The Ogam letters, their sibling trees and their kennings as given by the Auraicept and the Ogam tract following Calder and McManus edition of Middle Age texts.



This table shows what the ancient scholars would say and think of the Ogam, their own spelling and their interpretation of it. When I open a book relative to the Ogams, I am bound to see some strange spellings, orderings and letter meanings, all of them stated with a surprising authority. This table will show how much the ancients were trying to explain why such or such tree was sibling to an Ogam letter. Even when they disagree, their explanations enable us to understand that different points of view might have coexisted already in their time. For example, the second letter, Luis, may be associated to the rowan-tree (because of the beauty of its berries) or to the elm-tree (because of the wealth of its catkins), I cannot tell where is ‘the’ truth or if both are true. Anyhow, when you choose one of these attributions, please take into account that the ones who had the best knowledge of the topic had also different opinions, do not (implicitly) state that whoever disagree with you is a nut.


My presentation is based on translations from the Middle Irish due to Calder and McManus. A translator is obviously not supposed to explain his own doubts nor to provide alternate translations. I do not feel I am criticizing them by giving you several possible interpretations of the Irish text. My translation from the Irish is placed in between (“ ”). I always try to follow as closely as possible Calder’s and McManus’ ones and it may happen that ‘my’ translation is a simple copy and paste of Calder’s or paraphrasing McManus’. It may happen also that I dare propose very different translations: When the explanations of these differences are too lengthy to be included here, they are given in the “Commented version of Calder’s translation of the Ogam tract.”


I was able to find six different descriptions of the Ogam letters. 1. At the beginning of the Auraicept (‘BegAur’) they are given as a list of names. 2. Fenius’ one ( ‘Fen’), 3. Ogma’s (‘Ogm’), 4. Morann Mac Main’s (‘Mor’), 5. Mac ind Oic’s (‘Mac’), 6. (edited by McManus instead of Calder, see below) Cú Chulainn’s (‘CC’), with McManus’s English translation (‘MM’).


The name of the letter may be the one of a tree as well in ‘normal’ Middle Irish. This is not always true and, besides, these words often show a strong polysemy. This is why I provide a list of their main meanings. The text provides also a metaphoric description of the Ogam letter, called kennings by McManus (actually, the Old Norse plural of this word is kenningar but I think McManus is right to deal with this word as if it were an English one).


McManus (in his 1988 paper in the Ériu Journal and p. 42 of his A Guide to Ogam) gives an edition of the two words kennings coming from ‘Mor’ and ‘Mac’ in the Auraicept. You will see that the original text provides a bit more explanations than two words. McManus gives also a third version the original of which I could not consult: they are Cú Chulainn’s word-ogams. I give you all I could get, namely McManus’ edition. If you directly refer to McManus’ work, note that he calls ‘A’ what I call ‘Mor’, ‘B’ what I call ‘Mac’, and ‘C’ what I call ‘CC’.


As I already said, the meanings I give you originally come from Calder and McManus. I however checked the meaning of each word either in Vendryes’ dictionary or, more often, in the ‘authority of the authorities’ in Old and Middle Irish, that is, the Dictionary of the Irish Language (DIL). See detailed references in the “Commented version of Calder’s translation of the Ogam tract.” When McManus’ translation of ‘Mor’ and ‘Mac’ kennings differs largely from Calder’s or mine, I’ll add his understanding in the following format: (MM: Irish. ‘Irish version’; Trans. ‘English translation’). I also did not mind repetitions when they were taking place in the Irish text. For example, I never had to use blackthorn and sloe, woodbine and honeysuckle, service-tree and yew, as Calder does.



Group B






BegAur: Babel


Fen: LETTER and TREE: bethi (meaning: letter ‘B’ or birch). KENNING: Feocos foltchain in beithi (feocos = of withered trunk; foltchain = folt-cain, beautiful hair)


Ogm: LETTER and TREE: beithi, bethi DEFINITION: Beithi immorro o bethi na cailli forsin cetna fid for set na aipgitri in ogaim. (Moreover, beithe is [named] from the birch in the forest for the first letter on the way of the Ogam alphabet.)


Mor: LETTER and TREE: beithi. KENNING: Feocus foltchain ar son bethi, ar at e sin da egosc in bethi (Faded trunk and fair hair for bethi for these are two aspects of the birch).


Mac: Ogm: LETTER and TREE: beithi, bethi. KENNING: Glaisium cnis -i- beithi sin in ogaim o bethi na cailli; sic in reliquis sequentibus. (The most silvery of skin, i. e. le birch of the Ogam from birch of the forest; sic in reliquis sequentibus.”). (MM: Irish. Glaisium cnis; Trans. ‘Greyest of skin’).


CC: Maise malach (MM: Beauty of the eyebrow). MEANING of each word: maise = beauty in one’s appearance; mala = eyebrow. Word for word: having beautiful eyebrows.



BegAur: Lot


Fen: LETTER: luis (meaning: letter ‘L’, or rowan-tree), TREE: cairtheand (rowan-tree), Old Irish caerthaind. KENNING: Li sula luis -i- caertheand ar ailleacht a caer (li = beauty, delight; sula comes from sell = pupil, eye, look; Delight of eye is mountain-ash, i.e., rowan, owing to the beauty of its berries.)


Ogm: LETTER: luis TREE: lemh (lem = elm). DEFINITION: Luis -i- lemh sin isna cailltib (Luis i. e. elm in the forests.”)


Mor: LETTER and TREE: luis. KENNING: Li sula -i- luis sin -i- in luisiu (luisiu comes from loise, luise, luisne = flame, shine. Delight of the eye, i. e. the flame”). (MM: Irish. Li súla; Trans. ‘Lustre of the eye’).


Mac: Cara ceathra (-i- lem). Cara -i- dil lasna ceathra in lem ar a blath 7 ar canach. Tucad uad-side for luis in ogaim, ar is uad tuccad luis fair. (Friend of cattle (i. e. elm). Friend, i. e. dear to the cattle is the elm for its bloom and its catkins. The cause of the proper poetic use of luis in the Ogam is the place of luis in poetic inspiration.)


