from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A lane or narrow road.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Ireland A narrow, frequently unpaved, rural road in Ireland.


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Borrowing from Irish bóithrín, diminutive of bóthar ("road")



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  • A lane, a narrow road; also transf. an opening in a crowd. (Used only when Irish subjects are referred to.)

    They're the things that you see when you wake up and scream

    The cold things that follow you down the boreen

    They live in the small ring of trees on the hill

    Up at the top of the field...

    --"Sit Down by the Fire," the Pogues, c. 1988 Shane Macgowan

    February 7, 2007

  • Etymologically, boreen is related to the Irish word for cow, "bo". Allegedly, in order to qualify for the designation, a pathway had to be wide enough to accommodate one cow standing perpendicular to the path's direction and another cow in the direction of motion. Roughly speaking it had to be one and a half cows' lengths across.

    (I'm not actually making this up, though my recollection of the details may not be perfect)

    February 23, 2007

  • "Then I heard her step that I knew so well on the boreen beside the house and I ran to the door, meaning to say I was sorry for the trouble we were giving her, but when I opened the door Denis called out her name in a loud voice, and the crying fit came on me, thinking how light-hearted we used to be together."

    - Frank O'Connor, 'The Bridal Night'.

    September 5, 2008

  • From Irish Irish gaelic bóithrín. Rhymes with colleen, as in the lovely song "Star of the County Down".

    June 29, 2010