IRISH WORDS AND USAGES
AN T-ATHAIR PEADAR UA LAOGHAIRE
BROWNE AND NOLAN LIMITED
DUBLIN: BELFAST: CORK: WATERFORD
THE information contained in this book is derived
exclusively from the notes which the late Canon O'Leary
published in the Cork Weekly Examiner in the years
In the course of these five or six years several of his
works — Beatha Aodha Ruaidh Uí Dhomhnaill, Beatha
Bhrighde, Táin Bó Cuailgne, Sgéalaidheachta as an
mBíobla Naomhtha, An Cleasaidhe — appeared in serial
form from week to week, and, with rare exceptions, no
week passed without some notes from the author ex-
plaining the meaning of words or constructions occurring
in the text.
Canon O'Leary often went farther in his explanations
than the actual text required. He also often took advantage
of the opportunity to convey to the public at large in-
formation which he had already given to private corre-
spondents who had sought his advice.
People used to write to him from all parts of Ireland
asking for explanations of idioms, etc. Knowing that
there must have been many others confronted with the
same difficulties, he often incorporated the substance
of his replies to correspondents in his notes in the Cork
Weekly Examiner. To this fortunate circumstance we
owe the fuller explanations of details of usage and syntax
Some of the points dealt with will be new to many
readers; others are an elaboration of explanations which
are to be found elsewhere. They will all help us to a better
understanding of the living speech of the people.
To the Rev Richard Fleming, Adm., we owe the
publication of these notes in book form, He handed
all the material to me, and asked me to collate it and
prepare it for the press.
Out of that large body of material I have endeavoured
to select primarily those words and phrases which seemed
to me either not to be readily available, or to be less
adequately dealt with, in the ordinary vocabularies.
Abair, has two senses. It means "say," i.e., "speak
these words." It also means "bid." Abair leis
teacht, bid him come, or tell him to come. There is
a very common expression, "Abair é!" which means
"You may say that!" "Not a doubt about it!"
Tá abartha agam (Sg. II. 2). I have made an assertion.
Whereas tá ráidhte agam means merely that I have
said what I wished to say.
Adhal, a large three-pronged fork, used for the purpose
of lifting pieces of meat out of a boiler.
Adhart, a bolster.
Ádhbharach, advantageous, profitable, beneficial.
Adhlacaim, bury. Áit adhlactha a burial-place.
Aerach. Not at all the same as the English "airy." It
means unstable of character; prone to the pursuit
of vain enjoyments.
Ag, with the verbal is quite commonly used to express
a purpose, especially after verbs of motion. Chun
teacht ag ceannach tuille arbhair (Sg. I. 100). Thánadar
'ghá iarraidh orainn dul, for the purpose of asking
us to go.
Aghaidh. Tímpal na bliana 830, nuair a bhí aghaidh na
Lochlannach ar Cill Dara, etc. The "attention" of
Agairt, revenge. Gur 'ghá agairt sin uirthi a bhí an Tigh-
earna (Sg. III. 315), visiting that upon her, punishing
her for that. Nár agaraidh Dia air é! May God
Agam'. Tá grádh thar barr agam' mhac Sicem do'n inghín
seo agaibh-se (Sg. I. 69). This is pronounced as if
written "agam bac." The aspirated m is sounded like
Agus. Seacht ndiasa agus iad go breágh agus go lán.
Seven ears which were very fine and very full. Note
how simply the English relative construction may
be turned into Irish by means of agus. Bhí fear
ann agus 1. ab ainm do, whose name was I.
The English words "notwithstanding the fact that"
may frequently be expressed in Irish by the single
word agus; e.g., Sg. IV. 393-4: Ní'l aon truagh ag
aoinne agaibh dom agus mé i n-a leithéid de chás.
Aibidh, ripe. Applied to the eyes means "wide awake."
Aicíd, a disease.
Aicionta, natural. Namhaid a., a natural enemy; such
for example, as the wolf-dog was to the wolf.
Aicme, a class of people. The word is often, not always,
used in a disparaging sense. Plu. aicmeacha.
Aidhm, an object in view, a pursuit, a purpose.
Aigne, droch-a., malice, evilmindedness.
Áil. Ní h-áil leis (Sg. II. 9), he does not like to; he
will not; he is determined not to. It is stronger
than ní maith leis and than ní toil leis. It is like
the English "It is against his grain."
Dá mb'áil leat, if you will; in the sense, "I
wish you would."
Cad ab áil leat díomsa? What do you want
of me? i.e., What business have you of me? (cf.
Cad tá uait ormsa? What do you want from me?)
B'áil le gach fear acu gur aige féin ba cheart an
tighearnas a bheith. Each man of them insisted.
B'áil leis gur mise chaithfadh é dhéanamh. The force
is… Nothing would satisfy him but that I should
Ailteóireacht, any sort of rough play ("horse-play"),
especially if it involves a degree of ingenuity.
Aimhréidh, disordered, entangled. One trying to unravel
a tangled skein of thread might say Tá sé i n-aimh-
Aimsighim. D'aimsigh sí tarainne, she got a nail
(Sg. III. 267). The idea of "procuring" is in both
the Irish and the English words. Do fuair would
not express the meaning here. Aimsighim means
the procuring of something by design.
Ainbhfiosach, ignorant. The word is used in the sense
of being deficient in the knowledge of social duties,
or in common politeness.
Fear th'ainbhiosa, a man of your ignorance.
Aincheart, injustice. "Is cuma nú aincheart lomcheart."
But, ana cheart, very just. This ana is a separate
word, not a prefix. Ana shligh le faid, a great way
for length, i.e., a very long way.
Ainm. Asot ainm na catharach. The omission of the
verb in such sentences as this is quite common.
It is a great convenience.
Airchinneach, the manager of a piece of church property.
Áird, a point of the compass. As gach áird, from all
Airfideacht, a musical performance. It seems to have
being something like "opera."
Airighim, hear. An airighean tú? is the usual mode of
asking for a person's attention.
Or, a leithéid seo, when one wishes to tell
another that he has some communication to make
Airiú. This expression indicates that the statement
which it introduces is spoken with great energy
and with intense conviction.
Áirnéis, chattels; a person's belongings.
Aisge, a free gift; a present. Plu. aisgeacha.
Rud do leogaint i n-aisge, to let a thing go
Ait, curious, comical, absurd.
Áit. Ní raibh an áit… ní raibh sé (Sg. I. 68). Here,
although "áit" is a fem. noun, the pronoun "sé"
which represents it is masculine, because it refers,
not to the word "place," but to the thing, that is,
to the place itself.
Is maith an áit 'n-a rabhais (Sg. III. 345). This
is the equivalent of the English "Well done!"
or, "Bravo!" The phrase is applied not only
to a well-timed remark, but also to a well-timed
action of any description, an adroit move in a
game, for example.
Sometimes, maith an áit i rabhais, or go rabhais.
The expression is used in a bitterly satirical way
when a person attempts to be clever and only
succeeds in making a blunder.
Aiteas, intense delight. Áthas is merely pleasure.
Aithis, a disgrace; a deformity, moral or physical.
Aithne. (I) Knowledge — Chuir sí aithne ortha, she came
to know them. (2) A commandment. Ubhall na
h-a., "the forbidden fruit."
The form aithin is also in use: Dob aithin dom
duine, etc. Aithin is a substantive; it means "a
Ní'l d'eólas ná d'aithne agam air. Eólus,
knowledge about him, i.e., concerning him. Aithne,
knowledge of him, the knowledge which a personal
acquaintance with him would give.
Aithreachas. Regret plus self-reproach. Remorse.
Aithrighe, repentance. A. dhéanam sa choir. Note pre-
position. Ré aithrighe, a time for repentance. The
phrase has come to mean "respite" in a general
Aithris, narrate, tell. It does not mean "recite." When
followed by ar it means "imitate."
Ál, a brood; a litter; a number of young brought forth
at a birth.
Amach. Note the strength of as an dtír amach as com-
pared with amach as an dtír.
Amanarthar, the day after to-morrow. Amainniris, the
day after that
Ambasa. The exact meaning varies with the context.
It is sometimes adversative, e.g. Guaire 171: Ar
ball, ambasa, bhí an crónánuidhe d'á thuirsiú, might
be rendered by… after a time, though, notwith-
standing all his skill, the work began to tell on the
Sometimes it is not, e.g. the mouse jumped out
and, ambasa, the cat caught him.
The idea in this word can almost always be ex-
pressed by "really and truly."
Amhra, remarkable, illustrious, admirable.
Amhras. Gan a., very often = "of course."
Amhsgarnach, the very first dawn, the grey dawn.
Amus, an aim; a hitting. Chaith sé an camán ar amus
mo chinn, aimed at.
Amhus. A member of such a body as were called in
England "men at arms" or "household troops."
The disorders and cruelties which they were often
guilty of in later times caused the word amhus to
acquire a very evil meaning.
Rígh-amhus, a military prince; a mercenary.
An. Chonaic sé an duine agá chosaibh (Sg. III. 321).
This use of the definite article is peculiar to Irish
speech. Its effect here is to intensify the idea of the
presence of a person in the place. It makes for vivid-
ness of description, as if to express that the person, at
that moment, was a very "definite" thing for him.
Anachainn, any sort of calamitous accident.
"Is gearr ó'n inchinn a bhíonn an anachainn" —
Not far from the brain is the fatal accident.
Anacair is a far stronger expression than "uneven."
I once heard an English speaker translate áit anacair
by "a cut-throat place."
Ciscéim anacair is a step on a stone, for example,
which tends to cause a fall or a sprain.
Anacal, quarter given to a foe in battle.
Anaithe a deadly fright.
Anál, breath. The word is used figuratively to express
"influence." It means the influence, whether for
good or evil, of mere presence, apart altogether from
words or actions.
Anál fhóghanta, influence for good; droch anál,
Luigh sé siar agus tharraig sé an anál (Sg. I. 114).
He drew the (last) breath; he breathed his last.
Anam, life; that which distinguishes a living man from
a dead man. Beatha, life; the position as regards
wealth or poverty, comfort or discomfort, a good or
a bad course of conduct, social surroundings, etc.,
of a person in the world. Saoghal, life; the length
or shortness of one's days.
Beatha and saoghal are sometimes used one for the
other, but anam cannot be used in the sense of either.
Do thuit an t-anam as, he dropped dead.
Bainfad an t-anam as, I will kill him.
cf. "Bhíos-sa ag raidealaigh
Le mac Sasanaigh
Do scríobas an t-anam as."
Anamchara, a "soul-friend," a confessor.
Anbhas (Pron. anabhás). A violent death. Tug sé a
dó féin, he committed suicide. There is no such
Irish word as féinmharbhadh. Féin without a sub-
stantive connected with it is not a thing that can
Anchor, an evil turn, a maiming, a permanent injury
to life or limb.
Anfhlaith, a usurper. (Pron. aun-lah.)
Aniar-adtuaidh, from the north-west, has also the meaning
Annamh. Is annamh le fághail iad. "Few and far be-
Annsmacht, tyranny, oppression. Smacht carried too
Anntráth. I n-anntráth, late, behind time.
Anoir. Tháinig sí anoir ó thír Mhóab (Sg. III. 318).
When there is a question of motion, the direction,
i.e., north, south, east or west is always expressed
Anonn. Do lámhadar uatha anonn, they fired shots
which took effect at a distance from them.
D'aithnigheas uaim é means I recognised him while
he was at a distance from me; "I knew him from
Annródh, the sufferings entailed by hard work in bad
Annsgian. Literally, an evil knife. A merciless tyrant;
Annspianta, outrageously unreasonable. It can be used
generally as Irish for the word "exaggerated." Obair
a., unreasonable conduct. Cíos a., absurdly ex-
cessive rent. Annspiantacht, exaggeration.
Anuas. Chómh fada anuas le, as recently as.
Anuas. Chómh fada siar le, as long ago as.
Anuas. Chómh fada anonn le, as far into the future as.
Aoidheadh: Teach a., a guest house.
Aoine. The fundamental meaning of the word is
"oneness," i.e. simplicity. It means simplicity
in dress, in habits, in manners, as well as in food. In
regard to food it expresses abstemiousness in general
as well as fasting.
Aoir, a satire, lampoon.
Nom. Aoir, with r broad.
Gen. aoir, with r slender.
Nom. plu. aoir, with r slender.
Gen. plu. na n-aoir, with r broad.
Aontú, the act of agreeing to something.
Aos óg, young people, children.
The word aos is a collective noun, and can be used
either as a singular or as a plural. One can say an
t-aos óg, the children, or ag múineadh na n-aos óg,
teaching the children. I have never heard ag
múineadh an aois óig, or ag muineadh na h-aoise óige.
Ar. D'iarr sé ar a athair, ar an rí (Sg. I. 69).
In cases of this kind the preposition should be
repeated. "D'iarr sé ar a athair an rí" would be
very bad Irish.
Pé rud atá uait orm-sa (Sg. III. 322), whatever
you want from me. Cad tá uait orm-sa? What
do you want from me?
Gach duine fireann d'á bhfuil oraibh (Sg. I. 69),
of all that are among you. Note oraibh.
Ní'l do chaora ortha so, your sheep is not among
these. Ní'l do chaora eatartha so would be horrible
Ar a sliocht féin, amongst her own descendants.
Ar has a different meaning in another idiom: Bhí
sé ar an bhfear ba ghiorra do'n rí (Sg. I. 106) means
that he was in the position of next man to the king.
Ar does not aspirate the initial of a word beginning
a definite place name.
Tá Seán Ó Gríobhtha 'n-a chómhnuidhe thuaidh annsan
ar Cathair Druinne (Mo Sgéal Féin, p. 180).
Similarly, ar Cnoc Áine; ar Carraig na Madraí,
etc. Cnoc, etc., in these expressions is part of the
proper name. Hence it is not aspirated.
Compare the expression céad bó ar cnoc, not
ar chnoc. The phrase céad bó ar cnoc does not say
that the cows are on any particular mountain. The
cnoc is not individualised, and hence it is not
Aradhnaibh. I n-a. báis. in the throes of death.
Aragul, an inner chamber; a private apartment.
Araige. Cloch a., a stone for casting as a test for strength.
Árdoireachtas, a monster meeting.
Árdsgéal, an epic story; the life story of a hero.
Argain, to ravage with fire and sword.
Arm. A. cosanta, defensive, and a. cómhraic, offensive
Atharach, a change. Sin atharach sgéil ar fad, that's
quite a different matter; "a horse of another colour."
Athnasc. Ag a. air, mimicking him; repeating a word
after another person in an angry or contemptuous
Athtruaghach, merciful, compassionate. Applied when
speaking of men. Trócaireach is the word used of God.
Bac. Ná bac san, don't let that trouble you.
Ní'l bac ort ann, you can if you like.
Bacán, a linch-pin, or any similar sort of pin.
Bacla, the space between the arms; an armful. Bhí
leanbh ar a baclainn aici, on her arm. Bacla mhóna,
an armful of turf.
Bachlach, a sturdy beggar; a tramp; a boor.
Báidh. This is the Irish word for the English "prejudice
in favour of." A prejudice against a person is mios-
cais. When mioscais would be too strong an ex-
pression for the feeling, the speaker would say ní'l
sé geal dom, he is prejudiced against me.
Bailbhe, dumbness, stuttering.
Baic an mhuinéil, the nape of the neck. Baic is the
prominent little bone at the lower end of the neck,
behind. It has nothing to do with the English word
Bail. This word has no direct representative in English.
It means some circumstance which works for a
person's good or evil. When such a circumstance
is providential it is Bail ó Dhia. When it works against
one's good, people say is olc an bhail air é, and then
the circumstance is mentioned. The é is often omitted.
Is olc an bhail ar Éirinn é má leigtar an Ghaoluing
Baileach, thorough. Frequently in the emphasised form,
Bailiú, gathering. Ag bailiú leo, gathering away with
them; i.e, gathering themselves away.
Seo, bailigh leat! Come, make yourself scarce.
Bainim ó; nár bhaineadar ó shaoirse a thoile. Lit. That
they did not take from the freedom of his will, i.e.,
that they did not lessen it.
Bain uait féin is a common expression = restrain
yourself; behave yourself; be less overbearing; "come
off your high horse."
Ball. Ar ball, by and by. It does not mean "at once,"
Bantionchair, the command or rule of a woman. Ar bh.,
"under petticoat government."
Baoghal. Ní baoghal ná gur thugadar, "no danger but
that they gave"; i.e., they did not fail to give.
Ní baoghal duit, it is not a danger to you.
Ní'l baoghal ort, there is no danger of you.
("Seachain an droch dhuine agus ní baoghal duit
an duine macánta.")
Baoithreacht, nonsense; vain speech.
Barróg, a grip round the body; an embrace.
Bárthan, an injury which has a disabling effect. Tiubaist
is a great calamity, whether it disables or not. Tiubais-
Baschrann, a wooden knocker. Bhuaileadar buille de'n
bh. ar an ndoras.
Basgadh, not merely hurt, but maim.
Báth, drown, The verbal noun is báth, not báthadh.
Beacht, complete; thorough.
Beag. Ba bheag ná go ndubhairt sé, "it was little but
that he said" — i.e., he almost said.
Is beag agam é, I think little of it.
Béal. Do thugais an gheallamhaint dó ód' bhéal agus
féd' láimh. Both verbally and in writing.
Beárna, a gap. Plu. beárthnacha.
Beartú, the act of poising something to try the
weight of it. Hence the act of building up in the
mind the details of a plan. Thar na beartaibh, i.e.,
Níos mó 'ná mar fhéadfadh aoinne a bheartú, more
than anyone could form an idea of. "Beyond the
Béilteach, a big, bright, glowing fire. It does not exactly
mean a blazing fire.
Beir. Cad a bhéarfadh go 'neósfinn d'aoinne beó é!
(Sg. III. 306) What would cause me to tell it to any
living person! What would produce such an effect
as that I should tell it, etc. The same sense is in
the words Cad 'n-a thaobh go 'neósfinn, but the former
is the stronger expression.
Sin é do bheir an gnó déanta, that is what produced
Beireatas, the resulting advantage of a course of action.
When the thing gained is a disadvantage people
say Is olc an beireatas é, it is a "white elephant."
Beirim ar, catch hold of. Bheirinn ar sgórnaigh air
(Sg. III. 372); not Bheirinn ar a sgórnaigh.
