10 Great Irish Words You May Have Never Heard Before

Analysis: from súgach and seachran to báiní and báire baoise, 10 words and phrases to add to your lexicon

As Lá Fhéile Pádraig approaches and with Seachtain na Gaeilge booming, people will naturally be looking for a few words of Irish, just as they will be looking for something green to wear. A cynic might dismiss this as superficial symbolism, but the popularity of Darach Ó Séaghdha Motherfoclóir emphasizes that the general public wants to engage in regular dialogue with Irish in small, manageable chunks.

Academics also have a role to play here. the excellent A history of Ireland in 100 words reminds us of the central role of the Irish language in understanding our past. Have you wondered why the word for province (there are four) means “fifth”? Or what was the ancient Irish word for that most basic word, “yes,” which is conspicuously absent from the modern language? If so, check out this latest post! To help you out, here are 10 words and phrases that don’t appear in this book, but are interesting on their own.

Sugach

The likely result of clover drowning, not in an extreme way, more “mellow with the drink” according to Ó Dónaill’s dictionary. It can also mean “joyful, happy”, as in An Spailpin Fanachwhose protagonist was súgach sasta the day of his enlistment (but not for long), or the women of Cearc and Coileach who were súgach go leor after consuming a coileach breá ramhar.

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Ó RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh, Siún Ní Dhuinn agus Tom Ó Brannagáin ag caint ar an leabhar nuafhoilsithe, Motherfoclóir le Darach Ó Séaghdha

Dith eye

“The absence of meaning”, which accompanies acts performed while sugach. Dith, ‘loss, deprivation, destruction’, is used in many expressions in Irish, such as the common Ulster expression of dhith ar ‘need’. The recently digitized Foclóir Mháirtín Uí Chadhain is an incredible lexicographic resource and contains colorful examples of díth ceilleas the reason why the unfortunate Murchadh lost his finger.

Ball

Nothing to do with sports balls the basic meaning is “limb, member, bodily organ”, practically nothing to get excited about. But when it appears in the sentence a ball, it means quite another thing, referring to when an event takes place. If the accompanying verb is in the past tense, a ball means “some time ago”, whereas with a verb in the future, it means “later”.

Baini

Irish has a long history of borrowing words from Latin. Much of the core vocabulary relating to religion and literacy, for example, consists of Latin loanwords. These often look the same in both languages, like leabhar (release) and beannacht (benedict). The great scholar Brian Ó Cuív argued that bainifound in the sentence (dul) the bath “to become furious”, is ultimately based on the Latin word “mania”, which English has also borrowed. In Irish, the first letter of this word became b, but the sources in the Irish Language Electronic Dictionary also show earlier examples beginning with m.

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Sharon Arbuthnot from RTÉ Radio 1’s Today program talks about her book A History Of Ireland In 100 Words

N’fheadar

Technically, it’s two words (no and fedar), but normal speech often reduces no here for not’, with the result that it sounds like a single word. Commonly used in Munster Irish, this way of saying “I don’t know” is based on a verb that must have been common to the entire population of the island at one time, given the abundance of examples in the ‘story. dictionary.

Seachran

It means “wandering, wandering; aberration, error, delirium; disturbance, distraction”. In the Irish tradition, secherran has come to be associated with certain types of composition where the main character, appropriately, wanders off. A famous example combining singing and recitation concerns Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, and was recorded by Joe Heaney and other sean-nós singers. In 19th century Anglo-Irish literature, secherran served as the basis for the title of a successful play by Dion Boucicault.

baoise baoise

Dictionaries provide two main translations of this phrase, the disturbing “wild or free run” and the more benign “juvenile madness”. Variations of this phrase appear in texts as old as the 12th century. baoise baoise itself is found from the 15th century and in modern dialects. One of these texts is Séathrún Céitinn’s long meditation on death, Trí Biorghaoithe an Bháissobering reading for those who regret ag imirt a mbáire baoise. An annotated extract, with translation, can be read on the indispensable Léamh website.

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From RTÉ Radio 1’s Ray D’Arcy show, broadcaster Sinead Ní Uallacháin talks about the nation’s favorite Irish words

Gealach

The most familiar word for ‘moon’, having largely ousted the ancient D and luan. Worthy of inclusion for Flann O’Brien/Brian Ó Nualláin/Myles na gCopaleen’s oft-quoted false desperation upon encountering Pádraig Ó Duinnín’s monumental dictionary entry: “gealach…the moon; the white circle in a slice of half-boiled potato or turnip”.

Mac Leinn

Speaking of Myles, he once wrote a humorous tribute to some of the greatest Celtic scholars of the 20th century, beginning with “My song is about ‘/Three sons of great learning’/Binchy and Bergin and Best”. ‘Sons of learning’ translates mac leinn (singular), the masculine form of the word ‘student’ (inion léinn ‘daughter of knowledge’ is the feminine). As the language evolves to become more inclusive, the ranks of microphone and inionacha leinn may require the addition of additional terms to reflect the growing recognition of gender fluidity.

eo

Homonyms are words that look the same and sound the same, but have different meanings, such as “pen” (either the writing implement or animal enclosure) or “bark” (the layer outside of a tree or what dogs do). Word bradan is well known, especially from versions of the salmon tale of knowledge. In older literature we find another word for salmon, oh. Another one oh also existed, meaning “if” and appears in place names like Maigh Eo. Use oh either way, pool or arboreal, is not common these days, but don’t let that stop you!


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ


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