CELT document T103006

The Triads of Ireland

Witness list

  • L: The Yellow Book of Lecan, pp. 414b–418a
  • B: The Book of Ballymote, pp. 65b–66b.
  • M: The Book of Húi Maine, fo. 190a–fo. 191a.
  • Lec: The Book of Lecan (also referred to as H by Meyer) (H 2 17 p.186b ends p. 184b Trinity College)
  • N: 23 N 10, pp. 98–101.
  • H1: H 1 25, pp 946–957.
  • S: Stowe Collection, 23 N 27, fo. 1a–7b.



The collection of Irish Triads, which is here edited and translated for the first time, has come down to us in the following nine manuscripts, dating from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century:—

  • L, i.e. the Yellow Book of Lecan, a vellum of the end of the fourteenth century, pp. 414b–418a, a complete copy.
  • B, i.e. the Book of Ballymote, a vellum of the end of the fourteenth century, pp. 65b–66b (ends imperfectly).
  • M, i.e. the Book of Húi Maine, a vellum of the fourteenth century, fo. 190a[1]–fo. 191a[2]. A complete copy beginning: “Ceand Erenn Ardmacha,” and ending: “tri hurgairt bidh a caitheam díescaidheadh (sic) a chaitheam iarna coir a caitheam gan altughudh.” Then follow proverbial sayings from the “colloquy of Cormac and Cairpre,” such as: “Dedhe ara ndligh gach maith domelar ithe ⁊ altugud. Anas deach gacha fleidhe a cainaltughudh ⁊ a mochdingbail. Caidhe deach samtha. Ni hansa. Gal gan forran. Deasgaidh codulta frislige,” &c., ending: “deasgaidh aineolais imreasain. Ni d'agallaim Cormaic ⁊ Cairpre coruici sin.”
  • Lec, i.e. the Book of Lecan, a vellum of the fifteenth century. The leaves on which the Triads are found are now bound up with the codex H. 2. 17 belonging to Trinity College. It is a complete copy beginning on p. 183b: “Ceand erenn Ardmacha,” and ending on p. 184b: “ceitheora aipgitri baisi baig connailbi gell imreasain.” 1
  •  p.vi
  • N, i.e. 23. N. 10, a paper MS. written in the year 1575, 2 pp. 98–101. A complete copy, the gap between pp. 100 and 106 being made up by pp. 7a–10b of the vellum portion of the manuscript.
  • H', i.e. H. 1. 15, pp. 946–957. This is a paper manuscript written by Tadhg Tiorthach O Neachtain in 1745. It is a complete copy, with copious glosses in Modern Irish, the more important of which are printed below on pp. 36–43. At the end O Neachtain has added the following:—“Trí subhailce diadha: creidhemh, dothchus agus grádh. Trí a n-aon: athair, mac, spiorad naomh, da raibh gloir, moladh ⁊ umhlacht tre bith sior tug ré don bhochtan bocht so. Aniu an 15 do bhealltuine 1745. Tadhg O Nechtuin mac Seain a n-aois ceithre bliadhna déag et trí fithchit roscriob na trithibh suas.”

These manuscripts have, on the whole, an identical text, though they all occasionally omit a triad or two; and the order of the single triads varies in all of them. They have all been used in constructing a critical text, the most important variants being given in the foot-notes. The order followed is in the main that of the Yellow Book of Lecan.

There are at least three other manuscripts containing copies of the Triads. One of them I discovered in the Stowe collection after the text had been printed off. It is a paper quarto now marked 23. N. 27, containing on fo. 1a–7b a copy of the Triads, followed on fo. 7b–19a by a glossed copy of the Tecosca Cormaic. It was written in 1714 by Domnall (or Daniel) O Duind mac Eimuinn. Its readings agree closely with those of N. In paragraph 237, it alone, of all manuscripts, gives an intelligible reading of a corrupt passage. For “cia fochertar im-muir, cia berthair  p.vii hi tech fo glass dodeime a tiprait oca mbí”, it reads: “cia focearta im-muir, cia beirthear hi tech fo glass no do theine, dogeibther occan tiprait”, “though it be thrown into the sea, though it be put into a house under lock, or into fire, it will be found at the well.” In paragraph 121 for “cerdai” it reads “cerd”; in paragraph 139 it has “rotioc” and “rotocht”; in paragraph 143 for “grúss” its reading is “grís”; in paragraph 153 it has “aibeuloit” for “eplet”; in paragraph 217 “tar a n-éisi” for “dia n-éisi”; in paragraph 218 “lomradh”(twice) for “lobra” and “indlighidh” for “i n-indligud”; in paragraph 219 it has the correct reading “éiric”, and for “dithechte” it reads “ditheacht”; in paragraph 220 it reads “fri aroile” for “fria céile”; in paragraph 223 after “ile” it adds “imchiana”; in paragraph 224 it reads “grís brond .i. galar”; in paragraph 229 for “meraichne” it has “mearaigheacht”; in paragraph 235 it has “mhamus” for “mám”; in paragraph 236 “Maig Hi” for “Maig Lii”; and for “co ndeirgenai in dam de” it reads “co nderna in dam fria”.

Another copy, written in 1836 by Peter O'Longan, formerly in the possession of the Earls of Crawford, now belongs to the Rylands Library, Manchester, where it was found by Professor Strachan, who kindly copied a page or two for me. It is evidently a very corrupt copy which I have not thought worth the trouble of collating.

Lastly, there is in the Advocates' Library a copy in a vellum manuscript marked Kilbride III. It begins on fo. 9b2 as follows:—“Treching breath annso. Ceann Eirind Ardmacha.” I hope to collate it before long, and give some account of it in the next number of this series.

In all these manuscripts the Triads either follow upon, or precede, or are incorporated in the collections of maxims and proverbial sayings known as Tecosca Cormaic, Auraicept Morainn, and Senbríathra Fíthil, the whole forming a body of early Irish gnomic literature which deserves editing in its entirety. It is clear, however, that the Triads do not originally belong to any of these texts. They had a separate origin, and form a collection by themselves. This is also shown by the fact that the Book of Leinster, the oldest manuscript containing the Tecosca Cormaic  p.viii (pp. 343a–345b), the Senbríathra Fíthail (pp. 345b–346a), and the Bríathra Moraind (pp. 346a–b), does not include them.

It is but a small portion of the large number of triads scattered throughout early Irish literature that has been brought together in our collection under the title of Trecheng breth Féne, i.e., literally “a triadic arrangement of the sayings of Irishmen.” I first drew attention to the existence of Irish triads in a note on Irish proverbs in my edition of the Battle of Ventry, p. 85, where a few will be found quoted. A complete collection of them would fill a small volume, especially if it were to include those still current among the people of Ireland, both among Gaelic and English speakers. I must content myself here with giving a few specimens taken at random from my own collections:—

  • Three kinds of martyrdom that are counted as a cross to man, i.e. white martyrdom, green martyrdom, and red martyrdom.—The Cambray Homily (Thesaurus Palæohibernicus, II., p. 246).
  • Three enemies of the soul: the world, the devil, and an impious teacher.—Colman maccu Beognae's Alphabet of Piety (Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie, III., p. 452).
  • Three things whereby the devil shows himself in man: by his face, by his gait, by his speech.—Ib., p. 453.
  • Three profitable labours in the day: praying, working, reading.—Regula Choluimb Cille (Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie, III., p. 29).
  • Three laymen of Ireland who became monks: Beccan son of Cula, Mochu son of Lonan, and Enda of Arann.—Notes on the Félire of Oengus (Henry Bradshaw Society, vol. xxix., p. 112).
  • Three chief artisans of Ireland: Tassach with Patrick, Conlaed with Brigit, and Daig with Ciaran.—Ib., p. 186.
  • Three poets of the world: Homer of the Greeks, Vergil of the Latins, Ruman of the Gaels.—Book of Leinster, p. 354b.
  • The three worst counsels that have been acted on in Ireland through the advice of saints: the cutting short of Ciaran's  p.ix life, the banishment of Colum Cille, the expulsion of Mochuta from Rathen.—Notes on the Félire of Oengus, p. 204, and Tripartite Life, p. 557. 3
  • Three things there are for which the Son of living God is not grateful: haughty piety, harsh reproof, reviling a person if it is not certain. 4
  • Three things there are for which the King of the sun is grateful: union of brethren, upright conversation, serving at the altar of God. 5
  • Woe to the three folk in horrid hell of great blasts: folk who practise poetry, folk who violate their orders, mercenaries. 6
  • Three things there are which do not behove the poor of living God: ingratitude for his life whatever it be, grumbling, and flattery. 7

The following modern triads I owe to a communication from Dr. P. W. Joyce, who heard them in his youth among the people of Limerick:—

  • Three things to be distrusted: a cow's horn, a dog's tooth, and a horse's hoof.
  • Three disagreeable things at home: a scolding wife, a squalling child, and a smoky chimney.
  •  p.x
  • The three finest sights in the world: a field of ripe wheat, a ship in full sail, and the wife of a Mac Donnell with child. 8

In our collection an arrangement of the Triads in certain groups, according to their contents, is discernible. Thus, the first sixty-one—of which, however, the opening thirty-one are no Triads at all—are all topographical; and among the rest, those dealing with legal matters stand out clearly (paragraphs 149–172).