CC: Lúth cethrae (MM: Sustenance of cattle). Notes on McManus’ translation: lúth = power of movement, vigor; cethrae = plural noun meaning ‘quadrupeds, cattle’. Word for word: vigor of the cattle




BegAur: Pharaoh


Fen: LETTER and TREE: fernd (= fernn) (meanings: letter ‘F’ or alder; also shield, stick, man (poetry), good. KENNING: Airenach Fiann -i- fernd, air is di na sgeith (The vanguard of the warrior-bands, that is, alder, for the shields are made of it.)


Ogm: LETTER and TREE: fern or fearn. DEFINITION: Fern -i- fearn sin isin caill (“Fern i. e. alder in the forest”)


Mor: LETTER: Fern. TREE: fern. KENNING: Airinach Fian -i- sciath ar fern aigiseom sin ar a ndergi ar aenrian: no air is i in fern adbur in sceith tucad o fernae forsin fid ogaim rogab ainm uaidhi. Airenach Fian -i- sciath fern sin aigisium (Forefront of the warrior-band i. e. shield for the alder ‘with it famous’ [= due to] its reddish color [or reddened by blood] on the same way: or because alder, the material of the shield was given to the letter of the Ogam taking its name from fernae [other form of fern = alder]. Forefront of the warrior-band, i. e. shield due to the alder. ”)


Mac: LETTER: fernn. TREE: fern. KENNING: Comet lachta -i- ferrn in ogaim sin o fern na caill, ar is i coimetas in lacht, ar is di doniter lestair imon lacht. (Guarding of milk, i. e. alder of the Ogam from alder in the forest, for it is it that guards the milk, for the vessels containing the milk are made of it.”)


CC: Dín cridi (MM: Protection of the heart). MEANING of each word: dín = protection defense and action of protecting; cride = heart (emotions), central part, love, worth (courage). Other possible translation:defender of what is your center.



BegAur: Saliath


Fen: LETTER and TREE: sail (meanings: letter ‘S’ or willow). KENNING: Li ambi i- nemli lais -i- ar cosmaillius a datha fri marb (The colour of a lifeless one, i.e., it has no colour, i.e., owing to the resemblance of its hue to a dead person)


Ogm: LETTER and TREE: Sail (willow). DEFINITION: Sail in ogaim -i- sail dono sin isin caill (“Sail of the Ogam, i. e. willow, again, in the forest”)


Mor: LETTER and TREE: willow. KENNING: Li n-aimbi -i- li mairb -i- am fo diultad conach beo acht is marb. Li n-ambi dono -i- sail aigiseom sin, 7 tugad uaidisium forsin fid n-ogaim. (Hue of the lifeless, i. e. hue of a dead person, i. e., am for a denial, so that he is not living but is dead. Hue of the lifeless, again, i. e., le willow with it, and hence it was put for the Ogham letter)


Mac: LETTER and TREE: willow. KENNING: Lut[h] bech -i- sail sin ara blath 7 ar a canach. Tucad uad-side ara fid coibhnesa in ogaim. (Activity of bees, i. e. willow for its bloom and its catkins. Hence it is put for the cognate Ogam letter.”)


CC: Tosach mela (MM: Beginning of honey). MEANING of each word: Tosach = beginning, principle, forward part; mil (genitive mela) = honey. Other possible translation:principle of honey” (that is, sweetness or smoothness or, may be, the bees, the nectar of the flowers?). I insist on mil genitive form since méla means: shame.


[Commentary on the double “bloom and catkins”. Look at the Irish text: Mac ind Oic says ara blath 7 ar a canach in Luis description and ar a blath 7 ar canach in Sail description.]



BegAur: Nebuchadnezzar


Fen: LETTER: nin (meaning: letter ‘N’ or le ash-tree; also: any letter of the Ogam (see the note below), part of a weaver’s beam, wave, cloud?). TREE: uindsind, uinnius, uindis (meaning: ash-tree, spear shaft). KENNING: cosdad sida nin -i- uinnius, ar is di doniter craind gae triasa coscairther in sidh no cosdudh sidha uindis. (A bridle on peace is nin, i. e. ash-tree, for of it are made the spear-shafts by which the peace is broken or or, a bridle on peace is uindis) Nin -i- ginol garmna dognither do uindsind -i- isin aimsir sidha togaibter garmna. (Nin, i. e. the jaw of a weaver’s beam which is made of ash, that is, in time of peace weavers beams are used.) [Comment: Fenius states here that the ash-tree can be useful in war and in peace, depending on how it is used.]


Ogm: LETTER and TREE: nin (ash-tree). HERB: nenaid (nettle). DEFINITION: Nin in ogaim –i- ginol garmna no nenaid isna feadaib. (Nin of the Ogam, i. e. the maw of the weaver’s beam or nettles in the forest.)


Mor: LETTER and TREE: nin (ash-tree). KENNING: Cosdad sida -i- nin sen: ginol garmna fri fid e: airde sida sin. Cosdad sida aigi sin o nin na garmna. (Verification of peace, that is nin: it is the maw of a weaver’s beam as applied to the tree: a sign of peace it is. A verification of peace with is that from the ash-wood of the weaver’s beam.)


Mac: LETTER and TREE: nin (ash-tree). KENNING: Bag ban -i- nin garmna -i- ginol garmna. Uad-side fora fid coibnesa. (Nothing but a threat (or: bloodless fight), i. e., nin of weaver’s beam, i.e., maw of weaver’s beam. Hence for its cognate letter.) (MM: Irish. ‘Bág ban’; Trans. ‘Boast of women’, that is, the same translation as Calder’s. As a prefix, ‘ban-’ indeed means ‘female-’. However, the (normally bloodless) fights of boasting are not unknown in the Celtic world).


CC: Bág maise (MM: Boast of beauty). MEANING of each word: Bág = boast, pledge, threat; and also: fight, warring qualities; maise = ‘of beautiful appearance’. Other possible translations: ‘good looking pledge’ or ‘quite a beautiful threat’, that is, it may have yet another ironical meaning than ‘boast of beauty’. Compare with Mac ind Oic’s “bloodless fight.”


