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Title: Dinsenchas  
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Subject: Acallam na Senórach
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Dindsenchas or Dindshenchas (modern spellings: Dinnseanchas or Dinnsheanchas), meaning "lore of places"[1] (the modern Irish word dinnseanchas means "topography")[2] is a class of onomastic text in early Irish literature, recounting the origins of place-names and traditions concerning events and characters associated with the places in question. Since many of the legends related concern the acts of mythic and legendary figures, the dindsenchas is an important source for the study of Irish mythology.

The literary corpus of the dindsenchas comprises about 176 poems plus a number of prose commentaries and independent prose tales (the so-called "prose dindsenchas" is often distinguished from the "verse", "poetic" or "metrical dindsenchas"). As a compilation the dindsenchas has survived in two different recensions. The first recension is found in the Book of Leinster, a manuscript of the 12th century, with partial survivals in a number of other manuscript sources. The text shows signs of having been compiled from a number of provincial sources and the earliest poems date from at least the 11th century. The second recension survives more or less intact in thirteen different manuscripts, mostly dating from the 14th and 15th centuries. This recension contains a number of poems composed after the Book of Leinster text. Dindsenchas stories are also incorporated into saga texts such as Táin Bó Cúailnge and Acallam na Senórach.

Although they are known today from these written sources, the dindsenchas are clearly a product of the For example many placenames appear which had fallen out of use by the 5th century A.D., when Irish written records began to appear in quantity.

Knowledge of the real or putative history of local places formed an important part of the education of the elite in ancient Ireland.[4] This formed part of the training of the military, for whom a knowledge of the landscape was essential. It was also essential knowledge for the bardic caste, who were expected to recite poems answering questions on place name origins as part of their professional duties. Consequently, the dindshenchas may well have grown by accretion from local texts compiled in schools as a way of teaching about places in their area.

Edward J. Gwynn compiled and translated dindsenchas poems from the Book of the Dun Cow, the Book of Leinster, the Rennes Manuscript, the Book of Ballymote, the Great Book of Lecan and the Yellow Book of Lecan in The Metrical Dindshenchas, published in four volumes between 1903 and 1906, with a general introduction and indices published as a fifth volume in 1935.

External links

  • The Metrical Dindshenchas, edited and translated by Edward J. Gwynn, at CELT
    • Volume 1: translation
    • Volume 2: translation
    • Volume 3: translation
    • Volume 4: translation
  • The Prose Tales from the Rennes Dindshenchas, edited and translated by Thesaurus Linguae Hibernicae
    • Part 1: translation
    • Part 2: translation
    • Part 3: translation
    • Part 4: text
  • The Bodleian Dinnshenchas: [1]
  • The Edinburgh Dinnshenchas: [2]
  • Selected poems at


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