Old Words my Parents Knew Part 2.

Lap: (say —lopp’– derogatory): a hand. Dinneen: “lapa, a flipper, paw, claw or hand (contempt).”

Lap (Cregg, say ‘lap’): an old penny. “Giss a lap!”: “give me a penny!”

Lapán (Cregg) derogatory, stress on last syllable: say ’lop‑pawn'’: a hand. Ó Dónaill, lapán, a paw, (fam.) a little hand.

Lárthán (Cregg) stress on last syllable: say ’lawr‑hawn’: anything second hand or cast off.

Leadhb: (stress on first syllable: say ’lie‑ub’): a word used to insult girls or women. Dinneen, leadhb, a clout, a rag, a trip or shred a streak or stripe; a shaving, a scraw or clod; a strip of leather, an untanned hide or pelt; the skin, al, the tongue (contempt); a leaf (as of tobacco), a flap, anything wet or or flabby…”

Leithéis (stress on last syllable: say ’leh‑haysh’): a fool, a simpleton, an impoverished undernourished person of any age. Dinneen, léithéis, fun, ridicule, laughter, triviality, plausible talk.”

Let (Cregg): used by my father to introduce a fairly mild command or instruction as in, "Let ye be going to bed now, ’tis getting late!"

Likes: In my mother’s phrase to describe people who did not impress her or who failed to meet her standards in some way, as in: “ ‘Tis the likes of them would be fathers!”

Losing (Cregg): as in the expression, "I found it losing!", said by father when he found anything worth bringing home.

Manntach (stress on first syllable: say ’mount‑uck’): toothless. Dinneen, manntach, gapped, scalloped, serrated, jaggy, gummy, toothless, stammering on account of gaps in the teeth, defective.

Mar dhea (say ’morr‑ee‑yah’, the stress is on the last syllable): pretending, for example, "He was nice to her, mar dhea." or "He said he would buy me a bow wow wow, mar dhea!"

Meas (say ’mass’): esteem, respect, high regard, liking. Always followed by 'in' it was invariably used in a negative sense as in "I have no meas in that fellow at all!", meaning that I have no respect or liking for the person concerned. Dinneen, meas, act of measuring, valuing, estimating; considering, judging, thinking; valuation, a measure or scale, a surveyor's measure, a rod for measuring graves; consideration, conclusion, summing-up; judgement, opinion, expectation; regard, respect, esteem, self-esteem; disposition, intention.

Meiseáiling (say ’mesh‑awl‑ing’, the stress is on the second syllable): doing anything in a careless, indifferent or incompetent way. Dinneen: méiseail, act of slopping, pouring things from one vessel to another.

Mightn’t: Used in the phrase, "That you mightn’t!", said to express outright disapproval of what a child was doing.

Mike: see ’honest’ in Part 1.

Mogall (stress on first syllable: say ’mug‑gul’): an overgrown head of hair in need of a haircut. Dinneen, mogall, a mesh, a mesh‑net (lín, id.); the husk or shell of any fruit, a defective grain of corn; an eye‑lid, the apple of the eye; a globe, a cluster (of fruit, nuts, etc.); a large blackberry.

Mopsy (Cregg): a fool.

Múnlach (stress on first syllable: say ’moon‑luk’): manure swill as in “a lough of múnlach” (a pool of slime around farmyard manure). Dinneen, múnlach, a puddle, dirty water, a sink, animal urine or excrement.”. Cf. ‘mún’ (standard Irish, say ’moon’) = urine.

Neam! neam! (say ’n’yam n’yam’): said when eating anything delicious. Ó Dónaill, (child’s talk) sweet, titbit.”. Strange as it may seem I was recently (December 2004) told by a friend from Stuttgart that the words ’nam, nam’ are used by some older people there to express appreciation of delicious food. Did the Palatines who came to County Limerick from the Rhineland in the early 18th century bring that expression with them?

Nipple: a rubber teat on a baby's milk bottle.

Nó‑ín: (stress on last syllable: say, ‘no‑een’) a warmly affectionate mantra word used over and over again by my mother when rocking a baby in her arms.

Notions: big ideas, ideas above one’s station as in my mother’s phrase, "High notions like the goats in Kerry!"