Note on the meaning Nin: the oldest text dealing with Ogam, viz. Auraicept, often names it as ‘beith luis nin of the Ogam’ (beithi luis nin in ogaim) by which many believed (including the French linguist Vendryes who states that in his etymological dictionary of the ancient Irish language) that these three letters are the first three of the Ogam. As opposed, Auraicept shows the Ogam letters always following the same ordering, the one I use here, even if a few are skipped. It is noticeable that this rule has absolutely no exception and, in particular, Nin is always the fifth letter. We will see one only tiny deviation to this rule, not an exception, with letter Getal. What seems to be a contradiction between the way the Ogam is called “beithi luis nin in ogaim” and this rigorous constancy in the letter ordering is understandable because of Nin meaning “any Ogam letter”: beithi luis nin in ogaim is then translated ‘beith luis letters of the Ogam’.

Group H






BegAur: Herod


Fen: LETTER: úath or huath (meaning: letter ‘H’ or white thorn, also: terror, scary, ‘name of a color’, a small number, earth (soil), mold). TREE: úath or scé (white thorn). KENNING: comdal cuan huath -i- sce: no ar is uathmar hi ara deilghibh. (A pack of dogs is huath, i. e. white thorn: or because it is scary owing to its thorns)


Ogm: LETTER: Uath. TREE: crand fir (test tree) or sce (whitethorn). DEFINITION: Uath in ogaim crand fir no sce ar a delgaighe insin (Uath of the Ogam, i. e. test tree or whitethorn, on account of its thorns”).


Mor: Conal cuan -i- uath sin, ar is uath la nech conal chon alladh. Conal cuan do rad re huath in ogaim ar coibnius in anma, ar uath iat ar aenrian. (Pack of wolves, i. e. uath [terror], for a terror to any one is a pack of wolves. Pack of wolves is said of the Ogam [letter] huath owing to the affinity of the name, for they are a terror, in the same way.) Note: You will recognize a ‘copy and paste’ in the strange style directly imported from Calder who tries to render the Irish original. Nevertheless, Calder says ‘thorn’ for uath which means ‘terror’. I kept his style but I restored the exact (that is, DIL’s) wording. This is typical of the kind of changes I did to Calder’s translation.


Mac: Banadh gnuisi -i- uath, ar is ban gnuis in duine in tan doberar uat[h] no uamun uimi. Uad-side for fid in ogaim ar aentaid anma aturu fen -i- uath cechtar de. (Bloodless (or pale) face i. e. fright, for bloodless is the face of whom confronts the fright or the fear of the grave (uamun uimi). Hence for letter of the Ogam owing to identity of name between the same two, i. e. fright is placed for both.)


CC: Ansam aidche (MM: Most difficult at night) MEANING of each word: Ansam = (from ansae) the most difficult, the toughest; however, the superlative form ansam takes also the meaning ‘beloved’. aidche = ‘during the night’. Other possible translation: The toughest during the night”. [Note: A nightmare, during which a mara (= a night witch, not a female horse!) is supposed to choke you by sitting on your breast, was seen as the hardest to stand of the nightly frights. The meaning ‘beloved’ seems to be out of context.]




BegAur: David


Fen: LETTER and TREE: duir, dair, daur (meaning: letter ‘D’ or oak or oak-wood). KENNING: airde dossaib duir (A sign of the trees is oak”)


Ogm: LETTER: Dur. TREE: Dair (oak). DEFINITION: Dur in ogaim dair dono isin caill. (Dur of the Ogam, oak, again in the forest”).


Mor: Ardam dossaibh -i- dur sin a dualus a feda isin caill. (The loftiest of the lush trees, i. e. oak from this tree in the forest.)


Mac: Gres saír -i- daír. Tucad uad-side fora fidh coibnesa in ogaim. (Artistic work done with craftsmanship, i. e. oak. Hence it was put for its cognate Ogam letter.) [Note: Calder translates gres saír by ‘carpenter’s work’ while both words grés and sairse (or soíre) mean the same: craftsmanship including an artistic hint, and grés being possibly a typical female craft.] (MM: Irish. ‘Grés soír’; Trans. ‘Handicraft of an artificer’).



CC: Slechtam soíre (MM: Most carved of craftsmanship). MEANING of each word: slecht = cut, cutting; slechtam = ‘the most cut’, the most ornate; Other possible translation: Beautiful work done with craft.




BegAur: Talamon


Fen: LETTER: tinne (meaning: letter ‘T’ or holly; also: metal rod, mass of melted metal, metal, salted pork, a music instrument). TREE: cuileand (cuilenn = holly). KENNING: trian roith tindi -i- ar is cuileand in tres fidh roith in carbait. (“A third of a wheel is holly, that is, because holly is one of the three timbers of the wheel.”)


Ogm: LETTER: Tinne. TREE: quulend (holly) or trom (elder). DEFINITION: Tinne in ogaim -i- quulend no trom isin caill. (Tinne of the Ogam, i. e., holly or elder in the forest.)


Mor: Trian -i- aill inde sin aniu. (“One third i. e. another thing of this meaning to-day). Note: trian = one third. The plural means also triple feast where ‘triple’ receives a connotation to the sacred. (MM: Irish. ‘Trian roith’; Trans. ‘One of the three parts of a wheel’). Note: Obviously, McManus explains this kenning by chaining Fenius’ view to Morann Mac Main’.


Mac: Smir guailí -i- cuillenn sen. Uad-side fora fidh coibnesa in ogaim -i- tinne secundum alios; ar is ainm tindi do cuillenn, ut alii dicunt. [Notes: smér = blackberry, fire (the last only found in glossaries); smir = ‘marrow’, figuratively: vitality; gúal = coal hence Calder’s fires of coal]. (The life force of coal i. e. holly. Hence for its cognate Ogam letter, i. e. tinne (holly) others say; for tindi is a name for holly, as others say.) Note: Holly is seen as a living bone inside which is a marrow that will provide the best quality charcoal. Note (of self praise): McManus reads ‘smiur gúaile’ and translates by ‘marrow of coal’.


