Cream and presidents

Today’s word, uachtar [‘uəxtˠəɾˠ], means “top, upper part, cream or surface (of water)” in Irish. It is used in such expressions as:

  • an lámh in uachtar a fháil (ar dhuine) – to get the upper hand (over sb)
  • uachtar reoite – icecream, lit. “frozen cream”
  • uachtar coipthe (whipped cream) – coipthe is normally used to refer to a choppy sea.

Uachtar comes from the Old Irish úachtar or ochtar, which have the Proto-Indo-European root *eu@g or ve@g (to rise, increase). The Irish word uasal (noble) probably comes from the same root, as do the Welsh uchel and the Breton uhel, both of which mean “high” [Source].

Other words containing the root uachtar include:

  • uachtarach – upper, top, superior
  • uachtarán – president, superior
  • uachtaránacht – presidency, authority
  • uachtarlann – creamery
  • uachtarúil – creamy

The President of Ireland, an Uachtarán na hÉíreann, is currently here at Oideas Gael studying Irish in the same class as me.

This entry was posted in English, Etymology, Irish, Language, Words and phrases.

5 Responses to Cream and presidents

  1. seon says:

    In Scots Gaelic ‘cream’ can be uachdar or barr, depending on dialect.

    Various placenames contain ‘uachdar’ too – such as Uachdair Ardair or ‘Auchterarder’ in meaningless English. Iochdair in Uist and Yoker in Glasgow contain the reverse, ‘lower ground’.

    ‘Na h-Uachdaran’ are the lairds/landlords in Scottish.

  2. Dennis King says:

    I don’t know where the Wiktionary etymology you cite comes from.

    There is another etymology on my Focal an Lae site:

    which comes from J. Vendryes in Lexique étymologique de l’irlandais ancien, s.v. “ochtar”.

  3. TJ says:

    I was in Oughterard last year! (Uachtar Ard). I knew what “Ard” means but was confused about Uachtar.

  4. Christopher Miller says:

    Now that you mention “Uachtarán”, that reminds me of “Taoiseach” (Prime Minister) and the recent etymology for MacIntosh and its variants that I recently came across: mac an toisich (son of the chieftain).

  5. Yenlit says:

    The Manx cognate for Irish ‘uachtar’ is ‘eaghtyr’ and I’m just regurgitating from Wikipedia which lists:
    eaghtyr y vainney – cream
    eaghtyrys – ascendancy
    eaghtyrane – president
    lhiass-eaghtyrane – vice-president
    and even
    eaghtyr-mynthey for crème de menthe?

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