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PostPosted: Sun 04 Feb 2018 12:07 pm 

Joined: Wed 16 Aug 2017 6:04 am
Posts: 28
In 'A dictionary of British Place Names' by David Mills I find 'Beannchar' translated as 'Place of peaks'. I understand that 'beann' is related to 'binn', but an explanation of the char-part is hard to find for me.


Thanks in advance.

PostPosted: Sun 04 Feb 2018 9:10 pm 

Joined: Mon 01 Sep 2014 10:03 pm
Posts: 436
Location: SAM
Logainm gives this in their notes on the name;

"Pinkman: Beannchar = Pointed hills or rocks. “The word, Beannchar, which frequently occurs in topographical names throughout Ireland signifies ‘horns,’ peaks,’ or pointed hills or rocks.” O’Donovan, Four Masters, AD 600. It is derived from beann, a peak, a point, a top; and the suffix ‘char,’ which sometimes has a cumulative meaning. "

PostPosted: Mon 05 Feb 2018 4:15 pm 

Joined: Wed 16 Aug 2017 6:04 am
Posts: 28
Thank you very much. What puzzles me is that I can’t find any other source that describes this suffix ‘-char’. Do I understand that it therefore must be a suffix which is outdated anno 2018? Or does any of the native speakers in this forum recognizes it from his own contemporary usage of the Irish Gaelic language?

PostPosted: Tue 06 Feb 2018 11:50 am 

Joined: Sat 25 Feb 2012 8:40 pm
Posts: 47
I'm not a native speaker, but here is a simplified list of all the words I could find in Ó Dónaill that end in "char":

achar - distance
bochar - corkwing wrasse
bogachar - softness, bogginess
bunachar - base, foundation, database
buachar - cow-dung
ceolchar - melodious; fond of music
clochar - 1. stony place; stony ridge. 2. Stone building. 3. Convent
cróchar - bier; stretcher
dallachar - dazzle
dochar - harm; hurt, injury; loss, distress
feolchar - voracious
filleachar - vernation
fliuchar [VARIANT OF FLIUCHAS] - wetness, moisture; rainfall
gannchar - scarcity, shortage
glanachar - cleanliness
lagachar - weakness, faintness
lochar - rent, tear; spoliation
mallachar - slowness, dullness, dimness
mionachar - 1. Broken bits, scraps. 2. Small, diminutive, creatures; insignificant beings
munachar - (Of hay, straw) bottle
nuachar - spouse
orchar [VARIANT OF ORCHRA] - wasting, withering, perishing (of tissue, bone); sphacelus, necrosis
salachar - dirt
sceanachar [VARIANT OF SCEANAIRT] - Cuttings, peelings, pairings, cut-up refuse.
scioburchar - Mil: Snapshot.
sochar - benefit
sonuachar - spouse
tachar - (Act of) putting, placing.
tionchar - influence
tóchar - 1. Causeway. 2. Culvert.
tromachar - Jur: tromachar (na fianaise) = weight (of evidence)
urchar - cast, shot

In my opinion, there are probably multiple ways in which the words above ended up with "char" at the end of them. It's probably not as simple and clean-cut as a suffix "char" being added in all cases. It's a real pity that no complete etymological resource exists for Irish, because that would really help here. MacBain for Scots Gaelic might reveal something though:

It's hard (for me at least) to see the connections between these words. However, I did notice that a good few of them were archaic/literary/legal/variant in nature, adding weight to your suggestion that it might be outdated in 2018.

I also noticed that adding "char" to the ends of some adjectives seems to be a way to form a noun from that adjective:

"bogachar, gannchar, fliuchar, glanachar, lagachar, mallachar, salachar"

PostPosted: Tue 06 Feb 2018 7:56 pm 
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Joined: Sun 04 Sep 2011 11:02 pm
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This is really a fascinating question, and I think you're on the right track as to some of those words, a Bhriain.

I agree that the words on your list undoubtedly ended up with their -char endings in various ways, but I think a number of them got the ending in the same way that beannchar did. I am also not a native speaker, but even from the first post I had a sort of gut reaction that the ending carries a meaning which creates a collective substantive for the item describeed in the main body of the word. So, in the case of beannchar, it would be "collection/grouping of peaks".

It also occurred to me that there are a number of nouns which take -[e]acha when forming their plural, and I think the -char suffix may in some (perhaps now archaic) way be related, especially when you think about the fact that a word like beannchar would be pronounced with a syncopated vowel before the -char ending, making the ending actually closer to -achar.

I use McBain's a lot (I have my own copy), so I did try to find something in there to shed light on this, but didn't find anything. Explanation of suffixes is often hard to find in dictionaries, since dictionaries are so oriented to the beginning of words.

I'm not a native (or entirely fluent) speaker, so be sure to wait for confirmations/corrections, especially for tattoos.

PostPosted: Tue 06 Feb 2018 8:20 pm 

Joined: Sat 03 May 2014 4:01 pm
Posts: 1014
A usual collective ending is -ra (mucra, daonra)
Combined with an unspecific (?) deriving element -ach (compare the cognate Latin suffix -icus) we get -achra which could have changed to -achar by metathesis.

