In the book I’ve just read, The Old Ways – A Journey on Foot, by Robert MacFarlane, there are quite a few words that are unfamiliar to me. The author has provided definitions of some of them within the text, or in the glossary at the back of the book, and one word that really caught my attention was the Scottish Gaelic word èig, which is defined as

‘the quarz crystals on the beds of moorland stream-pools that catch and reflect moonlight, and therefore draw migrating salmon to them in the late summer and autumn’.

Very poetic, but it seems a awful lot of meaning to be carried by a single word, so I searched my Gaelic dictionaries, but have been unable to find this word, or anything quite like it. It might be a local word used only in the island of Lewis, or maybe the person who told the author about it was using a touch of poetic licence.

Have you ever come across this word or anything like it?

This entry was posted in Language.

2 Responses to Èig

  1. Trond Engen says:

    Or the informer just explained it as a physical thing rather than defined it lexically. Sparkling quartz crystals in the sand might warrant a noun of their own. The part about catching and reflecting moonlight and attracting salmon was added to explain where and when it can be seen.

  2. Geoff Pickles says:

    This example is not as poetic as “èig”, but is similar in that a wealth of meaning is packed into a short word. In Gaelg (Manx Gaelic), the word “staa” is defined in Cregeen’s “Dictionary of Manks” [1835] thus: “Three men making hedges together, two of them cutting the sod and one lifting”. In clarification, “hedges” here refers to those made of strips of cut turf, rather than “quick” or growing hedges.

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