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The Word Oghams

The ‘Word Oghams’ or Briatharogaim’s are our original sources for the meanings behind the Ogham fews.

Those of the poet and judge Morann Mac Main and mythological figure Oenghus (Mac ind Oic) can be found in The Scholar’s Primer (Auraicept na n-Éces), The Ogam Tract (In Lebor Ogaim) and the famous Book of Ballymote.

That of the warrior Cuchulain is only found in 16th and 17th century manuscripts.


Here first is the Word Ogham of Morann Mac Main  – (trees highlighted for ease of reading)

Feocus foltchain, faded trunk and fair hair, that is for birch, b, in the Word Ogham, because names which Morann gave of himself to the Ogham letters, these are they which take the effect of letters in the Word Ogham. Feocus foltchain for b, for these are two aspects of the birch, and it was hence put for the Ogham letter which has taken a name from it.

Li sula, delight of eye, that is luis, quicken tree, l, to wit, the flame.

Airinach Fian, i.e., shield of warrior-bands, i.e., shield for fern, f, with him owing to their redness in the same respect: or because the alder, the material of the shield was from fernae given to the Ogham letter which has taken a name from it. Airenach Fian, i.e., shield, that is fern, f, with him.

Li’ n-aimbi’, hue of the lifeless, i.e., hue of one dead, to wit, am for denial, so that he is not living but is dead. Li’ n-aimbi’, again, to wit, that is sail, willow, s with him, and hence it was put for the Ogham letter.

Cosdad sida, checking of peace, that is nin, ash, n: it is the maw of a weaver’s beam as applied to wood: a sign of peace is that. A checking of peace with him is that from the ash of the weaver’s beam.

Conal cuan, pack of wolves, that is uath, thorn h, for a terror to any one is a pack of wolves. Conal cuan said of the Ogham h, owing to the affinity of the name, for they are a thorn, in the same way.

Ardam dossaibh, highest of bushes, that is dur, oak, d, with respect to its wood in the forest. Trian, t, another thing the meaning of that today.

Cainin fedaib, fairest of trees, that is hazel, c, owing to its beauty in woods.

Clithar mbaiscaill, shelter of a hind, i.e., a fold: to wit, boscell, lunatic, that is bas-ceall, death sense, it is then his sense comes to him when he goes to his death. Clithar boscell, again, that is an apple tree: or boscell, that is, hinds, to wit, they are light. Clithar boiscell, again, i.e., lunatics or hinds:quert, an apple tree, q, with reference to its letter.

Tresim fedma, strongest of effort, that is muin, vine, m, with him, i.e., owing to identity of name with muin, back of man or ox, for it is they that are the strongest in existence as regards effort.

Millsin feraib, sweeter than grasses, that is gort, ivy, g, with him owing to the identity of the name with the cornfield. When it is in the blade, sweeter than any grass is that grass, to wit, the cornfield.

Hence for that letter in Ogham owing to the complete identity of the name between them Luth legha, a physician’s strength; that is broom, ng, because it is strength with the physicians, and there is an affinity between cath, battle, and getal, broom.

Tresim ruamna, strongest of red, that is str with him in Ogham. Straif, sloe, according to fact; for in the sloe red for dyeing the things is stronger, for it is it that makes the pale silver become azure, making it genuine (?) silver. It is it which is boiled through the urine into the white gold so as to make it red. Tresim ruamna is the sloe according to fact. Hence it was put in the letter named str, owing to identity of name between them, i.e., straif is the name of each of them.

Tinnem ruccae, intensest of blushes, that is ruis, elderberry, r, from the reddenirig or shame according to fact, for by r it is written, and it is a reddening that grows in a man’s face ’through the juice of the herb being rubbed under it. Tindi ruccae, an ingot of a blush, again, said of the ruis, elder-berry, from shame or from reddening, for it is by r that it is itself written.

Ardam iachtadh, loudest of groanings, that is wondering, that is ailm, fir, a, with him; for it is ailm or ‘a’ a man says while groaning in disease, or wondering, that is, marvelling at whatever circumstance.

