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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) a ruined or dilapidated house

A ruined house covered in moss and grass in a misty landscape

File this one away for future reference. Yes, there really is a word for those isolated, dilapidated houses and outbuildings that you stumble across while you’re hiking in the countryside: they’re tholtans.

If you think that word doesn’t look all that English, you’d be right. Tholtan is one of a handful of a words we’ve picked up from Manx, the native Celtic-origin language spoken on the Isle of Man.

English borrowed it in the nineteenth century, but on its native island the word tholtan has been unearthed in texts dating from as far back as the mid 1600s, and probably has its origins in an even earlier Old Irish word, tollta, literally meaning “pierced” or “filled with holes.” From there, it’s a fairly understandably leap to a word for a ruined or run-down house.


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