CC: Trian n-airm (MM: One of three parts of a weapon). MEANING of each word: arm = weapon, n-airm = of a weapon. Other possible translation [See the comments to ‘Mor’]: The third of a weapon or The (sacred) triple feast of the weapon.



BegAur: Cae


Fen: LETTER and TREE: coll (meaning: letter ‘C’ or hazel; also: destruction, defender). KENNING: cainfidh -i- coll -i- each ac ithi a chno. (“Fair wood, i. e. hazel, i.e. every one is eating its nuts”)


Ogm: LETTER and TREE: Coll (hazel). DEFINITION: Coll in ogaim -i- coll isin caill. (Coll of the Ogam, i. e., hazel in the forest).


Mor: Cainiu fedaib -i- coll sin ar a chaini a fedaibh. (Fairest of trees, i. e. hazel owing to its beauty in woods.)


Mac: Cara bloisc -i- [coll]. Uad-side fora fidh coibnesa in

ogaim. (“Friend of cracking [the noise], i. e. hazel. Hence for its cognate Ogham letter.) Note: I guess: friend of the noise occurring when nutshells are cracked. (MM: Irish. ‘Carae blóesc’; Trans. ‘Friend of nutshells’).


CC: Milsem fedo (MM: Sweetest tree). MEANING of each word: milis = ‘having a pleasing taste’; fid = tree, copse of trees, letter of the Ogam. Other possible translation: “the tastiest tree.”


quert or queirt

BegAur: Kaliap


Fen: LETTER: queirt, modern spelling is ceirt (meaning: letter ‘Q’ or apple tree or also a rag). TREE: queirt and abhull (apple, apple tree). KENNING: Queirt dano, is o chrand rohainmnighead -i- abhull ut dicitur: clithar boaiscille -i- elit gelt quert -i- aball. (“Queirt again, is named from a tree, i. e. un apple tree as it is said: Shelter of a wild animal, i. e. a grazing hind is in its good place, i. e. un apple tree. [= a hind grazing under an apple tree stays in its proper place]. Note: Calder’s translation says “a wild hind is queirt, i.e. an apple tree.”)


Ogm: LETTER: Quert. TREE: quulend (holly) or cairthend (cáerthann = rowan-tree) or crithach (aspen). DEFINITION: Quert in ogaim quulend isin caill no cairthend no crithach. (Quert of the Ogam is holly in the forest or rowan-tree or aspen.)


Mor: Clithar mbaiscaill -i- buaili -i- boscell -i- gelt -i- basceall is and tic a ciall do in tan degas a bas. Clithar boiscell dono -i- quert sin: no boscell -i- elti -i- edruma iat. Clithar boiscell dono -i- gelti no elti: quert a dualus a feda. (Shelter of a wild hind, i. e. a healing [Calder: “a fold”]: i. e., boscell (here, I think, a somewhat crazy person – not a really ‘lunatic’ one), i. e. bas-ceall, meaning of death, that is intelligence comes to him/her when he/she goes to his/her death. Shelter of a wild animal, again, i. e. apple tree: or boscell, i. e. hinds, i. e., they are edruma [Calder: “light”, I suggest the following hypothesis: “in their proper space”). Clithar boiscell, again, i. e. wild or hinds: quert (apple tree) with reference to its letter.”)

Note: Both Calder’s ‘fold’ et le ‘light’ confused me very much. My own translation, if it is not totally boscell, at least as the positive feature to present quert as linked to healing of a form of a mild disquiet madness (‘wild’) which is cured either when the meaning of death and life are understood or by staying in one’s proper place (two meanings that might not be as different as it seems), that is an apple tree for a hind. (MM: Irish. ‘Clithar baiscill’; Trans. ‘Shelter of a (?) lunatic’).


Mac: Brigh annum [Calder reads: an duine for annum I. e. ‘nn’ is often equivalent to  ‘nd’ and that ‘m’ is often scribbled  in a way it can be confused with ‘in’.]-i- quert. Uad-side fora fidh coibnesa. (Strength of a man, i. e., quert (apple tree). Hence for its cognate letter.) (MM: Irish. ‘’Brig anduini; Trans. ‘Substance of an insignificant person’). Note: McManus’ hypothesis, i. e. annum = anduin is probably right. Anduine, nevertheless, means ‘someone of low status, someone bad’ and brig or brigh expresses strength, indicates a positive feature. A more proper translation then could be: ‘strength of lowly person’ or ‘strength of a wicked person’.


CC: Dígu fethail (MM: Dregs of clothing). MEANING of each word: Dígu = a refuse; fethail = ? I was unable to find a word meaning ‘clothing’ and slightly related to fethail. The word fethal signifie ‘emblem’. Other possible (?) translation: The rejected part of a symbol.

Group M




BegAur: Muiriath


Fen: LETTER: muin. TREE: muin (meaning: letter m, vine or the upper part of the back between the shoulder blades). KENNING: Muin dono -i- finemhain, ut dicitur, airdi masi muiri -i- iarsinni fhasas a n-airde -i- finemhain. (“Muin, again, i. e. the richness of vine, as it is said: Highest of beauty is muin, i. e. because it grows aloft, i. e. the richness of vine.)


Ogm: LETTER: Muin. TREE: muin (vine) or midiu (vine). DEFINITION: Muin -i- midiu. (Muin i. e. vine)


Mor: Tresim fedma -i- muin les-sium -i- ar rentaidh anma fri muin duine no daim, ar is iat is tresi feidm ann. (“Strongest fight, i. e. muin, vine with it, i. e. owing to identity of name with muin, the back of a man or of an ox [muin means also: ‘upper part of the back’], for they are the strongest in existence as regards fight.”)


Mac: Aruusc n-arrligh -i- muin duine. Uad-side fora fidh comainmnig[th]ech. [Calder reads Arusc n-airlig instead of Aruusc n-arrligh] (“Condition of (or words of) slaughter, i. e., a man’s upper back. Hence for its synonymous letter.)


