• Feis Dad:
  • 24 August 2014

An Introduction to Irish Dance Terms

A quick intro for parents to the 'uncommon' terms heard in Irish Dance

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There is a lot to learn in Irish Dance, not just the dance steps for the dancers, but if you want to be a parent 'in-the-know', you have some homework too. There are the names of all the dances, names for all the parts of the 'costume', and to raise the level of difficulty, there are extra terms in some other-worldy language whose pronuciation have nothing to do with how they are spelled, or so it seems.

I wanted to be a parent in-the-know, so I learned the words early, and used them whenever I could to show I was 'hip'. While I used them correctly meaning-wise, I totally hosed up the pronunciation and ended up 'not-so-hip'. I also found, when I thought I had it down, that there is a lot more behind the terms than I first thought.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here is a quick reference for the funky dance terms you should know. This is meant to familiarize you with the terms, but there is a lot more behind each one, which exceeds the scope of this post. If you want to learn more, Google is your friend.

Feis

Pronounced "fesh"

Not 'fice' like so many un-in-the-know parents say, yes, including me, initially.

I always thought the feis was just an Irish dance competition, but it can be so much more. Besides solo and group dance competitions, a feis can also have baking, craft, instrumental, vocal and Gaelic language competitions.

The plural is feisanna, pronounced "fesh-an-na".

Spelling Tip

We all know I before E, except after C, BUT, I before S if you are spelling FEIS!

Oireachtas

Pronounced "oh-ROCK-tus"

An Oireachtas is a feis on steroids. As a new feis dad, I thought there was an(singular) Oireachtas but came to find there are many. Oireachtas is the term used for Regional Championships in Irish Dance and can be used for National and World Championships.

Side Note: Oireachtas is also a governmental term used in Ireland.

Spelling Tip

This is one word that is not spelled anywhere near what you think it would be, so I created a little memory aid that is also a little motivator:

OIREACHTAS - Oh I REACH To A Star

Ceili

Pronounced "KAY-lee"

This is a multi-use term I became familiar with prior to my association with Irish Dance. I heard 'ceili in the kitchen' used by a popular band, and it referred to the gathering of people, playing music, singing and dancing. In Irish Dance however, a ceili can be thought of as a group dance done in performances or in competition.

Féile

Pronounced "FAY-lay" or "FAY-luh"

This is a term I did not hear until we had been involved in Irish Dance for a number of years, but I seem to hear it more often now, so I either missed it early on, or it is more prevalent now.

A féile is a like a feis, but has only dance competitions, not the crafts, baking etc... like a feis may have.

Ghillies

Pronounced "GIL-lees"

This is the soft shoe the female dancers wear. You know, the one with the 9 foot long laces.

Rince

Pronounced "rin-ka"

Rince is the Irish word for dance, and up until researching this article, I pronounced it "rinse". See, still learning.

Damhsa

Pronounced "dow-sa"

Another Irish word for dance.

Teasgicoir Choimisiuin Le Rinci Gaelacha

Pronounced T.C.R.G. wink

The Teasgicoir Choimisiuin Le Rinci Gaelacha (TCRG) is a certified dance instructor.

Ard Diploma Choimisiuin Le Rinci Gaelacha

Pronounced A.D.C.R.G.

The Ard Diploma Choimisiuin Le Rinci Gaelacha is a Certified Adjudicator or Judge of Irish dance.

Additional Terms You Should Know

There are other terms I have come across that, while not necessarily dance related, may come in handy in your involvement in Irish Dance or culture.

Craic

Pronounced "crack"

Fun, or good times.

Usage: "It was great craic".

Upon hearing it used, you may want to make sure you are in an environment where it is understood how it is intended wink

Beoir

Pronounced "BE-orge"

Beer, or I guess you could just ask for a Guinness.

Fir

Pronounced "fir"

MEN, typically seen on a MENS room door. I have found this mostly in Irish Pubs without translation, which I think is intentionally done to mess with the tourists.

Mná

Pronounced "min-aw"

WOMEN, seen on a women's room door for the same reason they use Fir on Mens.

Memory Aid: Remember Male and Female for these signs is reversed, the F is for Male and the M is for female. This will probably come naturally after a few pints.

So, what did I miss?

Those are the ones that I see most often. Have I missed any important ones, or maybe something that may be regional? If so, please add it in the comments below.

'The overall service is great!'

Tanya - Australia
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