Beirt. Usually followed by the gen. But one may
say, for instance, beirt d'fhearaibh óga. Native Irish
speakers will do anything for smoothness except violate
Usually aspirates: beirt fhear; beirt bhan; beirt
chailíní; beirt bhuachaillí. But beirt dritháir; beirt
saighdiúirí; beirt seirbhíseach; beirt sagart.
Beó. Raghaidh do bheó nú do mharbh ann, your living (body)
or your dead (body) shall go there.
Beóil, lips. Puisíní means "little cats!"
Binib, evil-mindedness, maliciousness.
Bíthinn, the fact of a thing's or a person's existence
(é bheith ar bith). Tré bhíthinn na mná (Sg. 1. 2), by
means of the woman (as distinguished from a designed
Tré n-a bhíthinn féin, through the instrumentality
of himself; i.e. by a direct action of his own, as
distinguished from the use or application of any out-
Bior-leighe, or bior-a-leighe, an iron bar used for the
purpose of melting tallow, in order to make wicks
When an action, or a course of action, has a dis-
integrating effect, whether morally or physically,
upon what it comes into contact with, it is called
Some people seem to have a talent for ruining
anything they put their hands to. That talent is
known as bior-a-leighe.
Bladaireacht, any sort of idle talk. B. éithigh (Sg. II. 7).
Bliain. Bliain na Bealtaine seo a ghaibh thorainn…
bhíos ar mo ghlúinibh, etc. (Guaire, p. 43). "The year
of this May," i.e. the year which this May had com-
pleted, i.e. a year ago this May.
Bogaim. Expresses the very beginning of motion.
Nuair a bhog an long chun gluaiste ("softened to
move"). Ar bogadh, loose; also, steeping.
Borb, as applied to plants, signifies "full of sap."
Brabúsaidhe, a hypercritical fault finder; one who has
a talent for "picking holes."
Bráca, a harrow. Fé bhráca an donais, under the harrow
of misfortune, is a common expression.
Braiceal, the poll and back of the head.
Braid, prisoners. A collective noun.
Braighe, a captive; plu. braighde.
Braisle, a group. B. neóiníní, a group of daisies.
B. ubhall ag bun crainn, i.e. blown down by the
wind and lying pretty close to one another. B. daoine,
a group of people (men, boys and children).
Brath. Ag brath air go neósfadh sé dhóibh, expecting (it)
that he would tell them. The pronoun in air re-
presents the thing expected. The omission of air
would render the sentence utterly unintelligible to
a native Irish speaker.
Brat-chinn, any sort of head-dress; a veil.
Breacadh an lae, the breaking of the day.
Bréanaim. Do bhréan an abha, the river became evil-
smelling. Do bhréan is a verb. Bréantas, stench.
Bréige. Déithe b., false gods.
Breith, a judgment. Beir do bhreith, pronounce your
judgment. Cad ann? In what? A judgment is given
in a subject matter, but on a personal object.
Breith báis, a death sentence.
Breitheamhnas, judgment. B. do leagadh ar rud, to pass
judgment on it.
Breithniú, to consider; to judge.
This word is eminently suitable for all the purposes
for which the word "criticism" is used in English.
Both words are founded on the idea of exercising
Brígh. Gan puinn bríghe, not of much importance.
Ní dheinim-se ró bhrígh de sin, I don't attach much
importance to that.
Bhrille bhreaille, nonsensical drivel; trash.
Briosga, a biscuit; plu. briosgaí. Briosgóid is also used.
Brise catha, a defeat in battle.
Brise is the term used to express the training or
"breaking-in" of horses.
Bró. Bhí an lámh 'n-a bróin lobhra aige, a mass of leprosy.
Bró fola, a mass of coagulated blood.
Bró leac-oidhrach, a flat mass of ice.
Brobh, a rush; plu. brobhnacha ("brown-acha").
Bród, excitement; enthusiasm. Flosg is a synonym.
Bronntanas (bronntas), a free gift; an offering; plu.
Bruach. Ar b. na h-abhann, on the river-brink.
Ar bh. na h-abhann has a different meaning; the
aspiration has the effect of specialising the bruach;
e.g. Ní h-istigh sa n-abhainn a bhí sé ach ar bhruach na
Bruighean chaorthainn, a murderous fight; a disastrous row.
Brúth, a crush; congestion. Ní raibh brúth ná righneas
i n-obair na gcúiseanna do bhreithniú.
Buac the best advantage; the most advantageous
course. Cheapadar gur bh'é a mbuac páirt do ghabháil
leis (Sg. IV. 397).
This word is in common use… Dob é a mbuac
gan an foláramh a thabhairt dúinn (T.B.C. 67). It
comes from buadh, success, victory, avail, prevail,
Buachaill. The term droch bhuachaill is applied to one who
is exceptionally evil-minded; an ill-conditioned fellow.
Buadh. This word covers a very wide field of thought.
The using of it requires great care. It em-
braces the ideas of success, victory, avail, prevail,
Buadh agus cosgar, "victory and slaughter."
This was a common expression at the time of the
Táin. When a young knight assumed arms his friends
said: go mba buadh agus cosgar duit! May victory
and slaughter of foes come of it for thee!
"Victorious" is fé bhuadh, not buadhmhar, which
is used as an epithet; cf. fé áthas, happy.
Buadh, a gift. B. urlabhra, the gift of eloquence.
Buairt. Ag déanamh buartha, indulging in grief.
The word appears to have at times a special
signification, viz., the anxiety of a people on whom
war is threatened; cf. Sg. III. 287. It may refer
to something past, present or future.
Bualadh is the word used for coining money. Beidh neart
agat do chuid airgid féin a bhualadh.
Buarach, a spancel, or hair rope with a loop at one end
and a buaircín at the other.
Buile. Fearg bhuile, mad anger. Duine buile, a
Buinne, a sprout or plant. B. daraighe, a young oak-
tree; a sapling of oak. B. soluis, a jet of light.
(Lasadh soluis, a glow of light). B. teine, the column
of clear flame which shoots up when a conflagration
has reached its height.
Buinne is also applied to a jet of water, or of blood
spurting from a wound.
Bun, a purpose. Cad é an bun a bhí agat leis? What
object had you in view in doing it?
Cur ar bun, establish. Cur ar siubhal is preferred
when the idea of movement is before the mind; i.e.
to set a thing going; to set in motion something
which discharges certain functions. Curtar sgoil
ar bun, ach curtar obair na sgoile ar siubhal. I mbun,
in charge of. I mbun na gcaereach, minding the
Do cuireadh lucht faire 'n-a mbun, watches were
placed over them. Os a gcionn would not do here.
When the idea of care or attendance is the chief
thing to be expressed, the phrase i mbun is the one
used. When the idea of authority is the chief idea,
the phrase os cionn is used.
A poor person getting an alms from the head of a
family commonly says: go bhfágaidh Dia os cionn
do chlainne thu! He would not think of saying i mbun
do chlainne in that sense.
"I mbun scoile i gCill Mhuire ní thuigim gur b'é
bheidh buan." Over a school in Kilmurry I do not
think he will continue long.
Bun os cionn. Bheadh sé bun os cionn againn-ne, etc.
I have never heard dúinn nor duit nor dom
after this expression. I have always heard it followed
Bunbaidh, fundamental. gen. of bunadh, origin, stock,
foundation. Nós bhunaidh, a fundamental custom.
Áit bhunaidh, "place of origin," i.e. base of operations.
Fírinne bhunaidh (or bun-fhírinne), a fundamental
Bunúsach. Iarracht bhunúsach, an effort which goes to the
root of things and takes effect. Fear bunúsach, a
Buthaire deataigh, a bursting mass of smoke. B. lasrach,
a bursting mass of flame.
Cábán, a tent. The word pubal is not in the living speech.
Cabhlach, a ruin.
Cabhlach loingeas, a fleet of ships. I have never heard
any plural for long but loingeas.
Cách, the public in general or any member of that public;
one's neighbour; "the man in the street." Mar
chách, like every one else.
Caidhséar, a channel or canal for water.
Caillte. Ba chaillte an iarracht í, a villainous attempt.
Cainnt. This is the proper Irish word for "speech."
"He made a speech" is in Irish thug sé cainnt uaidh.
To use the word óráid here would be absurd. It
really signifies "a prayer."
Dubhairt sé an chainnt seo le I. (Sg. I. 113), spoke
these words. Not na focail seo, unless where the
individual words are meant rather than the sense
which they express.
Brígh na cainnte, the sense of the words.
Éifeacht na cainnte, the effect of the principle
involved in the words.
Cairt, a title-deed; plu. cairteacha.
Cál. Ní raibh aon chál ag aoinne eile chúichi feasta
(Sg. I. 86), no other person had any right to it
thenceforward. This "cál" is a genuine Irish word.
Calaireacht, shouting boisterously, especially of insulting
Calmacht. Fear calma, one possessing great physical
strength. Fear cródha (pronounced cróga) is not only
strong, but fearless.
The English word "prowess" expresses the idea
Campar, the cavity of the chest.
Canaim, I sing. Do chan sé na focail sin.
Canncar, vexation. A word in very common use.
Duine beag cas canncarach, an ill-tempered,
fretful little person.
Caol. An dá láimh gearrtha dhe ó'n dá chaol amach (Sg.
III. 335), "from the two slenders out," i.e. from the
two wrists out. Cf. ceangal na gcúig gcaol, the
binding of the five slenders, i.e. the neck, the two
wrists and the two ankles.
Any narrow channel of water connecting two large
pieces of water; a strait.
The word is also applied to a long green narrow marsh.
Caomh, a dear friend. The difference between caomh and
cara is very like the difference between "affection"
Carbal, the roof of the mouth; the palate.
Cás. Níor chás duit! lit., it would not be a matter for
you. The meaning is, "What a chance you would
have of doing that!" Níor chás leat, it wouldn't
be a matter of regret with you.
I gcás nár rud suarach é. The phrase i gcás is
very common in Irish speech. It generally introduces
the ultimate conclusion to which a series of state-
ments leads up. An English speaker would say:
"and so you see that," etc.
Cas liom é. Mura gcuiread-sa smacht air sin cas liom é.
If I don't tame that fellow reproach me with the fact.
The full expression is cas i n-asachán liom é. People
sometimes say, in English, "they are returning it
Cáth, the hard shell which covers a grain of corn. Lóchán
is the soft shell which covers the hard shell (Sg. II. 8).
Cath, battle. C. do bhriseadh ar an namhaid, to defeat the
enemy. Cath also means "a battalion," hence the
inner meaning of the preceding phrase is "break
formation" consequently "defeat."
Cáthadh, the act of winnowing corn. It is also used to
express the blowing of snow into drifts by the wind;
lá an cháithte, the day of the drifting. An bhfuil sé
ag sneachtadh? Is it snowing? Ní'l, ach tá sé ag
cáthadh. No, but it is drifting. The name of one of
the small particles of snow is cáithnín sneachtaidh.
(A large flake is known as lúbhóg sneachtaidh.)
The same word cáthadh is applied to cursing and
swearing when indulged in with rapidity. Ag cáthadh
dhiairmíní, spitting out showers of "little divils"
— having a "divil" at every second word. Ag
cáthadh mhionna mór, the same in regard to "big"
Cathmhile, a "battle-soldier," i.e., a soldier hardened
in war, a veteran.
Cathú, in Munster always means regret or sorrow. In
the west it = "temptation." The Munster word for
"temptation" is cath, a battle, a contest, an attack.
The act of tempting a person to do something bad
is bheith ag séide fé, or 'ghá chur suas chuige. To tempt
in the sense of testing, e.g. to tempt God, is
Cé ro díobh é? (Sg. III. 375). That is, cé h-iad gur díobh
é? The direct answer here would be Betlemíteach
Céad. I gcaitheamh an chéad blian, during the I00 years.
I gcaitheamh na céadmhadh bliana, during the I00th year.
I gcaitheamh na céad bhliana, during the Ist year.
Céadfatha, the senses. This word is equivalent to what
is commonly called in English "the nerves," or "the
Ceaduighim, permit. Ní cheadóchainn é ar rud ná
déarfinn, I wouldn't have wished it for I won't say
Cealgach, deceptive. Namhaid ch., a subtle, or treacherous
foe; also means "stinging," peevish.
Ceamalach, a boor, a clown, a rustic.
Cheana adds force to an assertion. Iseadh cheana, "yes,
it is." "An gcurfá-sa me fé chomairce na n-uasal?"
arsa mise leis. "Cuirfad cheana," ar seisean, I
Ceann. Ó cheann ceann de'n tír (Sg. IV. 382). Ó cheann
ceann na tíre would not be correct. The full ex-
pression is, ó cheann de'n tír go dtí an ceann eile
de'n tír. In ceann na tíre there is question of only
one end, whereas in the text there is question, not
of the country's end, but of two ends of the country.
The genitive in this case is a partitive genitive.
Ceann-íseal, "carrying the head low," i.e. completely
Ceann uraid, a commander-in-chief.
Ceannsa, kind, gentle, benignant. I don't like the
Ceap le céad, lit., an object for a hundred; i.e. one who
would give a hundred foes enough to do.
Ceapaithe. Go c., in a decisive manner.
Ceárd, art. Ealadha, science. The correspondence with
the English words, though not rigid, is fairly close.
Lucht ceárd, artisans. Lucht ealadhan, scientific
One may have a mental idea of, for instance,
búisteóireacht, and say of a certain man b'shiní a
cheárd. On the other hand, the mental picture may
be of gnó búistéara, when one would as naturally
say b'shiné a cheárd.
However, it is necessary to take care, in matters
of this sort, not to adopt a form which usage has not
sanctioned. For example, the word áit is a fem. noun.
Such phrases as áit mhaith, áit bhreágh, etc., are
But, is maith an áit í seo; tá an áit seo cluthar
ach tá sí cumhang, etc., are entirely wrong. One must
say, is maith an áit é seo; tá an áit seo cluthar ach
tá sé cumhang.
The reason why the masc. pronoun is used is
because it represents, not the word áit, but the thing
áit, i.e. the locus.
Another illustration of the same principle is seen
in the common phrase, má's é do thoil é.
Ceárnach, square. Clocha móra ceárnacha.
Ceart. Ba mhaith an ceart acu é, it was right they should.
The usual English expression is, "so they ought."
Annsan is eadh tháinig an sgeón i gceart ionnta,
a thorough panic.
Is é an chloch ghorm i gceart é, blue-stone* "out
Marbh i gceart, dead out and out.
Marbh sa cheart, killed in the proper manner.
Marbh 'n-a ceart, killed in the special manner in
which she should be killed.
Tá sé 'n-a rí i gceart, a king in earnest; a king
Ceas, ceasna, a difficulty; a dilemma; anything that
paralyses action. Ceasnaidhean, the pangs of par-
Ceasdamhnach, a questioner; a cross-examiner.
A substantive derived from the adjective ceatach,
left-handed, awkward; cf. déanaighe; suaraighe;
Ceileabhradh, the act of bidding farewell.
Ceilt. 'Ghá cheilt air, hiding it from him. There is no such
Irish as 'ghá cheilt uaidh.
Ceilteach aigne, lit., hiding of mind; i.e. reserved.
Céim, a step; a degree; dignity; an event or circumstance.
Céimeanna cruadha, hard passes; acute difficulties.
Ceisneamh, a feeling of regretfulness; also the expression of
that feeling by means of murmuring and com-
*Sulphate of copper.
Ceist, a question; i.e. an interrogation.
Such expressions as ceist na talmhan, ceist an
chíosa, ceist an ólacháin, etc., are all wrong. Irish
Speakers never use the word ceist in this way. It
is a purely English mode both of thought and of
expression. The words gnó, cúrsaí, sgéal, are the
words used; e.g. gnó na mbárd, the business of the
bards, the question regarding the bards.
One may of course say, cé leis an talamh? Siní
an cheist, but there is no such thing as ceist na talmhan.
Cian, far away. I gcian agus i gcómhgar, far and near.
Ciapadh, worrying one so as to bewilder him; exasperate
Cimilt bhaise, coaxing; palavering.
Cíoch, a breast. In Munster often cín; bean chíoch, a wet
Cion. Tháinig cion aige air, he conceived an affection
There would be no sense in looking out for "the
Irish for "conceive,"" if one were putting this English
sentence into Irish.
Cionntsáile, Kinsale. Pronounced Ciún-; gen. Cionntsáile.
The word is not Ceann Sáile.
Círéip, a mass of confusion and noise.
Ciste, a safe.
Clab, the mouth wide open.
Claidhe, any sort of rampart of earth or of stones or of
both (lios is the space enclosed by the circular
Clamh, a person or animal infected with mange. It is
also used as an adjective: File beag clamh i gceart
nár dligheadh ar dtúis, a thoroughly mangy little
poet who did not get proper legal right in the beginning.
Clann. Duine d'á chlainn mhac, one of his sons. Duine
d'á chlainn inghean, one of his daughters.
Mac leis would also express "a son of his," but
a mhac would imply that he had only one son.
Tá clann óg annsúd thall is used to express that
a birth has taken place.
"We are sons of one man": Clann aon fhir amháin
iseadh sinn. The word "clann" is used in Irish often
where the word "sons" or "daughters" would
be used in English.
Ní raibh aon duine clainne aici (Sg. III. 325). Not
ní raibh aon leanbh aici.
Claoidhe, reduce to subjection; crush.
Cleacht, habit; practice.
Taithighe cleachta, the accustoming oneself to an
Gnáthú cleachta, the constant practising of an
Cleamhnaidhe, a suitor, a matchmaker; plu. cleamhnaidhthe.
Cleas. D'imthigh an cleas céadna air, the same thing
happened to him. This use of cleas is common.
Cleatrach, a skeleton.
Cleith, a spar, a long stick; plu. cleathacha.
Cliamhain, a son-in-law (pronounce cliain). C. istigh,
one who lives in the house of the parents of his wife.
Clipe. The full meaning is, harassing and persecuting
until the victim is dazed and confounded.
Cloch bhuinn, a foundation stone. Clocha buinn, fundamental
principles of an institution.
Cloch fhaoibhir, or C. faoibhir, a whetstone.
Clochghorm, bluestone; gen. clochghuirm.
Clóic. the loss of energy caused by hardships or exertion.