When the collection was made we have no means of ascertaining, except from internal evidence, such as the age of the language, and a few allusions to events, the date of which we can approximately fix.

The language of the Triads may be described as late Old-Irish. Their verbal system indeed is on the whole that of the Continental glosses, 9 and would forbid us to put them later than the year 900. On the other hand, the following peculiarities in declension, in which all the manuscripts agree, make it impossible for us to put them much earlier than the second half of the ninth century.

The genitive singular of i- and u-stems no longer shows the ending -o, which has been replaced throughout by -a. 10 Now, in the Annals of Ulster, which are a sure guide in these matters and allow us to follow the development of the language from century to century, this genitive in -o is found for the last time in A.D. 816 (“rátho, Ailello”). Thence onward the ending -a is always found.

The place-name “Lusca”, “Lusk,” is originally an n-stem making its genitive “Luscan”. This is the regular form in the Annals of Ulster till the year 880, from which date onward it  p.xi is always “Lusca” (A.D. 916, 928, &c.). In our text (paragraph 46) all the manuscripts read “Lusca”.

In slender io-stems the dative singular in Old-Irish ends in -iu. I find this form in the Annals of Ulster for the last time in A.D. 816 (Gertidiu). Thence onward it is always -i, as in our text (hi Cúailgni 43, d'uisci 64).

The nasal stem léimm makes its nom. plur. léimmen in Old-Irish. In paragraph 32 we find instead (tair-)leme. So also foimrimm makes its nom. plural foimrimme in paragraph 163.

The word dorus is neuter in Old-Irish, making its nom. acc. plural either dorus or doirsea. In our text (paragraphs 173, 174) the word is masculine, and makes its nom. plural doruis.

Druimm is an i-stem in Old-Irish, but in the later language passes into an n-stem. In paragraph 51 we find the nom. pl. drommanna.

The neuter grád in paragraph 166 makes its nom. plur. grúda for O. Ir. grád. 11

On linguistic grounds, then, I should say that our collection was made some time during the second half of the ninth century. That it cannot be dated earlier is also apparent from another consideration. Professor Zimmer has taught us to search in every ancient Irish text for indications of its having been composed either before or after the Viking period. I find no words from the Norse language in the Triads, or, if there are any, they have escaped me; but there are two distinct references to the Viking age. In paragraph 232, a Viking in his hauberk (Gall ina lúirig) is mentioned as one of three that are hardest to talk to; and, in paragraph 44, Bangor in Co. Down is called unlucky or unfortunate, no doubt, as the gloss says, because of the repeated plunderings and destruction of its monastery by the Norse during the early part of the ninth century (A.D. 823, 824).


In endeavouring to trace the origin of the Triad as a form of literary composition among the Irish, one must remember that it is but one of several similar enumerative sayings common in Irish literature. Thus the collection here printed contains three duads (124. 133. 134), seven tetrads (223. 230. 234. 244. 248. 251. 252), and one heptad (235). A whole Irish law-book is composed in the form of heptads; 12 while triads, tetrads, &c., occur in every part of the Laws. 13 Such schematic arrangements were of course a great aid to memory.

If the Triad stood alone, the idea that it owes its origin to the effect of the doctrine of the Trinity upon the Celtic imagination might reasonably be entertained. The fact that this doctrine has led to many peculiar phenomena in Irish folklore, literature, and art has frequently been pointed out. Nor would I deny that the sacred character of the number three, together with the greater facility of composition, may have contributed to the popularity of the Triad, which is certainly the most common among the various numerical sayings as well as the only one that has survived to the present day.

However that may be, I believe that the model upon which the Irish triads, tetrads, pentads, &c., were formed is to be sought in those enumerative sayings—Zahlensprüche, as the German technical term is—of Hebrew poetry to be found in several books of the Old Testament. I am indebted to my friend the Rev. Carl Grüneisen for the following list of such sayings, which I quote in the Vulgate version.



(Ecclus. 23: 21,)‘Duo genera abundant in peccatis, et tertium adducit iram et perditionem, &c.’

(Ib. 26: 25,)‘In duobus contristatum est cor meum, et in tertio iracundia mihi advenit: 26 vir bellator deficiens per inopiam, et vir sensatus contemptus, 27 et qui transgreditur a iustitia ad peccatum, Deus paravit eum ad romphaeam.’

(Ib. 26: 28, )‘Duae species difficiles et periculosae mihi apparuerunt: difficile exuitur negotians a neglegentia, et non iustificabitur caupo a peccatis labiorum.’


(Proverb. 30: 15,)‘Tria sunt insaturabilia, et quartum quod nunquam dicit: sufficit. 16 Inferuns, et os vulvae, et terra quae non satiatur aqua; ignis vero nunquam dicit: sufficit.’

(Ib. 30: 18,)‘Tria sunt difficilia mihi, et quartum penitus ignoro: 19 viam aquilae in caelo, viam colubri super petram, viam navis in medio mari, et viam viri in adolescentia.’

(Ib. 30: 21,)‘Per tria movetur terra, et quartum non potest sustinere: 22 per servum cum regnaverit: per stultum cum saturatus fuerit cibo, 23 per odiosam mulierem cum in matrimonio fuerit assumpta, et per ancillam cum fuerit heres dominae suae.’

(Ib. 30: 29,)‘Tria sunt quae bene gradiuntur, et quartum quod incedit feliciter: 30 leo fortissimus bestiarum, ad nullius pavebit occursum, 31 gallus succinctus lumbos, et aries, nec est rex qui resistat ei.’

(Ecclus. 26: 5,)‘A tribus timuit cor meum, et in quarto facies mea metuit: 6 delaturam civitatis, et collectionem populi, 7 calumniam mendacem, super montem, omnia gravia, 8 dolor cordis et luctus mulier zelotypa.’



(Proverb. 30, 24,)‘Quattuor sunt minima terrae, et ipsa sunt sapientiora sapientibus: 25 formicae, populus infirmus qui praeparat in messe cibum sibi, 26 lepusculus, plebs invalida qui collocat in petra cubile suum.’


(Proverb. 6. 16,)‘Sex sunt quae odit Dominus, et septimum detestatur anima eius: 17 oculos sublimes, linguam mendacem, manus effundentes innoxium sanguinem, 18 cor machinans cogitationes pessimas, pedes veloces ad currendum in malum, 19 proferentem mendacia testem fallacem, et eum qui seminat intra fratres discordias.’


(Ecclus. 25, 9,)‘Novem insuspicabilia cordis magnificavi, et decimum dicam in lingua hominibus, &c.’

The question arises whether these biblical sayings were the direct source from which the Irish imitations are derived, or whether the Irish became acquainted with the numerical Proverb through the medium of Greek and Latin literature. As the Irish clerics ever since the days of St. Patrick were diligent students of the Bible, there would be nothing strange in the former assumption. But there exists at least one early document which renders the latter equally possible. Under the title of Proverbia Grecorum we possess a collection of sayings translated by some Irish scholar in Ireland from the Greek into Latin before the seventh century. 14 Among them we find three triads, 15 two pentads, 16 three heptads, 17 and two octads. 18


As examples I select the following two triads:—

Tres bacheriosi(?) sunt: terribilis bellator armatus promptusque ad praelium, leo de spelunca quando praedam devorat, aper ferus de silva quando furore in aliquem irruit.

