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Gaelicisation, or Gaelicization, is the act or process of making something Gaelic, or gaining characteristics of the Gaels , a sub-branch of celticisation. The Gaels are an ethno-linguistic group, traditionally viewed as having spread from Ireland to Scotland and the Isle of Man.


Gaelic, as a linguistic term, refers to the Gaelic languages but can also refer to the transmission of any other Gaelic cultural feature such as social norms and customs, music and sport.

It is often referred to as a part of Celtic identity as Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man are all considered Celtic Nations, and the Gaelic languages are considered a sub-group of the Celtic languages.

Early history

Examples of Gaelicisation in history include the Picts, Hiberno-Normans, [1] Scoto-Normans [2] and Norse-Gaels. [2]

Modern era

Today, Gaelicisation, or more often re-Gaelicisation, of placenames, surnames and given names is often a deliberate effort to help promote the languages and to counteract centuries of Anglicisation.

Isle of Man

The Manx language, which is very similar to Irish, [3] has undergone a major revival in recent years, [4] despite the language being so rarely used that it was even mislabelled as extinct by a United Nations report as recently as 2009. [5] The decline of the language on the island was primarily as a result of stigmatisation and high levels of emigration to England. [4]

There are now primary schools teaching in the medium of Manx Gaelic, after efforts mainly modelled on the Irish system. [6] The efforts have been widely praised, [7] with further developments such as using technology to teach the language being put into place. [8]


Estimates of numbers of native speakers of the Irish language in the Republic of Ireland in 2000 ranged from 20,000 to 80,000. [9] [10] [11] According to the 2006 census for the Republic, 85,000 people used Irish daily outside of school and 1.2 million used Irish at least occasionally. [12] In the 2011 Census, these numbers increased to 94,000 and 1.3 million, respectively. [13] Active Irish speakers probably comprise 5 to 10 per cent of Ireland's population. [14]

In recent decades there has been a significant increase in the number of urban Irish speakers, particularly in Dublin. The dispersed but large, educated and middle-class urban Gaeilgeoir community enjoys a lively cultural life and is buoyed by the growth of Irish medium education and Irish-language media. [15]

In some official Gaeltachtaí (Irish-speaking regions) areas, Irish remains a vernacular language alongside English.

In Northern Ireland the Gaelicisation process is significantly slower and less-supported than elsewhere on the island and the status of the Irish language in Northern Ireland is the subject of heated political debates. [16] [17]


In Scotland, Scottish Gaelic and traditional Gaelic customs such those manifested at the Highland Games, with traditional sports such as the caber toss, are mainly restricted to the Highlands and islands. In the 21st century, Scottish Gaelic literature has seen development and challenges within the area of prose fiction publication, [18] and phrases such as Alba gu bràth may be used today as a catch-phrase or rallying cry.

Areas which are Gaelicised are referred to as Gàidhealtachd.

See also

Related Research Articles

The Goidelic or Gaelic languages form one of the two groups of Insular Celtic languages, the other being the related Brittonic languages.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Manx language</span> Goidelic Celtic language of the Isle of Man

Manx, also known as Manx Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the insular Celtic branch of the Celtic language family, itself a branch of the Indo-European language family. Manx is the historical language of the Manx people.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scottish Gaelic</span> Goidelic Celtic language of Scotland

Scottish Gaelic, also known as Scots Gaelic and Gaelic, is a Goidelic language native to the Gaels of Scotland. As a Goidelic language, Scottish Gaelic, as well as both Irish and Manx, developed out of Old Irish. It became a distinct spoken language sometime in the 13th century in the Middle Irish period, although a common literary language was shared by the Gaels of both Ireland and Scotland until well into the 17th century. Most of modern Scotland was once Gaelic-speaking, as evidenced especially by Gaelic-language place names.

Gaelic is an adjective that means "pertaining to the Gaels". As a noun it refers to the group of languages spoken by the Gaels, or to any one of the languages individually. Gaelic languages are spoken in Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, and Canada.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Languages of the United Kingdom</span>

English, in various dialects, is the most widely spoken language of the United Kingdom, but a number of regional languages are also spoken. There are 14 indigenous languages used across the British Isles: 5 Celtic, 3 Germanic, 3 Romance, and 3 sign languages: 2 Banzsl and 1 Francosign language. There are also many languages spoken by people who arrived more recently in the British Isles, mainly within inner city areas; these languages are mainly from continental Europe and South Asia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Culture of the Isle of Man</span>

The culture of the Isle of Man is influenced by its Celtic and, to a lesser extent, its Norse origins, though its close proximity to the United Kingdom, popularity as a UK tourist destination, and recent mass immigration by British migrant workers has meant that British influence has been dominant since the Revestment period. Recent revival campaigns have attempted to preserve the surviving vestiges of Manx culture after a long period of Anglicisation, and significant interest in the Manx language, history and musical tradition has been the result.

Galwegian Gaelic is an extinct dialect of Scottish Gaelic formerly spoken in southwest Scotland. It was spoken by the people of Galloway and Carrick until the early modern period. Little has survived of the dialect, so that its exact relationship with other Gaelic language is uncertain.

