As befits any imaginary subject, there is no authoritative taxonomy of Leprechauns; like dragons, affordable housing in San Francisco, and happy SharePoint users–they do not, in fact, exist.

This inconvenience does not, however, preclude speculation on the topic; there is (unsurprisingly) no shortage of information about Leprechauns on the Web and, indeed, in several centuries of pre-internet Irish folklore from which we can make some initial observations.

If, therefore, any of the information below is deemed to be “false” by the reader, the author’s certainty that “facts” about things imaginary cannot in any real sense be proven (or disproven) sufficiently protects these assertions from any attacks based on Reason or Logic.


NB: Apologies in advance for the varied and inconsistent old Irish transliterations; sources vary on these points.

Of the two primary theories of the origin of the word Leprechaun, the favorite seems to be “leath bhrogan” or “leithbrágan” (or “half brogue” as in “one shoe”) which refers to the sprite’s traditional occupation of shoemaker—he is often depicted cobbling one (and only one) shoe. The other possible derivation is from a corruption of a Middle Irish word “luacharma” (or “luchorpán” or some such thing) which simply means literally “small person” or “small body.”


Actual restored shoe manufactured by a Leprechaun


Contemporary scholarship traces the first mention of the Leprechaun to a medieval Irish tale Echtra Fergus mac Léti in which the titular King Fergus falls asleep on a beach and is subsequently accosted by three lúchorpáin, whom he captures in return for wishes.[1]

The following several centuries witness Leprechauns in various guises, although they seem to have two more or less consistent characteristics (besides being small and Irish): they are male, and they are largely solitary. Characterizations run from malevolent to merely mischievous, from reclusive to standoffish, and from tippler to dipsomaniacal.

Interestingly, and contrary to our contemporary experience, most pre-20th century accounts rather consistently depict Leprechauns as wearing red—not green. Although it’s not clear when the sartorial transition took place, it should be noted that many modern representations of Leprechauns are based on stereotypical and derogatory caricatures of the Irish, which sentiment presumably dates from the early 20th century during the waves of Irish immigration to the Eastern U.S.

[1] Interestingly, the same tales are often related by SharePoint users about their sysadmins.


Types of Leprechauns

Some simpler sources[1] stipulate a binary arrangement: the “Cluricawne” is a subset of Leprechaun. This is not very interesting, and furthermore not useful for speculating about taxonomies.

What scant information there is to be gleaned from other, more comprehensive writings suggests a taxonomy based on regional origin (or affiliation? who can say?) with the following subcategories:

  • Connaught Leprechaun
  • Kerry Leprechaun (or Luricawne)
  • Leinster leprechaun
  • Meath Leprechaun
  • Monaghan Leprechaun (or Cluricawne)
  • Munster Leprechaun
  • Northern Leprechaun (or Logheryman)
  • Tipperary Leprechaun (or Lurigadawne)
  • Ulster Leprechaun

Naturally, the abovementioned “subtypes” are subject to vague, generalized descriptions of the “traits” of each (of the sort commonly found in descriptions of available character races in poorly edited manuals for hastily constructed role-playing games).

The invariant traits common across all subtypes are usually inclusive of pipe smoking (at least since the 18th century), whiskey (or poteen—essentially Irish moonshine) drinking, and a love of mischief.


After exhausting my research on this nigh-impossible task, the following conclusion emerged:

Depending on one’s point of view, categorizing and classifying imaginary beings is either very simple (you can make up anything you want) or extremely challenging (say, if you require more than one source for, you know, anything).

Bob Kasenchak, Director of Business Development
Access Innovations

[1] For values of “source” that include “anonymous and/or unsourced blogposts” and “hubpages,” so the reader is, again, cautioned.