Oighear (stress on first syllable: say ’eye‑er’): an inflammation on the skin of the thighs caused by urine. It was a common problem for boys in the years before the introduction of underwear. Dinneen, oighear, ice; scars or redness of the skin from wind, cold, friction etc., heat of the blood; irritation, windgall.”

Óinseach (derogatory, stress on first syllable: say ’own‑shuck’): term of abuse used about women or girls. Dinneen, óinseach, a fool, esp. a female fool; a foolish, giddy woman.”

Ó Mhuise! (stress on first syllable: say ’ow‑wisha’): used to express frustration or annoyance at unsatisfactory behaviour.

Out: a) That's gone out for years! (That'’s been out of fashion for years.).
b) "He’s sick out." (very sick); "She’s weak out." (very weak).

Padhsán: (derogatory, stress on last syllable:say ’pie‑zawn’): a crying, grizzling, sulking, moody or complaining child. Dinneen, padhsán, a peasant.” Ó Dónaill: “1 = piasún (“a pheasant’); 2. delicate, complaining person.
My mother said that the original meaning of the word in Ballinagree was a calf born prematurely that died bleating and whimpering like a sick child.

Padhsáning: a verbal form of the above as in "Stop your oul’ padhsáwning and eat your dinner now like a good boy!".

Painnear (Cregg) stress on first syllable: say ‘pang‑er’) a big basket (bigger than a ‘scitheog’ – see below) for carrying turf on a donkey. In Ballinagree it meant a small basket . (English, ‘pannier’). Dinneen, painnéir, a pannier, a gabion, straw ring or sheath used for making a clamp.” (see ’scitheog’ below).

Panaí (stress on first syllable: say ’ponny’): a tin or enamel mug. Ó Dónaill, panaí (= peaindí), tin mug; mashed potatoes (with milk and butter).”

Pants: trousers.

Peg: to throw, to fling as in, "Will ye stop pegging stones at the cats!"

Perforated spoon: see ’Holy spoon’ in Part 1.

Pincín (stress on last syllable: say ’pink‑een’): a little fish caught by children using a small net and taken home in a jam jar. Usually linked with ’táirnín’ (below). Dinneen, pincín, a gilly-flower; also a very small fresh-water fish, a "pinkeen," a minnow.

Piscín (Cregg) derogatory, stress on last syllable: say ’pish‑keen’: “you bleddy oul’ piscín, you!” Dinneen: “piscín, a kitten. ”

Pixie: commonly used in Cork this word meant a type of woollen covering for the head. Worn by children only, it was a bit like a balaclava in covering the whole head including the ears. However, the entire face remained uncovered.

Poor Hayes, the: an unidentified poverty–stricken family. To be “going around like the poor Hayes” meant to be living in near destitution.

Poppies (Cregg): may father’s warm and child‑friendly word for cooked potatoes.

Prettning: pretending, as in "He said he would punch me but he was only prettning."

Press: a cupboard. ’hot press’: an airing cupboard. This usage is still found all over Ireland.

Puckanades: (Cregg, stress on last syllable). My note on this word is virtually illegible. I have been unable to find any word in Irish or in English with even a slight resemblance to it. I think it was a term used for old or untidy sweaters, cardigans, ganzeys etc.

Púicing (Cregg, say ’pook‑ing’): a child being cross, sullen or moody. as in, “Let you stop your oul’ púicing or l’ll give you who began it!” Dinneen, púic, a veil, a covering, a covering for the heads of animals; a sad, morose or vexed expression of face, a frown.”

Pull: In my mother’s expression, "Pull dog, pull divil", used to describe any kind of a row, ruction, disorder, commotion or mayhem, "It was all pull dog, pull divil!"

Pus (Cregg) derogatory, the face: “Stop your growsing (see ‘grabhasing’ above) or you’ll get a fine slap on the pus!” Or "Stop pussing!" (stop pouting). Dinneen, pus, a lip, the lips, the mouth (gnly. in contempt).

Red: see ’Devil’ in Part 1

Roisc (say ’rishk’): in my mother's expression, "As thin as a roisc". I have been unable to find this word in either Dinneen or Ó Dónaill.

Rout: a noise, an uproar, a storm. “There’s a fierce rout outside tonight!” (said by my mother on a stormy January night in Cardiff about 1995 – Shakespeare or Milton would have understood at once).

Rubber dolly: a tennis shoe, a plimsoll, a ’dap’.

