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Gaelic Tighearna, 'Lord':
Historical Usage

by Sharon L. Krossa
Last updated 3 May 2007  

Link key: link to glossary definition (opens in a new window) -- link to explanatory note[n] or link to explanatory note[note 1] -- link to bibliography (Reference, 14, 16-7) -- link to another section of this article -- link to another article at MedievalScotland.org(i) -- link to external web site(x) (opens in a new window)


The historical Gaelic word that is most similar —though not identical— in meaning and usage to the historical meaning and usage of English <lord> is <tighearna>.

Spelling

<Tighearna> is the standard/normalized Common Gaelic spelling, used in both Ireland and Scotland from around AD 1200 to AD 1700. The standard/normalized Early and Middle Gaelic spelling is <tigerna>, used from around AD 600 to AD 1200. The modern Scottish Gaelic spelling is also <tighearna>, and the modern (post-20th century spelling reform) Irish spelling is <tiarna>. (Note that despite the <-a> ending, all these forms and spellings are indeed masculine in both meaning and grammatical gender; unlike in Latin, in Gaelic <-a> endings don't signify feminine gender.) (DIL, s.v. tigerna; Dwelly, s.v. tighearn; CELT, search results.)

Pronunciation[note 1]

Both Early/Middle Gaelic <tigerna> and Common Gaelic <tighearna> were pronounced, very roughly:

"CHEE-yearn-uh"

Because the <t> in <tigerna> and <tighearna> is really a palatalized Gaelic "t" sound, an only somewhat less historically accurate pronunciation than the above is, roughly:

"TEE-yearn-uh"

Meaning and Usage

As already mentioned, the historical meaning and usage of the Gaelic word <tighearna> is similar, but not identical, to the historical meaning and usage of the English word <lord>. The similarities include using it in reference to God (for example, "The Lord") and more terrestrial lords (for example, "the lord of Connacht").

Examples of <Tighearna> referring to God include:

LC1492.0

11] Kl. Ienair; agus da bliaghuin dég agus ceitre
12] fiched .cccc. agus mile áois an Tighearna.

LC1492.0

The kalends of January; and the age of the Lord one thousand, four hundred, and ninety-two years.

 

<Tighearna> is found in titles using two constructions: "Tighearna of people/clan-name" and
"Tighearna of region-name". From the Annals of the Four Masters, volume III (at the CELT archives
<http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/G100005C/index.html>) [__emphasis__ added]:

M1247.13
Mainestir do denomh i n-Gaillimh i n-airdepspocoitecht Tuama lá
h-Uilliam Burc __tighearna Cloinne Riocaird__ do braithribh .S.
Frainseis. Do-rónadh tuambadha iomdha la druing moir do maithibh an
bhaile isin mainestir-sin.

**English Translation:
A monastery was founded in Galway, in the archdiocese of Tuam, by
William Burke, __Lord of Clanrickard__, for Franciscan friars. Many
tombs were erected in this monastery by the chief families of the town.

M1207.1
Creach la h-Eiccnechan Ua n-Domnaill a b-Feraibh Manach go ro ghabhsat
bú. Ruccsat Fir Manach foirlion forra, & ro marbsat Ua Domhnaill
__tighearna Tíre Conaill__, tuir engnamha, & einigh an Chuiccidh i n-a
reimhes, & torcrattar drong do shaorclannaibh ele imailli friss. ...

**English Translation:
Egneghan O'Donnell set out upon a predatory excursion into Fermanagh,
and seized upon cows; but a considerable muster of the men of Fermanagh
pursued him, and slew O'Donnell, __Lord of Tirconnell__, tower of the
warlike prowess and hospitality of the province in his time; ...


Glossary

Byname

A byname is an additional name used with a person's given name (first name) to distinguish exactly which person with that given name they are. (So a modern fixed, inherited surname is a type of byname.) A personal byname is a byname that pertains to and describes that specific individual for whom it is used -- for example, by describing their appearance or which individual was their father, etc.. For example, in the name "Donnchadh mac Domhnaill", "mac Domhnaill" is a personal byname that distinguishes this Donnchadh from other men named Donnchadh by indicating that this Donnchadh's father was named Domhnall.

Eponymous

Eponymous refers to the person after whom something is named. For example, Robert's eponymous uncle would be his Uncle Robert, after whom he was named, and the eponymous founders of Hewlett-Packard would be Mr. Hewlett and Mr. Packard, after whom the company was named. Similarly, the eponymous clan ancestor of an ó Conchobhair would be the Conchobhar after whom the clan was named.

Genitive Case

The genitive case shows possession. It involves certain changes in spelling and pronunciation which have a similar effect in Gaelic as changing John to John's has in English. Genitive case forms of various Gaelic men's given names can be found in some of the articles and books listed in Sources for Gaelic Names (though keep in mind that the forms given in these articles are usually for a specific time period, and may not be appropriate for another period).

