Thursday, March 8, 2012



With Saint Patrick’s Day fast approaching, why not take a look at the etymology of leprechaun?

The word leprechaun involves the blending of Gaelic and Latin. The earliest written English record of the term occurred in 1604, spelled lubrican. This spelling - and a boatload of early alternate spellings - start with lu-. the Gaelic combining form for small. In Old Irish leprechaun was spelled luchorpan, which allows us to see a hint of the Latin part of this word, meaning body. This same combining form is used in the words corpuscle, corporation, Corpus Christi, and corporeal. So leprechaun translates simply to little body.

Irish folklore (poo-pooed by, yet titillating to etymologists), tells us that because leprechauns are sprites known for making or repairing a single shoe, the name comes from leithbragan, which marries leith, meaning half. Brag means brogue.

While one source bestows leprechauns with a little lisping, attenuated falsetto voice, another Irish tale defines the leprechaun as a pygmy sprite who always carries a purse containing a schilling.

Despite all this information, if you find yourself at a bar on Saint Patrick’s Day, and someone sits at the next stool, & begins repairing a single shoe, speaking in a lisping falsetto, &/or carrying a purse, it’s wisest to keep your assumptions to yourself. And isn’t that always true.

Good followers, what do you have to say about leprechauns, or about the wisdom of keeping one’s assumptions to oneself?

My thanks go out to this week’s sources,,, & the OED.


  1. OK, when someone "sits at the next stool, & begins repairing a single shoe, speaking in a lisping falsetto, &/or carrying a purse" I will not ask him where his pot of gold is. I promise. Hilarious and informative as usual, Mr. Perryess!

  2. You satisfied my wonderings about a small part of my heritage.

    Thank you, Charlie!

  3. I love to assume things from a small body of evidence (pun intended)...then question my own assumptions, and use that to concoct a story. It's probably why I walk into walls.
    Good post, Chaz

  4. I might just walk in to a bar on St. Patrick's day carrying a purse, sit down and repair a shoe while speaking with a lisp and see if anyone asks where I've hidden my gold. Thanks for the fun info!

  5. Hi Christine, Anne, Jean Ann & SK,
    Thanks for popping by. Christine, let me know where you're planning your bar trip & I may even leave the gravitational pull of the house to view the shenanigans.