Saoiste (Cregg say ’seesh‑teh’): an old woman sitting at her ease; a useless lump of a person. Dinneen, saoiste, a seat or stool, esp. a round stool of coiled straw‑rope, etc., a hassock or boss, a roll, a roller or billow, anything stout or thick…”

Sceabh‑ways: (stress on first syllable, say ’shk’yow‑ways’ at an angle, slanting, indirect, something between straight ahead and left or right. Dinneen, sceabha (stresson first syllable, say ’shk’yow‑wa’), a skew, slant or slope.

Scealláns (stress on last syllable, say ’shkall‑awns’): small potatoes. Dinneen, sceallán = sciollán, a thin slice, a seed, kernel or pippin, a portion of potato containing an ‘eye’ or seed for planting; oats, shelled oats; a small potato, apple, etc.

Sceathóg (Cregg, stress on last syllable, say ’shka‑hogue’): see scitheog.

Sceoned (say ’shk’yowned’): to be afraid. Dinneen, sceon, terror, confusion…”. This word was used by our cousins in Ballinagree but not by us.

Sciodar (stress on first syllable, my mother said ’scutter’ the expected pronounciation is ’shk’yudder’): scour or diarrhoea. Ó Dónaill:1 (a) Broken sour milk, dregs, (b) thin porridge, (c) weak tea. 2. Scour, diarrhoea. 3. Scuttler; contemptible, worthless person.

Scitheog (Cregg, stress on last syllable, say ’shkith‑hogue’): a big basket to carry potatoes (see ’painnear’ above).

Scolbs (Cregg, say ’skull‑ubs’): bent twigs to hold thatch. Dinneen, scolb, a slinter of wood or bone, a jag or thorn, a goad, a nick, the crack or break in an egg caused by the emerging bird, a split or thin stick (as for lighting etc.); a ‘scollop,’ buckle or squeeze‑loop of wood or wattle used to secure thatch;l a piece of timber, etc., a wiry person of slender build.”

Scoraíochter (derogatory, stress on first syllable: say ’skree‑ocktur’): someone who goes scroraíochting regularly (see below).

Scoraíochting (stress on first syllable: say ’skree‑uckting’, it is somewhat derogatory!): going to or being part of a social gathering in a house; talking all night. Ó Dónaill, scoraíocht, evening pastime, social evening.

Scrogall (stress on first syllable: say ‘skrug‑gul’): an untidy, unwashed neck. Dinneen, scrogall, the throat, the jowl of a bottle, a narrow defile…”

Scut: term of abuse applied to a very cheeky or or badly behaved man or boy.

Scutter: see ‘Sciodar’.

Seanachraíochting (Cregg, stress on third syllable: say ’shanna‑skree‑uckting’): old people talking in Irish. Possibly a combination of ‘seanachaí’ (a storyteller) and ‘scoraíocht’ (above).

Seana Mhárta (say ’shan‑na vawrta’): old March (ie. in the old Julian calendar — about two weeks later than in our modern calendar): “We’ll be alright when the seana Mhárta is out!” (My mother said her grandmother used to say this when the weather was bad in early April).

Shore (Cregg): when my father wanted us to throw any kind of liquid down a sink or drain he would say, "Throw it down the shore!" This may have been due to the fact that his childhood home overlooked Tralong Strand in Cregg so that in those days before piped drainage was installed any liquid thrown into an open drain would have got to the shore in a very short time. However, it may also have been an older way of pronouncing ’sewer’

Should (Cregg). In 1975 I visited Brú Lao, the farm and house where my father was born in 1913. His sister‑in‑law, Mrs. Patrick Tobin, was still alive. When she was telling me about some of the old ways, instead of using ’would’ or ’used to’ she invariably said ’should’. For example, she said, "Long ago, there was a short cut to Rosscarbery. The people should walk across the top of Trá an Aonaigh (’The Strand of the Fair’, now known as ’Tralong Strand’.) and over the hill on the other side. They should carry a storm lantern to see in the dark on their way back home."

Sickeners: people better off than us.

(cf: ‘commomality’ in: Part 1)

Síofra (stress on first syllable: say ‘shee‑fra’): a cold, wet, child. Dinneen, síodhbhradh (pronounced as ’síofra’), a fairy‑child or changeling; fig. an ailing, old fashioned, impish or mischievous child…”

Skin: in my mother's description of an almighty row, "There was skin and hair flying!"

