Urnaidhm, fornaidhm, dealg & carr
Urnaidhm ceangail (fastening pin), a term which appears on only one page, is associated
solely with the pins in the 1840 Introduction translations, and is not translated as 'pin board'.
Ceangal (fastening/tying) seems here to be a descriptive amplification of urnaidhm, as per
the term 'pionna ceangail' (belaying pin on a boat).
The forms 'uinaidhin ceangal' & 'ursnaidhm ceangal' (the pin or jack that fastens the wire of
the harp) are given on p36 of the 1840 introduction. 'Uinaidhin ceangal' might be a printed
mis-reading of a written spelling 'urnaidhm ceangal' (lacking an SH). This in turn might be a
misrepresentation of the entry 'urnaidhm .i. ceangal' (urnaidhm, that is, a binding) in the 17th
century glossary of O' Clery. Bunting's translation of urnaidhm also seems to be a
paraphrase of the entry in O' Brien's dictionary. Bunting seems to have used these sources
as authorities for his entry on p36 regardless of whether he got the term from the harpers or
The word is derived from the prefix 'ar' (on) and the verb 'nasc' (fasten/bind). The noun
'snaidhm' (knot) is an apparently later form of 'naidm', the verbal noun form of 'nasc'. O'Brien
gives 'úrshnaidhm' which may show the first vowel of that word as long but it was originally
short. The ancient word 'fornaidm/forsnaidm' (bond) is a variant of urnaidhm and there is no
evidence that the first vowel of fornaidhm was ever long, and the vowel of the prefix 'for-' is
not long in the ancient word 'forchengal' (bond), therefore the long vowel marked in MS37
item 17 is surely a reworking of the phonetics for etymological purposes.
In p20 of the 1840 Introduction, 'cor' as 'the pin board' is clearly counterposed against
fornaidhm as 'the wooden pegs', a collective noun as per MS37 item 17. The pins on the
harps Bunting saw would have been made of metal and it would be strange for him to have
included the wooden toggles inside the com in the list of the parts of the harp while omitting
mention of the tuning pins. However, in p30, the term fornaidhm is given for both 'the pin
board' and 'the wooden pegs'. The use of the term 'pin board' in relation to both terms 'corr'
and 'urnaidhm' might suggest that they were in the same area of the instrument. Certainly,
the term 'pin board' is never related to 'crú na dtéad'.
It is possible that 'urnaidhm'/'fornaidhm' may have been used for both the metal tuning pins
and the wooden toggles inside the com, although the suggestion that the pin board referred
to the corr and also to an area of the com would seem to imply two pin boards. It seems
sensible to suggest the existence of only one pin board in one part of the harp, ie, the corr as
per Bunting, and that the term 'urnaidhm' should be allocated to an organological feature
there, ie, the metal pins, as per O'Brien. MS37 item 17 explicitly shows both 'an fhóir-
shnadhaim' and 'ur-shnadhaim' as relating to the pin board.
Fornaidhm, given by Bunting in singular form, receives both singular and plural translation in
p30, ie, 'the pin board, or wooden pegs' but as urnaidhm refers to a single pin, the plural
translation given by Bunting for fornaidhm, 'the wooden pegs', would be inaccurate.
Simon Chadwick has chosen to interpret the urnaidhm as the wooden toggle which the wire is
tied to within the com. If this were so, the conclusion would be that the Irish word for the pins
was simply omitted by Bunting because, unlike the other special Irish terms pertaining to parts
of the harp, the word for the pins was mundane in nature and required no special comment.
A more straightforward term for the tuning pin is that which appears in the ancient literature
for it on the harp: 'dealg' or 'dealgán' (a needle or pin). The feminine word 'carr' (spear), pl.
'carra', also appears in old manuscripts.
tēta argait inda chruit carra óir fuirri
silver strings in the cruit, pins of gold on her/it