Tres sunt imperfecti qui numquam ad perfectionem vitae disciplinae pervenire possunt; tunc enim a vitiis recedunt, quando mala facere non possunt. Antiquus nauta qui multis annis seductis omnibus emere et vendere poterat; senex auriga qui in curribus et in equis Deo derelicto vana cura atque conversatione meditatur atque utitur; vetula ancilla quae dominae suae subdole in omnibus rebus quae cottidiano ministerio perficiuntur male retribuit.

Triads occur sporadically in the literature of most other nations, and have occasionally been collected. But I am not aware that this kind of composition has ever attained the same popularity elsewhere as in Wales and Ireland, where the manufacture of triads seems at times almost to have become a sport.

The wittiest triads are undoubtedly those in which the third item contains an anticlimax. Two perfect examples of this kind were composed by Heine when he tells the foreigner visiting Germany that he need but know three words of the language: Brot, Kuss, Ehre; and in his often quoted witticism: “Der Franzose liebt die Freiheit wie seine Braut, der Engländer wie seine Frau, der Deutsche wie seine alte Grossmutter.”

K. M.


English translation

Edited by Kuno Meyer


The Triads of Ireland

[1] The Head of Ireland—Armagh.

[2] The Dignity of Ireland—Clonmacnois.

[3] The Wealth of Ireland—Clonard.

[4] The Heart of Ireland—Kildare.

[5] The Seniority of Ireland—Bangor.

[6] The Comfort 19 of Ireland—Lusk.

[7] The Sport of Ireland—Kells.

[8] The Two Eyes of Ireland—Tallaght and Finglas.

[9] The Sanctuary of Ireland—the House of Cairnech upon the Road of Asal 20.

[10] The Purity of Ireland—Scattery Island.

[11] The Abbey-church of Ireland—Glendalough.

[12] The Jurisprudence of Ireland—Cloyne.

[13] The House of Wages  21of Ireland—Ferns.

[14] The Singing the Litany of Ireland—Lismore.

[15] The Lore of Ireland—Emly.

[16] The Legal Speech of Ireland—Cork.

[17] The Learning of Ireland—Roscarbery.

[18] The Wantonness of Ireland—Terryglas.

[19] The Spiritual Guidance of Ireland—Clonfert.

[20] The Curse of Ireland—Lorrha.

[21] The Judgment of Ireland—Slane.

[22] The Severity of Piety of Ireland—Fore.

[23] The Delight of Ireland—Ardbrackan.

[24] The Simplicity  22of Ireland—Roscommon.

[25] The Welcome of Ireland—Raphoe or Drumlane.

[26] The Charity of Ireland—Downpatrick.


[27] The {} of Ireland—Dairchaill.

[28] The Stability of Ireland—Moville.

[29] The Martyrdom of Ireland—Dulane.

[30] The Reproach of Ireland—Cell Ruaid Ruad's Church. 23

[31] The Chastity of Ireland—Lynally.

[32] The three places of Ireland to alight at: Derry, Taghmon, Kilmainham.

[34] The three stone-buildings of Ireland: Armagh, Clonmacnois, Kildare.

[35] The three fairs of Ireland: the fair of Teltown, the fair of Croghan, the fair of Colman Elo.

[36] The three forts of Ireland: Dunseverick, Dun Cermna, 24 Cathir Conree.

[37] The three mountains of Ireland: Slieve Gua, 25 Slieve Mis, Slieve Cualann. 26

[38] The three heights of Ireland: Croagh Patrick, Ae Chualann, 27 Benn Boirche. 28

[39] The three lakes of Ireland: Lough Neagh, Lough Ree, Lough Erne.

[40] The three rivers of Ireland: the Shannon, the Boyne, the Bann.

[41] The three plains of Ireland: the plain of Meath, Moylinny, Moy-Liffey. 29

[42] The three dark places of Ireland: the cave of Knowth, the cave of Slaney, the cave of Ferns.

[43] The three desert places of Ireland: Fid Mór Great Wood in Coolney, Fid Déicsen Spy-wood) in Tuirtri, 30 the Wood of Moher in Connaught.

[44] The three unlucky places of Ireland: the abbotship of Bangor, the abbotship of Lynally, the kingship of Mugdorn Maigen. 31


[45] The three evil ones of Ireland: the Crecraige, 32 the Glasraige, the Benntraige. 33

[46] The three comfortable places of Ireland: the abbotship of Lusk, the kingship of the three Cualu, 34 the vice-abbotship of Armagh.

[47] The three strands of Ireland: the strand of Ross Airgit, 35 the strand of Ross Teiti, the strand of Baile. 36

[48] The three fords of Ireland: Ath Cliath Hurdle-ford, Athlone the Ford of Luan, Ath Caille Wood-ford37.

[49] The three highroads of Ireland: Slige Dala, 38 Slige Asail, Slige Luachra. 39

[50] The three mountain-passes of Ireland: Baltinglass, the Pass of Limerick, the Pass of Dublin.

[51] The three ridges of Ireland: Druim Fingin, Druim nDrobeoil, Druim Leithe. 40

[52] The three plains of Ireland: Moy Bray, Moy Croghan, Moy Liffey.

[53] The three meadows of Ireland: Clonmacnois, Clones, Clonard.

[54] The three households of Ireland: the household of Tara, the household of Cashel, the household of Croghan.

[55] The three waterfalls of Ireland: Assaroe, Eas Danainne, 41 Eas Maige.

[56] The three fields (?) of Ireland: the land of Rathlynan, Slieve Comman, Slieve Manchain.

[57] The three wells of Ireland: the Well of the Desi, the Well of Uarbel, 42 the Well of Uaran Garaid.

[58] The three uneven places of Ireland: Breffny, the Burren, Beare.

[59] The three estuaries of Ireland: Inver na mBarc, 43 Inver Feile, 44 Inver Tuaige. 45

[60] The three conspicuous places of Ireland: Cuchulinn's Leap, 46 Dunquinn, Sruve Brain.  47


[61] The three familiar places 48 of Ireland: Tralee, Logher, the Fews.

[62] Three wonders concerning the Táin Bó Cuailnge: that the cuilmen came to Ireland in its stead; the dead relating it to the living, viz. Fergus mac Róig reciting it to Ninníne the poet in the time of Cormac mac Fáeláin; one year's protection to him to whom it is recited.

[63] The three halidoms of the men of Ireland: breast, cheek, knee.

[64] Three unfortunate things for a man: a scant drink of water, thirst in an ale-house, a narrow seat upon a field.

[65] Three unfortunate things of husbandry: a dirty field, leavings of the hurdle, a house full of sparks.

[66] Three forbidden things of a church: a nun as bellringer, a veteran in the abbotship, a drop upon the altar.

[67] Three rejoicings followed by sorrow: a wooer's, a thief's, a tale-bearer's.

[68] Three sorrows that are better than joy: the heaviness of a herd feeding on mast, the heaviness of a ripe field, 49 the heaviness of a wood under mast.

[69] Three rejoicings that are worse than sorrow: the joy of a man who has defrauded another, the joy of a man who has perjured himself, the joy of a man who has committed parricide. 50

[70] The three worst welcomes: a handicraft in the same house with the inmates, scalding water upon the feet, salt food without a drink.

[71] Three unfortunate things for the son of a peasant: marrying into the family of a franklin, attaching himself to the retinue of a king, consorting with thieves.

[72] Three unfortunate things for a householder: proposing to a bad woman, serving a bad chief, exchanging for bad land.

[73] Three excellent things for a householder: proposing to a good woman, serving a good chief, exchanging for good land.


[74] Three holidays 51 of a landless man 52: visiting in the house of a blacksmith, visiting in the house of a carpenter, buying without bonds.

[75] Three slender things that best support the world: the slender stream of milk from the cow's dug into the pail, the slender blade of green corn upon the ground, the slender thread over the hand of a skilled woman.

[76] Three hands that are best in the world: the hand of a good carpenter, the hand of a skilled woman, the hand of a good smith.

[77] Three things which justice demands: judgment, measure, conscience.

[78] Three things which judgment demands: wisdom, penetration, knowledge.

[79] Three characteristics of concupiscence: sighing, playfulness, 53 visiting.

