Skip to Content


Book nominated for Best Irish Published Book of 2019

A History of Ireland in 100 Words – the result of research into early Irish – has been shortlisted for the best Irish published book of the year at the Irish Book Awards 2019.

It is a collaboration between Queen’s University Belfast academic Professor Greg Toner, Sharon Arbuthnot and Cambridge University Professor, Máire Ní Mhaonaigh.

This book tells a history of Ireland by looking at the development of 100 medieval Irish words drawn from the Dictionary of the Irish Language.

The book is aimed at a general readership and no prior knowledge of the Irish language is required to delve into the fascinating insights it provides. It is divided into themes, including writing and literature; food and feasting; technology and science; mind and body.

Readers can explore words relating to particular concepts, dipping in and out where they please.

Among the insights the book provides is that the Irish harp as we know it does not appear until the fourteenth century and that dancing seems to have been unknown before the sixteenth century.

The book also reveals curiosities such as that 'cluas', the modern Irish word for 'ear', also means the handle of a cup and that the Old Irish word for 'ring' may have inspired Tolkien's 'nazg'.

Professor Toner said: “It’s a great honour and recognition for the research that has gone into the book. Of course the main aim of the research is to shed light on life in medieval Ireland by looking at the past from a different angle - the very words that people used.’’

A history of Ireland in 100 words by Sharon Arbuthnot, Máire Ní Mhaonaigh and Greg Toner is published by the Royal Irish Academy.

For more information on the Irish Book Awards and to vote for your favourite book visit