The Many Meanings of “Oireachtas” Posted by róislín on Apr 18, 2009 in Irish Language
For the week of April 5 to 12, 2009, many Philadelphians probably saw more samples of the Irish language in the media than ever before in the city’s history. Why? This year, Philadelphia hosted the first Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne (World Irish Dance Championship) to be held outside Ireland or the U.K. Over 6000 dancers attended, most accompanied by family members, bringing about 20,000 visitors to the city.
In addition to highlighting the name of the event in Irish, the organizing body, An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha (www.clrg.ie) uses numerous Irish terms, even when its members are speaking English. Key among these are “feiseanna,” (basically “festival” but CLRG uses it for “regional competitions”), ADCRG (Ard Diploma Choimisiúin le Rincí Gaelacha, with “ard” meaning “high”) and TCRG (Teagascóir Choimisiúin le Rincí Gaelacha, a Coimisiún-certified teacher).
The original meaning of “oireachtas” isn’t exactly “championship,” though; that would generally be “craobh” (literally, a branch). An “oireachtas” is a gathering (business or cultural), or a deliberative assembly. A related word is ”oireacht,” which historically meant an assembly of freemen or members of a tribe, gathered for deliberation; it could also mean a gathering or assembly in the general sense.
“Oireachtas” isn’t generally used now for everyday meetings. Those could be “cruinniú,” (meeting, gathering) or a “tionól” (gathering, assembly, typically a large group of people, not just the handful that could constitute a “cruinniú”).
“Oireachtas” is also the name of the legislature or national parliament of Poblacht na hÉireann (the Republic of Ireland) which has two houses, Dáil, and Seanad. There was also a predecessor, the Oireachtas in Saorstát Éireann (the Irish Free State, 1922-37.).
Yet another use of the word is “Oireachtas na Gaeilge,” a literary and cultural festival celebrating the Irish language and held in Ireland since the 1890s. It is similar to two other Celtic events: in Wales, the Eisteddfod, which in revival dates to 1792, and in Scotland, Am Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail, run by An Comunn Gàidhealach, which dates to 1891.
Finally, if you know anyone with the surname Geraghty, Gerrity, Gearty, or Gerty, they probably had a distant ancestor who was an “oireachtach” (advisor, assembly-man). From “oireachtach” to “Gerty,” you might well ask! Consider the possessive form, Mag Oireachtaigh (sometimes Mac Oireachtaigh), meaning “son of the advisor or assembly-man.” The final “ch” has been softened to a vowel sound (-aigh, like “ee”) since we’re saying “of the advisor,” not just “advisor.” The “ch” in the middle of the word may get softened or silenced when anglicized. And often the full “mac” or “mag” sound (for “son”) gets shortened to just a “c” or “g” before vowels (as in “Keown” from “Mag Eoin”). This results in names like Geraghty (with a silent “gh”) or Gerty.
Bhur mblagálaí – Róislín
Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.