Ceirean,[1] Cirein-cròin[1] or cionarain-crò[2] was a large sea monster in Scottish Gaelic folklore. An old saying claims that it was so large that it fed on seven whales: Local folklores say this huge animal can disguise himself as a small, silver fish when fisherman come in contact with it.[3] Other accounts state the reason for the disguise was to attract its next meal; when the fisherman would catch it in its small silver fish form, once aboard it changed back to the monster and ate him.[4]

Gaelic Translation Notes
Seachd sgadain, sath bradain; Seven herrings, a salmon's fill;
Seachd bradain, sath ròin; Seven salmon, a seal's fill;
Seachd ròin, sath mial-mòr-mara Seven seals, a large whale's fill (Mial here is archaic; killer whales eat seals, but baleen whales do not.)
Seachd mial, sath Cirein-cròin Seven whales, a cirein-cròin's fill


According to Alexander Forbes, "[In another saying] cionarain-cro here is substituted, as Avill be seen, for the cirein-croin in the former saving, and ranks second to the "great sea animal."[2]

Forbes identifies the creature as a large sea serpent,[6] but this is arguable. He also proposes it as a dinosaur -

"It is not known what this monster animal was, though it may well have been one of these "Giant fish-destroyers," so ably, inler-alia, described by Dr Carmichael M'Intosh, which waged war in sea and on land against all and sundry as well as against each other, viz., the gigantic Deinosaurs,[sic] some of which, notably the Atlantosaurus, reached to one hundred feet in length with a height of thirty feet, and proportionately awful of aspect."[7]


  • Forbes, Alexander Gaelic names of beasts (mammalia), birds, fishes, insects, reptiles, etc. (1905); available here
  • This article incorporates text from "Dwelly's [Scottish] Gaelic Dictionary" (1911). (Cirein-cròin, ceirean)
  1. ^ a b Forbes p7; Dwelly
  2. ^ a b Forbes, p385
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Forbes, pp61, 226, 384, 385; Dwelly
  6. ^ Forbes, p384
  7. ^ Forbes, p61