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Adjectives galore

Q: I was telling a friend about the “fresh flowers galore” at the produce outlet in Dover, Delaware, when I got to thinking about “galore.” Is there any other adjective (if it is an adjective) that always goes after the noun?

A: Yes, “galore,” meaning “in abundance,” is an adjective. Technically, it’s a postpositive adjective—one that follows the noun it modifies. A prepositive adjective precedes the noun.

Many adjectives can be prepositive in one phrase and postpositive in another, depending on the sense.

For example “proper” precedes the noun when it means correct (“proper grammar”) or decorous (“proper behavior”), but follows when it refers to a specific place (“the city proper”).

However, “galore” is among a group of adjectives that always follow nouns.

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language has several examples, including “restaurants aplenty,” “flowers galore,” “Attorney General designate,” “President elect,” and “Nobel laureate.”

The authors, Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum, say “aplenty” and “galore” are “somewhat dated,” and the others “occur with a very narrow range” of words—“designate and  elect with nominals denoting various kinds of roles to which one may be appointed or elected, laureate mainly with Poet or Nobel.”

We’ll add some other examples: “arms akimbo,” “devil incarnate,” “door ajar,” “man alive,” “ship afloat,” “three abreast,” “a vacation abroad,” and “Watergate redux.

(Many of these words were once phrases beginning with the archaic preposition “a,” a variant of “on,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary.)

As for “galore,” English adapted it in the 17th century from an adverb in Irish, go leór (“to sufficiency, sufficiently, enough”), says the OED, which notes a similar term in Scottish Gaelic, gu leòr.

The Chambers Dictionary of Etymology says go in Irish and gu in Gaelic are particles “prefixed to an adjective to form an adverb.”

As the OED explains, “galore” is now “commonly viewed as Irish; in some earlier examples the proximate source seems to have been Scottish Gaelic.”

The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, edited by C. T. Onions, says “galore” was “prob. popularized by [Sir Walter] Scott.”

The Scottish novelist, poet, and playwright used the word in his journal on April 10, 1826: “Sent off proofs and copy galore before breakfast, and might be able to give idleness a day if I liked.”

The earliest citation for “galore” in the OED is from a 1675 entry in The Diary of Henry Teonge, a Royal Navy chaplain: “Provinder good store, beife, porke, sheepe, ducks, geese, chickens, henns, gallore.” (We’ve expanded the citation to add foodstuffs galore.)

The OED, an etymological dictionary based on historical evidence, classifies “galore” as an adverb or a noun, but all six of the standard dictionaries we’ve checked list it only as an adjective.

(The OED entry hasn’t been fully updated since 1898; the up-to-date Oxford Dictionaries online, also from Oxford University Press, considers “galore” an adjective.)

It’s hard to imagine “galore” as a noun. But the OED has two 19th-century examples, including this one from 1848:

“Galore of alcohol to ratify the trade.” (From Life in the Far West, a series of articles about a British officer’s experiences in America, written by George Frederik Augustus Ruxton and published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh magazine.)

In fact, the Dictionary of American Regional English has several 20th-century examples of “galore” used as a noun meaning “a great quantity.”

This one from A. B. Guthrie’s 1947 novel The Big Sky refers to Rocky Mountain sheep: “There’s a galore of ’em beyond the Yellowstone.”

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