Ireland)

Banfeis - the act of a candidate for king sleeping with a woman symbolic of the land in order to be named king; one of two known ways to become king


Banliaig túaithe - The female physician, liaig, of the túath. She was generally charged with midwife duties, as well as caring for the elderly and terminally ill. Banliaigs were considered part of the Nemed class. Because of this status, a Banliaig held an honor price that was not dependent of that of her husband. These women and their duties are discussed in Bretha Déin Chécht.

Bard - a type of poet; a bard was similar to a fili, but had half of a fili's honor-price and no formal training.Ben Aititen - "woman of recognition", recognized concubines and lesser wives

Blood-lying - When someone inflicts an injury and causes blood to be spilled from another person.


Boaire - literally means 'cow-noble', second lowest of the seven ranks of grád túaithe, 'a man of hereditary property with land to the extent of (the grazing of) ten cows' (eDIL); found in the Ancient Irish Law: Law of Status or Franchise, V 22

Brithem - a professional jurist or judge; one who decided legal cases. A judge over a particular túath was called a brithem túaithe, and it was required for one to be near a at all times. Found in law texts such as Fergus Kelly's Celtica.

Cáin Adomnán- A set of ecclesiastical laws that detail the consequences for any injuries or wrongdoings to women, children, or clerics. It lists what payments should be for different situations and who will receive the payments.


Cáinte - An illegal satirist. A person who is not afforded the right to use satire in reference to other members of his or her túath, as a poet (fili) would be. He or she must pay the victim's honor price and loses his or her own status as punishment.

Cétmuinter - chief wife, wife of highest legal standing; also could mean spouse and sometimes also husband (eDIL); found in the Cáin Lánamna

Céile- "client" They are the bottom partner of a clientship with a flaith. The clientship normally would entail a loan from the flaith to the ceile. Ceile are also responsible for serving their flaith when called for it and working for them should the situation demand it legally. Refusal to pay back the loan could result in athgabál.

Cerd- silversmith; a craftsman specializing in the shaping and molding of silver, also known as a "white smith".Chattel - "normal unit of value in the laws...a young cow before her first calf." Equal to 1/2 milch cow. "Seven chattels = three milch-cows." (MacNeill p.274 footnote).
Chattels of subjection - a formal indication of subjection. It recognizes the client to be subject to his lord

Cluichi - a game or competition. Usually played by children during their childhood or fosterage. Different childhood game such as ruides cluichi, fíancluichi and colcluichi can be found in the law codes such as the Mellbretha.

Coibche - the brideprice paid by the suitor to the father of the bride or sometimes to the bride herself (eDIL); paid in land, goods, séts and/or milch cows; coibche would be paid for (at least) the three most common types of marriage (lánamnas); found in Cáin Lánamna

Colcluichi - a category for games played by children in fosterage. The Mellbretha labels these types of games as "guilty games" such as a game called "Many vs. Few". Children who participated in these types of games played at their own risk.

Comdalta- foster brother. A non-related child that has been fostered to the same Datan.Críth Gablach - old Irish law codeCrannog - A dwelling built on an artificial island in a lake or marsh. These dwellings were made by driving a circle of oak piles into the bottom of the marsh and then filling in the interior with earthen materials. One or more wooden homes would then be constructed, in some cases along with a gangway leading to the shore. In some cases a Crannog could have a Dún constructed on the island.

Cumal - a female slave worth 3 milch cows and used as currency (Concourse Notes). Because the term is attributed to a value, it is commonly used in law codes such as the Cáin Adomnán. For example, under the Cáin Adomnán, if someone killed a woman a certain number of cumals would have to be paid (Cáin Adomnán).

Daltai - Affectionate term used by the foster-father (datan) and foster-mother (muimme) in reference to the foster-children.Dairt - a yearling heifer, generally equal to 1/2 sét, used as a monetary unit in describing honor price and fines.

Datan - Affectionate term for a fosterage father, also held by the foster-children, the daltai . Literally translates to the english "daddy." Also reserved more for the foster-father than the real father.
Déis - "tenant, vassal; vassalry" (eDIL)


Díchetal di channaib - Literally translates to "chanting from the heads." This was one of the three qualifications required to be considered a poet, fili. It is not clear to historians what exactly this term entails; however, it is known that when St. Patrick cleansed the poet qualifications of any pagan resemblances, díchetal di channaib was saved. Fergus Kelly details this and the other qualifications of being a poet in A Guide to Early Irish Law.Díre - honor price; a penalty paid for wrongdoing, determined by rank and status of the owed party.

Doercheile- "base client" This is a form of clientship where the céile is below the flaith (in most cases). It is a cheaper and more popular form of loaning than the soerchéile. The céile was required to make regular payments back towards the loan and, if payments weren't made, flaith could eventually call upon athgabál. Both céile and flaith could gain honor from legally participating and making payments in this clientship.

