Definition of birlinn in English:



  • A large rowing boat or barge of a kind formerly used in the Western Islands of Scotland.

    • ‘Galleys are direct descendants of Viking ships - the Gaelic name birlinn probably derives from byrdingr, a type of small Norse cargo vessel.’
    • ‘Sixth century monks in leather coracles knew this, so too did Vikings of the 9th and 10th centuries and Gaeilc-speaking descendants in galleys and birlinns.’
    • ‘Argyll himself, Coll and MacLeod each had one galley, and Coll also had two birlinns.’
    • ‘The birlinns or galleys used to come up the loch to here.’
    • ‘We know of birlinns through poetry and metaphors, and see them on carvings and seals, but very little has been written about these ships until now.’
    • ‘The story of how Loch Lomond and the fast-flowing River Leven were used as a highway for trade and commerce, by galleys, birlinns, sailing gabbarts and, on the loch, paddle-steamers, is told more comprehensively here than anywhere else.’
    • ‘When that king was making his great endeavour, in the middle of the thirteenth century, to overthrow the Norwegian power in the Western Highlands and Isles, he was joined by Cormac with a force of three birlinns or galleys of sixteen oars each.’
    • ‘As there was no anchorage at Toward, the birlinns were beached for the night.’
    • ‘It is likely that the dry island, flanked by beaches ideal for pulling up highland galleys or birlinns or hide boats and with a sheltered deep anchorage on the northeast side, would have been used long before the castle was built.’
    • ‘There were other strongholds at Dun Ara, and at Eilean Amalaig in Loch Spelve, where the MacLeans marshalled their birlinns (galleys).’
    • ‘Even while Sweno spoke, the birlinn touched a low sea-hidden ledge of rock.’
    • ‘With the arrival of the Norsemen wooden galleys and birlinns became the common transport and these stayed in use until the Jacobite rebellion.’
    • ‘We use the image of the birlinn as our logo because it's a strong symbol of our past, of the powerful sea-faring nation we were once, and of the many people who have left these shores to settle throughout the world.’


Late 16th century: Scottish Gaelic.