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See also: Taoiseach



See Taoiseach.



taoiseach (plural taoiseachs or taoisigh)

  1. (Ireland, historical) A chieftain or leader.
    • 1803, S[ylvester] O’Halloran, chapter III, in An Introduction to and an History of Ireland, volume III, Dublin: [] H. Fitzpatrick, [], →OCLC, page 163:
      Every diſtrict in the land, in which an Iriſh Taoiſeach or lord reſided, was obliged to entertain a Daniſh chief, to whom he was to ſubmit, and from whom he was to receive orders for the governing of his people; for theſe laſt would receive no commands, but directly from their own chiefs.
    • 1997, Lawrence J[ohn] McCaffrey, “Ireland: English Conquest and Protestant Ascendancy, 1170–1801”, in The Irish Catholic Diaspora in America, revised edition, Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, →ISBN, part I (The Irish Cultural, Political, Social, and Religious Heritages), page 17:
      Unlike the English in their own country and in Ireland, who passed on land and political authority associated with it to the eldest male heir, the Irish elected their chiefs (taoiseachs) among the leading male members of each clan, and successors (tanistes) were chosen before the deaths of chiefs.
    • 1998, Liam Ronayne, “The People of the Donegal Highlands”, in The Donegal Highlands, Donaghadee, County Down, Northern Ireland: Cottage Publications, →ISBN, page 74, column 1:
      The first O'Donnell chieftain was Eighneachan, inaugurated in 1200, the first of an unbroken line of twenty five[sic] taoisigh or chieftains, the last being Niall Garbh who was inaugurated in 1603 and died in 1625.
  2. Alternative letter-case form of Taoiseach (head of the government of Ireland)
    • 1954 May 31, “The Taoiseach Falls: De Valera Nears the End of Long Political Trail”, in Henry R[obinson] Luce, editor, Life, volume 36, number 22, Chicago, Ill., New York, N.Y.: Time Inc., →ISSN, →OCLC, page 29, column 1:
      The only leader of the 1916 Easter rebellion to escape hanging, [Éamon d]e Valera lost the civil war, then won elections that made him taoiseach (prime minister) for 19 years.
    • 2003, Dermot Keogh, “Ireland, 1972–84”, in J[acqueline] R. Hill, editor, A New History of Ireland, volumes VII (Ireland 1921–84), Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 379:
      Despite the attacks, 'the boss', as [Charles] Haughey was to become known, was elected taoiseach by 82 votes to 62. However, he was a taoiseach with strong opposition from within his own party.
    • 2010, David J. Lynch, “Money is Just Evidence”, in When the Luck of the Irish Ran Out: The World’s Most Resilient Country and Its Struggle to Rise Again, New York, N.Y., Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, →ISBN, page 175:
      For three centuries, the fabled Round Room in Dublin's Mansion House has been the site of some of Ireland's most important gatherings. British monarchs and Irish taoiseachs, a Catholic pope and a Protestant terrorist, all have walked its halls.
    • 2016, Stephen Kelly, “The Haughey—Thatcher Relationship: The Anglo-Irish Summit Meeting, May 1980”, in ‘A Failed Political Entity’: Charles Haughey and the Northern Ireland Question 1945–1992, Newbridge, County Kildare, Ireland: Merrion Press, →ISBN, page 149:
      He [Charles Haughey] was determined to seize the initiative, to paint a picture of a taoiseach forging ahead with a bold new strategy in relation to Northern Ireland – a leader, driven by an inner crusade to transform the landscape of Anglo-Irish relations.
    • 2019 August 1, Kevin Rawlinson, “Leo Varadkar: ‘We should all be afraid of a no-deal Brexit’”, in Katharine Viner, editor, The Guardian[1], London: Guardian News & Media, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2022-12-26:
      Everyone in the UK and Ireland should be afraid of a no-deal Brexit, the Irish taoiseach said, after he was accused of engaging in “Project Fear mark two”.
    • 2020, John Coakley, Jennifer Todd, quoting Dermot Nally, “The Anglo-Irish Agreement, 1985”, in Negotiating a Settlement in Northern Ireland, 1969–2019, Oxford, Oxfordshire, New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, →DOI, →ISBN, page 173:
      Well, I was there from 1973 to 1993, working directly with five different taoisigh, at different times, of course, as secretary to the government, or Cabinet Secretary in Robert's terms—from Sunningdale to the Downing Street Declaration.

Usage notes[edit]

Early attestations of sense 1 (“chieftain or leader”) in English texts are often uses of the Irish word.[1]


  1. ^ See, for example, Eugene O’Curry (4 July 1858), “Lecture XVIII. (VI.) Military Education; Continued.”, in W. K. Sullivan, editor, On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish. A Series of Lectures Delivered by the Late Eugene O’Curry, [], volume II (Lectures, vol. I), London; Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate, [], published 1873, →OCLC, page 381:
    Many were the chief captains or leaders that were in command under Finn, such as [] a Taoiseach-Caogaid, or Leader of Fifty, the same as a lieutenant now; and a Taoiseach-Tri-nonbair, or Leader of Twenty-seven, the same as a corporal now; and a Taoiseach Nonbair, or leader of nine, the same as the Decurion with the Romans.



From Old Irish toísech (leader), from Primitive Irish ᚈᚑᚃᚔᚄᚐᚉᚔ (tovisaci, genitive), from Proto-Celtic *towissākos (chief, first, primary, adjective) (compare Welsh tywysog (prince)), from *towissus (act of leading, leadership; beginning) (from *to- (prefix meaning ‘to; towards’) + *wissus (act of discovering or finding out; knowledge) (ultimately from either Proto-Indo-European *wedʰ- (to lead) or *weyd- (to know; to see))) + *-ākos (suffix forming adjectives with the sense ‘belonging to, having;, involved with’).



taoiseach m (genitive singular taoisigh, nominative plural taoisigh)

  1. chieftain, leader
  2. Taoiseach, prime minister



Irish mutation
Radical Lenition Eclipsis
taoiseach thaoiseach dtaoiseach
Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.



taoiseach m (plural taoiseachs)

  1. taoiseach