from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An Irish or Scottish social gathering with traditional music, dancing, and storytelling.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An Irish or Scottish informal social gathering where traditional folk music is played, with dancing and story telling.
  • n. Any such gathering in the Celtic diaspora.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an informal social gathering at which there is Scottish or Irish folk music and singing and folk dancing and story telling


Irish Gaelic céilidhe, from Old Irish célide, visit, from céle, companion; see kei-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Scottish Gaelic cèilidh, Irish céilidhe, from Old Irish céile ("companion"). (Wiktionary)



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  • Ah, thank heavens for sionnach! I had a feeling those missing accents had something to do with all of this. :-)

    January 23, 2008

  • In Ireland, it's pronounced 'kay-lee', with roughly equal stress on both syllables. 'key-lee' just seems wrong.

    There are two variations in the Gaelic spelling: in Munster (where I grew up), it's written as 'céilí'. 'Céilidh' is the preferred spelling in Northern Ireland (and, I'm guessing, in Scots Gaelic).

    I don't think there is any particular confusion about how the word is accented - the presence of two accent marks in the first spelling makes it clear that both syllables should be stressed equally. The second accent is omitted in 'Céilidh' because the effect of adding the 'dh' is to lengthen the vowel, so the accent becomes superfluous.

    Inclusion of 'storytelling' in the definition is a delusion of Weirdnet.

    January 23, 2008

  • You say ceilidh,
    I say ceilidh,
    Let's call the whole thing off!

    January 23, 2008

  • Random House has "key-lee", but the rest have "kay-lee". Bartleby has an audio sample attached, and there is a more noticeable pause in between the two syllables than in daily.

    January 23, 2008

  • Oh dear. Can't a nation of 300-million mainly English-speakers* agree on how to stress the syllables of a Gaelic word?

    (edit): * Erm -- and their lovely and decidedly independent neighbors to the north, of course... Sorry! Excusez-moi!

    January 23, 2008

  • In western NC, where I first heard it, it's often pronounced with equal stress on both syllables: KAY-LEE.

    January 23, 2008

  • That's how I heard it pronounced in Nova Scotia, too: KAY-lee.

    January 23, 2008

  • Thanks!

    January 23, 2008

  • When I first learnt this word many years ago I imagined it was spelt cailey. /'keɪlɪ/, rhymes with daily.

    January 23, 2008

  • Pronounced "hoo-ha," I hope. Because then I have a chance of saying it right.

    January 23, 2008