[80] Three things for which an enemy is loved: wealth, beauty, worth. 54

[81] Three things for which a friend is hated: trespassing, 55 keeping aloof, 56 fecklessness.

[82] Three rude ones of the world: a youngster mocking an old man, a healthy person mocking an invalid, a wise man mocking a fool.

[83] Three deaf ones of the world: warning to a doomed man, mocking 57 a beggar, keeping a loose woman from lust.

[84] Three fair things that hide ugliness: good manners in the ill-favoured, skill in a serf, wisdom in the misshapen.

[85] Three ugly things that hide fairness: a sweet-lowing cow without milk, a fine horse without speed, a fine person without substance.

[86] Three sparks that kindle love: a face, demeanour, speech.

[87] Three deposits with usufruct: depositing a woman, a horse, salt.

[88] Three glories of a gathering: a beautiful wife, a good horse, a swift hound.

[89] Three accomplishments of Ireland: a witty stave, a tune on the harp, 58 shaving a face.


[90] Three ungentlemanly things: interrupting stories, a mischievous game, jesting so as to raise a blush.

[91] Three smiles that are worse than sorrow: the smile of the snow as it melts, the smile of your wife 59 on you after another man has been with her, 60 the grin of a hound ready to leap at you. 61

[92] Three deaths that are better than life: the death of a salmon, the death of a fat pig, the death of a robber. 62

[93] Three fewnesses that are better than plenty: a fewness of fine words, a fewness of cows in grass, a fewness of friends around ale. 63

[94] Three sorrowful ones of an alehouse: the man who gives the feast, the man to whom it is given, the man who drinks without being satiated. 64

[95] Three laughing-stocks of the world: an angry man, a jealous man, a niggard.

[96] Three ruins of a tribe: a lying chief, a false judge, a lustful 65 priest.

[97] Three preparations of a good man's house: ale, a bath, a large fire.

[98] Three preparations of a bad man's house: strife before you, complaining to you, his hound taking hold if you. 66

[99] Three shouts of a good warrior's house: the shout of distribution, the shout of sitting down, the shout of rising up.

[100] Three darknesses into which women should not go: the darkness of mist, the darkness of night, the darkness of a wood.

[101] Three props of obstinacy: 67 pledging oneself, contending, wrangling.

[102] Three characteristics of obstinacy: 68 long visits, staring, constant questioning.


[103] Three signs of a fop: the track of his comb in his hair, the track of his teeth in his food, the track of his stick  69 behind him.

[104] Three ungentlemanly boasts: I am on your track, I have trampled on you, I have wet you with my dress.

[105] Three live ones that put away dead things: a deer shedding its horn, a wood shedding its leaves, cattle shedding their coat. 70

[106] Three places of Ireland to make you start: Tulach na n-Epscop, 71 Achad Deo, 72 Duma mBuirig.

[107] Three wonders of Ireland: the grave of the dwarf, 73 the grave of Trawohelly, 74 an echo near. 75

[108] Three oratories of Ireland: the oratory of Birr, the oratory of Clonenagh, the oratory of Leighlin.

[109] Three maidens that bring hatred upon misfortune: talking, laziness, insincerity.

[110] Three maidens that bring love to good fortune: silence, diligence, sincerity.

[111] Three silences that are better than speech: silence during instruction, silence during music, silence during preaching.

[112] Three speeches that are better than silence: inciting a king to battle, spreading knowledge (?), 76 praise after reward. 77

[113] Three impossible demands: go! though you cannot go, bring what you have not got, do what you cannot do.

[114] Three idiots that are in a bad guest-house: the chronic cough of an old hag, a brainless tartar of a girl, a hobgoblin of a gillie.

[115] The three chief sins: avarice, gluttony, lust.


[116] Three things that constitute a buffoon: blowing out his cheek, blowing out his satchel, blowing out his belly.

[117] Three things that constitute a comb-maker: racing a hound in contending for a bone; straightening a ram's horn by his breath, without fire; chanting upon a dunghill so that all antlers and bones and horns that are below come to the top.

[118] Three things that constitute a carpenter: joining together without calculating (?), without warping (?); agility with the compass; a well-measured stroke.

[119] Three things that constitute a physician: a complete cure, leaving no blemish behind, a painless examination.

[120] Three things that constitute a blacksmith: Nethin's spit, the cooking-hearth of the Morrigan, the Dagda's anvil.For a description and pictures of these appliances, see YBL., p. 419a, and Egerton, 1782, fo. 46a. 78.

[121] Three things that constitute an artificer: weaving chains, a mosaic ball, 79 an edge upon a blade.

[122] Three things that constitute a harper: a tune to make you cry, a tune to make you laugh, a tune to put you to sleep. 80

[123] Three things that constitute a poet: 'knowledge that illumines,' 'teinm laeda,'81 improvisation.

[124] Two ominous cries of ill-luck: boasting of your first slaughter, and of your wife being with another man.

[125] Three things betokening trouble: holding a plough-land in common, performing feats together, alliance in marriage.

[126] Three drops of a wedded woman: a drop of blood, a tear-drop, a drop of sweat.

[127] Three caldrons that are in every fort: the caldron of running (?), the caldron goriath, 82 the caldron of guests.


[128] Three tokens of a blessed site: a bell, psalm-singing, a synod of elders.

[129] Three tokens of a cursed site: elder, a corncrake, nettles. 83

[130] Three nurses of theft: a wood, a cloak, night.

[131] Three qualities 84 that bespeak good fortune: self-importance, {}, self-will.

[132] Three qualities 85 that bespeak misfortune: weariness, premature old age, reproachfulness.

[133] Two sisters: weariness and wretchedness.

[134] Two brothers: prosperity and husbandry.

[135] Three unlucky {}: 86 guaranteeing, mediating, witnessing. The witness has to swear to his evidence, the guarantor has to pay for his security, the mediator gets a blow on his head. 87

[136] Three false sisters: 'perhaps,' 'may be,' 'I dare say.'

[137] Three timid brothers: 'hush!' 'stop!' 'listen!'

[138] Three dead things that give evidence on live things: a pair of scales, a bushel, a measuring-rod.

[139] Three pottages of guaranteeing {}  88

[140] Three black husbandries: thatching with stolen things, 89 putting up a fence with a proclamation of trespass, kiln-drying with scorching.

[141] Three after-sorrows: a wooer's, a thief's, a tale-bearer's.

[142] Three sons whom folly bears to anger: frowning, {} , 90 mockery (?).

[143] Three sons whom generosity bears to patience: {} , blushing, shame.

[144] Three sons whom churlishness bears to impatience: trembling, niggardliness, vociferation.

[145] Three cold things that seethe: a well, the sea, new ale.

[146] Three sounds of increase: the lowing of a cow in milk, the din of a smithy, the swish of a plough.


[147] Three wealths in barren places: a well in a mountain, fire out of a stone, wealth in the possession of a hard man.

[148] Three renovators of the world: the womb of woman, a cow's udder, a smith's moulding-block.

[149] Three concealments upon which forfeiture does not close: a wife's dowry, the food of a married couple, a boy's foster-fee.

[150] Three contracts that are reversed by the decision of a judge: the contracts of a woman, of a son, of a cottar.

[151] Three that are incapable of special contracts 91: a son whose father is alive, a betrothed woman, the serf of a chief.

[152] Three sons that do not share inheritance: a son begotten in a brake, 92 the son of a slave, the son of a girl still wearing tresses.

[153] Three causes that do not die with neglect: the causes of an imbecile, and of oppression, and of ignorance.

[154] Three bloodsheds that need not be impugned: the bloodshed of battle, of jealousy, of mediating.

[155] Three cohabitations 93 that do not pay a marriage-portion: taking her by force, outraging her without her knowledge through drunkenness, her being violated by a king.

[156] Three that are not entitled to exemption: restoring a son, the tools of an artificer, hostageship.

[157] Three deposits that need not be returned: the deposits of an imbecile, 94 and of a high dignitary, and a fixed deposit. 95.

[158] Three dead ones that are paid for with living things: an apple-tree, a hazle-bush, a sacred grove. 96.

[159] Three that neither swear nor are sworn: a woman, a son who does not support his father, a dumb person.

