Printable Version
Pronunciation: kay-lee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: (Scotland and Ireland) A social gathering, especially one at which hosts and guests participate in traditional music, dancing, or storytelling—or a professional ceilidh band might be hired for the event.

Notes: Today's word is clearly a Celtic one adapted for use in Ireland, Scotland, and northern England. If you thought the English spelling system is tough, you apparently haven't encountered a Gaelic language. It has no relatives in English, so all we have to worry about is the pronunciation: it sounds like Kay Lee with the accent on the first syllable.

In Play: A ceilidh today is usually a party organized around folk music or folklore: "We're having a wee ceilidh at the house this weekend; would you mind telling your brother that he's invited?" However, it still may be a gathering, usually around a fire, at which the participants exchange stories: "Everyone at this quiet country ceilidh had a good story to tell about someone who wasn't there."

Word History: Irish Gaelic céilidhe is from Old Irish clide "visit" from cile or cle "companion". The English spelling follows the Scottish. The stem here developed from Proto-Indo-European kei- "beloved, dear" and also "bed, couch". The suffixed Proto-Indo-European form, kei-wi, lies at the bottom of city, civic, and civil. All these words are the lexical progeny of Latin civis "citizen", probably originally referring to a member of a household. In Sanskrit, this stem became the name Shiva, one of the three figures in the Supreme Trinity of Hinduism, from Sanskrit s'iva- "auspicious, dear".

Dr. Goodword,

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