A late 18th century term, from Irish spailpín.



spalpeen ‎(plural spalpeens)

  1. (Ireland) A poor migratory farm worker in Ireland, often viewed as a rascal or mischievous and cunning person.
  2. (Ireland) A good-for-nothing person, often used so-named during a good humored ridicule.


  • 1979, Thomas Flanagan, The Year of the French (New York: The New York Review of Books):
    "And they stood you before the magistrates like a spalpeen or a tinker."
    "Sure the French wouldn't bring with them barrels of coppers for the spalpeens of Connaught. It is murder and bloodshed they would bring."
  • 2002, Joseph O'Conner, Star of the Sea (Vintage 2003), page 25:
    The men were mainly evicted farmers from Connaught and West Cork, beggared spalpeens from Carlow and Waterford; a cooper, some farriers, a horse-knacker from Kerry; a couple of Galway fishermen who had managed to sell their nets.

See alsoEdit


Read in another language