Lenited/Lenition

Grammatical lenition involves a "softening" of the initial consonant sounds of words in certain grammatical situations. This pronunciation change in Gaelic is sometimes indicated by a changed spelling as well. See The Spelling of Lenited Consonants in Gaelic(i) for information on the effect of lenition on spelling. (Vowels cannot be lenited.) A word that is changed in this way is said to be lenited.

Metronymic or Matronymic

A metronymic or matronymic is a name formed from an individual's mother's name.

Patronymic

A patronymic is a name formed from an individual's father's name. Note that a name formed from an individual's mother's name is not a patronymic, but rather a metronymic.

Scots

Scots is a language closely related to English. There are many terms, some more respected than others, used for the modern Scots language and/or specific dialects of Modern Scots, including <Broad Scots>, <Lallans>, <Lowland Scots>, <Aberdonian>, <Doric>, <Glaswegian>, and many others. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Scots speakers themselves called their language <Inglis>, while in the 16th century they took to calling it <Scottis>.

Some linguists consider Scots to be a separate language from English, others consider it a dialect of English. Since the categorization of independent language vs. dialect is a subjective one (and often based on non-linguistic considerations), there is no "one true answer". I choose to refer to Scots as a language for several reasons, including that I simply find it makes it easier to talk about and explain the linguistic situation in both modern and medieval Scotland.

Note that the word <Scots> has several other, more common, meanings in addition to referring to the Scots language, including, as an adjective, the meaning "Scottish" and, as a noun, the meaning "more than one Scottish person".


Notes

Note 1 Pronuncation Guide Conventions: Because English is very different from Gaelic, and there are many Gaelic sounds and sound combinations that simply don't occur in English, the pronunciation guides given between quotation marks (" ") are only rough closest English approximates, not precisely accurate phonetic renderings. These pronunciation guides are meant to be read as if they were normal standard American English words, with the stress on the capitalized syllables, and if read as standard American English words (with the stress on the capitalized syllables), they should get you at least in the right ballpark. (The more your pronunciation differs from standard American English pronunciation, though...) The notes below each quoted guide are for clarification of potentially ambiguous English spellings in that guide, and also additional fine tuning that will get you closer to the actual Gaelic pronunciation. But if you can't incorporate those explanations into your pronunciation, just go with the basic quoted guide. There may be additional pronunciation guides between forward slashes, / /, marked as IPA; if you don't know IPA you should ignore these completely, as they really are gibberish (and often very misleading gibberish, at that) unless you know IPA and your computer can deal with the unicode IPA characters. (Note especially that both the closest English approximate guides between quotations marks, " ", and the phonemic IPA guides between forward slashes, / /, are using different systems from that used by the Academy of S. Gabriel in their guides between backward slashes, \ \ — read the quoted guides as if they were English words, not Academy of S. Gabriel \ \ guides!)
2 Thomas is the English form of a name derived from an Aramaic word meaning 'twin'. [Withycombe, s.n. "Thomas"]
3

Scots is a language closely related to English. There are many terms, some more respected than others, used for the modern Scots language and/or specific dialects of Modern Scots, including "Broad Scots", "Lallans", "Lowland Scots", "Aberdonian", "Doric", "Glaswegian", and many others. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Scots speakers themselves called their language "Inglis", while in the 16th century they took to calling it "Scottis".

Some linguists consider Scots to be a separate language from English, others consider it a dialect of English. Since the categorization of independent language vs. dialect is a subjective one, there is no "one true answer". I choose to refer to Scots as a language for several reasons, including that I find it makes it easier to talk about and explain the linguistic situation in both modern and medieval Scotland.

Note that "Scots" has several other, more common, meanings in addition to referring to the Scots language, including, as an adjective, the meaning "Scottish" and, as a noun, the meaning "more than one Scottish person".


Bibliography

CELT CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts. WWW: University College Cork, 2006 [cited 1 Mar 2006]. URL: <http://www.ucc.ie/celt/>.
Dwelly Dwelly, Edward, ed. The Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary. Ninth ed. Glasgow: Gairm Publications, 1977. First edition original publication, 1901-1911. Birlinn hardcover Amazon.com - Amazon.co.uk - Barnes&Noble; Gairm 11th ed. paperback Amazon.com - Amazon.co.uk - Barnes&Noble; Birlinn paperback Amazon.co.uk
  Krossa, Sharon L. "A Simple Guide to Constructing 12th Century Scottish Gaelic Names" [WWW]. Medieval Scotland, 18 Jun 1997 [cited 14 Aug 2000]. Available from http://MedievalScotland.org/scotnames/simplescotgaelicnames12.shtml.
DIL Quin, E. G., et al., eds. Dictionary of the Irish Language Based Mainly On Old And Middle Irish Materials. Compact ed. 1983. Reprint, Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 1998. Original edition, 1913-1976. Amazon.com - Amazon.co.uk - Barnes&Noble

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the various people who have asked about and discussed the Gaelic title <Tighearna> with me over the years — this article wouldn't exist if they hadn't.


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