Tag Archives: Irish origin of swoon

Swoon

In his ridiculous book, How The Irish Invented Slang, Daniel Cassidy made hundreds of stupid and easily disprovable claims. One of the most stupid of these claims is the one about swoon (to faint), which he claims comes from the Irish suan, an old-fashioned word for sleep. Confusingly, he states that the English word swoon is of unknown etymology, then below that he says:

Many Anglo-American dictionaries derive swoon “from Old English geswōgan in a faint … past participle of swōgan, as in āswōgan, to choke, of uncertain origin.”

In other words, according to the mainstream dictionaries, the etymology of the word swoon is known back to the Old English period more than a thousand years ago and by the Middle English period (according to the Michigan Middle English Dictionary) it was swounen, defined as “To become unconscious, faint, swoon; collapse in a swoon.”

Just because suan happens to resemble swoon doesn’t automatically mean it’s the origin of the word. After all, the Irish for to faint isn’t anything to do with suan. It’s titim i laige or titim i bhfanntais.