Slachtmhar (stress on first syllable, say ’slock‑tur’): neat, orderly, tidy as "Put your clothes away now nice and slachtmhar!"

Slamóg (Cregg, stress on last syllable: say ’slomm‑ogue’): a term of abuse. Dinneen, slámóg, a small lock of teased wool, etc., a little flake (of snow), an untidy woman.

Snake (say ’shnake’): an adult term of abuse referring to a bad mannered or badly behaved boy; a child’s term of abuse for a nasty or tale‑telling boy.

Spágs: (say ’spawgs’): shapeless or oversized shoes or boots. This word was used once by one of my sisters (Ina). Neither she nor I have any idea where she picked it up as I have no recollection of our parents using it. Dinneen: "spág, a leg or foot (gnly. contempt), a paw, a clumsy or lame leg, a long flat foot, a club foot, the foot (sled?) of a side‑car."

Spailpín (Cregg) say ’spal‑peen’: a short, fat man. Dinneen, spailpín, (stress on last syllable): a labourer, a migratory labourer, a common workman; a term of abuse, a bold boy, a fat fellow; a mean worthless fellow.”

Spairt (say ’spart’): doughy, undercooked bread; bread that fails to rise. Dinneen, spairt: wet, heavy clod, turf, esp. the turf of the previous year left exposed to the rain on the bog; a splash of water; an inert, lazy fellow.”

Spicuait (stress on first syllable: say ’shpik‑oo‑it’): a weak or dying fire. Cf. Dinneen, spiocaid (say ’shpyuk‑id’, stress on first syllable) a very small fire, an ember. Modern Irish, smeachóid (say, ’shmack‑owe‑id’, stress on second syllable).

Stall in! (Cregg): our father’s way of telling us to sit down at the table to eat our food.

Stirabout: a kind of porridge made by boiling ground maize. Although imported from the United States it was often called ’Indian corn’. However, my mother called it ’yellow meal’ pronouncing ’meal’ as ’male’.

Stitch: in “The child is out in the yard without a stitch on!” in other words, the child has no clothes on.

Stracaire (stress on first syllable: say ’strock‑irra’): a strong, useless or loutish boy or man. Dinneen, racaire, a puller, a dragger, a snatcher, a tearer; a strong, vigorous man; an extortioner.”

Straíoll (stress on first syllable: say ’stree‑ull’): “an ould straíoll.”: someone old, untidy, poor–looking, ugly, worthless. Dinneen, straoille, i.e. sraoille, a loose‑hanging rag or garment, a girth, belt or garter; an untidy, awkward or bewrayed person; anything clumsy or untidy,

Striobáil (Cregg, stress on second syllable: say ’strub‑boil’): as in “striobáiling around.” = wandering around and getting up to no good. Dinneen, striobaid (say, ’shtrub‑wid’, stress on first syllable) a harlot; a rag, a tatter, an untidy person. Ó Dónaill, strabóid, 1. rag, tatter; ragged thing; tattered person. 2. saucy, unruly girl; strap, harlot.

Stuth (say ’stuh’): unkempt or matted hair, hair that is always the same. Dinneen, stuth… (see ‘stoth), the unkempt hair of the head, fur, bristles, a tuft of grass etc.

Stypairs (Cregg, stress on first syllable): a big house that eats up the money. Dinneen, stipéar, al. ’stuipéar’, say ’stip‑pare’ in each case), one standing a long time, a loafer. Ó Dónaill, stipéar, stupor.

Súlach (stress on first syllable: say ’soo‑luck’): any unappetising liquid. Ó Dónaill, súlach, sap, juice; gravy; suds; dishwater; insipid drink; dirty water; liquid manure; farmyard filth.”

Súmaire (Cregg, stress on first syllable, say ’soo‑mirra’): a wretch. Ó Dónaill, bloodsucker, leech, vampire; imbiber, tippler; parasite, scrounger, sponger…”

Táirnín (stress on last syllable, say ’tawr‑neen’): a small fish caught by children using a net and taken home in jam jars. Usually linked with the ’pincín’ (above). Dinneen, tairngín, a small nail, a thorn‑back or 'thorneen" (táirnín).

