Irish Language Blog

Bia le Beoir (Aguisín): One More Irish Phrase for a Beer-friendly Snack Food, Cuid / Part 2C of 2 Posted by on Mar 31, 2017 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Cén sórt feola í sin i ndáiríre? Meas tú go bhfuil an fheoil sin blasta? Réamhtheachtaí ag Spam, an ea?

Finally, we’ve gotten to the end of our “sraith taobh istigh de shraith.”  We started with the addition of “craiceann muiceola friochta” the list of “sneaiceanna le n-ithe le beoir.”  That led to a discussion of various other types of meat (besides “muiceoil“) whose Irish names are compound words ending in “-fheoil” or “-eoil.”  So today we’ll wrap up with “seirgeoil” and “tarbhfheoil” (bull beef), including a comparison with “mairteoil bheirithe” (bully beef), and we’ll finish up with “toirceoil” and a few miscellaneous terms.

seirgeoil, jerky (searg, withered, shriveled + feoil, meat).  While “seirgeoil” is a compound word (as with all the terms in this series), there is another way to combine the ideas of “dried” + “meat,” quite simply, feoil sheirgithe, but that, on its own, wouldn’t have made it into this list, which is limited to the compound words.  Foirmeacha an fhocail: an tseirgeoil, seirgeola, na seirgeola.  No plural.  Presumably this could once have been written as “seirgfheoil,” but I don’t find any evidence of this spelling online.

tarbhfheoil, bull beef (tarbh, bull + feoil, meat).  This is meat from a “tarbh gan choilleadh,” euphemistically called, in English, “intact.”  That’s as opposed to “feoil bodóige” (lit. meat of a heifer), “laofheoil” (veal), and, hmm, is there a specific word for ox meat, as opposed to just the “damhtheanga” (ox tongue) or “damheireaball” (oxtail, as in “anraith damheireabaill”).   Don’t worry, the “ox-eye” is a type of “nóinín” (daisy), not an actual “súil” (eye).  On a whim, I did try Googling some combinations of “damh“(ox) and “feoil” (fheoil, fheola, fheolta, eoil, eola, eola, plus lenition and eclipsis) but the closest I got was “damfool,” “damn fool,” and “dam fool.” Was that a message from Google?

But wait!  Then I tried applying vowel harmony, and got a few hits from 18th-century dictionaries for “daimhfheoil,” defined as “beef.”  So my hunch was right, that it could be a compound, but that word seems to have, um, gone the way of all flesh.

Tarbhfheoil (bull beef) shouldn’t be confused with “bully beef”, sometimes just called “bully,” typically associated with soldiers’ rations and/or school lunches.  This “bully” comes from the French “bouilli” (boiled).  “Bully beef” goes by various names in both Irish and English.  English terms include corned, tinned, canned, and boiled beef, and in schools, jokingly, “mystery meat”.  It’s usually packed in cans with clear gelatin.  In Irish, the more popular term seems to be “mairteoil stánaithe,” lit. “tinned beef,” but it may also be called “mairteoil bheirithe” (boiled beef) as we see in the one solitary hit for that term I found online: “Faoin mbliain 1850, tugadh isteach tithe cócaireachta agus bialanna nua, ina n-ullmhaítí mairteoil bheirithe nó anraith mairteola agus caife dhá uair sa lá do na saighdiúirí.”(  If there are any specific distinctions between “bully beef” and “canned/corned/tinned/boiled” beef, they’re a little beyond my culinary ken.  But maybe if I get to visit the Spam Museum in Hormel, Minnesota, someday, I’ll find out more.  At any rate, this doesn’t sound like what is meant in America by the “corned beef” found in Reuben sandwiches or the “corned beef” served in slices with cabbage.  As far as I know, this latter type of corned beef isn’t sold in cans.  I would call it “saillte” or “leasaithe” in Irish.  But maybe it is just the packaging.  Smaointe?

Foirmeacha an fhocail ‘tarbhfheoil’: an tarbhfheoil, tarbhfheola, na tarbhfheola.  No plural.

toirceoil, or more traditionally, toircfheoil, brawn, boar meat, or as it’s sometimes defined, boar’s flesh (torc, boar + feoil, meat).  This “torc,” of course is a completely different word from “torc,” meaning “torque.”  Although this isn’t a particularly popular food, as far as I know, I have occasionally seen it on menus.  It’s interesting that although there are so many references to wild boar in early Celtic literature, the native population in Ireland has gone extinct.  There is, however, a small population today, partly of escapees from farms that become feral.  The animals, that is, not the farms!  I’ve just read that they had been hunted to extinction in England by the 17th century but that a small population is growing again there also, partly due to wild boar farming (as it’s called — but how can they be “wild” boar if they’re farmed?).  Again, there can be escapees that become feral.  Are these really the same as traditional wild boar.  And does anyone know a figure for Ireland or what the reaction is to them?  Here are a couple of interesting links on the topic: and

Foirmeacha an fhocail “toirceoil”: an toirceoil, toirceola, na toirceola.  No plural.

Finally, there are a few related words that are not so much specific meats but categories:

circeoil, poultry, which we saw previously as a word for “chicken” (the meat).  There is also the word “sicín,” which can mean both the meat and the animal.  Context tells us how to translate this word — but we don’t usually talk about “poultry burgers” or “poultry cordon bleu.” The more usual words for “poultry,” i.e. the birds themselves, are  “éanlaith chlóis,” also sometimes spelled “éanlaith clóis,” lit. birds/fowl of the enclosure/farmyard, and “éanlaith tíreachais,” lit. birds/fowl of domesticity.

éineoil, yet a third word for “poultry,” this one based on “éan” (bird).

As for the word “feoil” itself, it can also mean “flesh,” which could actually give us an additional slew of meanings,  including the charming “ionga na laidhre i bhfeoil,” lit. “[finger]nail in flesh,” that is an ingrown or ingrowing nail.  But continuing with that set of meanings would, no doubt, extend this blog far beyond the usual length.  So for now I’ll say, “Slán go ‘feoil'” — Róislín


Cuid 1: Bia le Beoir (Aguisín): One More Irish Phrase for a Beer-friendly Snack Food, Cuid / Part 1 Posted by on Mar 23, 2017 in Irish Language

Cuid 2A: Bia le Beoir (Aguisín): One More Irish Phrase for a Beer-friendly Snack Food, Cuid / Part 2A of 2 Posted by on Mar 26, 2017 in Irish Language 

Cuid 2B: Bia le Beoir (Aguisín): One More Irish Phrase for a Beer-friendly Snack Food, Cuid / Part 2B of 2Posted by on Mar 29, 2017 in Irish Language

and for the sneaiceanna beorach in general: Bia le Beoir: Some Irish Words for Good Snack Foods to Eat with Beer Posted by on Mar 20, 2017 in Irish Language

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