CC: Conar gotha (MM: Path of voice). MEANING of each word: Conar = way, road; goth = javelin, spear; guth = voice. Other possible translation: Way of the spear.



BegAur: Gotli


Fen: LETTER: Gort. TREE: Gort (meaning: field of pasture or of arable land, field of battle, territory; also ivy, letter g). KENNING: Gort dono -i- edeand. Glaisiu geltaibh gort -i- edind. (Gort, i. e. ivy. Greener than pastures is gort, i. e. ivy.”)


Ogm: LETTER: Gort. TREE: gort (arable field or ivy) or gius (fir-tree). DEFINITION: Gort -i- gius (“arable field or ivy, i. e. fir-tree.”)


Mor: Millsiu feraib -i- gort leis-sium sin ar aentaidh [in]

anma frisin gort arba. In tan (quum) bis ina fuachonn, is millsi na gach fer in fer sin -i- in gort arba. Uad-side forsin fid ut i n-ogam ar comaentaidh in anma atura. (“Sweetest of grass, i. e. gort, [ivy] with it owing to the identity of the name with the corn-field. When it is a blade of young corn, sweeter than any grass is that grass, i. e., the cornfield. Hence for that letter in Ogam owing to the complete identity of name between them.”)


Mac: Mednercc, -i- gort. Uad-side fora fidh comainm-nigthech. (Mednercc i. e., ivy. Hence for its synonymous letter.) Note: For once, Calder does not translate ‘mednercc’. DIL cites this kenning without translation. med = scales, scaling weight, nercc = ? McManus solves this mystery by proposing: med -> ined -> inde -> inne = ‘most inner part of a place’, i. e. figuratively: 1. real value, 2. meaning, and concretely: 3. center, 4. heart, 5. wealth; nercc -> erc = 1. skies, 2. spotted , 3. spotted fish (salmon or trout) , 4. spotted cow or cow with red ears, 5. lizard , 6. bee, 7. deception. He proposes the translation: “a proper place for the cows.” Many other translations are possible, for instance, ‘heart of the beehive’ or ‘middle of the skies’ etc.]


CC: Sásad ile (MM: Sating of multitudes). MEANING of each word: Sásad = ‘action of fulfilling a need, food; ile = ‘original matter of the universe’; uile = the whole. Other possible translation: Who fulfils the need of all.

NG or GG


or cath

BegAur: Gomers


Fen: LETTER: Getal. TREE: gilcach, raith (meanings: broom, fern). KENNING: Ngetal dono -i- gilcach no raith ut dicitur: luth lega getal -i- cilcach no raith. (Ngetal, again, i. e. broom or fern, as it is said: the vitality of the physician is getal, that is, broom or fern.”)


Ogm: LETTER: Getal. TREE: getal (broom) or gilcach (broom). DEFINITION: Getal -i- gilcach.


Mor: Luth legha getal sen -i- ar is luth lasna leigib, 7 coibnius etir cath 7 getal. (“The physician’s strength, broom and letter ‘ng’ are a sign of it, it is, one says, the strength going with the physicians, and there is an affinity between cath (fight) and getal (broom)).


(NOTE: We meet here the one deviation from the law of uniqueness of the letter ordering given by all authors. A second definition of Getal has been added between ‘o’ and ‘u’ in Morann Mac Main’s Ogam)


Etiud midach -i- cath. Tucad ua-side for getal. (The physician’s dress, i. e. cath, fight. This is why it has been put for getal, broom”). [McManus, instead of ‘dress’ says ‘raiment’.]


Mac: No definition, which has certainly been added between Morann Mac Main’s ‘o’ and ‘u’ by a scribe who left out this sentence and wanted to fix his mistake where room was available.


CC: Tosach n-échto (MM: Beginning of slaying). MEANING of each word: Tosach = beginning, principle, forefront’; écht = slaughter, mourning, great deed. Other possible translation: Principle of great deeds (if warring deeds, the ‘deeds’ may then be a slaughter.).


straif (str)

BegAur: Stru


Fen: LETTER: Straiph. TREE: straif (meaning: a plant used for dyeing, possibly blackthorn, letter st or sd). KENNING: Straiph dono -i- draighen, ut dicitur: aire srabha sraibh -i- draighin. (’The letter) straiph, again, i. e. blackthorn, as is said: la hedge of a herd is sraibh [blackthorn used as hedge], i. e. draighin [bushes of blackthorn]. Note: the word sráb has several meanings, and this text can point at the hedge of a  brook, multitude, army, herd.


Ogm: LETTER: Straif. TREE: straif (blackthorn) or saildrong (copse of blackthorn). DEFINITION: Straif saildrong isin caill. (“Blackthorn or copse of blackthorns in the forest.”)



Mor: Tresim ruamna -i- straif leis-sium sin i n-ogam. Straif iar raet; ar isin straif is tresiu ruamna ic dathadh na raet, ar is i dogni in airget ngeal conad gorm ic denum airgit decht de. Is i berbthar tresin fual isin or mban co ndene derg de. Tresim ruamna in straif ia[r] raet. Tugad uaid-side isin fid dianad ainm straif ar aentaid anma aturu -i- straif ainm cechtar de. (“The strongest red dye, i. e., i. e. straif (blackthorn) with him in the Ogam. Blackthorn, according to facts; because the strongest red dye is in blackthorn, because it is what the pale silver become azure, making of it refined silver. It is what is boiled in urine with the white gold to make it red. The strongest red dye is blackthorn according to the facts. Hence it was put in the letter named straif, owing to identity of name between them, i. e. straif is the name of each of them.”) Note: The file seems to strangely insist on the “accordance to the facts.” This is explained by the fact that the grammar part of the Auraicept, insists on the difference between the language of the natural et la language of the artificial. Straiph thus belongs to both genres: as a letter it belongs to language of the artificial and, as blackthorn, to the language of the natural.


