W. B. Yeats described the gancanagh in 1888, as follows:
[Nicholas] O'Kearney, a Louthman, deeply versed in Irish lore, writes of the gean-cánach (love-talker) that he is "another diminutive being of the same tribe as the Lepracaun, but, unlike him, he personated love and idleness, and always appeared with a dudeen in his jaw in lonesome valleys, and it was his custom to make love to shepherdesses and milkmaids. It was considered very unlucky to meet him, and whoever was known to have ruined his fortune by devotion to the fair sex was said to have met a gean-cánach. The dudeen, or ancient Irish tobacco pipe, found in our raths, etc., is still popularly called a gean-cánach's pipe." The word is not to be found in dictionaries, nor does this spirit appear to be well known, if known at all, in Connacht. The word is pronounced gánconâgh.