When a person is found full of energy after some
laborious feat, people say:- níor chuir an méid
sin aon chlóic air.
Clú, character, good name. Cáil, fame, reputation.
The distinction between clú and cáil is almost
the same as that between "name" and "fame."
Clú and cáil are the same thing, but from different
points of view. Mo chlú regards that characteristic in
me which deserves praise. Mo cháil is the praise or
reputation which the good quality elicits from the
Cluiche. Hunting one about, as hounds hunt a hare
turning and twisting him in the chase. Do chluicheadh
an gadhar an t-uan, used to "worry" the lamb.
Cluiche-mhagh, a playing-field, a playground.
Cnaipe, a button.
Cnámh. Mara mbeadh do cheithre cnámha. An expression
in common use to express great regard.
Cnámharlach, a skeleton. Cnáimhseach is an older form.
Cóbach, a coward. Cladhaire is sometimes translated
"coward." This is not correct in Munster. Cladhaire
means a rascal, a treacherous fellow.
Cogadh. Ag cur cogaidh ar (Sg. III. 292), making war
Here war in general is meant. If there were question
of a particular war the c of cogadh should be aspirated
(cf. Sg. v. 539).
Coigríoch, a foreigner. C. iasachta (Sg. III. 292), a foreign
interloper; i.e. a person who did not belong by
right to the clan in which he was living, but slipped
in amongst them surreptitiously, or forced his way
in. The expression denotes contempt.
Coimhtheach, of wild and forbidding aspect.
Fiain is wild in the sense of untrained, uncultivated.
Coinne. Ní raibh aon choinne acu, they had no expectation,
no "idea." Cuimhneamh is used similarly: Ní raibh
aon chuimhneamh agam (go).
Cóip, a low, disreputable class of people.
Cóir. Déarfadh duine gur chóir… go dtiocfadh cine
fhóghanta uatha (Sg. I. 15). One would suppose that
it ought to be that… i.e. one might reasonably
Nár chóir gur chuma dhuit? is said to one who asks
an unreasonable or impertinent question. Don't you
think it ought to be all the same to you?
Cóir cam díreach, "right go wrong"; "by hook
or by crook."
Nár chóir gur…? Would it not be reasonable to
suppose that, etc.; or, I should think that, etc.
Cóir, a means. I have heard a horse, bridle and saddle
called cóir iompair, i.e. literally, a means for being
carried. (Nár fheicidh Dia choidhche thu, a Athair, gan
Cóir mhaith mhúinte, a good equipment for teaching.
Córacha cogaidh, fittings for war, munitions.
Cóir oibre, good implements for the work.
Cóir tighis, furniture, etc.
Coisreacan, the act of consecrating.
Coitchian, common. An aicme choitchian acu, the whole
of them as a class.
Colan (m.), a heifer; gen. colain; plu. colna (pron.
Colgach, fierce, angry, passionate.
Colgánta, fierce; full of fight; passionate.
Collóid, clamour; noise; violent and noisy com-
Comha, terms, equivalents. It was constantly applied to
the two sets of advantages offered in exchange by
two hostile powers when they wished to settle a dis-
Cómhair, presence. Not to be confounded with cóir.
Tá do chuid os do chómhair amach, your share is
Tá do chuid ad' chóir, your share has been put by
The sounds of the two words are quite different.
There is a full nasal sound in cómhair which it is
impossible to mistake for cóir.
Comairce, protection. C. beatha agus sláinte, "pro-
tection of life and health"; i.e. safe-conduct; some
sort of a "pass," or guarantee that the bearer would
not be molested.
Cómhairle. Chuadar i gcómhairle, they held a meeting.
Rud do chur am' chómhairle, to consult me about a
Cómhalta, a companion, comrade. Cómhaltas cogaidh,
an alliance for war.
Cómhar. Tá c. agat orm, I owe you a debt, i.e. a turn,
whether good or bad.
Cómhla. The English word "door" has two distinct
meanings. It means the opening through which
people pass in and out. It also means the
valve or shutter which turns on hinges and closes
that opening. In Irish there are two words for
the two things. Dorus is the opening; cómhla is
Cómhlan, a battle between two matched individuals, or
between equal numbers specially selected on both
Cómhnós, co-equal; occupying the same position in
Though the word has the appearance of a substantive
it is an adjective. Tá rí Oirghialla cómhnós liom-sa
(Guaire, p. 8).
In the living speech the word cómhnaois is often
used as an adjective, although it is set down in
dictionaries as a substantive. Ce'cu is óige Tadhg
nó Domhnall? Cómhnaois dóibh.
Cómhnuidhe. An áit 'n-a raibh c. ortha, the place where
they dwelt. Note the preposition.
Cá mbíon tú ad' chómhnuidhe?
Ní'l aon chómhnuidhe i n-aon bhall orm, I have no fixed
Conbhint, a convent. The word is used by the Four
Conthairt machtírí, a pack of wolves.
Conus, how. The difference between conus and conus
mar is the difference between the English "how"
and the vernacular "how that." D'innis sé dhom
conus a dhún sé an dorus, i.e. how, or in what manner,
he shut the door. But, d'innis sé dhom conus mar
a dhún sé an dorus i n-am díreach chun an bhitheamhnaigh
a choimeád amach, signifies merely that he closed the
door just in time to keep the burglar out.
Conus mar a fuair sé bás, the fact that he died.
Conus a fuair sé bás, the manner, or state, in which
Cor, a twist, a state. Tabhair do rogha cor dóibh, give
them your choice turn, i.e. give them whatever treat-
ment you like. Féach an cor atá orm, look at the
state of me.
The fundamental meaning is a turn, a bend, a
twist. Its secondary meanings are various and
numerous; e.g. cor cainnte, a turn of expression;
cor iomrasgála, a bout of wrestling; cor i n-aghaidh
an chaim, a clever trick to meet a clever trick, or, as
it is said in English, "the biter bitten." Droch chor,
a bad state, a bad arrangement. Is olc an cor a
rug é, it is a bad fate that got hold of him; he came
to a bad end.
(The word críoch is used similarly in this last sense…
Nár bheiridh críoch níos fearr iad! May no better
fate overtake them!)
Cor i n-aghaidh an chaim (pron. caím), a twist against a
An English King once sent to Ireland for the
Gobán Saor to build a palace for him. He determined
to kill the builder when the work was done in order
that no palace like his should ever again be built.
"Have you the work finished?" said the King.
The Gobán Saor suspected some treachery.
"Yes, your majesty," said he, "but I want to
carve one stone for the front, and I cannot do that
without a certain instrument which I left behind
"I will send for the instrument." said the King.
"No person but myself would get it," said the
"I will send my own son for it," said the King.
"He could not tell the name of it," said the Gobán
"What is the name of it?" said the King.
"The name of it is Cor i n-aghaidh an chaim," said
the Gobán Saor.
"Teach him the name," said the King.
The Gobán Saor taught the name to the prince.
The prince came to Ireland, to the palace of the
Gobán Saor, and met the lady of the house.
"I want the instrument called Cor i n-aghaidh an
chaim, my lady," said he, and he explained the
"Yes, sir," said she, "we have that instrument
She took him up to the top of the palace and showed
him a large box.
"It is inside in that box," said she. "You just
open the box and take it out."
He opened the box, and stooped over the edge
looking for the instrument. She took him by the
legs, tumbled him into the box, and slammed down
"What's this?" said he.
"That is Cor i n-aghaidh an chaim, sir," said she,
"and it means that you are to stay in that box until
my husband and my father-in-law come home to
Coramhíol, a midge.
Corbhuais, a disturbed state of mind.
Corn feasa, a cup used for divination.
Coróinn. Bhí Séamus i gcoróinn na Sacsan. This
is the Irish way of saying "on the throne of
Do tháinig sé i gcoróinn (Sg. I. 118). Corresponds
to the English "came to the throne." Do ghaibh sé
righeacht expresses the same idea, i.e. he assumed
Corp. Ní raibh sa bhféasta mór ach corp maoidheamh as
a shaidhbhreas agus as a ghradam (Sg. v. 615), down-
The word corp in this sense is very common. An
intensified form is aon chorp; cf. Caoine Airt
"Ní mar mhaithe leat,
"Ach le h-aon chorp eagla."
As a rule the noun which follows corp or aon chorp
is in the same case as that in which it would be if
no word intervened between it and the preceding
In the sentence above, for instance, we could have
ach maoidheamh, or ach corp maoidheamh, or ach aon chorp
maoidheamh. Still the word corp or aon chorp is often
followed by the genitive case, i.e. corp maoidhimh or
aon chorp maoidhimh. Consequently a person is at
liberty to use whichever form he finds most to his
But if the succeeding noun is a phrase, the phrase
stands unchanged. In the example given, maoidheamh
as a shaidhbhreas is the thing the great feast was
for, and therefore maoidheamh is not in an oblique
Le h-aon chorp droch aigne, through sheer downright
bad mind. Droch aigne, bad mind; corp droch aigne,
the essence of bad mind; aon chorp droch aigne,
the sole essence of bad mind.
Córú, an outfit, habiliments, a process through which
a thing is put; e.g. at Sg. I. 114, it refers to the process
of embalming (balsamú). Córú is any systematic
arrangement or plan. Córú beatha, a system of
Cos-ar-bolg, a trampling of people under foot.
Cosnamh, protecting, shielding. Cosaint, defending. The
difference in meaning is much the same as that between
the two English words. The preposition following
is ar, "from"; e.g. Sinn do chosaint ar mhalluightheacht
agus ar chleasaibh an namhad.
'Ghá gcosaint féin, (actively) defending them-
selves. Ar a gcosaint féin, in an attitude of
Cothrom, an equivalent. Cothrom na h-éagcóra d'onóir,
honour proportionate to the wrong.
C. na breibe seacht n-uaire, the equivalent of the
Ana chothrom léighinn, a great opportunity or a
great facility for obtaining literary knowledge.
Cothrom uisge, a facility for obtaining water.
Cothú, feed. Cath do chothú, maintain a fight; i.e. to feed
it by the supply of additional force.
Ag cothú an mhioscais, constantly furnishing new
matter to excite it.
Ag cothú fala, nursing a grievance.
Cradhsgal, a nervous shrinking from cold or from any-
thing disagreeable. Fear neamhchradhsgalach, a man
who does not mind the cold. (The -adh- is sounded
as in adharc.)
Crann, a fatality, a lot. Rud do chur ar chrannaibh, to
cast lots for a thing. Crann-chur, a casting of lots.
Crann tabhaill, a sling.
Craoiseach, a lance. Sleagh, a spear.
Craos, the back part of the mouth; the pharynx.
Craosach, ravenous, devouring.
Crapaim, shrink. Do chraip an chos aige, "the leg shrank
with him"; i.e. his leg shrank.
This use of the prepositional pronoun, aige, agam,
etc., is peculiarly Irish. In our Irish-English we
say, e.g. "How is your finger?" "It is very sore
Creach, a loss. A chreach láidir é! lit. its strong loss it is!
The a here is the same in its nature as the a in tá
sé 'n-a fhear. The exclamation is substantially the
same as tá sé 'n-a chreach láidir.
Creacha, cattle-spoils. Creachadh, beggaring by
destroying or taking away one's property.
Creideamhnach, influential, respectable.
Crobh, the claw of a bird; dat. plu. crobhnaibh ("crown-aiv").
The word is also applied to the human hand with
fingers half closed. There is no corresponding English
Crobhaing, a bunch.
Croiceann. Do thabharfaidís a bhfuil ó chroiceann amach
acu ar an saoghal so, all they possess in the world.
"Tá dúil 'n-a chroiceann agam" is said when one
is furiously angry against a person.
Crothadh, shaking. Ag c., shaking, agitating; ar c., in
a shaking state or condition.
Cruadas, hardness. Not cruadhas. I have always
heard the d quite distinct in that word.
Cruadhtan is equivalent to the English plural "hardships."
Cruadhtan na beatha so.
Cruaidh. Dheinbhúir go cruaidh orm é (Sg. I. 93); lit. ye
did it very hard on me; i.e. you should have had
more consideration for me.
Cruaidh is the Irish I have always heard for
Céimeanna cruadha, hard passes, acute difficulties.
Ag obair go cruaidh, of work one has to do.
Ag obair go dian, the work in this case may be
Cruinn, exact, methodical, circumspect. Beir leat go
cruinn an méid sin; understand correctly and keep
in your memory.
Cruithniú, the act of creating. I have seen cruthú, but
I have not heard it. I have heard both cruthuightheóir
Crústa, a dry clod of earth or of bogstuff.
Chuaidh. Nuair a chuaidh d'á fheirg (Sg. III. 300), when (some)
had gone off his anger, i.e. when his anger had
grown less. Tá ag dul d'á mheabhair, his wits are
Cuaird ollamhnachta, a literary or philosophical visitation.
Cuaird chogaidh, a military expedition.
Cuid. Agus an chuid eile acu, the equivalent of "et
cetera." "Et cetera" may also be expressed by the
phrase "a's neithe"; bainne a's neithe, "milk, etc."
Cuideachtanas, personal companionship.
Cúilfhéith, lit. back-vein. It means great power of re-
flection, mental resource.
Cuilith guarnain, an eddy or whirlpool. Poll cuilithe
guarnain is also used, "a hole of a vortex of
Chuir Aodh Dubh Dia agus Colum 'n-a dhiadh go daingean
air… strenuously invoked God and Colm Cille
against him for it.
A certain man buying a cow said to the seller:
"Má tá aon locht sa bhoin seo, cuirim-se Dia 'n-a
dhiaidh ort." There was a hidden fault in the cow
and the seller knew it. He died some time after-
wards. He appeared to his wife after his death and
ordered her to give back the price of the cow to
the buyer, and to let him keep both the money and
"Bhí an locht sa bhoin," said he, "agus chuir sé
Dia 'n-a dhiaidh orm. Á! is dian an t-éiltheóir a
chuir sé 'n-a dhiaidh orm!"
Cúis. Gur bh'é cúis n-a ndeigh sé, that the reason why
he went was, etc.
There is no def. art. before cúis, because the phrase
n-a ndeigh sé defines it. This n-a is better than the
Ní raibh sé sásta leis sin, pé cúis a bhí aige ortha
(Sg. III. 349).
Cúl a thabhairt, to turn the back, on (le).
Daoine a thug a gcúl le n-a gcreideamh féin.
Thugas mo chúl leis, I turned my back on him.
Why not thugas mo dhrom leis? One answer is,
usage. There is also another reason. Thugas mo
chúl leis means "I abandoned it," cúl being used
in a secondary sense. Thugas mo dhrom leis,
I turned my back to it, in a literal sense, but
there is no idea of abandoning in the expression,
e.g. thugas mo dhrom leis agus thógas liom ar mo
Bhíodar ag dul i ndiaidh a gcúil, retreating; lit.
"going after their poll." Perhaps one would expect
i ndiaidh a gcúl here. That would be taking them
individually. It is more natural to consider them
as one body of people.
Cuma. Ní fearr le Meadhbh cuma 'n-a bhfuil an sgéal 'ná
mar sin. (T.B.C., p. 18).
This construction is peculiarly Irish and requires
to be closely studied. The speech of the people is
full of it. The expression is a condensed one. It may
be expanded thus:- Meadhbh contemplates a great
many positions in which probably the matter stands,
and she does not prefer any of them to this one which
is here contemplated.
The meaning, then, is that M. is just as well pleased
by its being just as it is.
Tá 'fhios ag an uile dhuine… nách cuma leó ce'cu
dhíobh is mó a gheóbhaidh clú an oinigh (Guaire, p. 24).
"That it is not a matter of indifference to them,"
i.e., that they are desperately anxious.
Is cuma liom, I don't care.
Ní cuma liom, I do care.
Cúmdach, covering. Clár cúmhdaigh, a wooden lid or cover.
Chun. Cuir chughat é sin, stow that on your person some-
Chuireadar chucha dúbailt airgid (Sg. I. 94).
Chughat na Philistínigh! (Sg. III. 307); cf. the
common exclamations, chughat an púca! chughat as
san uaim! táthar chughat!
Sar a raibh fhios acu é bheith chucha i n-aon chor (Sg.
III. 353), that he was coming to attack them.
Cúnsóg. Some wild bees make their nest in a lump of
moss in ameadow. That sort of nest is called a cúnsóg.
Others make their nest under a mound of dry earth,
or in a dry hole under a stone or rock, or in a wall.
That nest is known as a talamhóg.
Cúntas, an account, a description. Sgríbhinní cúntais,
records. T'r'om rud éigin le n-ithe, i gcúntas Dé;
"in God's account," i.e. to be sent down for God
Cúpla is followed by the nom. sing. Cúpla ceann;
cúpla rud; c. práta mór; c. bliain mhaith; c. buachaill
Curadóir, a seed-sower.
Curanta, staunch, substantial.
Cur ar. Bhí an mór-chath curtha ortha; lit. the great battle
was put on them, i.e. they were defeated in the great
Cur le, add to.
Cur chun… agus lá an aonaigh do chur chuighe, even not
omitting the fair day. Do chuir sí an tigh chuige, she
let the house to him.
Cur… ó. Iad do chur ó chainnt a chéile do thuisgint;
lit. to put them from understanding each other's
Cur de. D'iarr sé ortha stad agus a dtuirse chur díobh.
lit., to put their weariness off them; i.e., "to take
a rest," or, "to rest themselves." Chuir sí leanbh mic
di, gave birth to a baby boy.
Cur fé. Chuireadar fútha; lit. they put under them
(what they could rest upon), i.e. they settled down;
or simply, they settled.
Cur fé ghrádaibh sagairt is the Irish for "to ordain."
Cur suas le… bear with, tolerate.
Cur um. Cuir umat, dress yourself.
The word cur has apeculiarly Irish sense in anumber
of expressions; take for instance, the phrasean mhallacht
do chur. A malediction is placed or put in existence
by being pronounced.
Ag cur sheaca, ag cur shneachta are examples of a
similar use of the word.
Chuir sé an rian, implies that he located and followed
Ní h-olc atá a shaoghal curtha aige. This use of
cur is very common in the sense of turning something
Cúram a dhéanamh de dhuine, to make much of a person.
