Is it Irish to be Cuil?

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jul 30 04:20:49 UTC 2008

Isn't that surname spelled _Mac Cumhail_ and pronounced [,mak
'kuw at l'], where _il_ [i'] represents palatalized /l/?

And _cuill_ would represent a pronunciation about as close to "kweel"
as to "quill," in the Munster dialect, at least. Munster isn't the
basis of the standard language, but, outside of the Gaelteacht, it's
the most popular dialect.

The word for "knowledge" is _fiuss_, related to English _wise_, in Old
Irish, yielding _fios_, as expected, in the contemporary remnant of
the language.


On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 10:13 AM, Benjamin Zimmer
<bgzimmer at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Is it Irish to be Cuil?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 8:32 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:
>> The "About" page for the new search engine Cuil claims "Cuil is an
>> old Irish word for knowledge. For knowledge, ask Cuil."  Do you
>> experts agree, or is this another instance of the class "all English
>> words derive from Irish"?
> "Costello's Irish heritage inspired Cuil's odd name. It was derived
> from a character named Finn McCuill in Celtic folklore."
> In beta-testing, it was spelled "Cuill":
> They want us to pronounce it "cool", but "quill" would be a bit closer
> to the Irish pronunciation.
> --Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
 -Sam'l Clemens

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list