Gaelicisation, or Gaelicization, is the act or process of making something Gaelic, or gaining characteristics of the Gaels, a sub-branch of celticisation. The Gaels are an ethno-linguistic group, traditionally viewed as having spread from Ireland to Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Gaelic, as a linguistic term, refers to the Gaelic languages but can also refer to the transmission of any other Gaelic cultural feature such as social norms and customs, music and sport.

It is often referred to as a part of Celtic identity as Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man are all considered Celtic Nations, and the Gaelic languages are considered a sub-group of the Celtic languages.

Early history

Examples of ethnic groups who have gone through a period of Gaelicisation in history include the Norse-Gaels, the Picts, the Britons of southwest Scotland, the Scoto-Normans,[1] and the Hiberno-Normans,[2]

Modern era

Today, Gaelicisation, or more often re-Gaelicisation, of placenames, surnames and given names is often a deliberate effort to help promote the languages and to counteract centuries of Anglicisation.

Isle of Man

The Manx language, which is very similar to Irish,[3] has undergone a major revival in recent years,[4] despite the language being so rarely used that it was even mislabelled as extinct by a United Nations report as recently as 2009.[5] The decline of the language on the island was primarily as a result of stigmatisation and high levels of emigration to England.[4]

There are now primary schools teaching in the medium of Manx Gaelic, after efforts mainly modelled on the Irish system.[6] The efforts have been widely praised,[7] with further developments such as using technology to teach the language being put into place.[8]


Main article: Irish language

Estimates of numbers of native speakers of the Irish language in the Republic of Ireland in 2000 ranged from 20,000 to 80,000.[9][10][11] According to the 2006 census for the Republic, 85,000 people used Irish daily outside of school and 1.2 million used Irish at least occasionally.[12] In the 2011 Census, these numbers increased to 94,000 and 1.3 million, respectively.[13] Active Irish speakers probably comprise 5 to 10 per cent of Ireland's population.[14]

In recent decades there has been a significant increase in the number of urban Irish speakers, particularly in Dublin. The dispersed but large, educated and middle-class urban Gaeilgeoir community enjoys a lively cultural life and is buoyed by the growth of Irish medium education and Irish-language media.[15]

In some official Gaeltachtaí (Irish-speaking regions) areas, Irish remains a vernacular language alongside English.

In Northern Ireland the Gaelicisation process is significantly slower and less-supported than elsewhere on the island and the status of the Irish language in Northern Ireland is the subject of heated political debates.[16][17]


In Scotland, Scottish Gaelic and traditional Gaelic customs such those manifested at the Highland Games, with traditional sports such as the caber toss, are mainly restricted to the Highlands and islands. In the 21st century, Scottish Gaelic literature has seen development and challenges within the area of prose fiction publication,[18] and phrases such as Alba gu bràth may be used today as a catch-phrase or rallying cry.

Areas which are Gaelicised are referred to as Gàidhealtachd.

See also


  1. ^ "Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland Part 5 X. The Vikings and Normans". Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  2. ^ MacLysaght, Edward (1982). More Irish Families. Irish Academic Press. ISBN 0-7165-0126-0. Archived from the original on 4 May 2006. Retrieved 20 November 2006. Some became completely integrated, giving rise to the well known phrase 'Hiberniores Hibernis ipsis' (more Irish than the Irish themselves). These formed septs on the Gaelic-Irish pattern, headed by a chief.
  3. ^ "Belfast's role in Manx language revival - BBC News". 16 September 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Manx: Bringing a language back from the dead - BBC News". 31 January 2013. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Europe | Isle of Man | UN declares Manx Gaelic 'extinct'". 20 February 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  6. ^ "Can Northern Ireland learn lessons from the world's only Manx-speaking school? - BBC News". BBC News. 15 September 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  7. ^ "Manx Gaelic 'warriors' praised for language revival - BBC News". BBC News. 5 December 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  8. ^ "New app launched to 'boost' Manx language revival - BBC News". BBC News. 19 November 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  9. ^ Paulston, Christina Bratt. Linguistic Minorities in Multilingual Settings: Implications for Language Policies. J. Benjamins Pub. p. 81.
  10. ^ Pierce, David (2000). Irish Writing in the Twentieth Century. Cork University Press. p. 1140.: 20,000 to 80,000 speakers out of a population of 3.5 to 5 million.
  11. ^ Ó hÉallaithe, Donncha (1999). "Uair na cinniúna don Ghaeltacht". Cuisle (in Irish) (Feabhra 1999).
  12. ^ "Table", Census, IE: CSO
  13. ^ "Census 2011 – This is Ireland" (PDF). Central Statistics Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 May 2013. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  14. ^ Romaine, Suzanne (2008), "Irish in a Global Context", in Caoilfhionn Nic Pháidín and Seán Ó Cearnaigh (ed.), A New View of the Irish Language, Dublin: Cois Life Teoranta, ISBN 978-1-901176-82-7
  15. ^ McCloskey, James (2006) [September 2005], "Irish as a World Language" (PDF), Why Irish? (seminar), The University of Notre Dame
  16. ^ "Stormont talks: Irish language act 'red lines' to the fore". BBC News. 3 January 2020.
  17. ^ Caollaí, Éanna Ó. "Explainer: Breaking the deadlock over an Irish Language Act". The Irish Times.
  18. ^ Storey, John (2011) "Contemporary Gaelic fiction: development, challenge and opportunity" Lainnir a’ Bhùirn' - The Gleaming Water: Essays on Modern Gaelic Literature, edited by Emma Dymock & Wilson McLeod, Dunedin Academic Press.