[spal-peen, spal-peen]
A spalpeen is a late 18th century term denoting a poor migratory farm worker in Ireland. Spalpeen comes from the Irish word spailpin. Also, a spalpeen is viewed as a rascal or mischievous and cunning person. Also, it is an Irish term for a good-for-nothing person and is often used as a name given to a person during a good humored ridicule.

For example, in Thomas Flanagan's The Year of the French, Ferdy O'Donnell says, "And they stood you before the magistrates like a spalpeen or a tinker." This context of the word spalpeen implies that spalpeens were viewed as the lowest in social class and were extremely ignorant and uneducated people. Another example from The Year of the Frenchis when Sean Mackenna says, "Sure the French wouldn't bring with them barrels of coppers for the spalpeens of Connaught. It is murder and bloodshed they would bring." This quote implies that spalpeens were a very disrespected group and their actions were held to the very lowest of standards.

See also


  • Flanagan, Thomas. The Year of the French. New York: The New York Review of Books, 1979.
  • encarta MSN
  • "Spalpeen." The New Oxford American Dictionary. Second ed.
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