Congnamaid echraide, helper of horses, the onnaid of the chariot, i.e. the wheels, that is onn, furze, with him, for it is by onn, o, that the wheels of the chariot are written. Also, comguinidech, equally wounding, i.e. whin. Hence it was put for that letter which is named onn, o, owing to identity between them, for onn is a name for each of them; and it is from whin that the name onn was put for the Ogham letter o.

Etiud midach, robe of physicians, cath, panacea (?). Hence it was put for getal, broom, ng.

Uaraib adbaib, in cold dwellings, that is ur, fresh, with him, for from uir, the mould of the earth is the name uaraib adbaib. Hence it was put for the letter named ur, heath, in Ogham, owing to identity of name between them, each of them is ur, and it is written by u.

Ergnaid fid, distinguished wood, that is aspen with him, for ergnaid fid is a name for the trembling tree. Hence it was put for the Ogham letter named edad, aspen, for hence was edad, e, put for it.

Siniu fedaib, oldest of woods, that is idad, yew, with him; for siniu fedaib is a name for service-tree. Hence it was given to that letter in Ogham named idad, yew, i, for hence the name idad was put for it; for idad, yew, is a name for ibur, service-tree.

Snamchain feda, most buoyant of wood, that is ebad, aspen, with him, for fair swimming is wood; that is a name for the great raven. Hence it was put for the letter named the Ogham ebad, for e is a name for salmon, and it is written by ea like the alphabet of the fauna: i.e., by stag (deer), eo by eonasc (ousel).

Sruitem aicdi, most venerable of structures, i.e., oir, oi, spindle tree, according to fact. Hence it was put for the letter owing to the identity of the name that is between them, to wit, oir is the name of each of them.

Tutmur fid uilleann, juicy wood is woodbine, that is woodbine with him, for it is a name forhoneysuckle. Hence it was put for the Ogham named woodbine, ui; for hence was woodbine put for it, for it is a name for honeysuckle.

(below 2 alternative forfeda)

Millsem feda, sweetest of wood, that is gooseberry with him, for a name for the tree called pin is millsem feda. Gooseberries are hence named. Hence it was put for the letter named pin, for hence pin, or ifin, io, was put for it.

Luad soethaig, expression of a weary one, i.e., ach, ah! uch, alas! that is emancoll, ae, with him, for emancoll is taken for ach, though it may be taken for something else. Finit Word-Ogham of Morann.

Here the Word Ogham of Oenghus(Mac ind Oic)  – (trees highlighted for ease of reading)

Glaisium cnis, most silvery of the skin, that is the birch of the Ogham from birch of the forest, for hence birch, b, was put for it.

Cara ceathra, friend of cattle, elm. Cara, dear to the cattle is the elm for its bloom and for down. Hence it was put for the Ogham luis, quicken tree, l, for hence was quicken tree, l, put for it.

Comet lachta, guarding of milk, that is the Ogham alder, f, from alder of the forests, for it is it that guards the milk, for of it are made the vessels containing the milk.

Luth bech, activity of bees, that is Willow s, for its bloom and for its catkin. Hence it is put for the cognate Ogham letter.

Bag ban, fight of women, ash, n, of weaver’s beam, i.e., maw of weaver’s beam. Hence for its cognate letter.

Banadh gnuisi, blanching of face, fear, huath, h, for blanched is a man’s face when he is encompassed with fear or terror. Hence for the Ogham letter owing to identity of name between the same two, uath stands for each of them.

Gres sair, carpenter’s work, oak, d. Hence it was put for its cognate Ogham letter.

Smir guaili, fires of coal, that is holly. Hence for its cognate, Ogham letter, i.e., tinne, t, for tindi is a name for holly.

Carg bloisc, friend of cracking, coll, hazel, c. Hence for its cognate Ogham letter.

Brigh an duine, force of the man, queirt, q, apple tree. Hence for its cognate letter.

Arusc n-airlig, condition of slaughter,muin a man’s back, m. Hence for its synonymous letter.

