President Higgins launches groundbreaking new online English-Irish dictionary. The first since 1959


Ghost estates, cyberbullying, retweet, defriend and cloud computing are amongst the new words in the new English-Irish dictionary that President Michael D. Higgins launched today (Thursday 24 January 2013) in the National Gallery in Dublin. This is the first national online English-Irish dictionary since the publication of de Bhaldraithe’s dictionary in 1959 and is available on, it is published by Foras na Gaeilge.


In total, a team of 71 linguists and lexicographers have worked on this dictionary since 2000 and it will be completed in 2015. Writing

President Michael D. Higgins and Dr. Pádraig Ó Mianáin, senior editor of the new online English-Irish dictionary.

the dictionary itself did not begin until 2008. New technological advances have made the process of collating this dictionary much more efficient – a far cry from Tomás de Bhaldraithe’s painstaking and arduous method of jotting hundreds of thousands of words down by hand.


This new online dictionary currently contains about a third of its final content. So far, it features 7,500 head words which have generated a total word count of 1.3m words, compared with de Bhaldraithe’s dictionary, which is still the standard text of its kind, and contains around 900,000 words in total. When the dictionary is completed, there will be approximately 40,000 headwords as well as example sentences, along with sound files and comprehensive grammar tools.


“This dictionary follows the trend in modern international lexicography where usage determines content” says Dr Pádraig Ó Mianáin, editor of the Dictionary. “Consequently the English content in the new Dictionary broadly reflects how that language is used in Ireland and the Irish content similarly is based on contemporary spoken Irish” he said. “We wanted to reflect how Irish is spoken in Gaeltacht areas and we have incorporated audio recordings of pronunciations in the three main Irish language dialects as a further aid to learners of the language.”


This is a major advance for the Irish language and is one of the biggest projects ever undertaken by Foras na Gaeilge, the North-South Irish language promotional body. Joe McDonagh, ex-GAA President and Chairman of Foras na Gaeilge’s Dictionary Committee who was also Chief Executive when the project started in 2000, says that this dictionary is vital to the further development of the Irish language:


“This is a huge undertaking by Foras na Gaeilge and the world-class team that worked on it for the past twelve years” he said. “This dictionary is not merely a direct translation of words, it’s a reflection of how we naturally express ourselves in both English and Irish. It will be an invaluable resource not only for Irish speakers but for learners of Irish throughout the world for many years to come” he said.


The Minister for State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Mr. Dinny McGinley, T.D., congratulated Foras na Gaeilge and the dictionary team for the significant achievement of providing an electronic version of the new English-Irish dictionary:


“An important aspect of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 is being implemented through this ambitious project and the status of the Irish language as a contemporary living language is greatly enhanced as a result”, said the Minister for State.


The online version will be expanded in the next two years, and the final version will be published both online and as a hard copy in 2015. will be live on Thursday 24th January 2013.


For more information


Úna Ní Chárthaigh, Stillwater Communications

T: 01 6770630 / 086 3375050


Natasha Fennell, Stillwater Communications

T: 01 6770630 / 087 2904658

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