English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I would think that it comes from "glorious". So galore is suggesting that one is surrounded by gloriousness, or is experiencing lots of gloriousness.

Is this correct? I ask because I suggested it today and was told "it can't be".

I suppose what I'm really asking is whether or not "galore" has anything to do with "glorious".

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by tchrist, James McLeod, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, FumbleFingers, MετάEd Feb 7 '13 at 21:31

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

It's from the Irish go leor.* There are a lot of Irish borrowings in English as spoken in Ireland, but only a very few have made it into English spoken elsewhere. In Irish go leor means "enough", but it being so much more used than other Irish expressions, is probably from ceart go leor which means "good enough"/"fine"/"okay" (ceart = "correct/proper/right/" go leor = "enough/sufficiently") being one of those expressions that even Irish people who don't speak Irish, will recognise and use (to state assent, or in reply to Conas atá tú? or even to the English "How are you?").

While ceart go leor didn't make it into English outside of Ireland, galore did. Note that its use copies the syntax of Irish, in that it comes after the noun it is applied to, as with the proverbial "whiskey galore" (a phrase fully of Gaelic borrowing, though the Scottish are a more likely source of whisky/whiskey in English), "crack galore" (which often claimed to be an Irish borrowing, though in truth the Irish got crack/craic from the English) and "etymologies galore"!

Such post-positive adjectives are unusual, and all the more unusual as the general way to use the word, rather than as a few cases of historical significance or poetic origin (e.g. we use "Choir invisible", but otherwise invisible is not post-positive).

This reflects its being a relatively recent borrowing, much as par excellence, another adjective normally used post-positively, is a relatively recent borrowing from French. Forcing English into the patterns of Irish, suggests that those to first make use of it in English were more familiar with Irish than English; that is to say, it was borrowed by native speakers of Irish, rather than by Hibernophile Englishmen.

In 1910, Patrick Weston Joyce's English as we Speak it in Ireland, talks both of its use in Ireland, and mentions it's borrowing into the English of England:

The second way in which our English is influenced by Irish is in vocabulary. When our Irish forefathers began to adopt English, they brought with them from their native language many single Irish words and used them as best suited to express what they meant among their newly acquired English words; and these words remain to this day in the current English of their descendants, and will I suppose remain for ever. And the process still goes on though slowly for as time passes, Irish words are being adopted even in the English of the best educated people. There is no need to give many examples here, for they will be found all through this book, especially in the Vocabulary. I will instance the single word galore (plentiful) which you will now often see in English newspapers and periodicals. The adoption of Irish words and phrases into English nowadays is in great measure due to the influence of Irishmen resident in England, who write a large proportion indeed I think the largest proportion of the articles in English periodicals of every kind. Other Irish words such as shamrock†, whiskey, bother, blarney, are now to be found in every English Dictionary. Smithereens too (broken bits after a smash) is a grand word, and is gaining ground every day. Not very long ago I found it used in a public speech in London by a Parliamentary candidate an Englishman; and he would hardly have used it unless he believed that it was fairly intelligible to his audience.

He's a bit after the mark, since the word is attested in English since the 17th Century, but there is some distance from "attested" to "well known".

*There's both the possibility that it came from Scottish Gaelic, and the near-certainty that the existence of gu leòir influenced the borrowing. Irish and Scottish Gaelic are very close languages (much as English and Scots, the Anglic language originally spoken in the Lowlands, are very close) to the point where there are some ways in which the Ulster dialect of Irish is closer to Scottish Gaelic than it is to Irish elsewhere. As such, of the few borrowings from those languages into English outside of Ireland and Scotland it's hard to be certain which was the source, if not both, and the mutual intelligibility would make Irish speakers of English quickly recognise a borrowing from Scottish Gaelic, and vice versa.

†Joyce is certainly correct in shamrock coming from Irish, but wrong in suspecting this is due to the influence of Irish writers for English publications. In 1571 Edmund Campion's Historie of Ireland states, "Shamrotes, Water-cresses, Rootes, and other hearbes they feed upon: Oatemale and Butter they cramme together. They drinke Whey, Milke, and Beefe broth, Flesh they devoure without bread, corne such as they have they keepe for their horses." which can't help but remind lovers of English of Johnson's dictionary's definition of oats. From this began the myth that the Irish ate shmarock. (Edmund Spenser notes the same thing 25 years later, but as a description of a famine in war-torn Munster it may be true). Most likely it was a confusion with seamsóg for wood sorrel (eaten around the world), and seamróg for clover. Either way, it was the English that decided to use shamrock in English, rather than English-speaking Irish. The distinction of shamrock only referring to certain types of clover rather than all might be an English innovation too.

