LEPRECHAUNS ARE as synonymous with Ireland as pints of Guinness and four-leaf clovers.
However, research suggests these traditionally Irish fairies, complete with their buckets of gold and buckled hat and shoes, may not actually be all that Irish at all.
According to a study involving researchers from Queen’s University Belfast and Cambridge University [via The Week], their origins may be altogether different.
After five years of research into the etymologies of various words, they have concluded the word “leprechaun” originated out of Ancient Rome.
The modern-day word “leprechaun” is derived from the Irish language word “leipreachán,” which, according to Irish lexicographer and historian Patrick Dineen, is defined as “a pigmy, a sprite, or leprechaun.”
However, the new research team found the original Irish “leipreachan” actually stems from the Latin word “lupercus”.
“Lupercus” was the name of an ancient Roman god worshiped by shepherds as the protector of their flocks against wolves, and as a promoter of fertility among sheep.
Leprechauns share some similarities with the Roman divinity in their association with water.
Originally defined as a type of water fairy, their earliest appearance came in the story of The Saga of Fergus mac Leti, where two mischievous water-sprites called luchorpain try to drag the Ulster king into the sea.
Similarly, Lupercus’s followers celebrated the God with the Lupercalia festival and a series of rituals involving water, swimming and other mischief.
Revealed as part of a painstaking piece of work completed by researched contributing to the newly updated Dictionary of Irish Language, this revelation will have many questioning everything they thought they knew about Ireland.
What next? Guinness isn’t Irish? Well, now you mention it…