Middle Irish

Middle Irish
Native toIreland, Scotland, Isle of Man
EraCirca 900-1200
Early forms
Latin (Gaelic alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3mga

Middle Irish (sometimes called Middle Gaelic[1], Irish: An Mheán-Ghaeilge[2]) is the Goidelic language which was spoken in Ireland, most of Scotland and the Isle of Man from circa 900-1200 AD; it is therefore a contemporary of late Old English and early Middle English.[3][4] The modern Goidelic languages—Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx—are all descendants of Middle Irish.

The Lebor Bretnach, the "Irish Nennius", survives only from manuscripts preserved in Ireland; however, Thomas Owen Clancy has argued that it was written in Scotland, at the monastery in Abernethy.[5]


Middle Irish inscription from Clonmacnoise: Oroit ar Thurcain lasan dernad in chrossa: "Pray for Turcan by whom this cross was made."[6][7]

Middle Irish is a fusional, VSO, nominative-accusative language.

Nouns decline for two genders: masculine, feminine, though traces of neuter declension persist; three numbers: singular, dual, plural; and five cases: nominative, accusative, genitive, prepositional, vocative. Adjectives agree with nouns in gender, number, and case.

Verbs conjugate for three tenses: past, present, future; four moods: indicative, subjunctive, conditional, imperative; independent and dependent forms. Verbs conjugate for three persons and an impersonal, agentless form (agent). There are a number of preverbal particles marking the negative, interrogative, subjunctive, relative clauses, etc.

Prepositions inflect for person and number. Different prepositions govern different cases, depending on intended semantics.

Other Languages