gal·​low·​glass | \ ˈga-lō-ˌglas How to pronounce gallowglass (audio) \

Definition of gallowglass

1 : a mercenary or retainer of an Irish chief
2 : an armed Irish foot soldier

First Known Use of gallowglass

circa 1515, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gallowglass

borrowed from Irish gallóglach "soldier from a Scottish clan in the service of an Irish chief," from gall "Gaul, Scandinavian invader, foreigner" (going back to Middle Irish, borrowed from Latin Gallus "a gaul") + óglach "young man, warrior, soldier," going back to Middle Irish óclach, óglaech, originally derivative (probably after echlach "messenger, attendant," midlach "man incapable of bearing arms, coward") of óc "young," going back to Old Irish óac, going back to Celtic *yowanko- (whence also Welsh ieuanc "young," Breton yaouank), going back to Indo-European *h2i̯̯u-h2n-ḱo- — more at young entry 1

Note: The final -ss in the English form is difficult to explain. It may be an English plural -s added superfluously to the Irish plural gallóglaigh, though one would expect this to be evident in early use of gallowglass as a plural. The apparent first known occurrence of the word, however, is galloglasseis, which already shows a singular galloglas(s) as the base form.

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about gallowglass

Statistics for gallowglass

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for gallowglass

The first known use of gallowglass was circa 1515

See more words from the same year

More from Merriam-Webster on gallowglass

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with gallowglass

Comments on gallowglass

What made you want to look up gallowglass? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


tired or exhausted

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!