The Manx are an ethnic group originating on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea in northern Europe. Their native culture has significant Norse-Gaelic and English influences. The Manx language descends from Middle Irish.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Manx English</span> Historic dialect of English

Manx English, or Anglo-Manx, is the historic dialect of English spoken on the Isle of Man, though today in decline. It has many borrowings from Manx, a Goidelic language, and it differs widely from any other variety of English, including dialects from other areas in which Celtic languages are or were spoken, such as Welsh English and Hiberno-English.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Norse–Gaels</span> Extinct people of mixed Gaelic and Norse heritage

The Norse–Gaels were a people of mixed Gaelic and Norse ancestry and culture. They emerged in the Viking Age, when Vikings who settled in Ireland and in Scotland adopted Gaelic culture and intermarried with Gaels. The Norse–Gaels dominated much of the Irish Sea and Scottish Sea regions from the 9th to 12th centuries. They founded the Kingdom of the Isles, the Kingdom of Dublin, the Lordship of Galloway, and briefly ruled the Kingdom of York. The most powerful Norse–Gaelic dynasty were the Uí Ímair or House of Ivar.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Celtic nations</span> Territories in Northwestern Europe in which Celtic cultural traits have survived

The Celtic nations are a cultural area and collection of geographical regions in Northwestern Europe where the Celtic languages and cultural traits have survived. The term nation is used in its original sense to mean a people who share a common identity and culture and are identified with a traditional territory.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Languages of Scotland</span> Languages of a geographic region

The languages of Scotland are the languages spoken or once spoken in Scotland. Each of the numerous languages spoken in Scotland during its recorded linguistic history falls into either the Germanic or Celtic language families. The classification of the Pictish language was once controversial, but it is now generally considered a Celtic language. Today, the main language spoken in Scotland is English, while Scots and Scottish Gaelic are minority languages. The dialect of English spoken in Scotland is referred to as Scottish English.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Languages of the Isle of Man</span>

The main language of the Isle of Man is English, predominantly the Manx English dialect. Manx, the historical language of the island, is still maintained by a small speaker population.

The history of the Irish language begins with the period from the arrival of speakers of Celtic languages in Ireland to Ireland's earliest known form of Irish, Primitive Irish, which is found in Ogham inscriptions dating from the 3rd or 4th century AD. After the conversion to Christianity in the 5th century, Old Irish begins to appear as glosses and other marginalia in manuscripts written in Latin, beginning in the 6th century. It evolved in the 10th century to Middle Irish. Early Modern Irish represented a transition between Middle and Modern Irish. Its literary form, Classical Gaelic, was used by writers in both Ireland and Scotland until the 18th century, in the course of which slowly but surely writers began writing in the vernacular dialects, Ulster Irish, Connacht Irish, Munster Irish and Scottish Gaelic. As the number of hereditary poets and scribes dwindled under British rule in the early 19th century, Irish became a mostly spoken tongue with little written literature appearing in the language until the Gaelic Revival of the late 19th century. The number of speakers was also declining in this period with monoglot and bilingual speakers of Irish increasingly adopting only English: while Irish never died out, by the time of the Revival it was largely confined to the less Anglicised regions of the island, which were often also the more rural and remote areas. In the 20th and 21st centuries, Irish has continued to survive in Gaeltacht regions and among a minority in other regions. It has once again come to be considered an important part of the island's culture and heritage, with efforts being made to preserve and promote it.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Irish language</span> Language native to Ireland

Irish, also known as Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Insular Celtic branch of the Celtic language family, which is a part of the Indo-European language family. Irish is indigenous to the island of Ireland and was the population's first language until the 19th century, when English gradually became dominant, particularly in the last decades of the century. Irish is still spoken as a first language in a small number of areas of certain counties such as Cork, Donegal, Galway, and Kerry, as well as smaller areas of counties Mayo, Meath, and Waterford. It is also spoken by a larger group of habitual but non-traditional speakers, mostly in urban areas where the majority are second-language speakers. Daily users in Ireland outside the education system number around 73,000 (1.5%), and the total number of persons who claimed they could speak Irish in April 2016 was 1,761,420, representing 39.8% of respondents.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gaels</span> Celtic ethnic group of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man

The Gaels are an ethnolinguistic group native to Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man in the British Isles. They are associated with the Gaelic languages: a branch of the Celtic languages comprising Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scottish people</span> Ethnic group native to Scotland

The Scots are a nation and ethnic group native to Scotland. Historically, they emerged in the early Middle Ages from an amalgamation of two Celtic-speaking peoples, the Picts and Gaels, who founded the Kingdom of Scotland in the 9th century. In the following two centuries, the Celtic-speaking Cumbrians of Strathclyde and the Germanic-speaking Angles of north Northumbria became part of Scotland. In the High Middle Ages, during the 12th-century Davidian Revolution, small numbers of Norman nobles migrated to the Lowlands. In the 13th century, the Norse-Gaels of the Western Isles became part of Scotland, followed by the Norse of the Northern Isles in the 15th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Scottish Gaelic</span>

Scottish Gaelic, is a Celtic language native to Scotland. A member of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic languages, Scottish Gaelic, like Modern Irish and Manx, developed out of Middle Irish. Most of modern Scotland was once Gaelic-speaking, as evidenced especially by Gaelic-language placenames.

Doug Fargher also known as Doolish y Karagher or Yn Breagagh, was a Manx language activist, author, and radio personality who was involved with the revival of the Manx language on the Isle of Man in the 20th century. He is best known for his English-Manx Dictionary (1979), the first modern dictionary for the Manx language. Fargher was involved in the promotion of Manx language, culture and nationalist politics throughout his life.


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