, or very commonly ríg (genitive), is an ancient Gaelic
Goidelic languages
The Goidelic languages or Gaelic languages are one of the two branches of the Insular Celtic languages, the other consisting of the Brythonic languages. Goidelic languages historically formed a dialect continuum stretching from the south of Ireland through the Isle of Man to the north of Scotland...

 word meaning "King
- Centers of population :* King, Ontario, CanadaIn USA:* King, Indiana* King, North Carolina* King, Lincoln County, Wisconsin* King, Waupaca County, Wisconsin* King County, Washington- Moving-image works :Television:...

". It is used in historical texts referring to the Irish and Scottish kings and those of similar rank. While the modern Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 word is exactly the same, in modern Scottish it is Rìgh, apparently derived from the genitive. The word comes from the Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 *h₃rēǵs ("ruler, king"). Cognates include Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

Raja is an Indian term for a monarch, or princely ruler of the Kshatriya varna...

' ("king") and Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 'rex' ("king, ruler").

Three traditional grades

There were three traditional grades of in Gaelic Ireland.

Rí túaithe

A rí túaithe was most commonly a local petty king of a single túath
Túath is an Old Irish word, often translated as "people" or "nation". It is cognate with the Welsh and Breton tud , and with the Germanic þeudō ....

, although "one" túath might be many times the size of another. There are generally estimated to have been between 100 and 150 in Ireland, depending on who really qualified.

Importantly, in theory every king of a superior grade to the rí túaithe was also one himself, and exercised no direct legal authority outside his own ancestral túath. Kings were bound to others by military allegiance and the payment of tribute.


An "over-king", a ruiri was a regional king to whom several rí túaithe were subordinate, and often other territories. He was in some sense still a petty king, but could also achieve provincial-level prominence, including, although rarely, the provincial kingship, and was often fully sovereign in any case. Depending on who was counted, there may have been as many as 20 genuine ruiri in Ireland at any time.

Confusingly, a king of this grade was also known as a Rí túath, meaning, unlike the above Rí túaithe, a king of multiple tuatha. Thus ruiri tends to be favored in modern scholarship to avoid this problem.
  • Kings of Osraige
    Kings of Osraige
    The Kings of Osraige reigned over Osraige, which was largely a buffer state between Leinster and Munster, in Ireland. Its southern border were the Suir and Barrow rivers, though it originally extended to the sea and its rulers had some influence over the Norse kings of Waterford...

    • Cerball mac Dúnlainge
      Cerball mac Dúnlainge
      Cerball mac Dúnlainge was king of Osraige in south-east Ireland. The kingdom of Osraige occupied roughly the area of modern County Kilkenny and lay between the larger provincial kingdoms of Munster and Leinster....

      , among the most famous
  • Kings of Breifne, semi-provincial for several centuries
  • Kings of Uí Maine
  • Kings of Moylurg
    Kings of Moylurg
    The Kings of Magh Luirg or Moylurg were a branch of the Síol Muireadaigh, and a kindred family to the Ua Conchobair Kings of Connacht. Their ancestor, Maelruanaidh Mor mac Tadg, was a brother to Conchobar mac Tadg, King of Connacht 967-973, ancestor of the O Connor family of Connacht...

  • Donnubán mac Cathail
    Donnubán mac Cathail
    Donnubán , Donndubán , or Donnabán mac Cathail, anglicised Donovan, son of Cahall , was a 10th century ruler of the Irish regional kingdom of Uí Fidgenti, and possibly also of the smaller overkingdom of Uí Chairpre Áebda within that...

  • Maguire of Fermanagh
    Maguire of Fermanagh
    List of the Macguires of Fermanagh ....

  • MacCarthy Reagh
    MacCarthy Reagh
    The MacCarthy Reagh dynasty are a branch of the great MacCarthy dynasty, Kings of Desmond, deriving from the ancient Eóganachta, of the central Eóganacht Chaisil sept. The MacCarthys Reagh seated themselves as Princes of Carbery in what is now southwestern County Cork in the 13th century...