Cuthaigh, furious, fierce. Iarracht chuthaigh, a strenuous
effort (gen. sing. of cuthach, rage, used as an
Dá. Marbhú an dá chéad fear (Sg. IV. 380); not na dá
chéad fear. Dhá áit mhaithe, two good places. Dhá choin
mhóra, two large hounds.
After dá the noun is dual but the adjective is
Dá. For the English expression, "if it were not to come,"
there are two different Irish expressions, mara dtagadh
sé, and dá mba ná tiocfadh sé. cf. Sg. I. 14:- Dhein
a lán acu aithrighe sar ar bádhadh iad, aithrighe ná
déanfaidís go deó dá mba ná tiocfadh an sgannra
san ortha; i.e. they would not have repented if the
terror hadnot come (but it did); aithrighe ná déanfaidís
go deo mara dtagadh an sgannra would mean that
they were expecting the terror to come, and that
they were determined not to repent unless it
Dabht, a doubt. It is ridiculous to object to words like
dabht, robáil, etc., on account of their English appear-
ance. They belong to the Irish language because
the nation has adopted them and assimilated them.
The nation has not assimilated such expressions as
"tá sé all right."
Dachad duine (nom. sing.), but cúigear agus dachad
daoine, gen. plu. governed by cúigear.
Dáil. Ag teacht 'n-a dháil dom, as I was coming
The English word "approach" is used in the
Dáil: the serving out of food or drink, especially of
drink. Ag dáil an fhíona ar an rí (Sg. I. 80).
Fear dála, one who serves at table; a waiter.
Dáilim, I dispense, especially food or drink.
Daingean. Ní gan a fhios cad 'n-a thaobh agá namhaid
go daingean a fágadh ann iad; it was not without
their foes knowing to their cost the reason why.
Dáiríribh. Gníomh rí dáiríribh, a real kingly action.
"In earnest" is dáiríribh; not i ndáiríribh.
Damhraidh, oxen. A collective noun, like eachradh, macraidh,
Dán, a profession. Ioldánach, one who is master of many
professions. Ceárd, a trade. Gairm, a calling.
Danán, a worn-out old man.
Daoine. Nuair a chonaic sé an cor a bhí ar na daoine
(Sg. II. 8).. Why not "daoinibh"?
My experience has been that when daoinibh is
used a particular body of people is meant, e.g.
Bíon ocras ar dhaoine uaireannta.
Bíon an rath ar dhaoinibh áirithe.
The first statement is true of people in general.
The second contemplates certain people only.
So, bhí an tír folamh ó dhaoine… not ó dhaoinibh.
Is aoibhinn do lucht na daonachta. The English
is, "Blessed are the merciful." The mercy spoken
of here is not trócaire. In the plirase, "they will
obtain mercy," the mercy is trócaire, i.e. the mercy
Note also the word "blessed" above. It does
not mean beannuighthe. It means aoibhinn, i.e. "it
is happy for them," or "it is blissful for them."
The Latin word is beatus. The Latin of beannuighthe
Dar. Dar leo, in their opinion; as they thought.
Dásacht. The meaning is very nearly "enthusiasm."
Dásacht croidhe, any overpowering mental excite-
ment; cf. dánaidheacht. Mara miste leat mé
dhéanamh dánaidheachta ort, if I may make bold
Deachmhadh, tithes; plu. deachamhna (Sg. VII. 791).
Deagh-chomharsanacht. Good treatment at the hands of
Deagh-labhartha, well-spoken, eloquent. Duine deagh-
labhartha, a "good speaker." Deagh-bhlasta, well-
Deagh-nós, civilisation. The prefix deagh- is often pro-
nounced deigh-, apart from the rule eaol le caol;
e.g. deighmhac, a good, dutiful son.
Deaghthréitheach, full of good characteristics.
Dealbh, poor, in the sense of having no wealth, or no
"means." Bocht is poor in the sense of being
Dear. An t-airgead fé ndear an obair seo (Sg. I. 94).
The omission of the verb is very convenient. The
trouble of finding tenses and moods for the verb
is got rid of completely. Fé ndear, as it stands,
may, according to the context, mean "is the
cause," "has been the cause," "would be the
Dearbh, real; proved; true.
A dhearbh chómhdhalta, my trusty comrade.
Dearbhú. Fé dh. under oath.
Dearmhad: "Do not forget me"; ná dearmhaid mise,
or, ná dein dearmhad díom-sa (not orm-sa); but ar
is used regarding the person who does the forgetting —
Tá dearmhad ort, you are making a mistake.
Deasuighim, arrange, adjust, fit up.
Deich feara fichead (Sg. III. 299).
Why not deich fir fichead? Because usage so
Deighilt, the act of weaning. An siorrach a dh., to wean
Deighleáil, any description whatever of business relations.
D. airgid, financial relations.
D. ceannuidheachta, mercantile transactions, etc.
Deimheas, a shears.
"Deimheas géar agus inchinn mhaol,
Dhá nídh do loitfadh bréid."
Deimhin (or deimhne), an assurance, a certainty. Dein
deimhin de is a common phrase, make a certainty
of it; i.e. look upon it as a certainty, be assured.
Deimhne agus déine an sgéil, the certainty and
urgency of the matter.
Dhein pola salainn di (Sg. I. 30), she became a pillar
Irish verbs can do their work without the aid of
a nominative case. All Irish verbs have their
autonomous forms, which can have no nominative
case. This particular verb has two autonomous
1. Do dhein pola salainn di.
2. Do deineadh pola salainn di.
The first expresses the fact that the change took
place, and no more. The second implies the fact that
some external agency produced the change. Déanfidh
fuil de'n uisge (Sg. II. 4), the water shall become
Deinidh mar a chífidh sibh a dhéanfad-sa (Sg. III. 278),
not deinidh mar a chífidh sibh mise ag déanamh.
Deire. I nd. an anama, at the last gasp.
Deirim. Déarfadh duine is thc equivalent of "one
would expect," "a person would think."
Deirim is constantly used in the sense of giving
a command; e.g. cad n-a thaobh nár dheinis an rud
a dubhart leat!
It may represent the English words "mention"
or "allude to." An bhean úd adubhart leat, of whom
I spoke to you. An oidhche seo adeirtear, this night
we speak of.
Deirinneach, final, as distinguished from déanach, late.
Deis. Ar dheis na h-abhann, on the right bank of the
Deiseal. Gan iompáil deiseal ná tuathal (Sg. III. 339);
deiseal, towards the right, "clock-wise"; tuathal,
towards the left; i.e. where motion is expressed.
Deismireacht, the use of words or of actions supposed
to have a diabolical effect; superstitious observances,
e.g. believing in magpies, if taken seriously.
Déistean is much stronger than "disgust." It means
intolerable disgust, sickening disgust.
Deól, the act of sucking, as the young suck the dam;
the act of drinking any liquid by sucking it up
through a tube.
Súrac is the word for sucking something which
is not a liquid. Tá an leanbh ag súrac a órdóige.
Dia dhaoibh. This is exactly the Hebrew salutation. The
same is to be said of go mbeannuighidh Dia dhuit!
Diacht, divinity, daonacht, humanity.
Diaidh. I ndiaidh ar ndiaidh, by degrees, gradually.
Diaidh ar ndiaidh is not now said anywhere.
Dian. Bhí órdú an rí ró-dhian, too urgent. <"Urgent,"
in a different sense. The matter is not urgent, tá
breith agat air.>
Dias, an ear of corn. Príomhdhiasa, prime ears; faon-
diasa, lean ears.
Díbhfheirg, vengeance, especially Divine vengeance.
Díg. "Tabhair rogha do'n bhodach agus tógfidh sé díg,"
a well-known proverb. Díg is that one of two things
which is not the "choice," i.e., it is that one of the
two which ought not to be taken as "choice."
Díle, a deluge.
Díol. Is olc an díol ortha. This is a common Irish form
of speech, but it is not easy to give it literally in
Díol is used to signify "something which fits
exactly"; díol an rí de hata, a hat fully fit for
the king. The idea is that the hat comes fully up to
what is due to the king.
A man is seen on a splendid horse, then if he
shows himself an accomplished rider, people say:- Is
maith an díol air eapall maith a bheith aige. If, on
the contrary, he proves to be a poor horseman, people
say:- Is olc an díol air capall maith a bheith aige.
It is "a bad fit."
Of course díol means "payment." Then payment
involves the equality of the thing paid and the thing
paid for. If the equality be true the díol is good,
otherwise the díol is bad.
Díoluigheacht, payment. When followed by in it expresses
the idea of an equivalent. When followed by as it
expresses the idea of payment simply, where the
idea of an equivalent may be impossible, as in the
case of punishment for a crime.
D. as, payment; d. in, satisfaction.
Díomhaoin. Buachaill díomhaoin (Sg. III. 287), a strong
able-bodied fellow of no fixed habitation.
Diombádh, a feeling of resentment or bitter disappoint-
ment. Bhí d. air chucha (Sg. III. 342).
Díon, shelter, protection. Is sometimes followed by
ar, and sometimes by ó. Tá sé gan díon ó'n bhfuacht,
or ar an bhf. Similarly in English, protection from
the cold, or against the cold.
Diongbháil, equality. Laoch do dhiongbhála, a warrior
worthy of you; your "match."
Díosgán, one of the single ears of corn which remain
on the stubble after the reapers.
Also, a harsh, grating sound (d. fiacal).
Díosgaoile, a splitting asunder, a disbanding.
Díre. An old legal term signifying the fine to be paid,
i.e. the restitution in material value. The reparation
of honour or of character was known as eineachlán.
Dísg, sterility, barrenness. Tá an tobar i ndísg, the
well has run dry. Táid na ba i ndísg, the cows have
ceased to give milk.
Díthiú, annihilating, destroying utterly.
Dlaoi, a lock of hair. Ruibe, a single hair.
Dlígh, a law. May be of either gender. Is caol í an dlígh
is a proverb. But is maith an dlígh é sin is often
Dó, dóibh, dúinn, etc. In certain constructions the dative
expresses state of existence. Lá dhóibh agus iad ag
feuchaint; lit., one day for them and they looking,
i.e., one day as they were looking. "Oidhche dhom i
dtigh an Bhrianaigh," "One night as I was in Brian's
To put it another way, do and ó are the Irish pre-
positions which express agency, when ag cannot
be used. Ag léighe an leabhair dom, as I was reading
the book. Tá mo bhéal dóighte ó'n ngréin. Ag nighe
na lámh dó. Ar ghabháil na dtráth dhó, on his reciting
Here we have a preposition connecting the agent
with the verbal noun. No such thing is possible in
Ag teacht dóibh, as they were coming; lit. during
coming by them; i.e. while the action of coming
was being done by them. Cad n-a thaobh dó gan bheith
anso indiu (Sg. IV. 388), what cause for him without
being here? That is, why is he absent?
Dóbair. Ba dhóbair go ndalltí é, he was almost blinded,
he was nearly being blinded. Go ndallfí é might be
used here, but the effect of go ndalltí is to refer the
blinding more closely to the time when the dazzling
light appeared; just as if one were to say "at that
instant he was nearly being blinded."
Dócha. Ní dócha go gcoisgfar me (Sg. III. 318).
The real sense is, "surely no one will prevent me."
Dochar, injury which would cause hurt, such as the loss
of a limb, or of health.
Dochma, the heaviness of heart and mind caused by great
mental trouble or by some great calamity.
Dochraide, hard times, hardships.
Doicheal, a dislike for anything.
When it signifies a dislike to share food with others
it becomes "churlishness."
It is also used in the sense of a shrinking
from something, e.g., tá ana dhoicheal roimis an
Dóichighe, compar. and superl. of dócha. Gur mhóide ba
dhóichighe, "the more it would be likelier." Note
the double comparative.
Níor dhóichighe riamh é, nothing more likely.
Domheanmnach, low in spirit; disheartened.
Dorainnín, dimin. of dorn. Dorainnín fear, a "hand-
ful" of men.
Dórd, a low, deep musical sound.
Dornchur, hilt of a sword.
Dos, a bush, or a clump of small trees.
Dothíghsach, uncivil, morose.
Dothigheas, insolence, surliness.
Droch mhiotalach, ill-conditioned; "full of bad stuff"
is how the people express it in English.
Duain, a song, a poem, a canticle.
Dual. Cuiridh léi an nídh is dual (Sg. III. 337); not the
thing which is due, but the thing which it is your
duty to send. Dualgas, a function, a duty.
Dúbailt, double. Fé mar a méaduighthear an líon ní
foláir an t-aireachas do mhéadú ar a dhúbhailt
(T.B.C. 47). Doubly, lit., "on its double."
Bhí an mhallacht tuillte ar a dhúbailt aige. The
aspiration in dhúbailt shows that the a does not
refer to mallacht. It refers to the degree of the
Dúchas. A chathair dúchais, his native city.
Ó dhúchas, by nature; i.e. by heredity.
Dúil. Beidh a dhúil féd' smacht (Sg. I. 8), the desire of
it (i.e. an peacadh); cf. (Sg. I. 27):- Is beag d'á
chuimhneamh a bhí ag muinntir na catharach úd an uair
sin go raibh, agus c. "Little of its thought," i.e. little
thought of it; i.e. Little did they think that.
(Dúil… ag… in.)
Do chuir sí dúil sa chléibhín, took a liking to the
Dúire, dullness, stupidity, obtuseness.
Dul. Ar aon dul le, in the same position as. Coimeád
ar an ndul san é, hold it in that position.
Dún agus longphort do ghabháil, to encamp.
Dún-árus, a fortified palace.
Dúr, hard, cruel, merciless, sulky, morose, stiff.
Dúrlas, a fortified stronghold.
Duthrachtach. Go d., with earnestness.
Éacht, an immensity; a prodigious number.
Éag, death. Teine do chur i n-éag, to put out a fire.
Teine do leogaint i n-éag, to let a fire go out.
Eagar, order, arrangement. Rud do chur as eagar, to
put a thing out of gear. I n-eagar, in systematic
Eagla. Tiocfidh eagla aige rómhainn, he will conceive
a dread of us. The word aige indicates that the fear
will be a deliberate fear, the result of rational
apprehension. Air would give the idea of the feeling
of fear, timidity.
Eagnach, wise. Go h-eagnaidhe, in a sage manner.
Éagsamhlach, lit. without a similar; i.e. extraordinary,
unique, rare. (Prefixes do not alter the pronun-
ciation of the main word.)
Ealadha. E. d'imirt ar rud, to expend skill on a thing.
E. is any sort of a scientific performance. The English
word "essay" appears to cover the same ground
Easarlaidheacht, sorcery, enchantments.
Éasga, the moon.
Éasga, with. a free motion. Better aosga.
Easgaine, a curse. Ag easgainí, cursing. Easgainí is the
plural of easgaine. Ag easgainí, lit., "at cursings."
Similarly, ag mallachtaí, "at denouncings." These
constructions are exactly like ag siubhal, "at walking,"
ag cainnt, "at talking," except that in the latter
instances the nouns are in the singular. Cuir uait
an chainnt, but, cuir uait na h-easgainí.
Éide Aifrinn, vestments.
Éigin. Fiche éigin blian, about a score of years.
Ainmhidhe éigin uathbhásach. The English word "some"
does not fully express the meaning here. It means
"some sort of."
Éileamh, a claim.
Eirighe-anáirde, self-conceit, presumption.
Eirighim. Ní eireóchadh sé dhíobh; lit. he would not rise
off them, i.e. he would not cease urging them.
Éirim aigne, mental capacity.
Éirleach, destruction. An t-éirleach fearthana, "awful"
Éirleach does not necessarily mean "slaughter."
The word is applied to any sort of destructive
violence. A very wet and stormy day for instance
might be termed lá éirligh.
Éislinn, a resource or refuge in time of peril.
Béim éislinne, an effective blow; a blow which
opened a way of escape. There is a phrase which
has a somewhat similar meaning and which appears
never to have been written down, viz., dreach taca,
or dreachtaca, e.g. ní'l aon dreachtaea eile agam i
gcóir an chíosa ach an dorn arbhair sin, I have no
other resource for the rent but that handful of corn.
Eól. Dob eól do dhaoine tobar, etc. People knew of a
well. This word is a substantive — the well was a
thing known to people. Aithne is the faculty of
distinguishing a thing from other things. Fios
is information regarding facts, past, present or
Eólgaiseach, skilled; but it means mental skill primarily.
The word for skill of hand or fingers is oilteacht.
Fear e, a "knowledgable" man.
Eúnán. This is the proper pronunciation of Adhamhnán.
Fabhra, an eyelid.
Fághaltas, a quantity. F. airgid, a share of money; a
"good penny." The word is also applied to number,
e.g. f. beithidheach.
Fáig. The Irish word which comes nearest to the English
"philosopher." Fáigeamhail, possessing great power
Fáil. Ní raibh fios fáil ná rún agam air. A common
expression for the purpose of declaring one's absolute
ignorance of a thing. Equivalent to the English "I
hadn't the remotest idea of it." "I knew nothing
whatever about it."
Faire. Lucht faire, watches, sentinels.
Fairsinge, expansiveness, spaciousness.
Fáistineach. Brígh fáistineach, a prophetic significance.
Fáistine, a prophecy.
Fánaidhe, a homeless wanderer.
Fanntais, a fainting fit. This is not a borrowed English
word. It is derived from the word fann, weak.
Fan-se annso, "you remain here." This word is some-
times pronounced fan-se, sometimes fan-sa, and
Faobhar. Rith an chíste an cnoc anuas, ar a fhaobhar
(Sg. III. 278), on its edge.
Gach aon fhocal ar a fhaobhar agus ar a chúinne aige
is said of a person who speaks with unnecessary
emphasis — as if putting each word first on its edge
and then on the corner of its edge.
D'imireadar an f. ortha, "they played the edge
on them"; i.e. put them to the sword.
Faobhar, or f. claidhimh, corresponds with the English
Faoisdin bheatha, a general confession.
Faolchú (m. and f.), A wolf. It takes a feminine
adjective, and a pronoun sometimes masculine and
sometimes feminine. The word cú itself is always
Fasg, a particle (of sense). Ní'l fasg aige. Céille,
Fásgadh, squeezing. Ag f. a ladhar, wringing their
Fé. An talamh go léir fútha féin, at their own disposal.