[160] Three that are not entitled to renunciation of authority: a son and his father, a wife and her husband, a serf and his lord.

[161] Three who do not adjudicate though they are possessed of wisdom: a man who sues, a man who is being sued, a man who is bribed to give judgment.

[162] Three on whom acknowledgment does not fall in its time: death, ignorance, carelessness.


[163] Three usucaptions that are not entitled to a fine: fear, warning, asportation.

[164] Three wages that labourers share: the wages of a caldron, 97 the wages of a mill, the wages of a house.

[165] Three oaths that do not require fulfilment 98: the oath of a woman in birth-pangs, the oath of a dead man, the oath of a landless man.

[166] Three ranks that ruin tribes in their falsehood: the falsehood of a king, of a historian, of a judge.

[167] Three free ones that make slaves of themselves: a lord who sells his land, a queen who goes to a boor, a poet's son who abandons his father's craft.

[168] Three brutes whose trespasses count as human crimes: a chained hound, a ferocious ram, a biting horse.

[169] Three brutish things that atone for crimes: a leashed hound, a spike in a wood, a lath {} 99

[170] Three things that {} salt-meat, butter, iron {}  100

[171] Three signs that {} 101 in a judge's house: wisdom, information, intellect.

[172] Three things that should be proclaimed: the flesh-fork of a caldron, a bill-hook without a rivet, a sledge-hammer without {} 102

[173] Three doors of falsehood: an angry pleading, a shifting foundation of knowledge, giving information without memory.

[174] Three doors through which truth is recognised: a patient answer, a firm pleading, appealing to witnesses.

[175] Three glories of a gathering: a judge without perturbation, a decision without reviling, terms agreed upon without fraud.

[176] Three waves without wisdom: hard pleading, judgment without knowledge, a talkative gathering.

[177] Three glories of speech: steadiness, wisdom, brevity.

[178] Three ornaments of wisdom: abundance of knowledge, a number of precedents, to employ a good counsel.


[179] Three hateful things in speech: stiffness, 103 obscurity, a bad delivery.

[180] Three steadinesses of good womanhood: keeping a steady tongue, a steady chastity, and a steady housewifery.

[181] Three strayings of bad womanhood: letting her tongue, 104 and {} and her housewifery go astray.

[182] Three excellences of dress: elegance, comfort, lastingness.

[183] Three that are not entitled to sick-maintenance: a man who absconds from his chief, from his family, from a poet.

[184] Three sauces that spoil a sick-bed: {}, 105 honey, salt food.

[185] Three women that are not entitled to a fine: a woman who does not care with whom she sleeps, a thievish woman, a sorceress.

[186] Three things that ruin every chief: falsehood, overreaching, parricide. 106

[187] Three things that characterise every chaste person: steadiness, modesty, sobriety.

[188] Three things by which every angry person is known: an outburst of passion, trembling, growing pale.

[189] Three things that characterise every patient person: repose, silence, blushing.

[190] Three things that characterise every haughty person: pompousness, elegance, display of wealth.

[191] Three things that tell every humble person: poverty, homeliness, servility.

[192] Three signs of wisdom: patience, closeness, the gift of prophecy.

[193] Three signs 'of folly': contention, wrangling, attachment to everybody.

[194] Three things that make a fool wise: learning, steadiness, docility.  107

[195] Three things that make a wise man foolish: quarrelling, anger, drunkenness.

[196] Three things that show every good man: a special gift,' 108 valour, piety.

[197] Three things that show a bad man: bitterness, hatred, cowardice.

[198] Three things that set waifs a-wandering: persecution, loss, poverty.


[199] Three chains by which evil propensity is bound: a covenant, a monastic rule, law.

[200] Three rocks to which lawful behaviour is tied: a monastery, 109 a chieftain, the family.

[210] Three candles that illumine every darkness: truth, nature, knowledge.

[220] Three things that constitute a king: a contract with other kings, the feast of Tara, abundance during his reign.

[230] Three locks that lock up secrets: shame, silence, closeness.

[204] Three keys that unlock thoughts: drunkenness, trustfulness, love.

[205] Three inheritances that are divided in the presence of heirs: the inheritance of a jester, of a madman, and of an old man.

[206] Three youthful sisters: desire, beauty, generosity.

[207] Three aged sisters: groaning, chastity, ugliness.

[208] Three well-bred sisters: constancy, well-spokenness,kindliness.

[209] Three ill-bred sisters: fierceness, lustfulness, obduracy.

[210] Three sisters of good fortune: good breeding, liberality, mirth.

[211] Three sisters of good repute: diligence, prudence, bountifulness.

[212] Three sisters of ill repute: inertness, grudging, closefistedness.

[213] Three angry sisters: blasphemy, strife, foulmouthedness.

[214] Three irreverent sisters: importunity, frivolity, flightiness.

[215] Three reverent sisters: usefulness, an easy bearing, firmness.

[216] Three woman-days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. If women go to men on those days, the men will love them better than they the men, and the women will survive the men.

[217] Three man-days: Thursday, Friday, Sunday. If women go to men on those days, they will not be loved, and their husbands will survive them. Saturday, however, is a common day. It is equally lucky to them. Monday is a free day to undertake any business.

[218] Three duties of guarantorship: staying at home, honesty, suffering (?); staying in one's residence, honesty lest he utter falsehood, suffering (?) payment, viz. letting oneself be stripped for an illegal action instead of the debtor.


[219] Three pottages of guarantorship: wer-geld or a debtor's {} or non-possession (?) 110.

[220] Three things hard to guarantee and to become a hostage and to make a contract for: to go security for constructing the fort of a king, an oratory, and a caldron. For it is hard for a man of a family to he given with (?) his fellow. 111

[221] Three things that are undignified for everyone: driving one's horse before one's lord so as to soil his dress, going to speak to him without being summoned, staring in his face as he is eating his food.

[222] Three lawful handbreadths: a handbreadth between shoes and hose, a handbreadth between ear and hair, a hand-breadth between the fringe of the tunic and the knee.

[223] What is worst in a household? Sons of a bawd, frequent feasts, numerous alliances in marriages, abundance of mead and wine. They waste you and do not profit.

[224] Three illnesses that are better than health: the lying-in of a woman with a male child, the fever of an abdominal disease that clears the bowels, a feverish passion to check evil by its good (?).

[225] Three welcomes of an ale-house: plenty and kindliness and art.

[226] Three services the worst that a man can serve: serving a bad woman, a bad lord, and a bad smith. 112

[227] Three things that are best in a house: oxen, 113 men, axes.

[228] Three that are worst in a house: boys, women, lewdness. 114

[229] Three signs of boorishness: strife, and contention, and mistaking a person for another (?) 115

[230] Various kinds of mercenaries: {}  116

[231] Various kinds of dispensers: {}  117


[232] Three that are most difficult to talk to: a king about his booty, a viking in his hauberk, a boor who is under patronage.

[233] Three whose spirits are highest: a young scholar after having read his psalms, a youngster who has put on man's attire, 118 a maiden who has been made a woman.

[234] Four on whom there is neither restraint nor rule: the servant of a priest, a miller's hound, a widow's son, and a stripper's calf.

[235] Three hard things 119: to go security on behalf of a king or highly privileged person, for a king's honour is wider than any claim; to go security for battle, for no one is capable of any security for a battle save a king under whose yoke are seven tribes; to go security for captivity, except one who owns a serf. Seven prohibitions: to go security for an outlaw, for a jester and for a madman, for a person without bonds, for an unfilial person, for an imbecile, for one excommunicated. Troublesome moreover is every security, for it is necessary for it to give sudden notice as regards every pledge which he gives, now beforehand, now afterwards.

[236] Three wonders of Glenn Dallan  120 in Tirowen: the boar of Druim Leithe. It was born there, and Finn was unable to do aught against it, until it fell in Mag Li  121 by a peasant who was kiln-drying. Whence Finn said:

  1. Not well have we fed our hounds,
    Not well have we driven our horses,
    Since a little boor from a kiln
    Has killed the boar of Druim Leithe.
The Beast of Lettir Dallan. It has a human head and otherwise the shape of a smith's bellows. The water-horse which lived in the lake by the side of the church cohabited with the daughter of the priest and begot the beast upon her.

The Ox of Dil  122 is the third wonder. Its father came out of the same lake, and went upon one of the cows of the landholder who lived near the church, and begot the ox upon her.