share|improve this answer
+1 for a very nice answer. I was intrigued by the use if which I presume means you in your Gaelic phrase. I always thought that was a latin root since it is absent from Greek (εσύ) but present in every Latin language I have come across. Do you happen to know if it entered Gaelic from Latin or if it predates the Roman influence? – terdon Feb 7 '13 at 20:25
@terdon It's believed to be a shared Proto-Indo-European root of Latin tu (as you guessed), Greek εσύ from Ancient Greek σύ (that you misjudged), Welsh ti, Lithuanian tu, Old Church Slavonic ty, Sanskrit twa-m, and various Germanic forms (Old Frisian thu, Middle Dutch, Middle Low German, Old High German and German du, Old Norse and Gothic þu). It's also shared with the English thou. It's a very old word! – Jon Hanna Feb 7 '13 at 20:35
Are you sure it is connected to the Greek εσύ and σύ? It seems strange that Greek would be the only language to have replaced a t sound with an s sound. Or is the t=>s transition common during language evolution? I think I'll stop bugging you now and mosey on down to Linguistics.SE. – terdon Feb 8 '13 at 3:04
@terdon I know only what the etymological dictionaries say. I alas do not have any Greek or Latin (unlike my forebears, of who in the history mentioned in my second footnote, Campion remarked, "Without either precepts or observation of congruity they speake Latine like a vulgar language," which is a fascinating thing to consider). – Jon Hanna Feb 8 '13 at 11:36

According to wiktionary.org (not the most authoritative of sources but it should serve):


From Irish go leor and Scottish Gaelic gu leòr, gu leòir, "enough, plenty", "till sufficiency, till plenty, till clarity'" (leor is the dative of léir "sufficiency, plenty, clarity").

share|improve this answer
OED 1 concurs. – StoneyB Feb 7 '13 at 20:10
@StoneyB I think that wiktionary beat the OED in this case: While my Irish is pretty poor, I'm pretty sure there's no fada on leor, though there is on the Scottish gu leóir. Wiktionary therefore has the spelling correct, where the OED does not (all the more important in Irish and Scottish Gaelic, as there are many words distinguished by accent alone). – Jon Hanna Feb 7 '13 at 20:24
I have no Gaelic of either brand; but I seem to recall that Irish orthography has been in flux, and this fascicle of the OED has to go back to the 19th century. – StoneyB Feb 7 '13 at 20:37
@StoneyB it lost a diacritical and gained a modifying use of H in the meantime, though the accents have quite precise use most of the time, so lór is a variant with a long vowel instead of a digraph but not leór. That said, it could reflect a dialect difference, the Middle Irish leór, or simply be a matter of Irish having been my worse subject in school, and that some time ago, and I am in fact entirely wrong. (Unless I remember enough about a non-English word to be able to write a post like my answer here, I don't remember it, which is no way to learn a language). – Jon Hanna Feb 7 '13 at 21:21

Whatever its etymology, galore is a very strange word.

It's sort of a quantifier (that's the "lots of" part), and sort of an adjective (that's the "lavish" part). And it's extremely restricted in its syntax, for either sort of word.

It can't precede the noun phrase it quantifies like other quantifiers (if it is quantifier); instead, it must follow the NP, which is very unusual:

  • There was lots of wine at the banquet.
  • There was wine galore at the banquet.
  • *There was galore wine at the banquet.

and it can't be a predicate adjective, like other adjectives (if it is an adjective):

  • The wine at the banquet was plentiful.
  • *The wine at the banquet was galore.

It can only modify (and follow) mass nouns and plural count nouns, though I doubt it works with just any noun. As I said, it's a very strange word.

share|improve this answer
As per my answer, I suggest that the strangeness comes from it's previous loan-word status. It's use is copying Irish syntax. – Jon Hanna Feb 7 '13 at 21:24
@JonHanna - Gaaah! It's and it's? How could you? – MT_Head Feb 7 '13 at 21:58
@MT_Head Oh, I do all the homophone errors all the time. As the reader in me hates the typist in me for committing them, I normally spot and fix them, but I was just too slow this time. – Jon Hanna Feb 7 '13 at 22:28
Anything that cant be heard isnt really there and can be dispensed with. – John Lawler Feb 7 '13 at 22:41
@tchrist and par excellence and heraldic adjectives, and many uses of deluxe, along with the formation of some idioms ("beef Wellington", though not "*boot Wellington"). While there are examples galore, they're still unusual within as English modifiers go. – Jon Hanna Feb 8 '13 at 0:44

Can I first say that since the primary meaning of galore is in great numbers; in abundance (AHDEL), the word is correctly classified as a quantifier rather than an adjective (Collins have been quicker off the mark here than the AHDEL).

However, the restricted range of collocates it appears with shows that there is less generality than with say many / much or numerous. If we look at terdon's suggested etymology, then the 'sufficiency' aspect would, if retained in nuance, discount negative usages such as pains galore, barren wastes galore, funerals galore (except where used in an attempt to be witty or provocative). If we accept Jon's etymology, including the suggested ellipsis of 'good, fine', this would explain the connotation of gaiety that I'm sure attaches to galore. Thus we'd avoid lectures galore and evenings galore as well as deaths galore, preferring parties galore, processions galore and whisky galore (if that's your idea of a good time.) This is a strange example of a quantifier with an adjectival flavour.

share|improve this answer
I wasn't so much suggesting an ellipsis as ceart ga leor being so regularly used, ga leor had great currency, and hence it was much more likely to survive into the vocabulary of Irish speakers who learned English. I could well believe that the general positive quality of that expression did influence such a use though. An interesting point though is that while whisky galore is lots and lots of whisky (or better yet whiskey), uisce beatha ga leor would be enough for your needs. (Some may hold "enough" and "lots and lots" to be the same thing with whiskey, but that's another matter). – Jon Hanna Feb 7 '13 at 21:38
Let us not forget the oft-quoted usage: "Humiliations galore!" --Inigo Montoya – Hellion Feb 7 '13 at 21:41

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.