Gaelic lore galore go leor

Is leor nod don eolach (A hint is enough for a wise man)

Fáilte roimh, a chomharsanna ar líne. Féach thíos le haghaidh cúpla focal as Gaeilge, ach i dtosach báire roinnt Gaeilge-Béarla…

(Welcome, online neighbours. See below for a few words in Irish, but first some Irish-English…)

Although Irish words and characteristics pervade Hiberno-English, relatively few have entered the hallowed halls of Standard English. One Gaelic word to have gone mainstream is smithereens, which I wrote about recently; today I’ll look at galore. After all, it’s St. Patrick’s Day and Lá na Gaeilge — a day of international Irishness galore.

The word galore dates to 1628 and was adapted from the Irish go leor, which is cognate with Scottish Gaelic gu leòr. (Here, go is a particle without an independent meaning.) Galore and go leor mean enough, to sufficiency, plenty, aplenty, a lot, in abundance, and so on. Galore can be a noun, but this usage is dialectal and seldom seen. Its typical use is as an adverb or adjective, and like aplenty it appears postpositively, i.e. following the noun it modifies (prizes galore, not *galore prizes). The Century Dictionary lists gelore, gilore, gillore, and golore as historical variants, but the spelling has stabilised as galore. Here it is in the wild:

Bicentenaries galore in the new year (UK Times, 2008)
And there are songs and dances galore (Patrick Sheehan, Glenanaar)
After liquids came solids. Cold joints galore and mince pies (James Joyce, Ulysses)
Fed by leaks galore, the newspapers have lit up… (Economist, 2010)
There are earthquake faults galore, chief among them the Helike Fault (Archaeology, 2004)
Tables […], chairs galore, plush settees (Truman Capote, New Yorker, 1956)
The best of aiting and dhrinking is provided . . . and indeed there was galore of both there (William Carleton, Shane Fadh’s Wedding)

In English As We Speak It In Ireland, P. W. Joyce quotes an unknown Irish songwriter musing on the emptiness of wealth:

There was ould Paddy Murphy had money galore,
And Darner of Shronell had twenty times more –
They are now on their backs under nettles and stones.

Irish leor is from Old Irish lour, which itself derives from Proto-Celtic *ro-wero- (sufficiency). Go leor appears in many contexts and set phrases, e.g.: ceart go leor (right enough, all right, okay); aisteach go leor (strangely enough); Tá sé luath go leor (It’s early enough); An bhfuil go leor agat? (Do you have enough?); maith go leor (fine, good enough, or drunk). This last example is a curious euphemism that is also seen in the forms magalore, maithgalors and mau-galore:

And if you are stupid enough to be completely maithgalors at over 151 mgs then you will be off the road for two years (Sunday Tribune, 2 April 1995).

Some language commentators have criticised galore. Fowler (1926) dismissed it as “no part of the Englishman’s natural vocabulary . . . chiefly resorted to by those who are reduced to relieving dullness of matter by oddity of expression”. Bernstein, in The Careful Writer (1965), considered it suitable only for “jocular or breezy or slangy effect”. Compare this with Robert Burchfield’s more recent description of galore: “refreshingly informal”; or with MWDEU‘s: “a common, standard word”.

Galore is probably best avoided where gravitas is desired, but elsewhere it’s fine. Nowadays we’re apt to encounter it in any kind of colloquial or semi-formal context. Businesses love it, using it to attract customers to sales galore, offers galore and bargains galore. It appears in book titles and film titles, company names and more company names. Evidently, it has found uses and niches galore.

* * *

Faraor, nílim in ann Gaeilge a labhairt go maith níos mó, cé go raibh roinnt tuiscint agam fadó. Is scéal casta é! Ach Lá na Gaeilge atá againn inniu (tá níos mó eolas le fáil ar an nasc seo), agus ba mhaith liom rud éigin a scríobh i mo theanga dhúchais — na focail a leanas a rá: Go raibh míle maith agaibh as an blag seo a léamh, Lá Fhéile Padraig sona daoibh, agus bíodh Lá na Gaeilge iontach agaibh go léir.

Alas, I’m not able to speak Irish well any more, though I had some understanding long ago. It’s a complicated story! But it’s Irish Day today (there’s more information available on this link), and I’d like to write something in my native tongue — to say the following words: Thank you very much for reading this blog, happy St. Patrick’s Day, and may you all have a wonderful Irish Day.

This article, with minor changes, has been cross-posted on the Visual Thesaurus (subscription required).

Greens galore in Connemara, Co. Galway, autumn 2007

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11 Responses to Gaelic lore galore go leor

  1. Another fascinating post Stan, I had no idea of the roots of the word galore before now

  2. Stan says:

    Glad to share the word, Jams — and its ancestry! When I first heard about the connection, I was surprised too. I could almost hear a piece click into place.

  3. Claudia says:

    Fun galore reading this post. And a great photo which gives you the desire to roll in the greens.

    As I said before, there’s nobody like the Irish. And everyone wants to be Irish a little. Even more so on this day! Here’s to all the Irish people we love. The ones that are gone, the ones that are here. To your good health. Sláinte!

  4. Stan says:

    Certains des champs étaient un peu accidentés, Claudia, mais heureusement je n’ai pas fait de mal. Merci beaucoup de tes vœux, et sláinte à toi aussi!

  5. Sean Jeating says:

    Fascinating stuff, Stan! Thanks galore.
    Dheanfá sgéul go d-tig sgéul eile. [... you would make a story of the stones of the strand.]
    Raising my mug, friend. Happy Irish Day!

  6. wisewebwoman says:

    Great post as always, Stan, I was aware of the root of the word but not to the extent of your knowledge of course, and enjoyed the movie in the last century, the liquor spelt Scottishly – (now what’s that variant about?).
    Backatcha on Irish Day, I’ve avoided much of the paddywhackery here.
    XO
    WWW

  7. Stan says:

    Sean: You’re welcome, thank you, and many happy returns! I raise my mug to the east and a little south. Stones of the strand? That’s given me an idea for a story…

    WWW: Whisky Galore! is good fun, though it’s not among my favourite Ealing comedies. The variation in spelling whisk(e)y stirs people to spirited debate, but there doesn’t seem to be a definitive reason for it, or any kind of categorical geographical distinction. There’s an interesting piece about it at Malt Maniacs, and a summary of the etymology here. The difference is even more noticeable in the plurals: whiskeys vs. whiskies.

  8. Sean Jeating says:

    As I just stumbled upon it, Stan:
    [...] We’re Catholics from way back. Nuns and priests galore. [...]
    John McGahern, Doorways.

  9. Stan says:

    Thanks for sharing it, Sean! It’s many years since I read those stories.

  10. Quora says:

    What words derived from the Irish language have passed into common English parlance?…

    Right, so first off, I’m going to – with two exceptions, please see below and why – restrict this answer to the terms of the question; “common, English parlance”. Thus I am largely going to ignore words that are basically just Irish ones shoe-horned…

  11. [...] Galore: Galore means an abundance; a plethora, if you will. And we all know what that is. “Galore” comes from the Irish gu leor, meaning “enough.” [...]

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