Is fé áthas a gheóbhad bás feasta, I will die happy
now. Leis an bhfás atá fútha; lit. "with the growth
which is under them," i.e. at the rate at which they
are growing. The innate meaning of "fé" in
such sentences is something like "pervading";
e.g. cuir sméara fé'n leathar, grease the leather
so as to make it soak the grease. Cuir anál faoi,
breathe on it.
This root idea has many secondary shapes. Tá droch-
fhuadar fút; there is some evil bent pervading
you and driving you on. Do smearas é ach níor
chuaidh an smear fé, but it did not soak the grease.
Tá fásgadh fé, "he is squeezing on," i.e. walking
Sgaoil na caoire amach fé'n gcnoc is good Irish,
but, táid na caoire amuich fé'n gcnoc is very bad
Irish. It means that the sheep are literally under
the mountain. The word fé has the sense of along
only when motion is expressed. Therefore, amach fé'n
gcnoc, suas fé'n gcnoc, síos fé'n dtig, etc., are
all good Irish; but amuich fé'n dtuaith, thíos fé'n
dtigh, thuas fé'n gcnoc are inadmissible.
Dul fé thriomú; lit., to go under drying; i.e. to
disappear through drying; i.e. to evaporate. Dul
fé bheiriú, to boil away, is a similar construction.
Amach fé'n bhfaraige, out to sea.
Thuit gach nídh amach fé mar adubhairt S. a thuitfadh
(Sg. III. 347). According as, just as. Mar alone
would mean simply "as."
Fé mar carries with it a sense of proportion or
parallelism; e.g. Sg. IV. 380. Fé mar a mhéaduigh an
t-eagla air roime Dh. mhéaduigh an fuath a bhí aige dhó.
Féachaim. D'fhéach sé ortha, he looked at them. D'fhéach
sé iad, he examined them. Imthigh agus feic na ba,
go and see the cows.
Feadh. Bhíos ann ar feadh bliana means that I spent a
year there during some past time.
But, I have spent a year there, is táim ann le bliain.
I shall spend a year there, bead ann go ceann bliana.
But suppose a person says, If I stay there until
the end of this month I shall have spent a year there,
he must put it into Irish by má fhanaim ann go dtí
deire an mhí seo bead ann ar feadh bliana. If he were
to say in that sentence, …bead ann go ceann bliana,
the meaning would be that he was about to spend
another year there. One may say ar feadh trí bliana
déag, or ar feadh trí mblian ndéag. The second form
is a little older.
Ar feadh trí nú ceathair de bhlianaibh. One might
also say ar feadh a trí nú a ceathair de bhlianaibh, but
the first form is preferable, making t. nú c. de bh. a
noun phrase, indeclinable, and genitive case depend-
ing on feadh.
Féadaim. Bhíodar 'ghá gcosaint féin, chómh maith agus
d'fhéadadar é. It would not do to omit the é at the
end. It represents iad féin do chosaint.
On the other hand é is sometimes inserted when
it ought not. Is maith an fear é Tadhg, for instance,
is not said. The correct form is is maith an fear Tadhg.
But if the thing represented by é were in the shape
of a clause, then the é should be always inserted, e.g.
ba dhian mhaith an rud é dá mbeadh an lá chun féir.
Feadán, a pipe or flute.
Feadraís. Ní fheadraís, you do not know, or you did
It is only in the 3rd singular that there is a
difference between the present and past. Ní fheadair
sé, he does not know. Ní fheidir sé, he did not know.
Fearan claidhimh, sword-land; i.e. territory won by the
sword. F. búird, mensal land.
Feaduíol, whistling. The spelling feadghail does not
give the sound.
Fearg. Ní raibh aon choinne againn go raibh aon fhearg
aige chughainn. Aige implies a state of sustained
deliberate animosity. Air would denote a passing
fit of anger.
Fear luath láidir. These three words generally go together
in describing "a strong, able man."
Fear teangan, an interpreter. Fearteanganacht, his
Fear tighis, a house steward; a man who has charge of
the food of the house. An fear tighe has complete
charge of the house itself.
Fearsad, a spindle, an axle; plu. feirste. Crann feirsde,
Fearta, wonderful works; and hence, the power of
performing the works. Le feartaibh Mhuire Mhóir,
by the power of the Great Mary.
Feasta, henceforth, or thenceforth, according to what
the context requires. An adverb of time referring
to the immediate future, and generally implies a
contrast with the past. Tá sé 'n-a lá feasta, it is
(= will be) day at once. It is day from this on. Chonaca-
mair an solus sa spéir lastoir agus bhí sé 'n-a
lá againn feasta, we saw the light in the sky in the
east, and it was day forthwith.
Feidhm, tenseness, strain, power; gen. feadhma (Neart
an fheadhma). F. fiche capall, twenty horse power.
Chuaidh a chainnt i bhfeidhm, took effect; "went
The initial letter of the genitive is often left
unaspirated when the aspiration is not necessary to
indicate the case; e.g. i bhfochair Fintáin is permissible,
whereas i bhfochair Cáit would not do.
Féidir. Ní féidir le h-aoinne acu, subjective impossibility,
i.e. they feel that they cannot.
Ní féidir d'aoinne acu, objective impossibility,
i.e. that they actually were not able. Déanfad é
má's féidir é. Do dhéanfinn é dá mb'fhéidir é. Do
dhein sé é má b'fhéidir é. Do dhéanfadh sé é dá
Feilimeanta. Go f., in thorough fashion; "with a
Féinnidheach, a soldier.
Feisteamhail, tidily and tastefully arranged.
Féith. Féitheacha fliucha (Sg. II. 11), lit. wet veins.
The term is applied to certain long moist channels
found in marshy land. Tá an bhó ar lár sa bhféith,
Féith na filidheachta, "the vein of poetry," i.e., the
natural gift of being a poet.
Fiafruighim. Bhíodar 'ghá fhiafruighe d'á chéile cé dhein
an gníomh (Sg. III. 274).
It is not permissible to write bhíodar ag fiafruighe
d'á chéile cé dhein an gníomh. This latter would make
the verbal noun fiafruighe govern an objective case
(viz. cé dhein an gníomh), a thing which no Irish verbal
noun can possibly do.
The Irish verbal noun must take the genitive case
of the object of the action which it expresses. Hence
all such constructions should be like the quotation
given above, where the a of 'ghá (ag á) is a possessive
pronoun representing the object, cé dhein an gníomh,
in the genitive case. "They were at its asking of
each other who did the deed."
Accordingly, to express in Irish the English present
participle active. the object must follow it in the
genitive case, or else must precede it in the shape of
a proleptic possessive pronoun.
"I am telling you this story":-
Táim ag innsint an sgéil seo dhuit, or
Táim 'ghá innsint seo dhuit mar sgéal, or
Tá an sgéal so agam dh'á innsint duit.
Never by any possibility can one say táim ag inn-
sint an sgéal so dhuit.
Táid siad am' thréigean (Sg. III. 342); i.e. ag am
thréigean; i.e. ag mo thréigean. Here mo is a possessive
pronoun, i.e. the genitive of the object of thréigean.
"What about is maith leó mé thréigean?" some
one may object. The pronoun mé is not the object
of thréigean in that expression. There is a do under-
stood before thréigean, and the structure of the
sentence is, "they like me unto abandonment."
Má staonan sibh ó fheirg do chur air (Sg. III. 355).
Fheirg here is governed by the prep. ó. Therefore
it is not governed by chur. In fact do is a true pre-
positionand chur is a true substantive, i.e. a verbalnoun.
Rud a dhéanamh gan f., blind obedience.
Fiaradh, the direction in which a thing curves. Ag
tarrac na slata tré n-a láimh i n-aghaidh a bhfiaradh,
i.e. against the direction of the growth of the
leaves. Fiar, turned in a sidelong or diagonal
Fiarthreasna, a diagonal direction.
Tar f. Tuathmhumhan, across Thomond diagonally.
Fiche. Do ghluais fiche blian (Sg. III. 340)
(1) Fiche blian, a score of years.
(2) Fiche bliain, twenty years.
In (1) fiche is a substantive, governing the gen.
In (2) fiche is a numeral adjective, like dhá in dhá
bhliain. Both forms are good Irish.
Fighe, the act of weaving, or the woven tissue.
Fínné, a witness. Tugaim Dia mar fhínné dhuit air, "I
give you God as a witness upon it," i.e. I call God
to witness the truth of it; pl. fínnithe; it also means
the evidence given.
Fíoch, violent rage.
Fionachrith, shivering; the "creeps."
Fíonfhóghmhar, a vintage, a wine-harvest.
Fionghal, the killing of any blood-relation. Better spelled
finghal; it comes from fine, a tribe.
Fíonghort, a vineyard.
Fíoraim. Do fíoradh iad, they were verified.
Fíoraon (or fíoraonta), a "just" man, in the sense
of being in a state of "justice" before God; i.e.
one without sin; one who will not act unjustly to-
wards his neighbour is duine macánta.
Fíorchaoin fáilte; lit., the gentlest of a welcome.
Fíorchaoin is a noun, and fáilte a genitive case de-
pending on it.
Fíre fear, "the truth of men," i.e. the laws of honour-
able combat. Thug C. fíre fear domh-sa, gave me "fair
Fírinne. Ce 'cu bhí an fhírinne acu dh'á innsint dó, agus c.
(Sg. I. 101). Not dh'á h-innsint, although fírinne
The reason is because there is question, not of
the word fírinne, but of the thing. Anyhow, usage
has sanctioned the form in the text.
Fleadh, a feast; gen. fleidhe (pron. "flehi").
There is an adjective, fleadhach, pronounced fleagach
Flosg, enthusiasm. The mental excitement which one
feels when exerting himself very much in a work for
which he has a great love.
Flosg an bhóthair atá air, means the excitement
caused by the prospective journey is what is the
matter with him.
Flúirse, abundance. F. lóin, plenty of provisions.
Fobhar, a deep, musical sound.
Focal. Níor fhan focal ionnta (Sg. I. 98). They were
Fochal, any sort of corrupted matter.
Anagal is a still worse variety — "pus" in English.
Fód. Cuirfidh sibh mo cheann liath fé'n bhfód le neart
buartha (Sg. I. Ioo). Ye will bring my grey hairs with
sorrow to the grave. Fé'n bhfód is a very common
expression for death and burial.
Fogha, an attack. Ag déanamh f., or ag tabhairt f., making
a rushing charge (fé).
Foghail, depredation, plundering; plu. foghalacha.
F. a dhéanamh d'á gcuid, make a prey of their
property. Ar a gcuid would mean "make an inroad
on their property."
When a person has eaten but little people say to
him: Is ró-bheag an fhoghail atá déanta agat air,
you have not encroached very much upon it: you
have not made a very deep impression on it.
But, dhein sé foghail de, he took the whole thing
Fóghanta, means "good" in the sense of "advantageous,"
"beneficial." Bhí an tsean aithne aige ortha agus
níor bh'fhóghanta an. tsean aithne í. (Sg. I. 101). Fear
maith, a good man, in himself. Fear fóghanta, a man
whose goodness is of benefit to others.
Fóghnamh. This is still a living Irish word, though restricted
to such phrases as "ní'l sé ar fóghnamh"; "tá sé
gan bheith ar fóghnamh," etc.
Fógraim, proclaim. D'fhógair sé comhrac ortha is the
equivalent of "he challenged them to fight."
Níor fhreagair aoinne an fhógairt, "the challenge."
Foirgneamh, building. This word has just ceased to be
used in everyday speech, but it is a useful word and
should be revived. Oireamhnach chun foirgnimh, suitable
Foláir. Ní foláir duit, "you have no choice but to."
Ní foláir leat, "it is not a matter of choice in your
opinion," i.e. you consider it a matter of necessity.
Hence, ní foláir duit, you must. Ní foláir leat, you
are determined, you insist.
Ní foláir nú tá do dhalta i bhfolach (Táin Bó
Cuailgne, p. 54), your pupil must be in hiding.
Students should note closely this use of nú after
foláir. A literal rendering of this construction ex-
plains the true sense of ní foláir, a matter which
has given rise to much controversy.
The English phrase "no choice" comes very near
the Irish phrase ní foláir. Both are founded
upon the idea of unavoidableness. The English phrase
expresses the absence of free choice. The Irish phrase
expresses the absence of the possibility of giving a
command in the matter.
Ní foláir duit stad is, in the Irish mind, "to
stop is not for you a thing which can be commanded
or not commanded" — i.e. to stop is a thing that
you will have to do of necessity — i.e. you will have
to stop — i.e. you must stop.
Now let us suppose that this absence of choice
affects, not the person spoken of, but the speaker.
Suppose the speaker finds it impossible to explain
a certain contingency except on the theory that the
person spoken of "has stopped." He says in his
Irish mind — "(all) is impossible, or else you have
stopped," i.e. ní foláir nú do stadais.
Ní foláir cannot be followed immediately by go.
If I see a person staggering it will not do to say, ní
foláir go bhfuil sé ar meisge. I must say, ní foláir
nú tá sé ar meisge. But I can say, ní foláir a admháil
go bhfuil sé ar meisge.
The English phrase, "the man must be drunk,"
has several entirely different meanings. It expresses
several entirely different sorts of necessity. It can
(a) I feel forced to believe the man is drunk. Then
the Irish is, ní foláir nú tá sé ar meisge.
(b) The man has taken so much drink it is im-
possible for him not to be drunk. Then the
Irish may be, ní foláir dó bheith ar meisge,
or, ní fhéadfadh sé gan bheith ar meisge.
(c) The man has made it a rule to get drunk every
fair day. The Irish in that case is, ní foláir
leis bheith ar meisge; i.e. he "needs must."
The reason why ní foláir go bhfuil sé ar meisge
is impossible Irish is this. The phrase ní foláir states
that something is not choice. The words that follow
ní foláir must name that thing. Go bhfuil sé ar
meisge is not a thing. It is a dependent clause and
there is nothing on which it can depend. If we supply
something on which it can depend we will have, for
example, ní foláir a rádh go bhfuil sé ar meisge. Then
the Irish is all right.
Foláramh, a warning.
Folathachtadh, a fierce throttling or choking.
Forbhaise. I bhf. ar, laying siege to.
Forcamás, affectation, putting on airs.
Forlamhas, sway, dominion. Three short syllables, accent
Forleathan, comprehensive; comp. forleithne.
Formhór, the greater part. Furmhór na ndaoine. A
bhfurmhór, not an furmhór díobh.
Fosaidheacht, pasture. Páirc fosaidheachta, a field of
pasturage. Tá fosaidheacht mhaith ann.
Freagairt. Gheóbhaidh an dúil sin freagairt, that desire
will get a response; i.e. the supply will come in
response to the demand.
Freagarthach. F. do, responsive to. F. in, responsible for.
Friothghoin, the thick of a fight, i.e. where wounds are
Frithbheart, an opposing action, a contradiction; gen.
Fuadar, a moving impulse; the force and the direction
of the bent of a person's mind.
Tá droch fhuadar fé, there is a bad impulse moving
him. Cad é an fuadar é seo fút? Commonly, but
inadequately, translated "what are you up to?"
Fuaid. Ar fuaid is used when the space contemplated
is extensive, ar fuaid na dútha, ar fuaid na paróiste.
The form ar fuid is preferred when the space is small,
ar fuid an tighe, ar fuid an bhaill.
Fuar, cold. In an idiom: bheadh sé fuar agat bheith a
d'iarraidh, etc. Vain, useless.
The people say, It would be "cold morning" for
you to try.
Fuilingim, suffer. Rud na fuiliceóch' righneas, which would
not brook delay — a thing that was urgent.
Fuil-shrón, ableedingfrom the nose. Here srón is probably
gen. plu., "nostrils."
Fuineadóir, one who kneads bread.
"Is fuiriste fuine i n-aice mine" —
or, …i n-aice mhine, where the sense is somewhat
I n-aice mhine, near (a supply) of meal.
Fuirm, shape, form. Eólus i bhfuirm radhairc, knowledge
communicated in the form of vision, as distinguished
from knowledge communicated by means of words.
Folag, fortitude in suffering.
Gabha geal, a silversmith; plu. gaibhní geala.
Gabháil. Ag gabháil go dian ar dhuine de sna h-Eabhrachaibh
(Sg. I. 123), beating one of the Hebrews.
Gaibh air. Ná gaibh orm. Do ghabhas air. Do ghaibh
sé de shlait orm.
But do bhuaidh sé sa rith orm. Ghabhadar de chosaibh
i gclainn Israéil, trampled on.
Ag gabháil salm, reciting psalms. Dán a ghabháil,
to recite a poem. Gabháil do láimh, to undertake (or
ar láimh). G. do chlochaibh ann, to stone him. But g.
de dhóirnibh ann, to thump him with the fists.
When there is a question of mode or manner do
should be used; e.g. do shiubhal mo chos; bás do'n
ghorta; do ló agus d'oidhche.
But when the idea in the preposition is partitive,
i.e. when it is the same as the idea in the English
preposition "off," de is used.
The beating is given "off" the fists, whereas the
beating is not given off the stones.
Gabháil le n-ais, to put up with; to brook; to
tolerate. Is dóich liom go fuil a lán acu ná geóbhadh
smacht le n-ais (T.B.C., p. 37).
Gach aon, every. D'imthigh sé an bóthar siar agus gach
aon sgread aige, "having every scream," i.e.
Agus gach aon bhúirth acu, "and they having every
roar"; i.e. and they sending forth a succession of
roars. The Irish construction fastens the attention
of the reader or listener on the energy of each roar
in succession in a way which cannot be reproduced
Gainmheach, a sandy desert; gen. gainmhe (pron. "gainí").
Fásach is a place which is deserted and consequently
overgrown with wild vegetation. Fású, the act of
Gaisge. Ag foghluim ghaisge, lit., learning valour;
i.e. acquiring the accomplishments of a military hero,
especially skill in the use of weapons and in the per-
formance of military feats.
Gal, valour, prowess. Ar ghalaibh aonfhir, in single combat.
Cómhrac aonfhir, a duel; less commonly cómhrac
Gan. Do fágadh an túr gan críochnú, unfinished.
B'é an droch ghníomh san fé ndeár gan freagra
theacht (Sg. III. 362). Here the phrase fé ndeár gan is
the equivalent of "prevented."
