The Sanas (etymology) of Faro

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Mon Dec 6 05:34:44 UTC 2004

>Pharaon: The earliest name for Faro.
>Fiar araon
>To turn both; to turn two together
>Fiar, (pron fair) is an Irish transitive verb that means “to turn,  twist,
>coil, or bend; the adverb araon, means “together, both, each
>of  two.”  The
>verbal nominative of the Irish verb Fiar, to turn, is Fiaradh  (pron.
>fairoo) and
>means (the act of) turning. Fiaradh (pron. fairoo,  turning) is the secret
>Irish name for the “turning” game of  Faro.

I'm profoundly ignorant of Irish, but I looked at a few books and on-line
items, and I can't convince myself of the precision of either the phonetic
match or the semantic match.

The books seem to give something like /fi at r/ and /fi at r@Q/ for "fiar" and
"fiaradh" (/Q/ = IPA gamma, voiced velar fricative). No doubt there are
dialectal differences and no doubt there has been some change since ca.
1700, but can a pronunciation like "faro" be verified in any standard

"Fiar" is generally glossed "bend", "swerve", "tilt", "slant", etc. Here is
somebody's Web entry for "fiar":

Has "fiar" been used for "turn [over]"/"invert" as in "turn [over] a card"?
Usually I find "iompu'"/"iompaigh" in this sort of application (although I
couldn't find an example with a card, I did find one with a page being
turned [over]). I consulted a few biggish dictionaries.

Of course (IMHO) the main question is whether the proposed word origin can
be substantiated by the textual/documentary record.

-- Doug Wilson

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