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.

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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:

    http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/gaeilge/donncha/focal/focal231.html

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

  3. TJ says:

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

  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?