Mac: Moridrun -i- straif. Tucad uad-side fora fidh comainm-nightech. (Morad run (increasing of secrets), i. e. blackthorn. Hence it was put for its synonymous letter.”)


CC: Saigid nél (MM: Seeking of clouds). MEANING of each word: Saigid = 1. ‘it looks for’, ‘it reaches’, ‘this applies to’, ‘he sues’, ‘he demands; 2. going forwards, attacking, looking for; nél = 1. clouds; 2. swoon. Other possible translations: Looking for the clouds, reaching a swoon, etc.”

R ruis


BegAur: Ruben


Fen: LETTER: ruis. TREE: trom (meaning: elder, elder’s fruit, liver, heaviness, mass, sternness, trouble, censorship). KENNING: Ruis dono -i- trom, ut dicitur, ruamna ruice ruis -i- trom. (“Ruis, again, i. e. elder, as is said: The hue of shame ruis, i. e. elder (or any other meaning of trom.)”)


Ogm: Missing letter.


Mor: Tinnem ruccae ruis sin -i- on ruidiudh no on ruis iar ret, ar is tre ruis scribthair, 7 is ruidhiud fasas a n-aigid in duine tri sug in lossa do cuimilt faethi. Tindi rucae dono do rad frisin ruis o rus no on ruided, ar is tri ruis scribtair-side fen.(“Mass of blushes, i. e. le elder (or elder berry) i. e., from reddening of shame according to the fact, for it is written by ruis and it is a reddening taking place on the a man’s face when the juice of this herb is rubbed on it. Mass of blushes, again, is said of ruis, elder, from shame or from reddening, for it is by ruis that it is itself written. Note: The berry of the mountain elder is red, not black. The juice of the common black elder-berry is red also.


Mac: Ruamna dreach [drech = face, attitude]-i- sug in rois doní ruamna na ndrech co mbi ruidead intib. Ruamna drech dano do rad fri ruis in ogaim on ruidead no on rus, ar is tri ruis scribthar side fen. (“Redness of faces, i. e., sug in rois [Calder: sap of the rose; possibly also: ‘strength of good health’], which causes the redness of the faces, so that blushing is in them. Redness of faces, again, is said of ruis of the Ogam, from the blush or from the reddening, for it is by elder that it is written.)


CC: Bruth fergae (MM: Glow of anger). MEANING of each word: bruth = glow, fierce, the fiercest; fergae = anger, hero. Other possible translations: Fiercest of anger’ or ‘Hero’s glow’ [The Celtic hero, when entering his war trance, is often said to show a glow out of his forehead].

Group A





BegAur: Achab


Fen: LETTER: ailm. TREE: giús, ochtach (meaning: letter a, pine-tree, fir-tree). KENNING: Ailm dono -i- crand giuis -i- ochtach. (Ailm [letter ‘a’ and pine-tree], again, i. e. giuis [giús = pine-tree, fir-tree], i. e., ochtach [=pine-tree or fir-tree]. “)


Ogm: Missing letter.


Mor: Ardam iactadh -i- mactad [read machtad]-i- ailm aigisium sin; ar is ailm (no a) adber in duine ac iachtad i ngalar, no ic machtad -i- ag ingantugud secip raeta. (Ardam iachtadh, loudest of groaning, i. e. astonishment, i. e., ailm (pine-tree) with it; for it is ailm (or a) that a man says while groaning in disease, or in amazement, i. e. while being amazed at whatever circumstance.”)


Mac: Tosach fregra -i- ailm sin; ar is i cetlabra gach duine iarna genemain a. (Beginning of an answer, i. e. pine-tree; for the first expression of every human being after his birth is a.”)


CC: Tosach garmae (MM: Beginning of calling). MEANING of each word: Tosach = beginning, principle, battle front; gáir = shout; gair = ‘missing’ (amount, space), word, command. Other possible translation: Beginning or principle of a shout.



BegAur: Oise


Fen: LETTER: onn. TREE: aitten (meaning: furze, gorse). KENNING: Onn -i- aiten (Onn, i. e. gorse.”)


Ogm: LETTER: Onn (pine-tree, pine cone, or again ‘furze-bush’). TREE: Onn, aiten (gorse) or uinius (ash-tree, ash-tree shaft of a spear). DEFINITION: Onn -i- aiten no uinius. Note: Under the apparent confusion of the attributions, we see that onn is any cutting or stinging tree: pine-tree by its needles, ash-tree by its human use, gorse by its thorns.


Mor: Congnamaigh echraide -i- onnaid in carpait -i- na roith -i- onn leis-sium sin, ar is tri onn scribthar onnaid in carbait. Aliter comguinidech -i- aiten. Tucad uad-side forsin fid ut dianad ainm onn ar aetaid ataru ar is ainm onn do cechtar de; 7 is on aitenn tucad int ainm is onn frisin fidh n-ogaim secundum alios. (Who pierces (wounds) the horses pulling chariots, i. e. the movement of the chariot, i. e. what makes it move, i. e. onn with it, for this is by onn [letter O] that getting a chariot going is written. Otherwise stated, com-guinidech, who strongly wounds, i. e. gorse. Hence it was put for that letter which is named onn, owing to identity between them, for onn is a name for each of them; and it is from furze-bush that the name onn was put for the Ogam letter as others say.) Note: Calder sees congnam in congnamaigh, i. e. helper, instead of congnaid (‘wounder’) as McManus does.


Mac: Fethim saire no fedem -i- onn -i- o. (The easiest craft or fedem (contemplation) i. e. onn i. e. o.) Note: The meaning of fedem is unknown; Calder suggests ‘stone’, DIL suggests a vox nihili. I suggest understanding fethem as: ‘the act of watching’ which is a pun with fethim that begins the sentence and which is not a really a specialised craft.


CC: Lúth fían (MM: Sustaining (equipment) of hunting/warrior bands). MEANING of each word: Lúth = movement; ability to move; merriment; fían = gang of warriors, hunters or mercenaries. Other possible translation: Progress of warrior troops. Note: My translation perfectly fits Morann Mac Main’s comments (and follows a meaning given by DIL).


ur or uir

BegAur: Urith


Fen: LETTER: ur. TREE: fraech (meaning: heath, anything rough, letter u; also: fury). KENNING: Ur i- fraech. (Ur i. e. heath.)


