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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 who are 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.

It is often referred as a part of Celtic identity as Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man are all considered Celtic Nations, and the Gaelic languages are considered a sub-group of the Celtic languages, which many such as Welsh for example have also undergone Celticization.

Early history[edit]

Examples of Gaelicisation in history include the Picts, Hiberno-Normans,[1] Scoto-Normans[2] and Norse-Gaels.[2]

Modern era[edit]

Today, Gaelicisation, or more often re-Gaelicisation, of placenames, surnames and given names is often a deliberate effort to help promote the growth of the modern languages and try to counteract centuries of Anglicisation.

Isle of Man[edit]

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 even being mislabelled extinct by a UN report as recently as 2009.[5] The decline of the language was primarily as a result of stigmatisation and high levels of emigration to England.[4]

There now primary schools teaching in only Manx Gaelic, after efforts mainly modelled on the Irish.[6] The efforts have been widely praised,[7] with further developments such as using technology to teach the language being put into place.[8]


Main article: Irish language

In the Republic of Ireland, around the turn of the 21st century, estimates of native speakers of the Irish language ranged from 20,000 to 80,000 people.[9][10][11] In the 2006 census for the Republic, 85,000 people reported using Irish as a daily language outside of the education system, and 1.2 million reported using it at least occasionally in or out of school.[12] In the 2011 Census, these numbers had increased to 94,000 and 1.3 million, respectively.[13] There are several thousand Irish speakers in Northern Ireland. It has been estimated that the active Irish-language scene probably comprises 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. This community, described as disparate but large, well-educated and mostly middle-class, enjoys a lively cultural life, and has been linked to the growth of non-mainstream schools which teach through the medium of Irish.[15]

In Irish-speaking areas (known as Gaeltacht), Irish remains the vernacular language.

In Northern Ireland the Gaelicisation process is significantly slower and less-supported than elsewhere on the island.


In Scotland, Scottish Gaelic and traditional Gaelic customs such those manifested at the Highland Games, with traditional sports such as the caber toss, are mainly restricted to the Highlands and islands. In the 21st Century, Scottish Gaelic literature has seen development and challenges within the area of prose fiction publication,[16] and phrases such as Alba gu bràth may be used today as a catch-phrase or rallying cry.

Areas which are Gaelicised are referred to as Gàidhealtachd.

See also[edit]


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


  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) (seminar), The University of Notre Dame 
  16. ^ Storey, John (2011) "Contemporary Gaelic fiction: development, challenge and opportunity" Lainnir a’ Bhùirn' - The Gleaming Water: Essays on Modern Gaelic Literature, edited by Emma Dymock & Wilson McLeod, Dunedin Academic Press.

External links[edit]