Dún- the prestige of a ringfort, the larger the ringfort the greater the prestige.
Éraic - a form of tribute paid for murder or other grave crimes. It is paid by the attacker to the victim.



F é chem - Can refer to either plaintiff, defendant, or law agent. The word derives from Roman and French legal terminology.
Felmaic- studentFéni - "in Uraicccht Becc and throughout later juristic writings...the class of landed freeholders." (MacNeill p.267).Fennid (féindid) - a member of a fían, click here for more informationFergnia - a man at arms, also called a fían-champion, click here for more information

Fer fothlai - “Man of Withdrawal”. This was a lord from a family that was in the process of reaching a higher level of status as a noble or lord. They were not given this status immediately but rather would become a fer fothlai for three generations. The third generation would assume the new title of the lord or noble. The Laws surrounding fer fothlai can be found in Eoin MacNeill’s “Ancient Irish Law: The Law of Status or Franchise”.

Fer Midboth - "man of the middle huts" A man who is not yet in possession of hereditary land. There were two levels of fer midboth, young men (below the age of beard encirclement) and mature or older men (above the age of beard encirclement). It was possible for a man to be stuck as a fer midboth for life if he was not in line to inherit any land, however, ways of avoiding this were marrying into inheritance or joining the priesthood. The laws surrounding the fer midboth can be found in Eoin MacNeill's "Ancient Irish Law: The Law of Status or Franchise".

Fíach - 'debt', later came to mean 'fine, penalty' Fían - a band of young warriors, click here for more information

Fíancluichi - a category for games played by children in fosterage. These types of games were labeled as more dangerous games and could include games such as throwing spears or rocks. The Mellbretha law codes required the father of the injuring party to provide sick maintenance to the injured.

Fife (tuarchrecc) - these were the goods given by the lord to the client so that they could farm, herd, or create products more easily. How much fife a client could get depended on their honour price, with the higher ranking clients recieving more. The lord in return would be the benefactor of the products and services supplied by the client.

Fili- member of an elite class of poets. A fili was required to have formal training, and must also possess imbas forosna ("encompassing knowledge which illuminates", teinm láeda ("breaking of marrow"), and díchetal di chennaib ("chanting from the heads").

Flaith- "lord" The dominant partner and overseer of a clientship with a céile. They could give out loan and protection to the ceile and were able to require céile to fight and work for them legally.

Frisnidle breth `a – The highest grade of jurist. Must be an expert in all areas of the law. Called on to present the final pleadings in court cases.

Fuidir – Someone who is “Half-free” in exchange for being able to live on and work a lord’s land. In exchange for being able to live on and work the land the fuidir would have to pay 2/3 of husbandry to the lord and was tied to the land. Furthermore the fuidir could not make any legal contracts without the permission of the Lord and was never permitted to fall into debt. However if the fuidir spent more than 3 generations on the same land their status would drop to a senchléithe. Laws surrounding the fuidir can be found in Eoin MacNeill’s “Ancient Irish Law: The Law of Status or Franchise”



Glasaigne - a jurist fresh out of law-school.


Gobae- blacksmith; craftsman specializing in the shaping and molding of iron, both for weapons and for other items essential to a túath. Because of his necessity to a túath, a blacksmith received nemed status. It was understood that blacksmiths were not to be offended, due to their nemed status, their ability to "accidentally" improperly construct a man's necessary equipment, and their large size.



H-N


Imbas Forosna - Literally translates to "encompassing knowledge which illuminates." This is one of the three qualifications required of a poet. It most likely alludes to the face the poets were considered to have prophetic knowledge; they were often asked to predict and describe future events in their poetry. St. Patrick banned this practice for Catholics because of its pagan characteristics. Fergus Kelly discusses imbas forosna in A Guide to Early Irish Law.

Lánamnas Comthinchuir - Literally "marriage of common contribution". One of the three main types of marriages, where the property was approximately evenly split between man and woman. If there was a divorce, the majority of the property would go with the husband. The other two main types of marriage were the Lánamnas for Ferthinchur and the Lánamnas for Bantinchur. This kind of union was discussed in the Cáin Lánamna (The Law of Couples).

Lánamnas for Bantinchur - Literally "marriage on woman-contribution". One of the three main types of marriages, where the wife had almost all of the property. The two other main types of marriage were the Lánamnas Comthinchuir and the Lánamnas for Ferthinchur. This kind of union was discussed in the Cáin Lánamna (The Law of Couples).

