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Gaelicisation, or Gaelicization, is the act or process of making something Gaelic, or gaining characteristics of the Gaels. 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.

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 very recently,[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 Gaeilgoir 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 Scotland, Scottish Gaelic is widely spoken[citation needed] in the Scottish Lowlands, with about half of Gaelic speakers living outside the traditional Gàidhealtachd, largely due to migration and the expansion of Gaelic medium education in the Lowlands. In the 21st century, phrases such as Alba gu bràth and Saor Alba have been appropriated as catchphrases and rallying cries for Scottish identity and the Scottish independence movement.

See also


  1. ^ MacLysaght, Edward. More Irish Families. Irish Academic Press. ISBN 0-7165-0126-0. Retrieved 2006-11-20. Some became completely integrated, giving rise to the well known phrase 'Hiberniores Hibernis ipsis' (more Irish than the Irish themselves). These formed septs on the Gaelic-Irish pattern, headed by a chief.
  2. ^ a b "Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland Part 5 X. The Vikings and Normans". Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  3. ^ "Belfast's role in Manx language revival - BBC News". 2014-09-16. Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  4. ^ a b "Manx: Bringing a language back from the dead - BBC News". 2013-01-31. Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  5. ^ "Europe | Isle of Man | UN declares Manx Gaelic 'extinct'". 2009-02-20. Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  6. ^ "Can Northern Ireland learn lessons from the world's only Manx-speaking school? - BBC News". Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  7. ^ "Manx Gaelic 'warriors' praised for language revival - BBC News". Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  8. ^ "New app launched to 'boost' Manx language revival - BBC News". Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  9. ^ Paulston, Christina Bratt. Linguistic Minorities in Multilingual Settings: Implications for Language Policies. J. Benjamins Pub. p. 81.
  10. ^ Pierce, David (2000). Irish Writing in the Twentieth Century. Cork University Press. p. 1140.: 20,000 to 80,000 speakers out of a population of 3.5 to 5 million.
  11. ^ Ó hÉallaithe, Donncha (1999). "Cuisle".
  12. ^ "Table", Census, IE: CSO
  13. ^ "Census 2011 – This is Ireland" (PDF). Central Statistics Office.
  14. ^ Romaine, Suzanne (2008), "Irish in a Global Context", in Caoilfhionn Nic Pháidín and Seán Ó Cearnaigh, A New View of the Irish Language, Dublin: Cois Life Teoranta, ISBN 978-1-901176-82-7
  15. ^ McCloskey, James (2006) [September 2005], "Irish as a World Language" (PDF), Why Irish? (PDF)|format= requires |url= (help) (seminar), The University of Notre Dame


  • Ball, Martin J. & Fife, James (eds.) The Celtic Languages (Routledge Language Family Descriptions Series), (2002)

External links

  • The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland by Douglas Hyde
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