Ogm: LETTER: úr (= 1. fresh, new, ‘green’; 2. (of places) beautiful; 3. (of wounds) recent; 4. heath and letter ‘u’), úir (= earth (soil)) TREE: draighen (draigen = blackthorn). DEFINITION Ur -i- draighen. (Ur i. e. blackthorn.”)


Mor:    Uaraib [úar = 1. cold, 2. (of places) friendless; 3. non profitable. It has also the figurative meaning of ‘cold’.] adbaib -i- ur aigisium sin ar is do uir in talman is ainm uaraib adbaib. Tucad uada-side forsin fidh dianad ainm ur in ogaim, ar aentaid anma aturu -i- ur cechtar de, 7 tre ur scribthair. (Inside unpleasantly cold dwellings, i. e. ur, with it, for from uir the mold of earth takes the name of unpleasantly cold dwelling. Hence it was put for the letter named ur, in the Ogam, owing to identity of name between them, to wit, each of them is ur, and it is written by ur. )


Mac: Siladh clann, ur les-[s]ium sin, ar is i uir in talman dogni silad na clann cuirtir inti. Silad clann dono do rad o uir in talman do radh frisin fid n-ogaim rogab comainm fria -i- ur cechtar de. (The burgeoning of the plants, i. e. ur with it, for it is uir, le ‘soil of earth’ that causes the growing of the plants that are put into it. Multiplication of the plants, again, said of the soil of the earth, is (also) said of the Ogham letter which has taken the same name with it, to wit, each of them is ur.)


CC: Forbbaid ambi (MM: Shroud of a lifeless one). MEANING of each word: Forbbaid = ‘what is covering something else’; ambi = genitive of ambéo = corpse, lifeless. Other possible translation: “What covers a corpse. Note: McManus’ translation does not emphasize the simple interpretation: soil (úir) covers the corpses.


Note (a somewhat prejudiced one): The Xian message Grow and multiply addresses the humans, here it addresses trees and herbs. This seems to me perfectly proper to the druidic path of thought.



BegAur: Essu


Fen: LETTER: edhadh. TREE: uath (meaning: horror, a horrible thing, whitethorn, a color, a few, clay). KENNING: Edhadh -i- ed uath -i- crand fir no crithach. (Edhadh, i. e. ed uath, horrible trouble (or horrible fright), i. e. true tree or aspen)


Ogm: LETTER: Edad. TREE: edad (possibly aspen) or eu (éo = yew). DEFINITION: Edad -i- eu.


Mor: Ergnaid fid -i- edad aigisium sin, ar is don crunn crit[h]aig is ainm ergnaid fid. Tucad uada-side forsin fidh ogaim dianad ainm edhadh, ar is uad tucad edad fair. (The discerning (or clever, knowing) tree i. e. aspen with it, for the discerning tree is a name for the tree which is aspen. Hence it was put for the Ogam letter named edhadh, aspen.)


Mac: Comainm carat -i- edadh isin caill. Uad-side fora fidh comainmnigthech i n-ogam. (The same word as friend, i. e., aspen in the forest. Hence for its synonymous Ogam letter.)


CC: Bráthair bethi ( ?) (MM: Brother of birch ( ?)). MEANING of each word: Bráthair = brother, sibling; Other possible translation: Of the same family as birch. Note: Aspen is a poplar, not a birch. However, their leaves have the same general shape with small indentations, which are sharp for the birch and rounded for the aspen.


ida or idad

BegAur: Iachim


Fen: LETTER: idho. TREE: ibhar (meaning: yew, yew-wood). KENNING: Idho -i- ibhar. (Idho i. e. yew)


Ogm: LETTER: Ida. TREE: ida (names of a tree, possibly yew) or ibhar (ibrach = rich in yew, or made of yew.) DEFINITION: Ida -i- ibhar.


Mor: Siniu fedhaib -i- idad aigiseom sin; ar is do ibar as ainm siniu fedaib. Tucad uad-side forsin fid ut i n-ogam dianad ainm idad, ar is uad tucad int ainm is idad fair; ar is do ibar is ainm idad. (Siniu fedaib, oldest of woods, i. e., i. e. idad (a tree, certainly yew) with it; for siniu fedaib is the name of this tree. Hence it was given to this letter of the Ogam named idad and for hence it was idad; for ibar (yew) is a name for idad.)


Mac: Crinem feada no claidem -i- ibar. Uad-side forin fidh n-ogaim, rogab ainm aile uadh -i- idadh. (Crinem feda, most withered of the trees or a sword, i. e. yew. Hence for the Ogham letter, which has taken a name other than it, i. e. yew.) (MM: Irish. Caínem sen’; Trans. ‘Fairest of the ancients’ [Irish sen means “these who last long”])


CC: Lúth lobair ( ?) (MM: Energy of an infirm person ( ?)). MEANING of each word: Lúth = movement; ability to move; merriment. McManus marks ‘ ?’ the word lobair which is seldom met. The DIL dictionary does not speak of anything like disability but suggests treason. Other possible translation: Energy of treason. Due to the context, I guess that McManus lobair ( ?) refers to the old age of the yew.

Group of the diphthongs




BegAur: Ethrocius


Fen: KENNING: Ebhadh -i- crithach. (Ebhadh, i. e. aspen.”)


Ogm: LETTER: Ebad. TREE: ebad (1. aspen; 2. a flower: elecampagne) or elend (name of a tree, possibly aspen). DEFINITION: Ebad -i- elend.


