Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



Anglo-Irish, from Irish piseog (witchcraft), from Middle Irish piseóc, pisóc.



pishogue (plural pishogues)

  1. Magic, witchcraft; a spell, especially one designed to cause or cure illnesses to man or beast, or to increase or decrease the quantities of farm products such as butter or milk.
    • 1829, Gerald Griffin, The Collegians:
      Pishog: A mystic rite, by which one person is enabled to make a supernatural transfer of his neighbour's butter into his own churns.

Usage notes[edit]

In James Joyce's novel Ulysses (1922, page 307), the Citizen famously misuses this word, which he confuses with another word of Irish origin:

— Half and half, I mean, says the Citizen. A fellow that's neither fish nor flesh ... A pishogue, if you know what that is.

The word the Citizen should be using is pithogue, from the Irish piteog, which means "an effeminate man", "a dandy", "a sissy" or (in modern usage) "a homosexual", which is probably what lies behind the Citizen's insult. The term pishogue is never applied to individuals.

Joyce may have deliberately confused the spelling for two reasons:

  1. the Citizen vents an opinion without actually knowing full well what he is talking about.
  2. the pishogue is seen in reference as a prophecy, an aphorism on the disappearing divide between men and women, or as a spell cast on the future of the colonial man of that era.


  • Patrick S. Dineen, An Irish-English Dictionary (Dublin 1927)