Word Wednesday: Qualtagh

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noun | Kwol-tog


The first person one meets (either leaving or entering their house) after the start of the New Year.


Qualtagh is from a form of Gaelic known as Manx.  It is spoken on the Isle of Man, a Literally the word qualtagh means “first foot”, as in the first person to set foot in the house on New Year’s Day, or the first person one met when they set foot outside on New Year’s Day.

In order to be the “first foot”, one cannot have been present in the house at the stroke of midnight.  So being there and then going outside and coming back in  does not make one the Qualtagh of the place.

It may also be used to refer to the first person a woman encounters after being confined to her house following the birth of a child.

Did You Know?

The new year’s qualtagh, for luck, is supposed to be a dark-haired man. A red-headed or female qualtagh is unlucky. Other things to bring luck to the house on New Year’s Day include serving black-eyed peas, having the qualtagh bring shortbread and whiskey (sounds fine for any day of the year), and sweeping all the garbage in the house out through the front door before midnight on New Year’s Eve (so that any of the misfortune of the past year is gone, not to return).

In Greece, the “first foot” is referred to as the Pothariko (pothari-KO).  Their right foot needs to be the first one to cross the threshold, and they bring pomegranates to throw on the floor for good luck.

From Folklore of the Isle of Man, A.W.Moore, 1891

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