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Foclóir, The New Online English-Irish Dictionary

Foclóir - Irish Dictionary
Foclóir – Irish Dictionary

After a long wait the first phase of the new online English-Irish dictionary, Foclóir, is now up and running. The current platform contains 30% of the planned content but this matches 80% of expected general English usage (though a number of my searches did draw a blank). As someone who works in the IT industry I have to say that I am seriously impressed so far, despite the limited number of search-terms. Not only does the Foclóir give a full list of free translations for the words searched (with all the usual grammatical forms and variations) it also provides formal and colloquial uses of the words in context as well as related proverbs or sayings. To this is added actual audio examples of the words in the three main regional accents (Connacht, Munster and Ulster). Just try playing the three variations of the pronunciation of the word madra “dog” to see where your Irish accent comes from (thanks to my mother mine seems to be largely Munster which explains again some of the comments I’ve had down through the years on my Irish!).

The web-based platform comes with a suite of widgets and plugins that will be of great use to many of us and there is a full FAQ for all your queries. The site will run alongside and be integrated with the existing, the official Irish-English National Terminology Database, which is used by the state to codify new and existing words in relation to the law, economics, military matters, etc. Unfortunately the final version of the Foclóir will not be finished until the end of of 2014 at least, due to restricted funding, with a print edition to follow. There is also the matter of a probable review in 2015 of Official Standard Irish which may necessitate a significant number of changes to the online dictionary.

Finally, it is nice to be reporting some good news about the Irish language and the Irish state for once.

5 comments on “Foclóir, The New Online English-Irish Dictionary

  1. Thank God!
    I needed that after numerous linguistic errors!


    • 😉 Still at lot of words and terms missing (some 70%) but hopefully they will hit the 2014 mark for completion. I found the audio clips to be the stand-out feature. Really excellent. With more funding, and integration with and this would be an incredibly useful site. The ability of technology and the internet to transform the reach of the language is enormous and deserves greater funding.


  2. I hope it helps me. I need a crash course I can only seem to get so far.
    I have no problem with nouns but the real “engine” of language is verbs.
    I often wonder what really is a standard for fluency.
    Is there a number of nouns (say 5000) plus a number of verbs plus adjectives etc that constiutes fluency.
    Or is fluency as much about THOUGHT I could never hope to be as nuanced or articulate in Irish.


    • The popular figure repeated in magazine articles and online is 20,000 words for complete fluency. However most linguists dismiss this. A recent study found that the vocabulary for native English speakers ranged between 14,400 and 42,300 words while non-native learners ranged between 25,000 and 34,400 words. So averages are very hard if not impossible to pin down (and vary from language to language). It’s probable that a base level of a few thousand words coupled with knowledge of some basic grammar rules combined with frequent use give a fair degree of fluency. Immersion is the key. Watching TG4 is recommended by Irish language teachers for a very good reason. The more you listen the more you understand.

      Believe me, I share your problems. I have spent my whole life in an anglophone world, on the edge of a Gaelic world, and constantly struggle. Some people are fortunate to be born with multilingual brains. I was not 😦


      • I have constantly tried to do it …almost like a mathematical formula of up to 5,000 nouns…then adjectives then verbs.
        The nouns is actually very confidence building because there are so many loan words or universal words that a vocabulary can build up.
        Communicating IDEAS is probably the biggest problem.
        I think TG4 is actually under-used. Unless I’ve missed it, there is no all year round classes.
        Dead Air time could be used much more effectively.


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