Home Language The First Collection of Manx Ever Published

The First Collection of Manx Ever Published

by Bernadette Weyde

One of the great landmarks in the history of Celtic scholarship was the publication of the first volume of Edward Lhuyd’s ‘Archaeologia Britannica’ at Oxford in 1707. This first volume, of a series he did not live to complete, was sub-titled ‘Glossography’, and in it Lhuyd assembled a mass of information about the Celtic languages, including grammars of Breton, Cornish and Irish, with vocabularies of Breton, Welsh and Irish, a catalogue of Welsh manuscripts and many useful observations on the correspondences of the Celtic languages among themselves and with other languages of Europe. It was a book far in advance of its time and many of Lhuyd’s methods are exactly those re-discovered in the 19th century by the science of philology.

No section of the book deals with Manx but in an appendix to his assistant, there occurs a list of some 150 Latin words, mostly common nouns, with their equivalents in a wide range of European and some non-European languages. In each case he begins with the Welsh, Cornish and Breton forms, then goes on to the Irish and in a good many instances the Scottish Gaelic and Manx equivalents. Only 79 words are represented as against 95 that are translated in to Manx. This then is the first collection of Manx words ever published and appeared, moreover, in the same year as the first book printed in the Manx language, Wilson’s ‘Coyrle Sodjeh’.

The 95 words set out below, first in their original spelling, quite unlike the modern orthography, arranged in alphabetical order, with translations and with the modern spelling for comparison.

Adyn – face – Eddin
Alyn – island – Ellan
Aon – river – Awin
Arget – silver – Argid
Assyl – ass – Assyl
Aul – fire – Aile
Ban – woman – Ben
Barn – cap – Bayrn
Ben – white – Bane
Ber – bear – (no word given)
Bî – food – Bee
Bille – tree – Billey
Blîen – year – Blein
Bolg – belly – Bolg
Breg – shoe – Braag
Breyr – brother – Braar
Bua – cow – Booa
Buel – mouth – Beeal
Bwyí – yellow – Bwee, Buigh
Chat – cat – Kayt
Diseg – father – Jishig
Dow – ox – Dow
Drym – back – Dreeym
Dw – black – Doo
Dyny – man – Dooinney
Eèr – gold – Airh
Ennien – daughter – Inneen
Erk – horn – Cairk
Fieigh – stag – Feeaih
Gaawr – goat – Goayr
Gaawr verin – she-goat – Goayr woirryn
Gàre – garden – Garey
Geiagh, [gèe] – wind – Geay
Gorm – blue – Gorrym
Gryen – sun – Grian
Iaàrn – iron – Yiarn
Ien, nien – bird – Eean
Jerg – red – Jiarg
Joch, vai – drink – Jough, vie
Kabyl – horse – Cabbyl
Kadip – hemp – Kennip
Kallach – boar – Collagh
Kean – sea – Keayn
Klox – stone – Clagh
Klyss – ear – Cleaysh
Koirkie – oats – Corkey
Kornacht – wheat – Curnaght
Korp – body – Corp
Korran – sickle – Corran
Kreig – rock – Creg
Kreyv – bone – Craue
Krî – heart – Cree
Kyrri – sheep – Kirree
Law – hand – Laue
Leena – meadow – Lheeannee
Leigh – calf – Lheiy
Lèr – mare – Laair
Lin – flax – Lieen
Lur – lead – Leaoie
Lwch – lake – Logh
Mack – son – Mac
Magin – wood – Maidjyn
Mawda – dog – Moddey
Mer – finger – Mair
Molt – wether – Molt
Muyax – hare – Mwaagh
Myckwerin – sow – Muc woirryn
Mymmog – mother – Mummig
Neinfan – infant – (no word given)
Nèst – moon – Eayst
Ov – egg – Ooh
Phegil – tooth – Feeackle
Pher – grass – Faiyr
Phil – flesh – Feill
Phul – blood – Fuill
Quilyn – wheen – Queeylyn
Ri – arm – Roih
Ri – ram – Rea
Rwt – root – (no word given)
Rylag – star – Rollage
Skass – foot – Cass
Sliew – mountain – Slieau
Snèd – needle – Snaid
Stroan – nose – Stroin
Swil – eye – Sooill
Sywr – sister – Shuyr
Tarw – bull – Tarroo
‘Tchania – tongue – Chengey
‘Tchynn – head – Kione
Treiach – hay – Traagh
‘Tzeirach – plough – Shesheragh
Vawl – wall – Voalley
Wystèe – water – Ushtey
Ylan – wool – Ollan
Yyn – lamb – Eayn

Many of these words offer nothing of special interest since they are either identical in form with the later spelling or suggest the same pronunciation. In a few others the difference is easily explained, as when words with -EA- in Irish appear in Manx with either – E – or – A -; so BAN, ADYN, JERG beside BEN, EDDIN, JIARG. Similarly later spelling convention has a-spellings for words with Irish – á – or – ó -, where here we have – E -, as in BEN, BREG, BREYR, EèR, LèR beside BANE, BRAAG, AIRH, LAAIR. The alternation between CLAGH and CLOGH IS well known.

Three words that appear strange at first sight are simply borrowings from English, BEAR, INFANT and ROOT. In some cases the – N – of the article has become attached to an initial vowel, as in NEINFAN, NèST and NIEN as well as IEN. The colloqual JISHIG and MUMMIG are used instead of AYR and MOIR. In the case of KIRREE and QUEEYLYN and perhaps DYNY, the Manx is given in the plural, excusably so in the first. With MAGIN the sense is inappropriate, for the other words given all mean a collection of growing trees, not, like the Manx, timber or sticks; again the mistake is excusable in view of the range of meaning of English ‘wood’.

The source of the Manx material is not known. There are some inconsistencies in the spelling that suggest there was more than one source. The effect of all these inconsistencies is to suggest that only a certain number of these Manx words had actually been heard by Lhuyd and noted by him in his own spelling.


(source: by R L Thomson from The Journal of The Manx Museum Volume VI, No.78, 1961-1962; artwork is Pooil Vaaish Farm by Flaxney Stowell, courtesy of Manx National Heritage and can be found on BBC Paintings)

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