PostPosted: Wed 07 Feb 2018 2:36 pm 

Joined: Fri 12 Jun 2015 10:18 pm
Posts: 46
I've not much more to contribute, save shedding light on the etymology of some of these -char endings:

Car < PC *karo- < IE *keh₂- “to desire, wish”
(cf. cara < carae “friend”; verb car < caraid “to love”)
ceolchar < ceólchar (o/ā-adj) < ceol + car “loving, fond of”
feolchar < feólchar (o/ā-adj) “voracious, sanguinary” < feóil + -car
Also in personal names, today mostly confined to surnames: Céileachar (companion-dear, spouse-loving), ?Dallachar (?dall “blind”), Duineachar (> Danachar) (man-loving), Dúchar/Dubhchar (black-dear), Faolchar (wolf-dear), Fearchar (man-dear; Sráid Fhearchair – Hardcourt St in Dublin), Manachar (< *mana[ch]-char; monk-dear), *Seanachar (?Seanchar; old-dear), Tuathchar “people-dear” and supposedly Oscar (os “deer”).

Cor < PC *koro- < IE *(s)kor-os < *(s)ker- “to cut off, to turn”
(as in cur “putting” today)
buachar < bóchar “cowdung” < bó + cor
dochar < dochar, dochur < dochor (o-m) “disatvantage” < do- + cor
scioburchar < calque sciob “snap” + urchar “shot” (see below)
sochar < so- + cor “a good/valid contract > profit, advantage”
tachar - < tochur, tachar vn of tachraid “to put, place” < do-cuirethar < *to-cuir- < *to-koryetor
tionchar < sGA tinchor, tincor (o-m) “act of contributing” < *to-ind-cor
urchar < urchor, orchar < airchor “act of puttung forward; cast, shot” (vn ar-cuirethar < φare-koryetor) < *φare-koro-

Cases where -ch- is part of the root:
achar < ochair (f, orig. r-stem) “edge” < *okris < IE *h₂óḱris < *h₂eḱ- “sharp”
clochar < clochar < clocher “stony place” < *klok-ero (ro-suffix with connective -e-)
tóchar < sGA tóchar (o-m ?< neut) also tóchur < PC [if tóchar is original] *tok-ōr, [if tóchur original] *tok-r̥ (de Bernardo Stempel)

lochar < lochar, backformation from lochraid “despoils, injures” < loan from lat. lacerare

?fliuchar < flichra “wetness” < fliuch
orchar < orchra, urchra < airchra < airchrae (io-n > f) “act of perishing > decay, decline”, vn of ara-chrin “to perish” originally a euphemism or slang expression meaning ‘shake it’ < PC *ɸarekrini- + infixed pronoun a- (“it”) < *ɸare- “in front” + *krini- “shake, sift” < IE *kr̥-né-y- ~ *kr̥-n-i- (nasal-infix present) < *krey- “to sift, separate, divide”

?Formations from word ending in -ch:
mionachar <? mionach + -ar < mindech “poor, wretched” < lat. mendicus; and/or maybe mion “small” + -ach + -ar
sceanachar <? sceanach + -ar < scenach (o-n) “piece, slice” < scían.

Abstract formations in –(a)char:
(possibly the same as above)
bogachar < bog
dallachar < dall
gannchar < gann
glanachar < glan
lagachar < lag
mallachar < mall
tromachar < trom

bochar <?
bunachar <? bun + -ach + -ar or bun- + achar
cróchar < sGA. cróchar (m) “bier, litter”
filleachar <? filleadh “return” < fill
munachar <?
nuachar < sGA. núachar (later nóchar) “mate, spouse, companion” (o-m). Possibly related to nuachor “newcomer (?)”.
salachar < attested sGA salchar “dirth, impurity, filth” < sal (ā-f); whether salach + -ar or sal + -char is unclear to me
sonuachar < so- + núachar (above)

PostPosted: Thu 08 Feb 2018 6:13 am 

Joined: Wed 16 Aug 2017 6:04 am
Posts: 28
Thank you all very much for your very interesting reactions. Three questions remain.

I would like to ask Brian786 how he produced his list. Did you use a wild card in the online version of the dictionary on If so, how? I tried using an asterisk but it ended nowhere.

And to Embarien: In which part of your (amazing!) categorization would -char in beannchar belong? How does your categorization relate to the 'cumulative meaning' (vide the answers of galaxyrocker and CaoimhinSF).

Thanks in advance.

PostPosted: Thu 08 Feb 2018 5:30 pm 

Joined: Fri 12 Jun 2015 10:18 pm
Posts: 46
I would be more inclined towards the reading as an adjective beannach "peaked, horned" + collective suffix -ar. This is considered a productive suffix in old irish, separate from the -rad that gives us -ra today. -rad is from *-ar-eto(m)/*-ar-āto(m)/*-ar-ăto(m), an extension of this -ar form.

In Táin Bó Fraích, it is (possibly folk-etymologically) explained as being a compound of bend (beann/binn, horn/peak) and the cor (cur, putting) I've mentioned before, spelled Bennchor - Trácht mBennchoir "the place of the horn-casting", where the cattle shed their horns as the heroes Fraoch and Conall Cearnach returned home. To be honest this seems a little too neat to me, and is likely a narrative invention to "explain" the place's name, as frequently occurs in old Irish texts.

Another meaning I saw was: the first element benn as “prong”; the second element could be cor “act of putting, placing; setting up”. If this etymology is accepted, it could be argued that beannchar refers to a type of fence constructed with prongs surrounding the monastic site, and that it subsequently came to mean the area within the enclosure.
Not too sure about that one either, though.

The thing I find strange about the construction "beannach + -ar" is that the suffix in tandem with the adjectival form lean toward creating an abstract noun, rather than a collective, so I'm not too sure how this fits into the place name...

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