Auraicept na n-éces ‘The scholars'/poets' primer’

  • Old Irish, Middle Irish
  • prose
  • Irish legendary history, Irish texts on language and literature
A grammar, or primer, of Old Irish
Canonical part The so-called ‘canonical part’ of the Auraicept does not survive as an independent text in the manuscripts.
Short recension
Intermediate recension
T =
pp. 167–186, 197–198, 187–210
Intermediate between the shorter and longer recension (Calder); does not contain the poem on the Trefhocul. See Calder, pp. 159-207.
Long recension
cols 504–549
A version which does not contain the poem on the Trefhocul. It is preceded by a text of In lebor ollaman.
Eg =
ff. 63–76
does not contain the poem on the Trefhocul
pp. 195 ff
Imperfect copy. See Hofman and Smelik below
ff. 3–16
A copy not consullted by Calder. Ends incomplete.
  • Old Irish Middle Irish
The core of the text has been dated to “a fairly early stage of the Old Irish period” (Ahlqvist).(1)n. 1 Anders Ahlqvist, The early Irish linguist: an edition of the canonical part of the Auraicept na n-éces (1983): 47–48.
prose (primary)
verse (secondary)
Textual relationships
Related: Irish tract on the origins of alphabetsIrish tract on the origins of alphabetsA Middle Irish tract on the invention or discovery of the Hebrew, Greek and Latin alphabets.
In lebor ollamanIn lebor ollaman

A Middle Irish commentary on the Auraicept na n-éces and some of its companion material. McLaughlin has suggested that “the author was working with an annotated copy of that text”. The text opens with a list of the judges and authors of Ireland and a prologue. Much of the commentary is structured using didactic formulae (e.g. ceist ... ní hansa, and similar).

Associated items
Uga Corbmaic meic CuilendáinUga Corbmaic meic CuilendáinEarly Irish religious poem (29qq) attributed to Cormac mac Cuilennáin. What appears to be a full copy of text is attested in a single manuscript, while fragments of it also turn up as citations elsewhere.


Irish legendary historyIrish legendary history

Irish texts on language and literatureIrish texts on language and literature




Primary sources

[ed.] [tr.] Calder, George [ed. and tr.], Auraicept na n-Éces: The scholars’ primer, being the texts of the Ogham tract from the Book of Ballymote and the Yellow book of Lecan, and the text of the Trefhocul from the Book of Leinster, Edinburgh: John Grant, 1917.
CELT – text and introduction: <link> Internet Archive: <link> Septentrionalia.net: <link>
2–169 (text and translation of the short recension); 171–257 (text of the longer recension); 258–269 (Trefhocul)
[ed.] [tr.] Ahlqvist, Anders [ed. and tr.], The early Irish linguist: an edition of the canonical part of the Auraicept na n-éces, Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum, 73, Helsinki: Societas Scientiarum Fennica, 1983.
An edition of the canonical part of the Auraicept

Secondary sources (select)

Acken, James, Structure and interpretation in the Auraicept na nÉces, Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, 2008.
Acken, James, “Lexical specificity in the Auraicept na nÉces”, in: Sarah Sheehan, Joanne Findon, and Westley Follett (eds), Gablánach in scélaigecht: Celtic studies in honour of Ann Dooley, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2013. 116–130.
Ahlqvist, Anders, “An Irish text on the letters of the alphabet”, in: A. M. Simon-Vandenbergen (ed.), Studies in honour of René Derolez, Ghent: Ghent University, 1987. 3–16.
Ahlqvist, Anders, “Latin grammar and native learning”, in: Donnchadh Ó Corráin, Liam Breatnach, and Kim R. McCone (eds), Sages, saints and storytellers: Celtic studies in honour of Professor James Carney, 2, Maynooth: An Sagart, 1989. 1–6.
Burnyeat, Abigail, “The early Irish grammaticus?”, Aiste 1 (2007): 181–217.
Hofman, Rijcklof, and Bernadette Smelik, “An unnoticed copy of the Auraicept na n-Éces in MS TCD H.2.17”, in: Bernadette Smelik, Rijcklof Hofman, Camiel Hamans, and David Cram (eds), A companion in linguistics: a Festschrift for Anders Ahlqvist on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, Nijmegen: Stichting Uitgeverij de Keltische Draak, 2005. 63–65.
Hofman, Rijcklof, “Latin grammars and the structure of the vernacular Old Irish Auraicept na nÉces”, in: Mary Garrison, Arpad P. Orbán, and Marco Mostert (eds), Spoken and written language: relations between Latin and the vernacular languages in the earlier Middle Ages, 24, Turnhout: Brepols, 2013. 185–198.
McLaughlin, Roisin, “Fénius Farsaid and the alphabets”, Ériu 59 (2009): 1–24.  
This paper examines evidence for the existence of an alternative tradition to that found in Auraicept na nÉces concerning the role played by Fénius Farsaid in the invention of the alphabet of Irish and those of the three sacred languages—Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The sources to be considered are Auraicept na nÉces, In Lebor Ollaman, a Middle Irish text in Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Laud 610, glosses on the copy of Auraicept na nÉces in TCD MS E 3.3 (1432) and the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville.
Poppe, Erich, “Latinate terminology in Auraicept na nÉces”, in: David Cram, Andrew Linn, and Elke Nowak (eds), History of linguistics 1996: selected papers from the Seventh International Conference on the History of the Language Sciences, Oxford, 12–17 September 1996, vol. 1: Traditions in linguistics worldwide., Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1999. 191–201.
Thurneysen, Rudolf, “Auraicept na n-éces”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 17 (1928): 277–303.

External links

Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
April 2011, last updated: July 2023