c. 1200, "the Irish people," from Old English Iras "inhabitant of Ireland." This is from Old Norse irar, which comes ultimately from Old Irish Eriu (accusative Eirinn, Erinn) "Erin." The reconstructed ancestry of this derives it from Old Celtic *Iveriu (accusative *Iverionem, ablative *Iverione), perhaps (Watkins) from PIE *pi-wer- "fertile," literally "fat," from root *peie- "to be fat, swell" (see fat (adj.)).
From mid-15c. in reference to the Celtic language spoken in Ireland. Some Middle English forms of the word suggest influence of (or punning on) Old French irais, irois "wrathful, bad-tempered" (literally "ire-ous") and Irais "Irish."
Meaning "temper, passion" is 1834, American English (first attested in writings of Davy Crockett), from the legendary pugnacity of the Irish. Irish-American (n.) is from 1816 (as an adjective from 1820). Wild Irish (late 14c.) originally were those not under English rule; Black Irish in reference to those of Mediterranean appearance is from 1888.
c. 1200, Irisce, "of Irish nationality;" see Irish (n.). From 1580s as "Irish in nature or character." Irish stew is attested from 1814; Irish lace is from 1851; Irish coffee is from 1950.
Before 19c. often meaning "contradictory." In later use often in mocking or pejorative phrases, such as Irish apricot "potato," Irish daisy "common dandelion." Compare Dutch. Irish luck is by 1814, originally an ironic phrase indicating mischance or something done by means other than luck.
updated on December 19, 2022
Dictionary entries near Irish