Tear: (say ’tare’) in the expression, "Let them tear away!", said by my mother when she did not want to intervene to stop some of us fighting or quarrelling among ourselves.

Teasbaí (stress on first syllable: say ’tass‑pee’): liveliness, high spirits, boisterousness. “That’ll knock the teasbaí off ye!” (said to a child about to be punished or being told to help with the work). Dinneen, teasbach, heat, warmth, sultriness,, exuberence, liveliness, wantoness, ardour, feverish heat, pride, prosperity.” also: “teasbaidhe, a grasshopper.”

Thimbles: see ’Fairy thimbles’ in Part 1.

Thrown: (say ’trone’ — rhymes with ’bone’): used by my mother to describe any person or animal sitting or lying around the place in an actual or apparent state of total idleness. This withering word was also used to draw attention to any object not in its usual or proper place.

Tiarna (‘lord’, stress on first syllable): as in the phrases, “A Thiarna na ngrást is na n–aingeal!” (“O Lord of grace and angels!”:say, ’Ah heerna nung rawst iss nuh nang‑ell’) and “A Thiarna grá!” (”O Lord of love!” — say ’Ah heerna graw’).

Togs (sometimes referred to as 'swimming togs'): a swimsuit or swimming trunks.

Tráithnín; (Cregg, stress on last syllable: say ’traw‑neen’): “I don’t give a tráithnín now for them.” Dinneen, tráithnín, a piercer or borer, a dart or arrow, a strong blade of grass, a withered stalk of meadow grass…”

Útamáiling (say ’oot‑um‑awl‑ing’, stress on third syllable): poking around, handling things aimlessly, making more of a mess than when you started. Dinneen, útamáil, act of fumbling, doing light work, botching, searching, groping, rambling; an awkward manner, or attempt, bungle.

Will (Cregg): Used by my father to introduce forceful commands as in, "Will you go off to school now and stop annoying me!"

Womaneen dowsy: a term of endearment or affection used by my mother to refer to a baby girl; ’dowsy’ from the Irish ’domhsa’ = to / for / related to myself.

Wouldn’t: as in the derogatory phrase, "Sure, wouldn't you know!", said by my mother when someone failed, misbehaved or was in some sort of disgrace.

Ye: this old English plural form of ’you’ was in general use in by my parents and in much of rural Ireland half a century ago.


1. 'Dinneen' — The Rev. Patrick S. Dinneen, An Irish‑English Dictionary, Dublin, 1927.

2. Ó Dónaill — Niall Ó Dónaill, Foclóir Gaeilge‑Béarla, Dublin (1977).


My mother was born in 1909 and died in 2003. My father was born in 1913 and died in 1988. They are both buried in Cardiff.

Each left school at the age of 12. Born about 50 miles apart in County Cork they met and married in Cork City in the late 1930s. They had a hard time of it, on the whole, and as far as we were concerned, "When they were good, they were very very good, but when they were bold, they were horrid."

They gave us some very good times indeed. From the late 1940s to the mid 1950s they always managed to give us a holiday by the seaside. There was always a fire in the kitchen (no central heating in those days!) and there was always food on the table, except for one dreadful day in the early 1950s when for one entire day there was absolutely no food in the house and no money to buy it.

They could be cheerful, playful, entertaing witty, tender, caring and kind, especially to their children as babies or if any of us older children got sick. There was also anger, however, backed up by the threat and sometimes the fully realised reality of scoldings, slaps and even the belt.

The words listed above reflect all of this because they had an extensive vocabulary to reflect all their mood swings from tenderness to sadness to anger to violence and back again. This list of their old words is, in its way, a small contribution to their biography and to the biography of so many people of their times and places who are now gone, but, I trust, not forgotten.

By Barry Tobin, February 2005.


Old words my parents knew: Part 1


This tribute to her grandmother was read by Gabrielle Tobin at the funeral Mass in Cardiff on Monday 17 February, 2003.

Oatmeal and Buttermilk
Summer in Ballinagree wasn't the same without it!

Those Winter Sundays
This short tribute to the caring love of his father in their house of anger was written by the Afro-American poet, Robert Hayden, (1913‑1980). I know of no other poem that sets out so well what life with our own parents was like.

Nascanna don Ghaeilge / Links to Irish / Gorgysylltiadau i'r Wyddeleg

A Word for Irish.

Ríomhphost / Email / Ebost


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