Med nerce, ivy, g. Hence for its synonymous letter,

Aforad run, increasing of secrets, sloe, str. Hence it was put for its synonymous letter.

Ruamna dreach, redness of faces, sap of the rose which causes the redness of the faces, so that blushing is in them. Ruamna dreach, again, said of the Ogham ruis, elder, r, from the blush or from the reddening, for it is by elder, r, it is itself written.

Tosach fregra, beginning of an answer, that is ailm, a; for the first expression of every human being after his birth is a.

Fethim saire, smoothest of work, or fedem, onn, stone, o.

Silad clann, growing of plants, that is ur, heath, u with him, for it is uir, the soil of the earth, that causes the growing of the plants that are put into it. Growing of plants, again, said of the soil of the earth, is said of the Ogham letter which has taken the same name with it, each of them is ur.

Comainm carat, synonym for a friend, aspen, e, in the forest. Hence for its synonymous Ogham letter.

Crinem feda, most withered of wood, or sword, service tree, i. Hence for the Ogham letter, which has taken a name other than it, idad, yew.

Cosc lobair, corrective of a sick man, woodbine for the Ogham letter, which has taken a name other than it, ebad, aspen, ea.

Li crotha, beauty of form, heath. Hence for its synonymous letter, the Ogham oi.

Cubat n-oll, great equal-length, woodbine, i.e., honeysuckle. Hence for the Ogham letter which it has taken from it, woodbine, ui.

(one alternative forfeda)

Amram blais, most wonderful of taste, pin or ifin, gooseberry. Hence for the letter that has taken its name from it, pin or iphin, io.


Below the Word Ogham of Cuchulain  – (trees listed before meanings for ease of reading).  Note also the references to battle from this famous Irish mythological warrior/hero.

‘Birch’- Beth – Maisi Malach I Creccad, Browed beauty, worthy of pursuit.

‘Rowan’- Luis – Luth Cethra I Leam, strength of cattle.

‘Alder’- Fearn – Din Cride I Sciath, protection of the heart – a shield.

‘Willow’- Saille – Tosach mela I sail, beginning of loss, Willow.

‘Ash’- Nuinn – Bag maisi I garman, flight of beauty, of weaver’s beam.

‘Hawthorn’ – Huathe – Ansam aidhchei I Huath, difficult night, Hawthorn

‘Oak’- Duir – Slechtain saire I niami sairtre, kneeling work, bright and shining work.

‘Holly’- Tinne – Train n-airm I Tinne lairn, third of weapons, iron bar forged in fire.

‘Hazel’- Coll – Millsem fedho I cno, sweetest of woods, a nut.

‘Apple’- Quert – Dighu fethail I cumdaigh, excellent emblem (talisman?), protection.

‘Vine’- Muinn – Conair gotha I tre muin, pack of wolves with spears, three vines.

‘Ivy’- Gort – Sasadh ile I arbhar, pleasing oil, corn.

‘Broom’- Ngetal – Tosach n-echo I icce, beginning of heroic deeds, healing.

‘Blackthorn’- Straif – Saiged nel I dde suas, the mist of an arrow, smoke from a fire.

‘Elder’- Ruis – Bruth fergga I imdergadh, a fierce anger, punishment.

‘Pine’- Ailm – Tosach garma I a, beginning of a weaver’s beam, ahhh (as a sound made by a person)

‘Gorse’- Onn – Luth fian I fraech, strength of a warrior, fierceness.

‘Heather’- Ura – Forbhaid ambi I uir, completion of lifelessness, the grave.

‘Aspen’- Eadha – Braithair bethi I E, Kinsman of the Birch, Aspen

‘Yew’- Idho – Luth/Lith (?) lobair I aes, Strength/colour of a sick man, agedness.

Aside from the Tree Oghams there are many more Word Oghams to be found within The Scholar’s Primer(‘Auraicept na N-Éces’) which you can read online here.

Other Oghams include the Bird Ogham, Colour Ogham, Saint Ogham and River-Pool Ogham.