Dictionary of the Gaelic Language
By Rev Dr Norman MacLeod and
Rev Dr Daniel Dewar (1909)
Part I - Gaelic to English
A COMPREHENSIVE VOCABULARY OF
WITH THEIR DIFFERENT SIGNIFICATIONS IN ENGLISH
Part II - English to Gaelic
A VOCABULARY OF ENGLISH WORDS
WITH THEIR VARIOUS MEANINGS IN GAELIC
THE Very Reverend DR. BAIRD, Principal of the
University of Edinburgh, so distinguished for his unwearied and
patriotic exertions for the advancement of education, and the diffusion
of knowledge throughout the Highlands and Isles of Scotland, having
projected two periodical publications in the Gaelic language; we, the
compilers of this work, were induced at his earnest request to undertake
the charge of conducting them. We had not been long engaged in our
labours, when we found that the want of a Concise and Cheap Dictionary
of the Gaelic language proved an almost insuperable obstacle to the
progress of education in the Highlands, and a great hindrance to those
who were disposed to promote it.
This want so long felt, and so much complained of, we
undertook to supply; and we have now been enabled to bring our labours
to a close. We have certainly had peculiar advantages, for enabling us
to present to the public a Dictionary of the Gaelic language, as free
from omissions and errors as the great variety of provincial
phraseology, and the state of written literature in that language, can
reasonably admit of.
The admirable translation of the Scriptures, and the
publication of the poems of Ossian in the original Gaelic, under the
sanction of the Highland Society of London, furnish a rich treasure of
genuine Gaelic. In addition to these, we have had the advantage of a
Dictionary compiled by Mr. R. A. Armstrong, A.M., which, considering the
difficulties the compiler had to contend with, does him great credit.
We have also had before us a Celtic Dictionary,
published by the Highland Society of Scotland; conducted by the Rev. Dr.
John M'Leod, Minister of Dundonald, with the assistance of the late Mr.
Ewen M'Lachlan of Aberdeen, the late Rev. Dr. Alexander Irvine of Little
Dunkeld, and the Rev. Mr. Alexander M'Donald of Crieff; and
superintended and corrected in its progress through the press, by the
Rev. Dr. M'Kay of Laggan.
This great work is such as might be expected from the
eminent attainments of the distinguished individuals, to whom its
compilation was intrusted. Mr. M'Lachlan of Aberdeen, especially,
brought to the undertaking, great talents, profound learning, habits of
industry which were almost superhuman, an intimate acquaintance with the
Gaelic language, and devoted attachment to the elucidation of its
principles. In the midst of his labours, it pleased Divine Providence to
remove him from this life; but his memory will always be honoured. No
one ever applied more indefatigably or more successfully to the
cultivation of Celtic literature.
Without arrogating undue merit to ourselves, it may
be presumed, that, in consequence of the great advantages which we
derived from the labours of our predecessors, and by the application of
even ordinary talent and industry to our work, the Dictionary of the
Gaelic language, which we now offer to the public, must be the most
perfect that has ever been published.
To the compilers of the other Dictionaries we
cheerfully give all the praise to which they are entitled; but, without
claiming to ourselves any extraordinary share of learning or of talent,
we deem it our duty to remark, that we have given a great variety of
words and terms, which do not appear in the works of our predecessors;
that, profiting by their errors and mistakes, we have corrected numerous
errors, and supplied important deficiences: and we hope, without going
into any detail which might appear invidious, it may be permitted us to
say, that a very cursory comparison of the result of our labours, will
show that, with greater conciseness, we are at least equally
comprehensive, and that while the different acceptations of words are
given with all the brevity which our plan required, they are always
distinctly and fully detined.
We consider that one of the excellencies of this
Dictionary is an uniform adherence to the justly recognised standard of
Gaelic orthography, the Gaelic Bible. The venerable translators of the
Scriptures, who were so competent to form an accurate judgment on this
subject, gave it the most serious consideration during the many years
they were engaged in their beneficent labours: and feeling as we do, the
propriety of entirely acquiescing in their decision, as well as the
advantages which result from uniformity in orthography, we have
invariably conformed to the rules which they have prescribed.
"Every language" says the great lexicographer, Dr.
Johnson, "has its anomalies, which, though inconvenient, and in
themselves once unnecessary, must be tolerated among the imperfections
of human things, and which require only to be registered that they may
not be increased, and ascertained that they may not be confounded."
In the etymological department of the work, we have
been prevented by the desire of being concise, from entering into any
lengthened discussion, but we have endeavoured to give the etymology of
such words as seemed to require explanation.
After each word inserted in the Gaelic part of the
work, we have given its leading inflections in an abbreviated form. The
substantive nouns are given in their nominative form, followed by the
terminations of the genitive singular and nominative plural, and when
the terminations are irregular they are given in full.
Adjective nouns are given in their positive states,
followed by their terminations of the comparative degree, and when these
are irregular they are given at length as in the case of substantives.
Pronouns are given at length according to their respective properties.
The Verb is always introduced in the 2d person
singular of the imperative, that being the theme or root of the Gaelic
Verb. Then follows the last syllable of the future indicative, which,
when joined to the root first given, forms the future of the indicative,
which is one of the tense. Of the Verb, and as such is one of its
component parts. And, last of all, the initial form of the preterit
indicative is given, which, being substituted for the simple initial
form of the imperative, changes it into the preterit tense of the
indicative. From these three tenses all the parts of the Gaelic Verb are
formed. When the principal parts of the Verb are irregular, they are
given at full length. In this arrangement, so important to the Gaelic
scholar, we have followed the example set us by the compilers of the
This Dictionary has been superintended in its
progress through the press by Mr. Patrick M'Farlane of Glasgow, the well
known translator of many valuable works into the Gaelic language. To his
great attention in the correction of the press, and his minute
acquaintance with provincial phraseology, this work in its present form
is much indebted, and the compilers hare great pleasure in acknowledging
their obligations to him.
We hare only to add, that in bringing our
labours to a close, we feel cheered by the consideration, that we have
accomplished the main objects of our undertaking, namely, to make the
stores of knowledge accessible to our Highland countrymen, and to place
within the reach of all who have any wish to become accounted with the
Gaelic language, the means of facilitating their progress. They will and
the English and Gaelic portion of our Dictionary of essential utility in
aiding them in making this acquisition.
"Though the lexicographer can only hope to escape
reproach, while every other author may aspire to praise," and "though we
may not even attain to this negative recompense," we "deliver our book
to the world with the spirit of men who have endeavoured well."
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