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Middle Irish is the name given by historical philologists to the Goidelic language used from the 10th to 12th centuries; it is therefore a contemporary of late Old English and early Middle English. The modern Goidelic languages, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx, are all descendants of Middle Irish.

At its height, Middle Irish was spoken throughout Irelandmarker, Scotlandmarker and the Isle of Manmarker; from Munster to the North Seamarker island of Inchcolmmarker. Its geographical range made it the most widespread of all Insular languages before the late 12th century, when Middle English began to make inroads into Ireland, and many of the Celtic regions of northern and western Britainmarker.

Few mediaeval European languages can rival the volume of literature extant in Middle Irish. Much of this survival is due to the tenacity of a few early modern Irish antiquarians, but the sheer volume of sagas, annals, hagiographies, and so forth, which survive shows how much confidence members of the mediaeval Gaelic learned orders had in their own vernacular. Almost all survives from Ireland, however very little from Scotland or Manmarker. The Lebor Bretnach, the "Irish Nennius", survives only from manuscripts preserved in Ireland; however, Thomas Owen Clancy has recently argued that it was written in Scotland, at the monastery in Abernethymarker.


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