Teach pobail

No, the title of this post has nothing to do with instructing indigents on how to get out of jail. It’s an Irish word that means “church.” The correct pronunciation for American English speakers would be approximately chack PO-bwil (it would more or less sound like “Jack Pobble”).

What’s neat about this word, though, is to dissect its meaning by looking at each word individually. “Teach” means “house.” “Pobail” means community (it’s a cognate of people). In other words, this Irish word for church basically means “the house of the community” or “house of the people.”

The potential cross-fertilization between Celtic spirituality and the house church movement probably needs no further commentary. It’s just nice to see how the Irish language, which of course is the native language spoken by at least two of the three persons in the Holy Trinity, is so supportive of this nexus.

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About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • zoecarnate

    Fascinating etymology! It’s been so many years since I’ve looked at the meanings of ecclesia, and the German “kirk” where we get our English word for Church…I’m sure it’s all quite telling of the socio-spiritual makeups of us all as we travel along life’s journey…

  • http://mikecrowlsscribblepad.blogspot.com/ Mike Crowl

    Right….so two of the three members of the Trinity are native speakers of the Irish language. I’m intrigued as to which one you think doesn’t! LOL

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    Well, I’m assuming that Jesus was a native speaker of Aramaic. But when Paul speaks of “the tongues of angels” naturally it’s Brythonic and Goidelic languages he had in mind!

  • Peter


    Oops–just talking palindromes in one of the original languages of the Big Three–you know, the guys (or is one of them, at least sometimes, a girl?) mentioned in The Shack. Don’t you think those Persons are at least tri-lingual?


    Love, Peter