[237] Three wonders of Connaught: the grave of Eothaile 123 on its strand. It is as high as the strand. When the sea rises, it is as high as the tide. The stone of the Dagda. Though it be thrown into the sea, though it be put into a house under lock, {} out of the well at which it is. The two herons in Scattery Island. They let no other herons to them into the island, and the she-heron goes on the ocean westwards to hatch and returns thence with her young ones. And coracles have not discovered the place of hatching.

[238] Three worst smiles: the smile of a wave, the smile of a lewd woman, the grin of a dog ready to leap. 124

[239] What are the three wealths of fortunate people? Not hard to tell. A ready conveyance (?), ale without a habitation (?), a safeguard upon the road.

[240] Three sons whom chastity bears to wisdom: valour, generosity, laughter filial piety?.

[241] Three entertainers of a gathering: a jester, a juggler, a lap-dog.

[242] Three things that are best for a chief: justice, peace, an army.

[243] Three things that are worst for a chief: sloth, treachery, evil counsel.

[244] The four deaths of judgment: to give it in falsehood, to give it without forfeiture, to give it without precedent, to give it without knowledge.

[245] Three things that ruin wisdom: ignorance, inaccurate knowledge, forgetfulness.

[246] Three nurses of dignity: a fine figure, a good memory, piety.

[247] Three nurses of high spirits: pride, wooing, drunkenness.

[248] Four hatreds of a chief: a silly flighty man, a slavish useless man, a lying dishonourable man, a talkative man who has no story to tell. 125 For a chief does not grant speech save to four: a poet for satire and praise, a chronicler of good memory for narration and story-telling, a judge for giving judgments, an historian for ancient lore. 126

[249] Three dark 127 things of the world: giving a thing into keeping, guaranteeing, fostering.


[250] Three prohibitions of food: to eat it without giving thanks, to eat it before its proper time, to eat it after a guest.

[251] Four elements 128 of wisdom: patience, docility, sobriety, well-spokenness; for every patient person is wise, and every docile person is a sage, every sober person is generous, every well-spoken person is tractable.

[252] Four elements 129 of folly: silliness, bias, wrangling, foul-mouthedness.

[253] Three tabus of a chief: an ale-house without story-telling, a troop without a herald, a great company without wolfhounds.  130

[254] Three indications of dignity in a person: a fine figure, a free bearing, eloquence.

[255] Three coffers whose depth is not known: the coffer of a chieftain, of the Church,  131 of a privileged poet.

[256] Three debts which must not be neglected:  132 debts of land, payment of a field, instruction (?) of poetry.

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Title statement

Title (uniform): The Triads of Ireland

Title (supplementary): English translation

Author: unknown

Editor: Kuno Meyer

Responsibility statement

translated by: Kuno Meyer

Electronic edition compiled by: Emer Purcell

Proof corrections by: Emer Purcell and Benjamin Hazard

Third draft revised and enlarged by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: University College, CorkThe HEA via the LDT Project and The IRCHSS via the Digital Dinneen Project

Edition statement

3. Third draft, revised and enlarged.

Extent: 11000 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2007

Date: 2008

Date: 2011

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: T103006

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Source description

Manuscript sources for the Irish text

  1. Trinity College Dublin, MS TCD 1318 (H 2.16), The Yellow Book of Lecan, a vellum of the end of the fourteenth century, pp. 414b–418a, a complete copy.
  2. Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, MS 23 P 12, the Book of Ballymote, a vellum of the end of the fourteenth century, pp. 65b–66b (ends imperfectly).
  3. Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, MS Stowe, D II 1, the Book of Húi Maine, a vellum of the fourteenth century, fo. 190a–fo. 191a. A complete copy.
  4. Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, MS 23 P 2, the Book of Lecan, a vellum of the fifhteenth century. The leaves on which the Triads are found are now bound up with the Codex H 2 17 belonging to Trinity College. It is a complete copy begining on p. 183b and ending on p. 184b. The editor remarks that, 'by an oversight' he has 'referred to the MS sometimes by Lec and sometimes by H. In some cases both Lec and H will be found quoted in the variants. The same MS is always meant.' This practice has been left stand.
  5. Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, MS 23 N 10, a paper ms written in the year 1575, pp. 98–101. A complete copy, the gap between p. 100 and 106 being made up by pp. 7a–10b of the vellum portion of the manuscript.
  6. Trinity College Dublin, MS H 1 15, pp. 946–957. This is a paper ms written by Tadhg Tiorthach Ó Neachtain in 1745. It is a complete copy with copious glosses in Modern Irish.
  7. Dublin, RIA, Stowe Collection, a paper quarto now marked 23 N 27, containing on fo. 1a–7b a copy of the Triads. It was written in 1714 by Domnall (or Daniel) o Duind mac Eimuinn. Its readings closely agree with those of N.
  8. Manchester, Rylands Library, a copy written in 1836 by Peter O'Longan, formerly in the possession of the Earls of Crawford.
  9. Edinburgh, Advocates Library, MS Kilbride III, vellum, begins on fo. 9b2.

Digital images of Meyer's edition

  • Available at http://www.archive.org.

Literature (incl. references given by Meyer)

  1. James Henthorn Todd (ed. & trans.), The Irish version of the Historia Britonum of Nennius (Dublin: Irish Archaeological Society 1848).
  2. Eugene O'Curry, Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish. Vol. 1–3 (London 1873).
  3. Kuno Meyer, Cath Finntrága or Battle of Ventry (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1885). [From Bodleian Library MS Rawlinson B 487).
  4. Charles Plummer, Irish Miscellanies: the Conversion of Loegaire, and his death, Revue Celtique 6 (1884) 162–172.
  5. Whitley Stokes, The prose tales in the Rennes Dindshenchas, Revue Celtique 15 (1896) 418–484 (no. 44 and 111).
  6. W. Neilson Hancock, Thaddeus O'Mahony, Alexander George Richey & Robert Atkinson, Ancient Laws of Ireland, 6 vols. (Dublin, 1865–1901).
  7. Kuno Meyer, 'Das Apgitir Crábaid des Colmán maccu Béognae ', Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie 3 (1901) 447–455.
  8. Whitley Stokes, Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee, Henry Bradshaw Society 29. (London 1905) 112.
  9. Siegmand Hellmann, 'Sedulius Scottus', p. 135, in: Ludwig Traube, 'Quellen und Untersuchungen zur lateinischen Philologie des Mittelalters', vol. 1 (München 1906).
  10. Whitley Stokes & John Strachan (ed. & tr.), Thesaurus palaeo-hibernicus (2 vols, Cambridge 1901–03, supplement by Whitley Stokes, Halle/Salle (1910), reprinted in two volumes, Dublin 1985).
  11. Patrick Weston Joyce, A Social History of Ancient Ireland, 2 vols (New York, London, and Bombay: Longmans, Green, & Company, 1903).
  12. Kuno Meyer (ed. & trans.), Cáin Adamnáin: an Old-Irish treatise on the Law of Adamnan, Anecdota Oxoniensia, Mediaeval & Modern Series 12 (Oxford 1905).
  13. Rudolf Thurneysen, Die Bürgschaft im irischen Recht, Abhandlungen der Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Klasse, no. 2 (1928).
  14. Rudolf Thurneysen, Irisches Recht, Abhandlungen der Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Klasse, no. 2 (1931).
  15. Éamonn de hÓir, 'The anglicisation of Irish place-names', Onoma 17 (1972) 192–204.
  16. For modern Irish proverbs in triadic form, compare for instance Enrí Ó Muirgheasa (ed.), Seanfhocail Uladh, Eagrán Nua (Baile Átha Cliath: Oifig an tSoláthair, 1976) 3–8.
  17. Patrick Sims-Williams, 'Thought, word, and deed: an Irish triad', Ériu 29 (1978) 78–111.
  18. Fergus Kelly, A Guide to Early Irish Law (Dublin: DIAS 1988).
  19. Michael A. Monk & John Sheehan, Early medieval Munster: archaeology, history and society (Cork 1998) [p. 83 on condiments and relishes mentions echmuir].
  20. Fergus Kelly, Irish Wisdom: Classic Irish Triads (Belfast: Appletree Press 1993).
  21. P. W. Joyce, The origin and history of Irish names of places. [Facs. of the original edition in 3 volumes published 1869–1913.] With a new introductory essay on P.W. Joyce by Mainchín Seoighe (Dublin: Éamonn de Búrca for Edmund Burke 1995).
  22. Kevin Murray, 'Fr Edmund Hogan's 'Onomasticon Goedelicum', ninety years on: reviewers and users', Ainm 8 (1998–2000) 65–75.
  23. Historical Dictionary of Gaelic Placenames (London: Irish Texts Society 2003). [Volume 1 of Hogan's revised Onomasticon.]
  24. Pádraig Ó Riain, Diarmuid Ó Murchadha and Kevin Murray, Historical Dictionary of Gaelic Placenames, Fascicle 1 [Names in A-] (London: Irish Texts Society 2003); repr. with addenda and corrigenda April 2007.
  25. Pádraig Ó Riain, Diarmuid Ó Murchadha and Kevin Murray, Historical Dictionary of Gaelic Placenames, Fascicle 3 [C-Ceall Fhursa] (London: Irish Texts Society 2008).
  26. Fergus Kelly, Thinking in Trees: The Triad in Early Irish Literature (Sir John Rhys Memorial Lecture), Proceedings of the British Academy 125 (December 2004) 1–18.
  27. Diarmuid Ó Murchadha, 'Dún Cermna: a reconsideration', Éigse 34 (2004) 71–89.
  28. Bernhard Maier, Die Weisheit der Kelten. Sprichwörter aus Irland, Schottland, Wales und der Bretagne. (Munich: C. H. Beck 2011) [An anthology of proverbs from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany in the original languages, with German translation. Includes introduction and bibliographic references].