Rí ruirech

A "king of over-kings", a rí ruirech was often a provincial (rí cóicid) or semi-provincial king to whom several ruiri were subordinate. Entities belonging to the 1st and 2nd millennia are listed. These do not all belong to the same periods. No more than six genuine rí ruirech were ever contemporary, with the average being three or four. Also, following the Norman invasion of Ireland
Norman Invasion of Ireland
The Norman invasion of Ireland was a two-stage process, which began on 1 May 1169 when a force of loosely associated Norman knights landed near Bannow, County Wexford...

, the situation became somewhat more condensed and complicated than previously.
  • Kings of Ulster
    Kings of Ulster
    The Kings of Ulster were of the Ulaid, and up till about AD 450, ruled as over-kings of the ancient cóiced of Ulster. Ptolemy's map shows them as the Voluntii and adjacent Darini. They were joined in the kingship by the later attested Cruithne...

  • Kings of Munster
    Kings of Munster
    The name Munster is derived from the Gaelic God, Muman. The province of Munster was once divided into six regions: Tuadh Mhuman , Des Mhuman , Aur/Ur Mumhan , Iar mumhan or Iarmuman , Ernaibh Muman , and Deisi Muman...

  • Kings of Mide
    Kings of Mide
    In medieval Ireland, the Kings of Mide were of the Clann Cholmáin, a branch of the Uí Néill. Several were High Kings of Ireland. After the collapse of the kingdom in the 12th century its dynasty, the Ua Mael Sechlainn or Ó Melaghlins, were forced west and settled on the east bank of the Shannon...

  • Kings of Ailech
    Kings of Ailech
    The Kings of Ailech belonged to the northern Uí Néill and took their name from the Grianán of Ailech , a hillfort on top of Greenan Mountain in modern County Donegal...

  • Kings of Connacht
    Kings of Connacht
    The Kings of Connacht were rulers of the cóiced of Connacht, which lies west of the River Shannon, Ireland. However, the name only became applied to it in the early medieval era, being named after The Connachta.The old name for the province was Cóiced Ol nEchmacht . Ptolemy's map of c. 150 AD...

     (majority: O'Conor dynasty
    O'Conor Don
    The Ó Conchubhair Donn is the hereditary Prince and Chief of the Name of the Royal Family of Connacht, the Clan Ó Conchubhair.-Overview:...

  • Kings of Leinster
    Kings of Leinster
    The following is a provisional list of the kings of Leinster who ruled the Irish kingdom of Leinster up to 1632 with the death of Domhnall Spainnach MacMurrough-Kavanagh, the last legitimately inaugurated head of the MacMurrough Kavanagh royal line...

     (2nd millennium: Uí Cheinnselaig
    Uí Cheinnselaig
    The Uí Ceinnselaig , from the Old Irish "grandsons of Cennsalach", are an Irish dynasty of Leinster who trace their descent from Énnae Cennsalach, a supposed contemporary of Niall of the Nine Hostages...

  • Kings of Tyrone
    Kings of Tir Eogain
    This article lists the Kings of Tír Eoghain or Tyrone from 1185 to 1616. They are listed from their date of accession to date of death, unless otherwise stated....

     (majority: O'Neill dynasty
    O'Neill dynasty
    The O'Neill dynasty is a group of families that have held prominent positions and titles throughout European history. The O'Neills take their name from Niall Glúndub, an early 10th century High King of Ireland from the Cenél nEógain...

    ), the most powerful kings of late Gaelic Ireland
  • Kings of Tyrconnell (2nd millennium: O'Donnell dynasty
    O'Donnell dynasty
    O'Donnell , which is derived from the forename Domhnaill were an ancient and powerful Irish family, kings, princes, and lords of Tír Chonaill in early times, and the chief allies and sometimes...

    ), carved out a large, irregularly shaped overlordship or "province" in late Gaelic Ireland
  • Kings of Desmond (MacCarthy dynasty
    MacCarthy dynasty
    The MacCarthy dynasty was one of Ireland's greatest medieval dynasties. It was and continues to be divided into several great branches. The MacCarthy Reagh, MacCarthy of Muskerry, and MacCarthy of Duhallow dynasties were the three most important of these, after the central or MacCarthy Mór...

