Collins Pocket Irish Dictionary

Irish, Dictionaries

May 26, 2013

Publisher  HarperCollins
Publication Date  2010
Price  About $9.00
Skill Level  Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

It took me more than three weeks of Irish studies before I felt ready to use my Collins Pocket Irish Dictionary. That’s because the beginning letters of Irish words change depending on the grammar of the sentence in which they appear. To use your typical Irish dictionary, you have to understand these mutations so you can figure out what the real beginning letter of a word is.

For example, suppose as a non-speaker of Irish you come across the phrase ciall na bhfocal. As a curious person, you might look at that and wonder, “Hm, what does that mean?”

You might then go look up ciall in an Irish dictionary and discover it means “meaning.” Then you could look up na and discover that it means “the.” And then you would look up bhfocal and, in most cases, including the case of the Collins Pocket Irish Dictionary, find…nothing! 

That’s because the basic form of that word is actually focal, so it is not under b, and not under h, but rather, under the third letter in that word: f. If you do manage to get to the point of looking up focal, you will find that it means “word,” but that still won’t tell you that bhfocal is in this phrase the genitive plural (i.e., plural possessive). The phrase means “the word’s meaning.”

So you have to study up on your Irish grammar to be a decent user of Irish dictionaries.

I have been using the Collins Pocket Irish Dictionary only since yesterday, which is not long enough to give it an official rating (dictionaries often require a thorough test-driving before deficiencies are revealed), so I will hold off for now on rating it.

However, I can tell you I really like it so far. It is easy to use, and easy to read, and it has nice tables of noun declensions. I feel utterly satisfied with it at present, and I am relieved to finally be using a dictionary. It is a lot easier to do grammar exercises when I can look up the words I need.

One thing that mystifies me about the dictionary is the text on the cover saying “IN COLOUR.” I find that claim a little odd. The headwords and related word forms in the entries are in blue, and some pages are shaded blue. But does that really qualify as being in color? (Oh yeah, and the cover is green.) I do like the color, but having a little blue to spice things up (or maybe cool them down) is not my idea of a color dictionary.

The cover is made of some kind of plastic material, which is good, because I keep dropping food on my Irish books as I study. This dictionary is wipeable! 

I found my copy of Collins Pocket Irish Dictionary for about $10 on; it is not clear to me that it is still in print, or maybe the issue is just that it is not in print in the U.S. In any case, you may need to be resourceful to find it.

Alternatively, there is a version for mobile devices. I haven’t tried that one, but that too is for sale on Amazon.

Collins Pocket Irish Dictionary: So Far, So Good
Collins Pocket Irish Dictionary: So Far, So Good

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