The Non-Classical Lexicon of Celtic Latinity (NCLCL)

The renowned firm Brepols has begun to publish the Royal Irish Academy’s long-awaited Dictionary of Medieval Latin from Celtic Sources.

View a sample of the entries (all codes are explained in the published edition)

As Ireland’s contribution to the international enterprise of compiling a new, pan-European dictionary of Medieval Latin, the Royal Irish Academy has for nearly a generation been sponsoring the DMLCS project. This venture is designed to provide, for the Celtic territories, the lexicographical coverage of Medieval Latin that is (for example) coming to be furnished for German-speaking lands by the Mittellateinisches Wörterbuch, or for England by the British Academy’s well-known DMLBS venture.

In late 1985, the publication under DMLCS auspices of Michael Lapidge and Richard Sharpe’s Bibliography of Celtic Latin Literature (BCLL) defined for the first time the important corpus of medieval Latinity composed in the Celtic-speaking areas of Europe, or by Celts abroad, in the period 400 to 1200 A.D.

Ten years later, in collaboration with DMLCS, Brepols launched the first edition of an Archive of Celtic Latin Literature (ACLL), the project’s marked-up, searchable, full-text database containing most of the key works identified in BCLL.

Ten years later again, at the end of 2005, Brepols published the first constituent element of the DMLCS Dictionary itself. The Non-Classical Lexicon of Celtic Latinity (NCLCL; first volume, letters A to H), by Anthony Harvey and Jane Power, offers a detailed, authoritative description, in standard lexicographical form, of the etymology, meaning and usage of thousands of words found in ACLL that are absent altogether from the Oxford Latin Dictionary, having been coined after the period covered by that great work. NCLCL also embodies a comprehensive register of words that are found in standard Latin but that appear, in texts of Celtic provenance, in orthographies or forms that cannot be accounted for by mainstream European developments in Medieval Latin.

As is Hiberno-English writing in modern times, so medieval Celtic-Latin literature is rightly famed for its original and adaptable use of vocabulary. NCLCL is the dictionary which explains that a seventh-century school of dolphins could be a delficinum seminarium; that hostilitas need not have its usual meaning of mere enmity, but in early Welsh legal usage could designate the formal declaration of a blood-feud; that hiruphin could refer to the angelic Seraphim or, equally well, to one’s forehead (the stages in the development are spelled out); and even how the phrase corvus excommunicat lac (at first sight meaning "the crow is excommunicating the milk") can make perfect sense! Less bizarrely, Eriugena’s inventive coinings of philosophical terms are treated comprehensively; and the surprising amount of Greek and Hebrew vocabulary known to the early Irish is well illustrated in the etymological sections of the entries.

For more about NCLCL, including details of how to order a copy, go to the Brepols catalogue entry.  In the meantime, an inventory of all the headwords covered by the Lexicon, including those due to be treated in the second volume (letters I to Z), has already been published on the internet in the form of the DMLCS Celtic-Latin Word-List.

Back to the DMLCS project homepage