    ), the most powerful kings of southern Ireland, ruined by a succession crisis
  • Kings of Thomond (O'Brien dynasty), of national stature in the early 2nd millennium, but declined greatly in later centuries

The Norse Kings of Dublin
Kings of Dublin
The Vikings invaded the territory around Dublin in the 9th century, establishing the Norse Kingdom of Dublin, the earliest and longest lasting Norse kingdom in all of Europe outside of Scandinavia, excepting the so-called Kingdom of Mann and the Isles. This corresponded to most of present-day...

 and a few Kings of Limerick
History of Limerick
The history of Limerick , stretches back to its establishment by the Vikings as a walled city on King's Island in 812, and its charter in 1197....

 also functioned as Rí ruirech in the 10th century, the former before being downgraded and the latter before being destroyed. Outside of Ireland the Kings of Mann and the Isles did as well.

Ard Rí

  • High King of Ireland
    High King of Ireland
    The High Kings of Ireland were sometimes historical and sometimes legendary figures who had, or who are claimed to have had, lordship over the whole of Ireland. Medieval and early modern Irish literature portrays an almost unbroken sequence of High Kings, ruling from Tara over a hierarchy of...


Scotland appears to have had a variety of as well. In addition to the monarch or "high king" there were others, although these are conventionally styled only "lords" in the English language.
  • Lord of the Isles
    Lord of the Isles
    The designation Lord of the Isles is today a title of Scottish nobility with historical roots that go back beyond the Kingdom of Scotland. It emerged from a series of hybrid Viking/Gaelic rulers of the west coast and islands of Scotland in the Middle Ages, who wielded sea-power with fleets of...

  • Lords of Galloway
    Lords of Galloway
    The Lords, or Kings of Galloway ruled over Galloway, in south west Scotland, for a large part of the High Middle Ages.Many regions of Scotland, including Galloway and Moray, periodically had kings or subkings, similar to those in Ireland during the Middle Ages. The Scottish monarch was seen as...

There were also a number of Kings of Moray
Mormaer of Moray
The Mormaerdom or Kingdom of Moray was a lordship in High Medieval Scotland that was destroyed by King David I of Scotland in 1130. It did not have the same territory as the modern local government council area of Moray, which is a much smaller area, around Elgin...

, who are commonly styled mormaer
The title of Mormaer designates a regional or provincial ruler in the medieval Kingdom of the Scots. In theory, although not always in practice, a Mormaer was second only to the King of Scots, and the senior of a toisech.-Origin:...

s in later Scottish tradition, but properly styled in contemporary Irish sources. The famous Macbeth of Scotland
Macbeth of Scotland
Mac Bethad mac Findlaích was King of the Scots from 1040 until his death...

 is argued to have begun his career as Ruiri of Moray.

See also

  • White Wand
    White Wand
    The White Rod, White Wand, Rod of Inauguration, or Wand of Sovereignty, in the Irish language variously called the slat na ríghe and slat tighearnais , was the primary symbol of a Gaelic king or lord's legitimate authority and the principal prop used in his inauguration ceremony...

  • Flaith
    A flaith or flath , plural flatha, was an hereditary prince, or even princess, in the Gaelic world, with the plural often referring to the social class...

  • Tigerna
    A tiarna , or tighearna , both from the Old Irish tigerna, is a lord in the Gaelic world and languages. An Ard Tiarna is a "high lord", approximately equal in rank to a count or earl, although many of such higher rank still happen to prefer the title on its own.In later Gaelic sources, for example...

  • Irish nobility
    Irish nobility
    This article concerns the Gaelic nobility of Ireland from ancient to modern times. It only partly overlaps with Chiefs of the Name because it excludes Scotland and other discussion...

  • Ollam
    In Irish, Ollam or Ollamh , is a master in a particular trade or skill. In early Irish Literature, it generally refers to the highest rank of Fili; it could also modify other terms to refer to the highest member of any group: thus an ollam brithem would be the highest rank of judge and an ollam rí...

  • Ríg (Norse god)
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