A glossary of some key terms associated with Irish music and culture. From the various types of tunes like jigs, reels, and airs, to the distinctive instruments such as the uilleann pipes and bodhrán, to terminology related to dance forms, historical contexts, significant musicians, and regional styles, this glossary provides a starting point for anyone looking for a basic understanding of the context of Irish traditional music.


Air (Aer)A slow, expressive melody, often the musical setting of a traditional song.
AmhránA song in Irish, particularly a traditional or folk song.
Ballad GroupA band specializing in performing ballads.
Barn DanceA type of dance tune, similar in structure to a hornpipe but often with less syncopation.
BlasThe distinctive style or flavor of a musician’s playing.
BodhránA traditional Irish frame drum, played with a wooden stick called a tipper.
Bothy BandA band renowned for its influential role in modernizing traditional Irish music.
BouzoukiA stringed instrument, adapted from the Greek bouzouki, used in Irish music.
Ceili BandA group of musicians playing for a céilí dance.
Ceili (Céilí)A social gathering featuring Irish music and dance.
Claddagh RingA traditional Irish ring, symbolizing love, loyalty, and friendship, often associated with cultural heritage.
CraicAn Irish term referring to fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, often used in the context of music sessions.
CranA complex ornamentation used primarily in uilleann piping.
Crossroads DanceAn informal outdoor dance, historically significant in rural Irish communities.
Cúil Aodha (Coolavokig)A style of sean-nós singing from the Muskerry Gaeltacht in County Cork.
CutA quick, percussive grace note.
Diddley BowA single-stringed instrument, used occasionally in folk music, including Irish music.
DroghedaA town in Ireland known for hosting the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, a traditional music festival.
DynamicsThe use of volume variation to enhance musical expression.
FáinneA badge indicating fluency in the Irish language, often seen in traditional music and culture.
FiddleThe term for the violin in Irish music, central to the tradition.
Fleadh (Fleadh Cheoil)A traditional music festival, featuring competitions, sessions, and concerts.
Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic)Terms and phrases in the Irish language related to music.
Gaelic RevivalA movement focused on the revival of Irish language and culture.
Gan Ainm“Without name,” used for tunes whose titles are unknown.
Grúpa CheoilA group of musicians playing traditional Irish music, often competitively.
HarpA traditional stringed instrument, embedded in Irish history and culture.
HornpipeA dance tune with a distinctive swing or dotted rhythm, often slower than reels.
JigA dance tune characterized by a lively tempo and a time signature of 6/8.
LamentsSongs expressing sorrow or mourning, often slow and emotive.
LiltingTraditional singing imitating instrumental music.
MazurkaA dance tune of Polish origin, adopted into Irish music.
O’CarolanTurlough O’Carolan, a famous Irish harpist and composer of the 17th century.
OrnamentationTechniques to embellish melodies, including trills, rolls, cuts, and crans.
PhrasingHow melodies are articulated and structured in segments.
PlanxtyA tune composed in honor of someone, often in a harp style.
PolkaA fast dance and tune type in 2/4 time, popular in parts of Ireland.
PortAn older term for a tune, equivalent to “jig” or “reel.”
Pub SessionA session of traditional music held in a pub.
Puirt à beulGaelic singing involving mouth music or nonsense syllables.
ReelA fast, lively dance tune type, typically in 4/4 time.
RílThe Irish term for “reel.”
RollA combination of grace notes enveloping a primary note.
Sean-nós DanceAn older, improvised solo dance form with low-to-the-ground steps.
Sean-nós SingingAn ancient style of unaccompanied, highly ornamented singing in Irish.
Set DanceA formal dance involving multiple couples, set to specific music.
Session (Seisiún)An informal gathering of musicians playing traditional Irish music.
Sliabh LuachraA region in Ireland known for its distinctive music style.
SlideA tune type, similar to a jig but generally faster, from the Sliabh Luachra region.
Slow AirA type of air played very slowly and expressively, often from traditional songs.
Spéirbhean“Sky woman” in Irish poetry and song, used metaphorically.
StrathspeyA dance tune originating from Scotland, found in Irish music.
Synge, J.M.An Irish playwright and poet, reflecting Irish folklore and traditional life.
Tin WhistleA simple, inexpensive wind instrument widely used in Irish music.
TradShort for “traditional,” often referring to Irish traditional music.
TrillA rapid alternation between two adjacent notes.
Uilleann PipesA type of Irish bagpipe known for its complex fingering and softer tone.
Willie Clancy Summer SchoolAn annual summer school in Irish music and dance, held in County Clare, Ireland.


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