Níor fhéad sé gan bheith ag cuimhneamh ar, etc. "He
was not able not to be"… i.e., he could not help
thinking of… An fhaillighe a bhí déanta aige agus
gan an t-árthach a thógaint. Here agus gan is the
same in effect as the English "by not." Cad 'n-a
thaobh dó gan bheith annso? Why is he absent?
Do stad Bran gan dul thar abhainn; lit., Bran
stopped without going across the river; i.e. refrained
from going, etc. Níor chuaidh B. thar abhainn would
not express the same meaning. The former statement
leaves the impression that there was some secret
influence which prevented him.
Ganachúise, scarcity. The opposite is flúirse; adjectives,
ganachúiseach, flúirseach. Ag dul i nganachúisighe,
Gaoth. Ag leogaint na gaoithe isteach, talking volubly
Gasta, skilled. Beart ghasta, a clever stratagem.
Geal. Ní'lim geal duit is a common expression,
signifying "I do not feel well disposed towards
Gealacán. Ar gh. a dhá ghlún; in this phrase gealacán
is the white spot which the kneeling causes on the
cap of each knee.
Gealaigh, dat. of gealach, the moon. Ar gealaigh is stronger
than ar buile. The two are often combined… ar
buile agus ar gealaigh, "mad and lunatic"; raving
Geall, a hostage; gen. gill.
Geantraighe, laughing music; music which caused
Gearb-chluasach, with jagged ears. Gearb, a scab.
Géarchúis, critical acumen.
Géarleanmhaint is not a natural Irish word. It was
"built" recently on the model of the English word
"persecution" or the Latin word persecutio, and
it means merely "following sharply." If a native
Irish speaker wished to say that someone was per-
secuting him, he would say tá sé am' chrádh, or am'
chiapadh, or tá sé ag cur orm, or tá sé am' mhilleadh,
or táim marbh aige, etc.
Gearra-, as a prefix to nouns, means "middling"
"average," "medium-sized." Gearra-bhuidhean, 'a
medium-sized body of troops; gearra-chuid, a
middling share; gearra-chaile, a little girl of twelve
or fourteen years; gearra-thamall, a considerable
time; gearra-mhála, a medium-sized bag. Gearra-
scoil, a hedge school.
Gearraim, cut. Ní'l aon aimsir gearrtha amach dom
chuige sin, i.e. cut out, marked out, appointed.
Géaruighim. Do ghéaruigh beirt acu sa tsiubhal (Sg. I. 25),
two of them quickened their pace. Do ghéaruigh sé
madra donn liom, he "set" a brown dog at
Geas, a prohibition, or the thing prohibited.
Thus, is geas duit teacht and táir fé gheasaibh
gan teacht have exactly the same meaning.
Col is the word used to express the violation of a
geas. Bheadh col déanta acu ar na geasaibh, would
have violated the bonds. It was a col geise, for
instance, regarding the guest-house of the Cork
monastery to prepare it for one guest (see An
Géibhinn, oppression, hardships, persecution, suffering.
Géillsine, the duty which a subject owes to his king.
The person who owed the allegiance was also called
Géimrigh. Ag g., lowing, bellowing, the sounding of
horns. Géim bó, the lowing of a cow. Géimreach,
continuous lowing or sounding of horns.
Geinteach. Duine g., a gentile.
Geóbhad, I shall go; ní gheóbhad, I shall not go. Gheóbhad,
I shall find or get; ní bhfaghad, I shall not get. Ní
bhfaighir dul, you shall not be permitted to go.
Giollanradh, boys. A collective noun. Other similar
words are macradh, sons; ingheanradh, daughters;
marcradh, horsemen, "cavalry." Giollanradh also
means the rank and file of an army.
Glan. Ualach de'n órna ghlan (Sg. III. 322), of the cleaned
barley; not glanta. Similarly, tá sé socair, lán,
folamh, etc., agam, not soearuighthe, líonta, folmhuighthe.
Glaodhach. Nuair ab é toil Dé glaodhach air; a usual
Irish way of saying "when he died."
Note the use of "é," although toil is a fem.
The word glaoidh is sometimes followed by ar,
sometimes by chun. Again, it may govern its object
Do ghlaoidh sé ar bheirt acu, he shouted at them.
Do ghlaoidh sé chuige beirt acu, he summoned them
to his presence.
Do glaodhadh m'ainm, my name has been called.
Do glaodhadh orm, someone has called me.
Gléas, organisation. The arrangement of parts as they
constitute a whole. Do ghléasadar a slóighte, they
put their hosts in order; they "dressed" their ranks.
The word gléas is very extensively used to express
the idea of arrangement of means to an end, especially
in the case of instrumental means, such, for example,
as the various parts of a clock. The clock would be
a bad one if the gléas were defective.
Gléas is the Irish word which answers to the English
There is another word, gréas, which has also the
idea of system in accordance with which orna-
mentation is made, in tracery, or in engraving, or
Gleic, a struggle in which strength is contested.
Gléigeal. An Slánuightheóir gléigeal is a common ex-
Gliúmáil, spreading the hands and groping in the dark.
Gloistí! An exclamation which means "d'ye hear that!"
Gluaireán, murmuring, complaining.
Gluais. This word is sometimes used in a transitive
sense; cad a ghluais sibh? What has caused you
to start? (Guaire, 180).
Glúin, a knee. I have never heard glún as a
nominative case. Nom. glúin; gen. glún; dat.
glúin; plu. glúinc, glún, glúinibh.
Feacadh glún, "the bending of a knee"; a genu-
flection. Glúin also means a degree in genealogy or
Gné. Do b'uasal gné, of noble aspect. The nominative
Gnó, plu. gnótha and gnóthaí. Gnóthaí creidimh, religious
observances. Gnóthaí árdshagairt, the functions of a
high-priest. There is a better word for "functions,"
but it is not in common use; viz. dán; dán is singular,
but is a collective noun.
Gnóthaí ceannaidheachta, mercantile pursuits.
D'aon ghnó, purposely. The phrase may be used
as a substantive, as dheineadar an d'aon ghnó go
maith (Lughaidh Mac Con, 59), they kept up the pre-
Further examples of phrases used as substantives
are… an cur thré chéile, the confusion; an cos
anáirde, the gallop; an dul amú, the aimlessness.
Gnúis, the face as giving expression to the mind and
its passions or energies; the equivalent of the Latin
vultus. Ceannacha, the features, pronounced ceannatha,
accent on the second syllable.
Snuadh, or snó, the appearance of the face as
far as it denotes health or the opposite. Snó na
déarca, a look of want.
Gnaoi, the appearance of the face when pleased;
the "expression" —
"Gur bh'fhearr liom a seasamh a's sgáil a gnaoi
'Ná Síle 's dá mbeadh aici an Mhágach."
— Old Song.
Go gives to the adjective a superlative meaning. Tá an
capall go maith agat is much stronger than tá capall
maith agat; an excellent horse.
So, 'ghá onórú go h-árd denotes more than
"honouring him highly." The true thought is "up
to (the full idea of) high"; i.e. in the highest degree.
Goire, nearness. Ná tar i ngoire na teine.
Goireacht, proximity. Nuair a bhí sé sa ghoireacht cheart
dó (Sg. III. 374), lit., in the proper nearness; i.e.
when he had come near enough to use the sling properly.
Goirgeach, exceedingly irritable; ready to fly into a passion
at the slightest provocation.
Goltraighe, weeping music; music which set people
weeping in an uncontrollable manner.
Gradam denotes power and majesty combined. There
is no single English word for it. "Pomp and cir-
Graidhn, affection. A ghraidhn, my darling, a quite common
expression of endearment.
Mo ghraidhn (croidhe) é, expresses strong sympathy.
Gráin. There is no English word strong enough to ex-
press the meaning. It denotes a combination of
anger, hatred and disgust.
Gráinseachán, roasted corn.
Grástamhail, of a mild or gentle disposition. The idea
it denotes is not at all similar to the English "grace-
ful" or "gracious." "Well-disposed" comes near
Greann, affection. The following preposition is ar.
Sidé mo mhac dílis ar a bhfuil mo ghreann, on
whom my affection is fixed.
Greannmhar, queer, comical, peculiar, etc.; not "witty."
Greanta, resplendent; splendid; lit. polished with
Gréithre, endowments, gifts.
The sing. gréith does not appear to be used. The
word tabharthas is used instead.
Grian. Roimh dhul gréine féi (Sg. III. 299); lit., before
the going of the sun under, i.e. before sunset.
Grianfhuilt, shining like the sun. Réiltean ghréinfhuilt,
Grianleac, a sun-dial; gcn. gréinlice; dat. gréinlic.
Gríosach, burning cmbers. Císte gríosaigh, a cake baked
on or under hot embers.
Groidhe. Fear g., a man of big and powerful physique.
Cumasach, possessing great physical strength.
Cúmtha córach; the two words generally go together
in order to express the ideas of well-formed and
The best English word for córach is "shapely."
Guais, a painful predicament, an agonising position.
Árd-ghuais, great anguish.
Guith, a public reproach. (Sg. IV. 486.)
Gustal, "means." Acfuinn expresses a larger amount
of means than gustal. One may be fairly well off
without being acfuinneach. A person without gustal
is in a bad way.
Dhein sé as a ghustal féin é, out of his own resources.
Guth. Chuireadar guth ar an ndán, "they put voice on
the poem," i.e. they sang it to music.
"Móra dhuit-se, a éinín, atá ag léimrigh ó chrann
Dá n-innsinn brígh mo sgéil duit, ní h-éidir
ná déanfá rún."
"If I were to tell you the substance of my story,
I wonder would there be any danger that you would
not keep the secret."
The phrase ní h-éidir is not the same as ní féidir.
Ní h-éidir expresses the fact that the thing contem-
plated is very unexpected. For instance, a person
sees a horse stretched out motionless in a field, and
he says, ní h-éidir gur marbh a bheadh sé! Could it
be at all possible that it is dead he is!
There is a question implied in ní h-éidir. There
is no question implied in ní féidir. It is a statement
made with certainty.
"Anois, ó táim gabhtha, ní h-éidir
Go leogfá mé dhaoradh gan chúis." —
Ní h-éidir corresponds exactly with the English
"can it be possible?"
Iall bróige, a shoe-string.
Iarsma, the resultant.
"Is fada anonn a théighean iarsma an droch-bhirt"
(proverb). This is a splendid word for scientific
Iarua, a great-grandson; from iar and ua.
Iasachta. Cine i., a foreign race of people.
Ídhbirt, a sacrifice; chun, not do; plu. ídhbearta.
Íde. destruction, annihilation.
Idir. Idir eagla agá namhaid roimis agus uraim agá
This idir is exactly the equivalent of the English
Imdhéanamh, to make a summary, an account.
Imdhruidim, besiege; also imdhridim; d'imdhrid sé an
caisleán, lit., shut in.
Imealach, towards the border of a thing. Ná seasaimh
ró imealach ar an gclár san, don't stand too near
the edge of that board.
Imigéineamhail, remote, far in among the mountains or
wild places. A h-imigéin; lit., out of a distant
place; i.e. from afar.
Imirt. Ag imirt a n-anam, lit., playing their lives, i.e.
risking their lives, staking their lives.
Imirt (ar) is often used in the sense of "annoy-
ing" or "exercising influence on." Bhí droch nídh
eígin ag imirt air (Sg. III. 370). <The Irish word
for the play of children is súgradh.>
Imníomh, active earnestness; zeal; a mixture of care
Imtheacht. I lár na h-imtheachta (Sg. III. 361), in the
middle of the rushing movement. A man asks
Ca bfuil an ghaoth ag séide? The other looks up
at the sky and says féach ar an imtheacht. Look at
the motion i.e. of the clouds.
Imthigh ort. The "ort" adds emphasis to the command.
It literally means "ahead," "in the direction in front."
Imun, a hymn.
Inaistir, capable of journeying.
Inchinn mhaol; lit., a blunt brain, i.e., a stupid brain.
Inead, place. Fear inid an rí, the viceroy.
Inníor, the act of grazing.
Inntleacht, inventive faculty.
Ínse, alluvial land on the bank of a river; an "inch";
Intinn, a purpose. Ar an intinn gcéadna, to the same
purpose. An intinn atá at' aigne, the purpose which
is in your mind.
When intinn and aigne are thus contrasted intinn
means purpose, aigne means the mind in which the
When not so contrasted intinn can mean mind and
Iodhna, battle lines; ranks in array; Lat., acies.
Iolardha, presenting great variety. Teangthacha i., diverse
Iomarbhas, sin; prevarication.
Iompáil, a revolution, whether in machinery or in the
government or social life of a country; plu. iompálacha.
Iompar. Long d'iompar, carry a ship; i.e. of water,
to float a ship. Beithidheach iompair, a beast of burthen.
Iompódh deiseal, the turn to the right.
Deiseal reilge, around a graveyard, keeping the
right hand towards the graveyard.
Iompuighim. D'iompuigh sé chuige, turned towards him.
D'iompuigh sé air, turned on him, i.e. in anger.
Iomroll, confusion, error, a false move in a game. Gan
iomroll (Sg. III. 344), without mistake. Iomroll aithne,
mistaken identity. Urchar iomroill, a wrong shot.
Iomsuidhe, a siege.
Ionachas, expectation, hope founded on the probability
of something taking place.
Ionar, a tunic. Fiú an ionar a bhí laistigh d'á bhrat
(Sg. III. 375), even the tunic.
Ionarba, exile, banishment.
Ionfhuar, cool. Níos ionfhuaire, cooler.
Iongna. Níor bh'aon iongna iad 'ghá dhéanamh san
(Sg. III. 270); not níor bh'aon iongna gur dheineadar
Iongna shaoghail, a world's wonder. But iongnaí
Ionmhuin. Má's ionmhuin leat me, if I have found favour
in thy sight; or, simply, if you love me.
A chara ionmhuin, my dear friend.
Ionnraic, upright, incorruptible.
Ionnsuighim, I charge, attack. D'ionnsuighdar an namhaid.
Ioruaidh. An I., Norway.
Iosgad, the back of the knee-joint. "His knees are
bending" is represented in Irish by tá an iosgad ag
Iríre, public resentment. I. na ndaoine, that feeling
of anger which is produced in the public mind by
oppression or treachery. (Cr. Mac Dé, I, 9.)
Is. Isé, etc., is frequently omitted in such sentences
as Cam a dhein an gníomh, because the position of
Cam at the beginning of the sentence shows that
the information is in the word Cam.
It is a mistake to say that the subject of the
sentence can ever come next to "is." The very nature
of "is" is to introduce the information at once, and
then the thing about which the information is given.
That is true, no matter whether the information
is definite or indefinite.
(a) "Who is John?"
"John is the King."
Here the information is contained in the words
"the king," therefore they are the predicate in the
(b) "Who is the king?"
"John is the king."
In this answer the word "John" gives the in-
formation asked for, therefore the word "John"
is the true predicate, although it is the subject of
the sentence. Hence in English the words "John
is the king" can mean two entirely different things.
Now look at the Irish:-
(a) "Cé h-é Seághan?"
"An rí"; or, "Isé an rí é"; or, "Isé an
(b) "Cé h-é an rí?"
"Seághan"; or, "Isé Seághan é"; or, "Isé
Seághan an rí."
What immediately follows "is" is ipsofacto informa-
tion, no matter what the speaker intends. "Is" can
never be followed immediately by the subject of the
sentence, whether that subject be definite or indefinite.
Furthermore, "is" cannot be followed immediately
by any definite substantive except in the shape
of a pronoun. One cannot say "Is Seághan an rí."
One must say "Isé Seághan an rí." Whenever
"is" is to be followed by anything definite it must
always be is me, is tu, is é, is sibh, etc. Any of these
pronouns coming after "is" must always be in-
formation. A question is a demand for information.
(Me and tu are short when nominative to is, and
when they are in the objective case).
"Cé h-é an rí?"
"Isé Seághan an rí," or "Isé Seághan é."
In this second answer the last "é" is the subject,
and the "é" of isé is the pronoun representing
Seághan, i.e. the information, i.e. the true predicate.
This can be shown by putting the question in another
"An é Seághan an rí?"
Here the "é" of "isé" gives the information
asked for about "an rí," i.e., it is the true predicate
in this answer.
But to the question "Cé h-é Seághan?" why can
I not answer "isé Seághan an rí?" Because "isé
Seághan an rí" is the same as "isé Seághan é."
What sort of an answer would that be to "Cé h-é
"An é?"; "isé"; "ní h-é." The "é" in the
first of these represents the information asked for.
The "é" in "isé" is positive information given.
The "é" in "ní h-é" is negative information given.
This pronoun can never be anything but information
either asked for or given. It can never be the matter
about which information is given. That is it can
never be the subject. But no definite personal thing
can follow "is" except in the shape of a pronoun.
Therefore a definite subject can never follow "is"
Information is capable of having many other definite
shapes besides the shape of a definite substantive.
"Conus atá an bhó?" That information may be
given in such an answer as "'n-a seasamh," or, "'n-a
luighe," or, "ag siubhal," etc. — the full answer being
"is 'n-a seasamh atá an bhó," etc. The information
is in the words "'n-a seasamh," but what is the thing
about which that information is given? One is
almost inevitably inclined to say "an bhó." The
true answer is that the matter about which the in-
formation is given is contained in the words "atá
an bhó." The statement "is 'n-a seasamh atá an bhó"
asserts the identity of the idea "'n-a seasamh" and
the idea "atá an bhó." The position in which the
cow is is her standing position.
That is to say, "is" must connect two ideas of
the same class, viz. two substantive ideas or two
"Is ainmhighe an bhó," two substantive ideas.
"Is 'n-a seasamh atá an bhó," two modal ideas.
Hence, such a sentence as "is 'n-a seasamh an bhó"
has no meaning, for the cow herself is not in question.
It is her state that is in question.
Any difficulty experienced in mastering this
point is due to allowing the mind to rest on "an bhó,"
forgetting the distinction between "an bhó" and
"atá an bhó."
Unfortunately when learners find themselves face
to face with a difficulty, they rush to the English
in order to examine the apparently analogous con-
struction. They see, for example, "James is the
master" in answer to the question, "who is the
master?" In that answer "James" is the subject,
while the same word "James" is the information
given. Then they see that the Irish for "James is
the master," is "Isé Séamus an máighistir." Here
they see the information next to "is," where it ought
When they look to the question, "Who is James?"
they see in the English the very same answer, viz.
