a Pale Doe through the Veil (deerwoman) wrote,
a Pale Doe through the Veil

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A Rose by Any Other Name: Euphemisms, Descriptions, Titles, and Epithets for the Fae

In days past, and even still in many rural vestiges where the undercurrent of the Otherworld is still palpable, the word "faery," though known and understood, is rarely heard slipping from the tongues of those who take to heart the perceptions, experiences, and traditions of their elders. According to folklore and legend, the faeries themselves are not overly fond of the term (and it's never a good idea to court even the possibility of offending the fae) 1. One source I discovered even claims that for everytime you pronounce the word, a year is deducted from your lifespan 2. "Faery" was couched in veils of caution. Collectors of folklore utilized the word in their queries, but their informants usually navigated around it with a hypersensitivity and fear like one tracing the edge of a cliff on a moonless night. "Everywhere secrecy and reserve is needed in the mention of them"3. W.Y. Evans-Wentz writes that "taboos, or prohibitions of a religious and social character, are [. . .] common in the living Fairy-Faith [. . .]. The chief one is the taboo against naming the fairies, which inevitably results in the use of euphemisms, such as 'good people', 'gentry', 'people of peace', Tylwyth Teg ('fair folk'), or bonnes dames ('good ladies') 4.

These days most of us regard such attitudes as superstitious, and we've become lax with its usage. Now it spills from mouth and pen without even the faintest tinge of consequence remaining to haunt the conscience. We may currently find it difficult to sympathize with the uneasiness surrounding "faery" considering the progressive prettification and trivialization of that word, but if we try to extend our empathy beyond our modern approach to the subject, we cannot blame them for their caution.

faery > fae > fée > fatarum > fatum > fata > fate

During a time when the literal and perceived link with the land was anything but tenuous — when the mysterious powers that governed the fertility of the soil, the shifting of weather, and the well-being of livestock could swiftly render people desperately vulnerable or conversely bestow upon them bountiful blessings, it simply wasn't wise to tempt Fate. Therefore, other terms and phrases were used in Faery's stead in order to keep their wrath at bay and/or to appease them. Flattering euphemisms, nebulous references, polite addressions, descriptions of awe and respect linger in their wake. By contrast or by compliment, they reveal how people regarded the fae and the state of consciousness they inhabited.

The following is but the beginning of a collection of variants5 and references both to the realm/state/condition/land of Faery and its inhabitants. In amassing this growing collection, I have searched for words which apply broadly to very large classes of faery or to Faery as a whole rather than words which refer to more specific "subspecies" of fae. I have chosen to focus on European faeries.