Mor: Snamchain fheda -i- ebad les-ium sin, ar snamchaim fid -i- don bran mor is ainm sen. Tucad uad-side forsin fid dianid ainm ebad in ogaim, ar is ainm do bratan é 7 is tri ebad scribt[h]ar side amal aipgitir in betha -i- tre seg (-i- os), eo (-i-) tre eonasc (-i- lon). (The most buoyant wood, i. e. aspen, for the wood floats well i. e. a name for the great raven. Hence it was put for the Ogam letter named ebad, for é is un name for the salmon and it is written ebad in the alphabet of the fauna i. e. by the stag [seg] (i. e. stag [oss]), eo (i. e.) by the blackbird (or ousel - eonasc) (i. e. blackbird (lon) ).) Note: Obviously, the great raven “floats well” in the wind.


Mac: Cosc lobair -i- elenn for in fid in ogaim, rogab ainm uad -i- ebad. (Scolding (or punishment) of weakness, i. e. ‘a tree possibly aspen’ for the Ogam letter, which has taken a name other than it, i. e. aspen.) Note: For once, I completely disagree with Calder’s translation which is: “corrective of a sick man, to wit, woodbine for the Ogham letter, which has taken a name other than it, to wit, ebad, aspen, ea.” In particular elenn does not mean ‘woodbine’ but “probably aspen.”


CC: Caínem éco (MM: Fairest fish). MEANING of each word: Caínem = superlative of caín = beautiful; éco = ? I do not understand why McManus obviously reads: íasc = fish. My guess is that he refers to the proto-celtic root of the word íasc: *eisko. I prefer a simpler solution. The word ecor = arrangement, decoration. Other possible translation: Fairest of surroundings.



BegAur: Uimelicus


Fen: LETTER: oir. TREE: feorus (meaning: spindle-tree) or edind (meaning: ivy). KENNING: Oir -i- feorus no edind (Oir, i. e. spindle-tree or ivy. [eidenn = ivy])


Ogm: LETTER: Oir. TREE: Oir (spindle-tree or possibly: ivy.) or feorus (spindle-tree). DEFINITION: Oir -i- feorus.


Mor: Sruitem aicdi -i- or iar ret. Tucad uad-side forsin fid ar aentaid in anma fil aturu -i- or ainm cechtar de. (The most venerable of materials, i. e. or, spindle-tree, according to fact. Hence it was put for the letter owing to the identity of the name that is between them, i. e. or is the name of each of them.)


Mac: Lí crotha -i- or. Uad-side fora fid comainmnigthech or in ogaim. (Beauty of form, i. e. heath. Hence for the letter that has taken its name from it ‘or’.”)


CC: Missing letter.



BegAur: Iudonius


Fen: Uilleand -i- edleand. (Uilleand, i. e. honeysuckle.”)


Ogm: LETTER: Uilleann. TREE: uilleann (uillenn = honeysuckle) or edlend (honeysuckle or any climbing plant). DEFINITION: Uilleann -i- edlend.


Mor: Tutmur fid uilleann -i- uilleann leis-[s]ium sin, ar is do edlenn is ainm. Tucadh uad-sidhe forsin ogam dianad ainm uilleann, ar is uadh tucad uilleann fair, ar is do edlinn is ainm. (The fragrant tree is honeysuckle (uilleann) i. e. honeysuckle (edlenn) with it, for it is a name for honeysuckle (uilleann), hence it was put for the Ogam letter named honeysuckle (uilleann), for hence the name uilleann (honeysuckle) was given to it, for it is a name for edlinn (honeysuckle).)


Mac: Cubat n-oll -i- uilleann -i- edlenn. Uad-side forsin fid

in ogaim rogab uaide -i- uilleann. (Equally large, i. e. honeysuckle (uilleann), i. e. honeysuckle (edlenn). Hence for the Ogam letter which it has taken from it, i. e. honeysuckle (uilleann).)


CC: Missing letter.


pine-tree or ifin or iphin

BegAur: Affrim


Fen: LETTER: iphin. TREE: spinan (meaning: gooseberry) or ispin (meaning: thorn). KENNING: Iphin -i- spinan no ispin 7rl (Iphin, i. e. gooseberry or thorn, etc.)



Ogm: LETTER: Pin (1. Name of a tree with edible berries; 2. pine-tree) TREE: pine-tree, caera pinne (‘pine-tree with berries’), ifin (gooseberry) DEFINITION: Pin in ogaim, pin dano isin caill De atbertar caera pinne; ifin dano secundum alios ainm in feda sin. (“Pin in the Ogam, pine-tree in the forest. Hence the name of pine-tree with berries, gooseberry, again, others say, is the name of this letter. ”)


Mor: Millsim feda -i- pin sin aigisium, ar is don chrunn dianid ainm pin is ainm millsium feda. De atbertar caera pinne. Tucad uad-side forsin fid dianad ainm pin, ar is uadh tucad pin no ifin air. (The most pleasant tree, i. e. gooseberry with it, for a name for the tree named pin is milsem feda. Gooseberries are hence named. Hence it was put for the letter named pin, for hence pin or ifin was put for it.)


Mac: Amram blais -i- pin no ifin. Uad-side forsin fidh rogab ainm uaid -i- pin no iphin. (Most wonderful of taste, i. e. pin or ifin (gooseberry). Hence for the letter that has taken its name from it, i. e. pin or iphin.)


CC: Missing letter.

AE or CS


BegAur: Ordines


Fen: Missing letter.


Ogm: DEFINITION: Emancoll dono -i- coll emnaide iar ret no iar fuath -i- coll dar coll ina fuath. (The twin hazel [may also mean: “triple hazel” and, here, ‘twin c’ as well] again, i. e. c doubled according to fact and form, i. e., c crossing c in its shape [In his introduction, Calder explains that this means: ].) Note: emancoll = emoncholl. emon = twin. Coll means ‘hazel’, but following its contextual meaning, the three ‘coll’ of this definition point to the letter, not to the tree.


Mor: Luad saethaig -i- ach no uch, emancoll leis-[s]ium sin, ar gabair emuncoll ar ach gia gabar ar araill. (Expression for who suffers (or is depressed), i. e. ach, ah! uch, alas! i. e. emancoll with it, for emancoll is taken for ach, though it may be taken for something else.)


Mac: Missing letter.


CC: Missing letter.