The edition used in the digital edition

Meyer, Kuno, ed. (1906). The Triads of Ireland‍. 1st ed. xv + 35 pp., v–xv Introduction, 1–35 Text and Translation, 36–43 Glosses and Notes, 45–46 Index Locorum, 46 Index Nominum, 47–54 Glossary. London: Hodges Figgis & Co.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  title 	 = {The Triads of Ireland},
  editor 	 = {Kuno Meyer},
  edition 	 = {1},
  note 	 = {xv + 35 pp., v–xv Introduction, 1–35 Text and Translation, 36–43 Glosses and Notes, 45–46 Index Locorum, 46 Index Nominum, 47–54 Glossary.},
  publisher 	 = {Hodges Figgis \& Co.},
  address 	 = {London},
  date 	 = {1906},
  UNKNOWN 	 = {seriesStmt}


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Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

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The present text represents Meyer's Introduction and pages 3–35 of the edited text; corrigenda are integrated.

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Correction: Text has been checked and proofread twice. All corrections, including some by Kuno Meyer and supplied text, are tagged.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the printed text. The editor's corrigenda have been integrated. Expansions shown in italics in the hardcopy have been marked. The editor gives variants from Stowe Collection 23 N 7 MS in his preface. These are integrated into the apparatus.

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Profile description

Creation: Translation by Kuno Meyer.

Date: 1906

Language usage

  • The text and Introduction are in English. (en)
  • Some words are in Irish. (ga)
  • Some abbreviations and citations are in Latin. (la)
  • One term is in Greek. (gk)
  • One sentence is in German. (de)

Keywords: gnomic; prose; medieval; translation

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  1. 2011-02-26: More bibliographic references added. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2011-02-05: Bibliographical details added; new wordcount made. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2011-01-27: Meyer's Introduction converted to XML; proofed; structural and content markup applied; integrated into file for third draft of CELT edition; file re-parsed. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2011-01-21: More proofing; footnotes renumbered; header modified. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  5. 2008-10-22: Keywords added, file validated. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  6. 2008-07-23: Minor editorial changes to file header made; XML file reparsed. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  7. 2007-09-06: File parsed, header modified; SGML and HTML versions created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  8. 2007-07-18: Header created. (ed. Emer Purcell)
  9. 2007-07-01: File proofed (2); structural markup added. (ed. Emer Purcell)
  10. 2007-05-18: File proofed (1); some structural markup added. (ed. Benjamin Hazard)
  11. 2007-05-18: Text scanned. (data capture Benjamin Hazard)

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D103006: Die irischen Triaden (nach Kuno Meyer) (in German)

G103006: The Triads of Ireland (in Irish)

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  1. By an oversight I have referred to this MS. sometimes by Lec and sometimes by H. In some cases both Lec and H will be found quoted in the variants. The same MS. is always meant. 🢀

  2. As appears from the following colophon on p. 101: “Oraoit uaim ar do lebor a hOedh in cédluan iar n-aurtach Johannes. Baile Tibhaird ar bla maige mo mendad scribne hi farrad Se(a)ain hi Maoilconari. Mese (Dubthach) do scrib in ball soin da derpiris ⁊ rlæ. Anno domini 1575. Guroiuh maith agat.” 🢀

  3. Where for “wrong stories” read “wrong counsels” (“sanasa sáeba”). 🢀

  4.  🢀

  5.  🢀

  6.  🢀

  7.  🢀

  8. This triad comes from the Glynns of Antrim, the Mac Donnells' district. 🢀

  9. I may mention particularly the relative forms “téite” 167, “bíte” 127, “ata” 75, 76, 224, &c., “berta” (O. Ir. “berte”) 109, 110, “fíchte” (145), “coillte” (166), “téite” (167), “aragellat” (sic leg. with N) 171; the deponent “neimthigedar” 116, &c.; “ató”, “I am” (104), and the use of the perfective “ad-” in “conaittig” 77, 78. 🢀

  10. “rátha” 56, “foglada” 92, “flatha” 151, 248, 253; “dara” 4, 34; “Ela” 31, 35, 44 (cf. “Lainne Ela”, AU. 816); “átha” 50, “betha” 82, 83, 249. 🢀

  11. The infinitive bith for O. Ir. buith (91), the dative cinn for O. Ir. ciunn (98, 135), the nom. pl. sligthi for O. Ir. sligid (which I have restored in paragraph 49), the confusion between do and di (e.g. 83), and other details are probably due to the Middle-and Modern-Irish transcribers. 🢀

  12. See Ancient Laws of Ireland, vol, v., pp. 118–373. 🢀

  13. Thus in the first volume of the Laws we find duads on p. 228, 15; 294, 27; triads on p. 50, 9. 27; 230, 4; 264, 20; 288, 28; tetrads 40, 21; 54, 7; 64, 1; 240, 24; 256, 4, &c.; 272, 25; 274, 3, &c.; pentads 30, 21; 50, 32; 90, 29; 102, 6; hexads 68, 11; 248, 7: a heptad 134, 9; an ennead 16, 20. 🢀

  14. This is the opinion of S. Hellmann, their latest editor. See his Sedulius Scottus, p. 135, in Traube's Quellen und Untersuchungen zur lateinischen Philologie des Mittelalters, vol. i.: München, 1906. 🢀

  15. A. 39, 41. B. 5. 🢀

  16. A. 52. 🢀

  17. A. 54. B. 3, 7. 🢀

  18. B. 1, 2. 🢀

  19. Or, perhaps, 'good cheer'. 🢀

  20. A road running from Tara westward into Westmeath 🢀

  21. Or 'hire.' 🢀

  22. Or 'uprightness.' 🢀

  23. 'Ruadan's Church' L. 🢀

  24. On the Old Head of Kinsale. 🢀

  25. i.e. the Knockmealdown mountains 🢀

  26. The Wicklow mountains. 🢀

  27. 'The Liver ('Pap,' L.) of Cualu,' either the Great Sugarloaf or Lugnaquilla 🢀

  28. i.e. Slieve Donard. 🢀

  29. i.e. the plain of Kildare. 🢀

  30. The Húi Tuirtri were settled in the four baronies of Upper and Lower Antrim, and Upper and Lower Toome in county Antrim. 🢀