The Denizens

Ad-hene {"Themselves"; Isle of Man, Britain}
Alfar {Scandinavia}
Alf {Scandinavia}
Alfa {Iceland}
Alfa-folk {Iceland}
Alp {German plural}
Bendith y Mamau {"Mothers' Blessing"; Wales}
Ben Socia {"good neighbors"; France}
Bergmänlein {"hill mannekins"; Germany}
Bonnes Dames {"Good Ladies" Brittany}
Bjergfolk {"hill-people"; Scandinavia}
Cipenapers {corruption of "kidnappers"; Wales}
Cloan ny Moyrn {"children of pride"; Isle of Man; Britain}
The Crowd {Isle of Man}
The Danes {Somerset}
Daoine Beaga {"little folk"; Scotland}
Daoine Coire {"honest folk"; Scotland}
Daoine Maithe {"good people"; Ireland}
Daoine Sidhe {"fairy people," "people of the hills," "people of peace"; Ireland, Scottish Highland}
Dyon Bach Teg {"the little fair folk"; Dyfed, Wales}
Elbe/Elbinne {German m. and f. singular}
Elf {Swedish plural}
Elf {Anglo-Saxon, Scotland}
Elfes {a term used by Spenser}
Elfins {a term used by Chauncer}
Elfvar/Elfvor {Swedish m. and f. singular}
Ellefolk, Elve-people {Denmark}
Elle-people {Scandinavia}
Elv {Danish singular}
Elve {Danish plural}
Elves {English plural}
ErdMänlein {"earth/ground mannikins"; Germany}
Faées {French plural}
Fada {Provençal}
Fai {France}
Fair-Family {Wales, Cornwall}
Fair-Folk {translation of Tylwyth Teg; Cornwall, Wales}
The Fair People
Faito/Faitaud {term used for the children, husbands, and fathers of Fées; Brittany}
Fanes {Aryshire}
Farisees {Suffolk}
Faryes {a term used by Spenser}
Fata {Italy}
Feen {German medieval romance}
Feeorin {Lancashire}
Feeries {a term used in medieval romance}
Fées {French plural}
Fêtes {"Fates"; French}
Feinen {German medival romance}
Feriers {Suffolk}
Ferish {Manx corruption of the English "fairy"}
The Ferries {Orcadia}
The Ferrishyn {Isle of Man; a tribe of fairies}
Fions {Brittany}
Foddenskkmænd {Feroes}
The Forgetful People
Frairies {Sussex, Suffolk, Hereford, Warwick, Worchestershire}
The Gentle Folk {Ireland, etc.}
The Gentry {Ireland}
The Gentry of the Others
The Good Neighbors
The Good People {Ireland, etc.}
Greencoaties {Lincolnshire}
Greenies {Lancashire}
The Grey Neighbors {Shetland; refers more specifically to Trows}
Guid Folk {"good folk"; Scotland, Shetland}
Guid Neighbors {"good neighbors"; Scotland, Shetland}
Guillyn Beggey {"little boys"; Isle of Man}
Guillyn Veggy {"little boys"; Isle of Man}
Hada {Spain}
Hill-People {Scandinavia}
Högfolk {"hill-people"; Scandinavia}
Hogmen {Isle of Man}
Hollow-Men {Feroes}
The Honest Folk
Hookeys {Lincolnshire}
Huldefolk {Iceland, Feroes}
Huldrafolk {Norway}
Kleine Volk {"little people"; Germany}
Les Petits Faótiaux {Channel Islands}
Lil Fellas
Little Boys/Little Fellas {translation of a Manx term}
The Little People
Mawmets {England}
The Mites {"little people"; Cornwall}
The Mob
The Mob Beg {Isle of Man, Britain}
Mothers' Blessing {translation of a Welsh term}
Mooinjer Veggey {"the little people"; Isle of Man}
nos Bonnes Mères les Fées {"Our Good Mothers the Fairies"; Brittany}
The Old People
Orfees {a literary term}
The Others
The Other Crowd
Pechs/Pehts/Picts {Scottish Lowland}
The People of Light
The People of the Hills
The People of the Middle World {Isle of Man, Ireland}
The People of That Town
The People of Peace {Ireland}
The Pharisees {Sussex, Suffolk, Hereford, Warwick, Worchestershire}
Pixies/Pigsies/Piskies {Somerset, Devon, Cornwall}
Plant Rhys Ddwfn {"children of Rhys Ddwfn"; Dyfed, Wales}
The Seelie Court {"blessed court"; Scottish name for benevolent fairies}
Sidhe/Sidh {Ireland, general Celtic term}
Silent Moving Folk {Scotland}
Sith/Shith/Si {Scotland, Ireland, etc.}
Sleagh Maith {"good people"; Scotland}
The Small People
Spiritual Animals {Christian theological term used for creatures which are not men, not angels, and yet not devils}
Still-Folk {Scotland}
The Strangers {Lincolnshire}
The Subterraneans {term used by Robert Kirk for fairies in the Scottish Highlands}
Themselves/They/Them That's In It {Isle of Man, Ireland, etc.}
The Tidy Ones {England}
Tiddy Ones/Tiddy Men/Tiddy People {Lincolnshire}
Tripping Darlings
Tündér {Hungary}
Tylwyth Teg {"fair folk"; Wales, Cornwall}
Underground-People {Feroes}
The Unseelie Court {"unblessed court"; Scottish name for malevolent fairies}
Verry Volk {Cornwall}
Vettar {"spirits"; Scandinavia}
Wee Folk {Scotland, Ulster}
Wicht/Wichtlein {Germany; "thing, person, being" later came to be used in regards to spiritual beings}
Wight {Germanic}
Wiht {Anglo-Saxon; same meaning as wight, wicht}
Yarthkins {Lincolnshire}

The State

Alfheim {Norse home of the light elves}
Avalon {abode of the Fays in medieval literature}
The Countree of Faerie
Elfhame/Elphame {Scotland, Scandinavia}
Island of the Blest {abode of the Fays in medieval literature}
The Pale County
Svartálfahein {Norse home of the dark elves}

Footnotes and Bibliography

1) "Gin ye ca' me imp or elf, / I rede ye look weel to yourself; / Gin ye ca' me fairy, / I'll work ye muckle tarrie; / Gun guid neibour ye ca's me, / Then guid neibour I will be; / But gin ye ca' me seelie wicht, / I'll be your freend baith day and nicht." from Chambers' Popular Rhymes of Scotland as quoted by Katherine Briggs in An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures. New York: Pantheon Books, 1976. 122.
2) Purkiss, Diane. At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, and Other Troublesome Things. Introduction. New York: New York University Press, 2000. 10.
3) Briggs, Katharine. The Fairies in Tradition and Literature. New York: Routledge Classics, 1967. 105.
4) W.Y. Evans-Wentz. The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries: The Classic Study of Leprechauns, Pixies, and Other Fairy Spirits. New York: Citadel Press, 1994. 274.
5) One etymologist in compiling various forms of the word 'fairy' in pre-1829 English texts discovered "ninety-three different forms of the same word [...] even allowing for syntactic marking (generally for plurality) there are at least fifty different forms within the corpus which we would regard as a single word." Williams, Noel. "The Semantics of the Word Fairy: Making Meaning Out of Thin Air." The Good People: New Fairylore Essays. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1997. 459.
Tags: essay, etymology, euphemisms, faery, fate

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