"James is the master." They put it into Irish as
"Isé Séamus an máighistir," as a matter of course.
But here they see that not "Séamus," but "an
máighistir" is the information, i.e. the predicate.
Then they find themselves driven to the conclusion
that in the case of definite subjects and predicates
the predicate can sometimes be away from "is"
and the subject next to "is."
The analogy is false. The English statement,
"James is the master," is the equivalent of any of
these three Irish statements:-
(1) Isé Séamus an máighistir.
(2) Isé an máighistir Séamus.
(3) Tá Séamus 'n-a mháighistir.
These three Irish statements are entirely and
essentially different, while the English has only the
one statement to express the three. Consequently
there is no help to be had from English analogies,
the reason being that there is only one verb "to be"
in English, whereas there are two in Irish.
The three big facts about those two Irish verbs are:-
(I) "Is" must connect two ideas of the same
kind, i.e. two substantives or two modes.
"Tá" must connect two ideas of different
kinds, i.e. a substantive and one of its modes.
(2) The information must always come next to "is."
Is ainmhighe bó.
Is 'n-a seasamh atá an bhó.
(3) The true subject must always come next to
Tá an bhó 'n-a seasamh.
Íseal. Os íseal, silently; in secret; unknown to any
person. Os árd, openly; manifestly; out loud.
Istigh. Tá sé istigh is used to signify "he is in prison."
Amach and isteach are used similarly for "out of"
and "into prison."
Ithir, the soil or mould in which crops are sown.
Lá. Do thárla, lá, etc. It happened one day. Note: no
preposition before "lá." Ar feadh an dá lá. There
is no such Irish as trí laethanta. It is dhá lá, trí lá,
cheithre lá, etc., throughout all the numbers. There
is dó nú trí laethanta; but then laethanta is gen. plu.
Aon lá amháin is only used when it is necessary
to distinguish the "one day" from more days than one.
An seacht lá, the seven days, i.e. one period of
Na seacht laethanta would only be used when seven
periods of one day each were meant.
Labhairt. The word has a wider signification than the
English word "speak." Do labhair an trúmpa, the
Lag. Beart lag, a mean action, a low action. Ba lag an
bheart duit é, it was a "low-down" thing for you to do.
Lagsprideach, weak-spirited. Lagspridighe is the sub-
stantive. The termination -ighe is the equivalent
of the English -ness. The termination -idhe expresses
the idea of an agent, and corresponds to the English
-er; e.g. robálaidhe, a robber; fánaidhe, a wanderer, etc.
Láithreán, a level open space, not too wide.
Lámh. I never see lámha written as the genitive of lámh.
I have always heard it spoken.
Lámh le láimh, hand to hand. This Irish phrase
is very old —
Dá bhfeicfinn-se Oscar agus Dia
Lámh le láimh ar Cnoc na bhFian —
Dá bhfeicfinn-se Oscar ar lár
Déarfinn gur bh'fhear láidir Dia!
Cuir-se Beniamin ar mo láimh-se (Sg. I. 93), "on
my hand"; i.e. so that I shall be responsible for
him to you. Na fir a bhí fé n-a láimh, under his command.
Le. "Ná bídhidh liom," ar seisean (Sg. III. 297). The
people put this into English by "don't ye be at me,"
i.e. let me alone. Leog dom féin is another form
(emphasis on dom).
Do labhair séle n-a mhac, le Iónatan (Sg. IV. 381); not
le n-a mhac Iónatan. The preposition must be repeated.
Seo mar atá le déanamh agat, this is how you are
leaba iompair, a litter.
leabhair, limber; bending softly and freely in all directions.
Leac chloiche, a flag of a stone, i.e. a flag-stone.
This "qualificative genitive" is common in Irish-
English; cf. a rascal of a thief, a fool of a man, a
botch of a shoe-maker, etc.
Leaca, a sloping plain; the side of a mountain.
Leacht, a monument over a grave.
Leadradh, a severe thrashing. It is not a borrowing of
the English word "leathering." The Irish word was
in common use centuries before there was an English
Leamhnú Dé, the equivalent of the English "Divine
Providence"; also leómhnú.
Leanaim. Lean air sin, continue at the object of the
action. Lean de sin, continue at the action itself.
Leanbh mic, a male child. <Mac mic, or inghean mic, a
Leas is a course of action which redounds to a person's
benefit. There is no single English word to express
it. Perhaps the nearest rendering of dein do leas
agus ná h-imthigh, is: have sense and do not go.
The opposite idea is expressed by the word aimhleas.
Aimhleas is an action, or a course of conduct, which
leads a person to his ruin. It is not the ruin itself.
Duine aimhleasta is a person who has a peculiar
talent for doing something to his disadvantage. One
who is pervcrse.
Aimhleas is often used to express the demoralisation
which is the result of scandal or bad example; e.g.
Seachain droch chómhluadar nú déanfir t'aimhleas.
The word "bane" comes near it in meaning, but
it covers only a very small portion of the ground.
Leath, half. Greim aige ar leathláimh air, having a hold
of him by one of his hands.
The fundamental meaning of leath is not a "half,"
but a side — Lat., latus. Hence, the true sense of
leathlámh, leathshúil, leathcheann, etc., is the hand, eye,
head, etc., at one side. Thus the apparent absurdity
of "half-hand," etc., disappears.
Leathchuma. L. dhéanamh orm, to take a mean advantage of
me. Búntáiste bhreith orm is used in much the same
Léic, a flaw.
Leicthe, frail, delicate.
Leigheas. In English a person is cured of a wound; in
Irish he is cured from it. Duine do leigheas ó nimh.
Léir. Amach a lár ár namhad go léir (Sg. III. 297). Here
the words go léir refer, not to namhad, but to ár.
There is a question, not of "all our foes," but of the
foes of "us all."
Léiriú, the act of rendering a thing well-defined.
Léirsgrios teine agus fola, destruction by fire and sword.
Leith. I leith na láimhe deise, in the direction of the right
hand, i.e., to the right. Lámha is also quite common
as gen. of lámh.
Dul i leith Dé, to fall back upon God; to depend
on God; have recourse to God.
Leithéid. Is an individual copy of some individual thing,
i.e. "a like." One can say a leithéid d'fhear, "his
like of a man," or a leithéid eile d'fhear, "another
like of him." But, fear d'á leithéid is quite wrong,
since leithéid is not a class to which some individual
thing may belong.
One may say fear d'á shórd, or fear d'á shaghas.
Sórd is a class, leithéid is an individual. A leithéid
eile is, lit., "another such individual."
A leithéid seo. A common way of introducing a
subject; lit. "the like of this" i.e. "I wish to
say something and it is like this." The "a" is a
Leogaim. Ní leogfadh an rí do Dháibhid dul abhaile (Sg.
III. 375), the king would not let David go home. Of
course the meaning is that the king did not let him
go home. But in reality the true sense is that the
king was unwilling, and hence would not.
Irish speakers also say ní fhéadfinn, "I could not,"
when the English meaning is "I am not able." But,
in reality, the condition "if I were to try" is at the
bottom of the expression.
Leogfar bhur n-anam libh; lit. your life shall be let go
with ye, i.e. your lives shall be spared.
Leómhaim. Níor leómhaigh sé feuchaint i gcoinnibh Dé (Sg.
II. I), he did not dare.
Liam. Indeclinable. A Liam; Clann Liam Uí Bhuachalla,
etc.; so also, a Cholum; targaireacht Cholum Cille, etc.
Líne, a line; plu. línte or línteacha; not líntidhe.
Similarly for teine; teínte and teínteacha; and
léine; léinte and léinteacha.
Linn. Is any movement of a thing from one point to
another, or the lapse of the portion of time occupied
by the movement. Le linn na h-uaire, "with the
lapse of the time"; i.e. just at the time. When
two things move or occur le linn a chéile, they are
simultaneous. Le n-a linn sin, "with the passing
Líon. Do thánadar líon a slógh (Sg. III. 302); lit. the
full number of their forces, i.e. in full force. This
phrase is adverbial and tells how they came. A
similar construction occurs in English, e.g. "50,000
Líonmhaire and líonmhaireacht are both substantives and
can be used one for the other as such. Nuair a chuaidh
na daoine i líonmhaire(acht). Of course líonmhaire
is also the comparative of líonmhar.
Lóchaint, dawn; lit., "daying." Ar an lóchaint, at dawn.
Lógh, something given in exchange for something else.
It is not a price paid for the thing, in the strict sense.
It may be of great deal more value than the price,
or of great deal less.
Loingeas, used as plu. of long. Trí loingeas chogaidh,
three ships of war. In some parts of the country the
word is singular and means "shipping."
Lorg. Ag l., searching for; ar l., on the track of.
Lorg-bhuidhean, a file of soldiers.
Luacht saothair, a reward.
Luas, speed. Do ghluais na teachtairí ar luas, with all
The opposite is fadaradhnach, patient, "longheaded."
Lúb ar lár, primarily, a stitch dropped in knitting.
Lúbaim, I bend.
Ní lúbtar é chun aithrighe (Sg. III. 367); i.e. made
repent of his purpose.
Lúbaire, a trickster, a person who will not act straight.
L. críochnuighthe, an accomplished hypocrite.
Lucht, people. A very useful word. It is indeclinable.
Lucht eolais, those who know, the authorities in such
cases. Lucht cimeádta, keepers, garrison. Lucht
Luighe, influence. Fé luighe a chainnte.
Luighe, an old term for an oath. Tugaidh bhúr luighe leis
sin, swear to that. Luighe n-éithigh, a false oath.
Luinithe, a churn staff. Any sort of a staff which works
like a piston-rod.
Lúithreacha, sinews; tendons.
Lútáil, the act of fawning like a dog.
Máchail, a stain, a defect. Gan mháchail, undamaged,
Macsamhail (pronounced maeasamhail or macshamhail),
a copy. M. leabhair; m. eochrach, etc.
Macleabhar is also used for a copy of a book. I
have never heard the word cóip used except in a
disparaging sense for "a class of people." An chóip
means "that vile lot," "that low class." Formerly
sliocht an leabhair was used to express "a copy of
Madartha, like a dog in fierceness and destructiveness.
Maghchromtha. The initial letter of this word is never
aspirated under any circumstances. Thus, muinntir
Maghchromtha; Aonach M.; siar ó M.; soir ó M. It
is of course an exceptional case.
"Biocáire bramánta an cholltair
A dhein roithleán de chaisleán Maghchromtha."
Maide is a large heavy beam, as compared with bata.
Maidhm, a victory; triumph.
Mainghín, or muinighin, confidence. M. tseasmhach, firm
trust. The word is sometimes used in the sense of
Is daor an mhainghín é is a common expression. A
person puts himself to great cost in order to procure
something in which he "trusts" for profitable results.
He finds that he has made a mistake. He has "paid
too much for his whistle," and is daor an mhainghín
é. The people translate it by, "it is a dear bargain."
Muinighin as Dia, not i nDia.
Maise, beauty of appearance. The word has a great
many different meanings. It runs through as wide
a field as does the English word "taste." But
maise pertains to the eye, as "taste" does to the
Ba mhaith an mhaise aige é, "well became him"
is what the people say. It is often equivalent to "he
rose to the occasion."
Ní maith an mhaise agat é, you have acquitted your-
self badly. Ní ró-mhaith an mhaise reacaire atá ort-
sa (Guaire, 190), you look a rather unprepossessing
Maiseamhlacht, beauty and tastefulness combined.
Maith. Ar mhaithe leó féin, bent on their own advantage.
Ar mhaithe, purpose. Mar mhaithe, fact.
"Mar mhaithe leis féin a dheinean an eat crónán."
Go maith after an adjective means "very" — tréith
go maith, very weak. Beó go maith, very much
Nách maith has at times a peculiar meaning. "Cad
n-a thaobh ná deinean tú rud ar do mháthair?" "Nách
maith ná deinean tú féin rud ar do mháthair?"
i.e. "see how well you yourself do not obey your
The nách maith here means "how true it is." (cf.
Séadna, p. I.)
Mé ag déanamh eólais isteach i gCúige Uladh do
mhór-shluagh namhad — agus nára mhaith agam! (T.B.C.,
p. 41)… "and no thanks to me," i.e., in spite of
my own will.
Maithe móra, distinguished personages. A very old
phrase, but still in common use.
The second syllable is broad (maitha).
Cros mhaith mhór, a "good big cross," i.e., a rather
Clocha maithe troma, stones which are rather
Malairt. Ar a mhalairt de chuma, lit. its opposite of
a manner, i.e. in an entirely different manner.
Note that ar is the preceding preposition in Irish.
Bhí a mhalairt de chúram ortha (Sg. III. 313), they
had something else in mind. The a before mhalairt
is a possessive pronoun representing the idea of their
"interference," and possessing malairt., lit., there
was its opposite of care on them.
Thabharfadh sé a mhalairt sin le rádh dhóibh, something
different from that… but generally = the opposite
Malluighthe, wicked, malicious, malignant. The word
is used to express "ill-tempered," e.g. gadhairín
malluighthe, a vicious little dog. The final syllable
of the word is broad.
Maoineachas, a feeling of remorse caused by having
offended a valued friend. It does not mean regret
in general. The word for the latter is cathú.
Maoithóglach, a soft young fellow.
Maolú, a blunting of edge; a relaxation of zeal; a
cooling of heat. M. ar theinneas, a mitigation of
Mar. D'fhan Rút mar a raibh aici (Sg. III. 322). She
could stay mar a raibh sí, without staying mar a raibh
aici, i.e. she could remain in the same place, though
not in the same position.
Is truagh liom mar a dheineas rí de Shaul (Sg. III.
365). Here mar is the equivalent of "the fact that"
(see "Conus") — Is ana-mhaith liom mar a labhras,
I'm very glad I spoke.
Marbhna, an elegy or death-song.
Marbhuightheach, murderous. Iaracht mh. do thabhairt fé
Marcshluagh, a force of cavalry.
Marthanach, long living. Buan means lasting without
any special regard to the idea of living.
Meabhair chinn, genius, talent, mental capacity.
Meadh, a pair of scales; gen. meadha; dat. mig.
"Táir meaidhte sa mhig agus easnamh fághalta
ionnat," thou art weighed in the balance and
Meanma. The word includes courage and energy and
spirits. It has sometimes a special signification —
e.g. m. na fáigeadóireachta (Sg. IV. 384); the
"impulse" or "influence" of the prophesying. Both
the word and its meaning are well known in Irish
thought, both ancient and modern. It is used to
signify some sort of secret influence or "wireless
telegraphy" passing from the mind of one person
to the mind of another when one or both are suffer-
ing or excited.
Mear-losgadh, burning with energy.
Méaróg cloiche, a little stone which can be thrown with
Mearathal (generally written mearbhall), mistake, confusion.
M. tuisgiona, an error of judgement (T.B.C., 48).
Mearthall aigne, mystification of mind. Measgán
mearaidhe is a hallucination. Ar mearaidhe, bewildered;
Measa. Níos measa and níosa mheasa are both in use.
The latter implies a progressiveness in the evil.
Tá sé níos measa, it is worse. Tá sé níosa mheasa,
it has become worse.
Meastar, it is generally believed, it is a general opinion.
Méid. Isé méid a bhí aige dhíobh ná deich míle fhichead
fear. The word expresses magnitude in number
as well as in size.
Meilbhíneach, a cringing fellow.
Méilim, I bleat. Caoire ag méiligh.
Meisce, drunkenness. M. chodlata, the dizziness which
is caused by an unhealthy sleep, or by want of sleep.
Méisgreach, full of scars.
Méithreas, grossness, fatness. M. talmhan, the fat of
Meón, natural disposition.
Siné an meón a thug Dia dhom is what people say
when they wish to put the blame of any of their faults
on their inborn qualities.
It is quite a different word from méinn, intention,
sometimes an acquired disposition. Is méinn liom
machtnamh, I wish to reflect.
Mian may mean a desire, or the thing desired.
Mianfuíach, gasping, gaping, yawning.
Míchéadtach. The nearest English word is "indignant."
Míchiall, the absence of good sense; unwisdom. An
entirely different thing from folly.
Mí-iompar, misconduct. Iompair thu féin, conduct
Millteach, destructive. Often pronounced méilteach.
Mion. Go mion, in minute detail.
Mion minic is the equivalent of the English
"often and often." Sometimes go mion agus go
Mionán gabhair (Sg. III. 297). Mionán is a kid, but the
word gabhair is often added, just as the Irish for an
egg is very often ubh circe, not simply ubh. Similarly,
Miota. M. beaga, small bits.
Mírbhuilteach, often equivalent to the English word
Misde. Ní misde a rádh go raibh, there is no harm in
saying there was, i.e. the thing may not be very
certain, but you are safe in saying it.
Ní misde a rádh ná go raibh, you may say there
was — i.e. there certainly was. The ná removes all
doubt and intensifies the expression. Ní misde dhom
a rádh go bhfuilim buidheach díot; dhomh should not be
used here; it would mean, there is nothing against
my being grateful to you. Omit dhom, and insert ná.
Mithid. The following is an expression in common
Táim cortha ó bheith ag feitheamh led' mhithidíbh, I
am tired with waiting for your pausings.
Ach! 'siad na mithidí iad! Addressed to a person
who pauses for this and for that, while he risks miss-
ing his train, etc.
Móide. Ní móide go is exactly the English phrase "may
be" or "perhaps" in a negative sense.
Isé is dóichighe is the opposite.
Iseadh is dóichighde, the greater is the probability;
lit., it is so it is the more likely.
Ní móide aon fhocal de'n bhfírinne bheith ann; it
is not impossible that there is not any word of the
truth in it.
This gives exactly the force of ní móide go bhfuil
as distinguished from b'fhéidir ná fuil. It is a very
Moladh, arbitration. Also, act of praising.
Mór. Ní mór gur bh'fhéidir, it would have been scarcely
possible. Ní mór gur cuma liom, I don't much care
I hardly care.
Is mór agam-sa é, I hold it in high esteem. The
opposite is Is beag agam é.
Móráil, exaltation of mind. The opposite is ceann fé.
Tá ceann fé air, he is crestfallen.
Mórchúis, disdain, a manifestation of contempt
for others. Mórtais, elation, the feeling of intoxication
which success gives. Maoidheamh, boastfulness. Mór-
is-fiú, conceit, vanity. Mustar, ostentation.