  31. Now Cremorne barony, county Monaghan 🢀

  32. A tribe settled in the barony of Coolavin, county Sligo, and in the adjacent part of county Roscommon. 🢀

  33. Either Bantry, county Cork, or Bantry in county Wexford. 🢀

  34. 'Of the men of Cualu', NL. 🢀

  35. A territory in the barony of Upper Ormond, county Tipperary. 🢀

  36. Now Dundalk. 🢀

  37. Perhaps Áth Caille Rúaide on the Shannon. 🢀

  38. The great south-western road from Tara into Ossory. 🢀

  39. A road running northward from Tara. 🢀

  40. In Breffny. 🢀

  41. On the Shannon opposite Dunass, co. Clare. 🢀

  42. Probably near Sescenn Uarbéoil in Leinster Mountseskenn?🢀

  43. Dún na mBárc is in Bantry Bay. 🢀

  44. The estuary of the Feale. 🢀

  45. 'The axe-shaped estuary,' i.e. the mouth of the Bann. 🢀

  46. i.e., Loop Head. 🢀

  47. In the west of Kerry (i n-iarthar Hérenn,YBL. 126 b 31). 🢀

  48. Or, perhaps, 'places of common resort.' 🢀

  49. 'Of a ripening field,' BM. 🢀

  50. 'Of a man who has slain his brother in contesting his land,' BM. 🢀

  51. Or, perhaps, 'fairs, foregatherings.' 🢀

  52. Or 'vagrant'. 🢀

  53. Or 'dalliance'. 🢀

  54. 'distinction'. B. 'familiarity, fame (leg. allad), speech,' H. 🢀

  55. Or 'encroaching'. 🢀

  56. Literally, 'unfamiliarity.' 🢀

  57. 'pitying,' L. 🢀

  58. Literally, 'out of a harp.' 🢀

  59. Of a bad woman,' LN. 🢀

  60. 'After sleeping with another man,' H. 🢀

  61. 'To tear you to pieces,' H. 'Coming up to devour you,' MB. 🢀

  62. 'Of a criminal,' B. 🢀

  63. 'good ale,' MB. 🢀

  64. 'Who goes to it unsatiated,' M. i.e. who drinks on an empty stomach. 🢀

  65. 'Stumbling, offending,' N. ' Fond of refusing,' B. 🢀

  66. 'Tearing you,' N. 'A had story to speed you on your way,' L. 🢀

  67. Literally, 'buckishness.' 🢀

  68. Literally, 'buckishness.' 🢀

  69. Or 'cudgel'. 🢀

  70. Literally, 'stinking hair.' 🢀

  71. A hill in Kildare. See Thesaurus Palaeo-hibernicus ii., p. 335. 🢀

  72. At Tara. See Todd's Irish Nennius p. 200. 🢀

  73. Somewhere in the west (i n-iarthar Erenn, Fél., p. clvii). 🢀

  74. See Todd's Irish Nennius, p. 199, and Zeitschrift für Celt. Phil. V., p. 23. 🢀

  75. Nothing is known to me about this wonder. 🢀

  76. Sreth immais, which I have tentatively translated by 'spreading knowledge,' is used as a technical term in poetry for connecting all the words of a verse-line by alliteration, as e.g. slatt, sacc, socc, simend, salandSee Ir. Texte iii., p. 30. 🢀

  77. Cf. LL. 344a: Carpre asks Cormac what are the sweetest things he has heard, and Cormac answers: 'A shout of triumph after victory, praise after reward, the invitation of a fair woman to her pillow.' 🢀

  78. For a description and pictures of these appliances, see YBL, p. 419a, and Egerton 1782, fo. 46a 🢀

  79. O'Curry, Manners and Customs, ii., p. 253, thought that a caer comraic was 'a ball of convergent ribs or lines,' perhaps such as a bead or ball of mosaic glass as is depicted in Joyce's Social History of Ancient Ireland, vol. ii., p. 32, fig. 171. A cáer comraic of eight different colours is mentioned in LB. 108b 20. 🢀

  80. Cf. H. 3. 18, p. 87: tréide nemtighther cruit; goltraiges, gentraiges, suanraiges🢀

  81. The names of various kinds of incantations. See Cormac's Glossary and Ancient Laws, s.v. 🢀

  82. Quite obscure to me. There is a heavily glossed poem in H. 3. 18, beginning Coire goriath. In H. 2. 15, p. 1171b, after the colophon to Dúil Luithne (Goid., 2 p. 79), there are some further glosses, among which I find: goiriath .i. gardhamh in gach iath, erma .i. uasal-iompú no iar-iompaBut érma seems the genitive of érim, “a course.” 🢀

  83. See my edition of Cáin Adamnáin, p. 13, note 3, and p. 38.  🢀

  84. Literally, 'parts.' 🢀

  85. Literally, 'heaviness, weight.' 🢀

  86. The usual meanings of fodb, 'accoutrement, equipment, arms,' do not seem to suit here. 🢀

  87. Literally, 'the blow of mediation is dealt on his head.' 🢀

  88. Obscure and probably corrupt. Cf. paragraph 219. 🢀

  89. 'with sods,' NML, . 🢀

  90. fidchell, the well-known game, gives no sense here. 🢀

  91. Or, 'of contracts on their own behalf.' 🢀

  92. Cf. the expression meirdrech muine, 'a bush-strumpet,' Laws v. 176, 4. 🢀

  93. fuchacht or fuichecht, usually means 'cuckoldry', a meaning which does not seem to suit here. 🢀

  94. i.e. a deposit made by an imbecile. Cf. Plato, Republic: “But surely you would never give back to a mad friend a sword which he had lent to you?” 🢀

  95. But in the Heptads (Laws v. 196, 3) aithne fuirmida, there rendered by 'a deposited charge', is enumerated as one of those to be restored even if there are no bonds to that effect 🢀

  96. There is nothing in the Laws to explain this. 🢀

  97. i.e. of making a caldron, &c. 🢀

  98. Literally, 'a counter-oath, a second oath.' 🢀

  99. comneibi is a hapax legómenon to me. 🢀

  100. Obscure and probably corrupt. 🢀

  101. Obscure and probably corrupt. 🢀

  102. Obscure and probably corrupt. 🢀

  103. In Mod. Ir. righneas labhartha means 'an impediment of speech'. See Dinneen's Dictionary, s.v. 🢀

  104. Literally, 'stories.' 🢀

  105. I believe echmuir to be the name of a plant; but I cannot find the reference. 🢀

  106. Or rather 'murder of relations.' 🢀

  107. Cf. dán ecna dogní ríg do bocht, dogní gáeth do báeth &c., LL. 346a 35. 🢀

  108. Such as art, poetry & 🢀

  109. 'The credence-table,' N., perperam. 🢀

  110. Obscure and probably corrupt. Cf. paragraph 139 🢀

  111. I cannot make out the meaning of doberim fri🢀

  112. 'bad land,' N. 🢀

  113. 'an ox,' N. 🢀

  114. Or, perhaps, as in paragraph ;223, 'sons of a lewd woman,' only in that case we have no triad. 🢀

  115. Or, perhaps, 'slight or superficial knowledge.' 🢀

  116. As I could only offer unsatisfactory guess-work as a translation of these passages, I omit them altogether. 🢀

  117. As I could only offer unsatisfactory guess-work as a translation of these passages, I omit them altogether. 🢀

  118. Literally, 'who doffed his boy's clothes.' 🢀

  119. I do not understand the force of dóib, 'to them', either here or below after secht n-aurgarta 🢀

  120. Now Glencar, six miles to the north of the town of Sligo. 🢀

  121. The territory of the Tir Lí, west of the river Bann. 🢀

  122. The oxen of Dil, daughter of Míl or Legmannair, are mentioned in the Dindsenchas, No. 44 and 111 (Rev. Celt. xv.) 🢀

  123. Cf. paragraph 197. 🢀

  124. Cf. paragraph 91. 🢀

  125. i.e., who has nothing worth hearing to say. 🢀

  126. See a similar passage in Ancient Laws i., p. 18, and in the tale called 'The Conversion of Loegaire to the Faith' (Rev. Celt., iv., p. 165). 🢀

  127. i.e., uncertain what will come of them. 🢀

  128. Literally, 'alphabets.' 🢀

  129. Literally, 'alphabets.' 🢀

  130. This triad has been wrongly read (faiscre instead of Lexfaisneis) and rendered by O'Grady in his Catalogue of Ir. MSS. in the British Museum, p. 91.  🢀

  131. “Die Kirche hat einen guten Magen,” Goethe, Faust. 🢀

  132. “Which do not die by neglect,” M. 🢀


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