Lánamnas for Ferthinchur- Literally "marriage on man-contribution". One of the three main types of marriages, where the husband had almost all of the property. The two other main types of marriage were the Lánamnas Comthinchuir and the Lánamnas for Bantinchur. This kind of union was discussed in the Cáin Lánamna (The Law of Couples).
Leith-tinchor- literally translates as "the (equal) contribution of one side", but can be interpreted as a dowry, which a woman brings to a marriage. Could include useful tools for everyday life, such as pots and pans. Often, there would also be a coibche exchanged. These concepts are discussed in Donnchadh Ó Corráin's article Marriage in Early Ireland. The full text of this article can be found at http://www.ucc.ie/celt/marriage_ei.pdf

Liaig- a doctor; sometimes also called a Leech. The honourprice of a doctor was set at 7 séts, no matter how experienced he was. Often a doctor would pass on his knowledge of the trade within his family. Doctors would be paid directly from fees for services provided and would often profit from the land of a powerful relationship. Often a or other powerful figure would keep a doctor on his land.

Lóg n-enech - a person's honourprice, it gives an estimate of a person's worth in society.

Maccaillech- young nun

Maccléirech- young monk

Midach- literally translates to doctor. One became a doctor primarily by being born into it, as it was a family profession passed down through generations. Held an honour price of 14 cows. Were expected to leave no blemishes and cause no pain upon the completion of the procedure. An important role of the midach was to determine the fees that would be imposed on injury cases in the court of law.
Milch cow - a cow used as currency that currently produces milk on a regular basis (Class Notes). It is commonly referenced in law codes detailing payments. For example, in Bretha Déin Chécht, an injured man is entitled to a milch cow for certain types of wounds (Bretha Déin Chécht, ÉRIU, Vol. XX 1966 p. 33).


Muimme- Affectionate term for a fosterage mother used by the foster-son or foster-daughter, the daltai . Literally translates to the english "mommy." This term was used only towards the foster-mother, rather than towards the real mother.

Nemed- literally means "holy". A privileged status afforded to essential members of early medieval Ireland.



O-Z


Ollamh - this was the highest rank that a liaig , saer, poet, smith, or any other professional could attain
Ráth- enclosing banks around the ringforts

Rí- what a king is called in medieval ireland, there are three types of kings depending on who they rule over, see Rí ruriech, Rí túath, and Rí túaithe, this term can be found in Ancient Irish Law: the Law of Staus and Franchise, translated by Eoin MacNeil which describes the worth of a king and how laws apply to him


Rí Ardrí- the mythical "King of Ireland;" it is unclear as to whether anyone actually achieved this position
Rígdomna- having the innnate ability to be a king, such as wisdom and military skill


Rí Ruriech- the highest type of king in medieval ireland, called" king of great kings," this term would be used when descibing a king of great power and status

Rí túath - this is the second type of king in medieval ireland, called a "king of peoples," this term would be used when describing a king that rules 3 to 4 túatha

Rí túaithe- this is the third type of king in medieval ireland, called a "king of people," this term would be used when describing a king that rules one túatha

Ruides Cluichi - a category for games played by children in fosterage. These types of games were labeled as harmless games by the law codes Mellbretha law codes which meant that no one could be fined if a child was injured during play.
Saer- a wright, builder, or a carpenter

Senchléithe - These were the “unfree” and could have been fuidir that spent 3 or more generations on the same land. They are never permitted to leave the land they work and are inherited along with the land. Laws surrounding the senchléithe can be found in Eoin MacNeill's "Ancient Irish Law: The Law of Status or Franchise"

Sét- "a unit of value [and] equal to 1/2 a milch cow" (DIL p. 539). It is commonly referenced in law codes detailing payment. For example, the Cáin Adomnán uses séts to say how much is owed if one injures a child.


Sóerchéile- "free client" a similar type of clientship as the dóerchéile. However, this type was more often between people of equal class. The payments were more expensive, but the flaith could not extract extra payments from a céile in a sóerchéile.

Souterrain- a man-made tunnel under a dwelling place, possibly used for transportation in times of war, or storage. For pictures of existing souterrains, please view Irish Prehistoric Architecture

Stirabout- Stirabout was the primary source of food in Ireland until the introduction of the potato

Tánaise Ríg -"second of a king" (MacNeill p.300).

Tinnscra - a brideprice or a dowry, a payment made to the father of the bride, or partially to the bride herself (eDIL); an older term for coibche; found in the law codes, probably ones similar to Cáin Lánamna
Túath - a "people, tribe, nation" (eDIL)

Túatha - word meaning people, or where they come from

Umaige - coppersmith, specializing in the shaping and molding of copper.
Uraicccht Becc - early Irish law code

Urnaidm-** the legal and most formal type of marriage in medieval Ireland. It stems from the word ar-naisc meaning to 'bind, pledge, engage.' It was a contract between the groom and the bride's father or head of kin. This was the only legal act required for marriage. Also, the tinnscra were very important in this process as they provided the sureties that would act as agents for the legal rights for the woman. This word is found in the Marriage in Early Ireland text.