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This paper considers the distinction between the phonology of Día 'God' and dee 'pagan deity', offering examples from the literature of the latter's use in singular and plural forms. From the Old Irish to the Early Modern Irish period, there existed a word dea/dee/dé with the meaning 'pagan deity'. While día could mean both 'God' and 'god', dee and its variants were used only in the latter sense after the é > ía shift. It would appear, therefore, that, as the pronunciation of dé/dea was shifting to día in the course of the seventh century, the spelling of the archaic form was lexicalised with the meaning 'pagan god'. The rationale behind the coinage, however, is probably not recoverable with any certainty.
Ériu © 2012 Royal Irish Academy