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Pádraig Scribhneoir ( -
Posted on Friday, February 08, 2002 - 02:22 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

A Chara!

Just found you! What a wonderful site.

Could anyone cast any light on the origin of the terms "bean ghlúinne" and "bean chabhrach"?

I am ashamed of how rusty my Irish is, and I'm not sure I ever knew until now the words for "midwife" - but I'm intrigued.

Whilst, correct me if I'm wrong, "bean chabhrach" is someone who helps the woman (mother), isn't "ghlúinne" to do with knees? Is this simply because this is where a midwife would be placed or am I totally on the wrong track?

Go raibh maith agat,


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Seosamh ( -
Posted on Tuesday, February 12, 2002 - 12:09 am:   Edit Post Print Post

You're probably on as good a track as anyone else. 'Glúin' or 'glún' means 'knee' but also 'generation'. It's used in various phrases having to do in one way or another with that second sense: Maybe that is the one involved in 'bean ghlúine'. The Ó Dónaill dictionary, however, gives 'bean ghlúine' a separate subentry completely separate from either the ones for 'knee' or 'generation'. 'Bean ghlúine' is common in Donegal and northern Mayo.

Along with that and 'bean chabhrach' are 'bean, chonganta' 'bean tuismí (bean tuismidhe)', and 'cnáimhseach'. 'Cnáimhseachas' = midwifery. A 'bean seolta' is a woman in childbirth. A 'bean chíoch' is a wet-nurse. I wonder how much lore and special terms there existed in the language and how much has been lost. Besides being a trade that was almost lost, women did the work; mostly men put the dictionaries together.

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