If you use Irish regularly, it’s quite likely that you’re used to moving back and forth between the main dictionaries and Irish language databases online: focloir.ie, teanglann.ie, tearma.ie agus gaois.ie. During Oireachtas na Samhna 2018, Foras na Gaeilge launched a new version of focal.ie and now you can search for words on a single website.
Focal.ie is not a dictionary, but rather a portal in which you can instantly find out which online sources list a particular word. Having typed in a word, all you have to do is click on one of the green ticks and the particular dictionary definition for that word will open up:
More importantly, you can ignore the sites that don’t show green ticks beneath them, thus saving yourself time.
Another advantage focal.ie has is accent-sensitive searching. Let’s say you’re searching for words that have the root “féar”. If you select “Accent-sensitive search”, words beginning with “fear” will not be displayed in the list:
As a result, it won’t be long before you discover on tearma.ie that “féareolaíocht” is the Irish for agrostology!
Sometimes different sources define a particular word in different ways. Take, for example, the word “leamhach”, which is defined in three dictionaries as a plant (the marsh-mallow in English).
Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla gives an additional meaning, however: “leamhach: bright calm patch in sea. Bhí an fharraige ina leamhach: the sea was dead calm”. It’s worth the effort when you stumble upon a charming word like this (and that effort is reduced now, thanks to focal.ie).
One limitation of focal.ie is that related results, sample sentences, etc. are not listed alongside the word being searched. Foras na Gaeilge intends, however, the make such features available in the future. Another limitation – and a more significant one, perhaps – is that English words cannot be searched. It would be of great benefit to writers, readers and students to be able to search for words in both Irish and English.