Mórdháil, a great meeting, a feis, a parliament. Dis-
tinguish from móráil.
Mothalach, bushy, hairy, fleecy.
Mothú, perceive, notice, feel. The word has also
a special meaning, viz., the act of bewitching,
injury done to a person by the influence of
supernatural beings, or "overlooking" by fairies, etc.
Ciorbhadh agus mothú ort! a common imprecation.
Muicidhe, a swineherd.
Muin, the junction of the neck and the back.
"On the pig's back" as a synonym for success
is slang in English. In Irish it is not slang. The
foundation of the Irish expression is the fact that
saddles are made of pigskin.
Ar muin mairc a chéile, in a confused mass on top
of each other.
Muinnteartha, friendly; not cáirdeamhail. Daoine muinn-
teartha, friends, whether relatives or not.
Cáirde is not a common expression in the mouths
Muirighean, a burthen. Agus gan tríocha céad ortha…
nách muirighean aigne agus meabhrach cinn do'n fhear
is treise bunús (T.B.C., p. 38). As much as his mind
and head sense can do; i.e. which will tax all the
resources, both of mind and memory, of a man of
the strongest ability.
Múirneach, heavy, burthensome.
Múr, a wall; plu. múrtha. The word is applied to any
enclosing fence. Múr teine, an enclosing circle of
Mura or mara. Nú marab é sin é, or else.
Ná go. Ní fheicim-se ná go bhfuil, "I don't see but that
there is" — i.e. as far as I can see, there is.
Nádúr. Thug sé srian do'n nádúr a bhí istigh 'n-a chroidhe
(Sg. I. 101), natural affection. Leanbh ana-nádúrtha
means a very affectionate child, i.e. affectionate towards
parents and relatives; cf. an gníomh malluighthe mí-
nádúrtha, p. 103, i.e. an act opposed to the dictates
Náire, shame. This word was formerly used in a good
sense. It was then somewhat equivalent to "sensitive-
Naimhdas, or naimhdeas, enmity.
N-ar (pron. nrr). An mhuinntir n-ar baineadh a radharc
díobh (Sg. I. 29), whose sight had been taken from them.
This is a usual Irish relative construction and should
be studied closely.
Tar éis na h-oidhche n-ar taisbeánadh na h-aislingí
dhóibh (Sg. I. 80), after the night when the visions were
shown to them.
This relative, n-a, n-ar, has the force of "regard-
ing whom." An slánuightheóir n-a raibh an chine daona
ag feitheamh le n-a theacht (Sg. I. 114), regarding whom
(it is to be said) the human race were waiting for
Nasgadh, a binding, a fastening of one thing to
Néall feirge, an access of anger.
Neamhamhgarach, pron. neav aungarach, having plenty of
Neamhchoitchianta, uncommon, peculiar.
Neamhmion, the opposite of "near"; lit. not niggardly.
Is neamhnár an gnó dhuit é, unblushing conduct
on your part. Nár is a thing to be disdained. From
it comes náire, a feeling of shame.
Neamh-thuirseach, fresh, in the sense of not being fatigued.
Surely a better word than friseáilte!
Fresh butter, meat, etc., is expressed by im úr,
feóil úr. The opposite word is guirt; feoil ghuirt,
Neart is frequently used in the sense of "permission."
Ní raibh neart d'aoinne dul ann.
Neart slógh, a military force.
Níba. Do dhruid sé i gcomhgar do Iósep. chun labhartha
níba shoiléire leis. Níba is past tense because do
d. ruid is past tense. Still níos soiléire would not
be bad Irish. The idea in it is true now as well as
it was true then.
Níba mhó refers to past time. Níos mó is used when
the time is present or future. Níosa mhó refers to a
progressive increase, present or future.
The first refers also to a hypothetical increase, e.g.:
1. Bhí sé níba mhó 'ná riamh.
Bheadh sé níba mhó dá, etc.
2. Tá sé níos mó 'ná, etc.
3. Dá gcuirfí tuille de'n nimh ann bheadh sé n-iba
Nídh is a thing, and neamhnídh is the negation of nídh.
As a general rule I have heard rud applied
to a concrete, material thing, and nídh to a thing
in the abstract, or a "thing" in general. "All
things" is gach uile nídh, but "all these things"
(i.e. articles) is na rudaí seo go léir. Cur ar
"One of two things" is nídh de dhá nídh, not aon
de dhá nídh! bainne agus neithe, "milk, etc."
An neamhnídh libh é? Do ye consider it a thing of
Nighe, wash. To wash one's hands in, na lámha do nighe as.
Nósmhar, of civilised customs.
Múinte, well trained, of polished manners. Deagh-
bhéasach, of well-formed, good habits.
Nú, or. Often has the meaning "or else."
Cheapadar nár bh'fholáir dóibh an iarracht san do
dhéanamh nú go mbeadh clann Israéil agus a rí ró-
láidir dóibh (Sg. III. 370).
Nua. As a nua; lit., "out of its new," — i.e. afresh.
Obair. Cad é mar obair duit dul, etc. (Sg. III. 280),
what sort of conduct was it.
This sentence can be past or present according
as the sense requires.
Cad é mar obair duit é siúd a dhéanamh indé!
Cad é mar obair duit bheith 'ghá dhéanamh san
Ochlán, a groan. O. bróin, an overwhelming sorrow.
Oidheacht, a night's lodging.
Óigthighearna, a petty prince.
Oíle, oil. This is the ordinary word for oil. Ola is used
to signify holy oil.
Oilithre, a pilgrim; oilithreacht, a pilgrimage.
Oilteacht, manual skill, the result of training and
Oinigh, generous. The gen. of oineach, generosity, which
is still a living word in poetical language.
A common form of entreaty, addressed to persons
of power, was, ar ghrádh th'oinigh.
Oineach also denotes personal influence, the personal
respect which is due to a man, either from his high
qualities or from his exalted position.
In old Irish there is a frequent expression — viz.
ní h-aithis dod' inchaibh (= dat. pl.). The meaning
is… It is no reproach to your dignity, it is no stain
upon your honour.
Oir. Fundamentally the verb expresses "fitness." One
of its secondary meanings is "necessity."
D'oirfadh dhom (or, oirean dom) dul go Corcaigh,
I want to go to Cork. Ní foláir dom is stronger. Ní
mór dom is weaker. Caithfad dul go C., I must go
to Cork, is very strong.
Eirigh ann má oirean duit, go there if it suits you.
Oirdheirc, illustrious; pronounced oireric.
Óirdniú, the act of solemnly ordaining or consecrating
Oiread, as much. Gan oiread agus aon fhear amháin
d'á shluagh do chailleamhaint, without losing as much
as one man of his army.
The English phrase "as much as" must at times
be put into Irish by oiread le, which has an entirely
different meaning — e.g. do dhéanfadh an fear san
oiread le beirt.
Gheóbhair uaim… oiread agus nár tugadh
ar dhán eile riamh fós (Guaire, p. 14). "As much
as has not been given," i.e., more than has been
Oireasa. (oireasba), want of the necessaries of life.
Ola, oil. Crainn ola, olive-trees.
Olc. Ó is olc leat-sa é, since you disapprove of it.
Olc a dhéanamh ar dhuine, to do evil against a person.
Note ar. The word also means hydrophobia rabies.
Tá an gadhar ar olc, or tá olc ar an ngadhar. Chuir-
fadh an sgreadach ceóil sin olc ar an ngadhar, would
drive him mad.
The word olc followed by ó appears in another
idiom: Is olc uait-se a leithéid do chur i n-ár leith,
it ill becomes you to bring such a charge against us;
or, in the speech of the people, "'tis a bad trial of
you" to, etc.
Maitheas a' corp lár an uilc, good (coming) out
of the very midst of evil.
A' corp lár an dá olc. Note the gen. of the dual.
It is not an dá uilc, nor na ndá olc; cf. Tadhg an
Ollamhnacht, the profession of an ollamh or philosopher.
The word feallsamhnacht is absurd Irish for
"philosophy," unless the intention were to signify
that philosophy and falsehood are the same.
Ollmhaitheas, wealth, in the sense of valuable possessions,
such as clothing, cattle, furniture, etc.
Saidhbhreas connotes money, rather.
Órdú, order, arrangement. In órdú the matters placed
in order are not so interdependent as they are in
Osgail, armpit. Tá a lámha fé n-a osgail aige, he has
his arms folded.
Othras, a festering sore.
Pé olc maith é, whether ill or well, and no matter how
ill or well. Every shadow of the meaning of the words
in this English phrase is contained in the four Irish
Peatuíol, petting, i.e., wanting to be petted.
Piarda, a monster. P. fir; p. de ghadhar mhór.
Piast; gen. péiste; dat. péist, any sort of worm,
a serpent. When it is a monster it is called
Píobán, the windpipe. The phrase ag stracadh na bpíobán
as a chéile is commonly used as the equivalent of
"tearing each other like dogs."
Píoch, a bud, a shoot; pl. píochana.
Pitrisg, a partridge.
Pléasg tóirthnighe, a clap of thunder.
In addition to meaning "explode," the word
pléasgadh also means "to strike fiercely." Chromadar
ar a chéile do phléasgadh.
Plúr; p. na h-oibre, the flower of the work, i.e. the
noblest part of the work.
Pobul, a congregation. Collective nouns resemble
names of females in having the vocative the same as
the nominative. Hence, a phobul Israéil, not a phobuil.
"That is the congregation": Sin iad an pobul,
Beidh sibh i nbhur bpobul liom féin agam-sa, I
shall possess ye as my own people.
Preabaire, lit., a jumper. It is applied to a person, or
an animal, of lively habits. P. buachalla, an active,
Príléid, a privilege.
Prinsibálta. Do gheall sé go p., faithfully.
Dhíol sé na fiacha go p., punctually, or, with exact-
Prointeach, a refectory, an eating-house.
Psaltaire, or faltaire, a psaltery, a musical instrument
like a dulcimer.
Pubal, a tent; gen. puible.
Púic, a frown.
Pusuíol, a pursing of the lips through ill-temper.
Rabharta, a swell, a burst, an access of rage.
Rádh. Mór le rádh, of great account. Suarach le rádh,
of little account.
Radharc, the power of vision; also, the object of vision;
hence any sort of object lesson.
Ráib, a blade of any description.
Rán, a spade. The word is pronounced with a resound-
ing nasal ring; hence it is often spelled ramhan.
Raobadh is the term always applied to the desecration
of graves. Hence the word for any description of
sacrilege is raobadh roilge.
Raon mhadhma, a defeat and breaking of ranks.
Rath, a blessing which causes increase. It is not easy
to express it by means of a single English word. It
comes very near "good fortune," "good luck,"
"prosperity." Go gcuiridh Dia an rath ort! May
God prosper you! Freagra rathmhar, a propitious
answer, an answer which will turn out fortunate.
The word séanmhar also means "prosperous,"
but its root idea is "fortunate," or "lucky," or "owing
to a special Providence."
Rathamhnachas means a sort of universal rath, for
instance a general blessing from God on the fruits
of the earth.
Reacaire, a reciter. Reacaireacht, recitation.
Aithriseóir means a tell-tale.
Reacht. A system of government or of administration,
an executive. Reacht ríogha, a monarchy.
Hence reachtaire, one who carries out a reacht,
i.e. a governor. Reacht also means an act of parlia-
ment, any legal enactment.
Réidh, free. Táimíd réidh! We are done for! 'Tis
all up with us! (We are "free," in the sense
of being cut off from all further communication with
Réidh, a broad expanse of mountain land.
Réim, extent. R. chlú, widely extending fame.
"A mharcaigh na gclaon-shúl
A fuair rachmas a's réim chlú —
Mara mbeadh an méid úd…"
Gach réim um a ríogra, etc. (T.B.C., p. 41), a
division of an army.
In Meadhbh's grand army the tríocha céad was a
recognised body of troops, like the English regiment
or the Roman legion. It consisted, as its name in-
dicates, of 3,000 men.
The word ríogra in the above phrase is plural.
Hence the réim must have consisted of a number
of regiments, or tríocha céad.
The buidhean must have been a subdivision
of the tríocha céad, and its taoiseach was like a
Reodh liath, hoar frost.
Rí. This word has a far more extensive signification
in Irish than the word "king" has in English. Rí
means a person possessing any sort of authority or
power or sway over others.
Consequently, the phrase a rí is the true Irish re-
presentative of such expressions as my Lord, Sire,
Your Highness, Your Grace, etc. The practice of
translating it as "O King" is absurd. There is no
vocative particle in English. The Irish for "O King"
is "Ó a rí."
Rí féinne. Something equivalent to a Field
Rian. Bhí a rian air. The people say in English "signs
on," or "signs by." It is equivalent to "the result
was" or some such phrase.
Seana rianta, old traces, old remains.
Ríghdhamhna, lit., the makings of a king, an heir apparent.
Damhna is the same as ádhbhar. The ríghdhamhna were
the highest in rank, next to Meadhbh herself. This
entire grand army taken together is called Firu Éireann,
the Men of Erin.
Ríghe, the function of government. Rígheacht is the object
upon which that function is exercised. In modern
speech rígheacht has come to be used in both senses.
Rinn, the point of a weapon, or of any pointed
Riocht, shape, appearance. I r. iompáil, on the point
of turning. Bhí an long i riocht a báithte, "in the form
of its drowning"; i.e. it had all the appearance of
a ship about to be drowned.
I n-a leithéid de riocht, in such a trim, making such
an exhibition of himself.
Isé Dia chuir me i riocht bheith am' athair ag Pharó
féin (Sg. I. 102), i.e. filling the position of being a
father. Tá sé i riocht bheith i n-a athair acu… "the
same as a father" to them.
I riocht an anama bhaint as a chéile, ready to kill
The phrase i riocht, or i rachtaibh, is constantly used
in this sense. The English word "fit" seems very
close to this Irish word in such phrases as, "fit to do
murder," "fit to be tied," etc.
Ríogra, princes, nobles (coll.). A ríogra agus a uaisle
would be "My Lords and Gentlemen," with this
difference, that the Irish form applies to both men
Rith. Tháinig S. féin agus é ag rith agus é 'n-a chuis (Sg.
III. 267). The English would be "came running on
Notice how the two ideas are kept distinct in the
Ró. Was formerly in use as a substantive, meaning
"excess." Ní ró liom duit, I do not consider it too
much for you.
In the modern language it is exactly the equivalent
of the thing which is called in other languages "a
superlative of eminence." In such titles as "right
honourable," "right reverend," etc., the word "right"
is exactly this ró.
Róba, a robe. The word has been adopted into the
language and consequently cannot be rejected.
Ioradh would be a better word for a royal robe.
It is said of Meadhbh, the queen:-
A h-ioradh gléigeal léi go bonn
A's laochra an domhain 'n-a déig ag bóraidheacht.
Ród is an old Irish word and has nothing to do with
the English word "road."
Ropaire. This is the best Irish word for "traitor."
Ruadh. Strictly speaking, ruadh does not mean "red."
The Irish word for "red" is dearg. Ruadh is "foxy."
Ruag, a routing. Cuirfar an ruag ort, you will be a
Ruaimniú, inflamation. Do ruaimnigh do rosg, thine
eye has become bloodshot.
Ruainneach, coarse hair, such as that of a horse's tail
or of a cow's tail. Éadach ruainnigh, cloth made of
hair; buarach ruainnigh, a hair spancel.
Gruaig is the hair of the head. Clúmh or fionna
is the hair of the body.
Rud. Ní dhéanfadh sibh rud orm, ye did not do what I
asked ye to do. But it is far stronger than níor
dheinbhúir rud orm. It expresses their stolid deter-
mination not to do what he advised.
The people say: "Ye would not be said by me."
Ruibe, a single hair; also means "wire." The noose
by means of which boys catch hares is called súil
ruibe, a wire loop.
Rúisg, a big, shapeless stump. Applied to persons
as a term of contempt. Druid anonn uaim, a
rúisg! R. de dhorn, an awkwardly dealt blow of the
Rún. R. gnótha do cheapadh, to decide upon a purpose
or course of action. Rún a dhéanamh, to keep a secret,
or to keep the secret; i.e. the definite article is not
prefixed in the Irish phrase.
Sábháilim. Ar láimh shábhála, in safety.
Sáimhrígheacht, a lolling disposition, a liking for one's ease.
Bainfar an ts. díot! You will get a waking up!
Saineamhail, unique… from sain, special.
-sa, -si, -sean. These suffixes emphasise the Irish pro-
nouns in a way which is not possible in English.
Brisfidh sise do cheann-sa (Sg. I. 6).
Ca bhfuil do dhritháir?" arsa Dia le Cain.
Ní fheadar-sa san," arsa Cain. "An cimeádaidhe
ar mo dhritháir mise?"
The force of this answer is given in English by
"how do I know?" with a strong emphasis on the "I."
Do dheineadar-san an maoidheamh, ach do dhein
Iónatan an gníomh (Sg. p. 800)… They did the boast-
ing, but Jonathan did the deed. The -san expresses
antithesis. San, as a separate word, expresses
Samh, a bolt, a bar, a lever. S. adhmaid. S. iarainn. S. an
ghlais, the bolt of the lock.
Samhaisg, a two year old cow. When the cow was three
years old she was called a ceart-aos.
Samhluighim. Do samhluigheadh dom; lit. it was figured
to me; i.e. I imagined, or it seemed to me.
Samhaltas, a figure, a likeness, a representation.
It should be followed by do, not de.
Cuir a shamhail air, "put his likeness on him,"
i.e. give a description of him.
Shamhluigh sé gur bh'amhlaidh a bhí, he imagined that
it was how. Samhlú is the true Irish of "imagination,"
from samhail, an image.
The colloquial word for "imagine" appears, for
instance, in the following: ná beir leat, a léightheóir,
go raibh ar chumas an rí a leithéid a dhéanamh; "do
not take with you" — i.e. do not imagine. Beir leat
go cruinn signifies "understand correctly and keep
in your memory."
Samhthach, any sort of a long wooden handle or bar; s.
ráinne, s. sluaiste, s. píce.
Saobhnósach, given to vain pursuits. Probably aerach
is the word which would be used to-day.
Saoghalta, belonging to this world. Solus nár sholus
saoghalta, a light which was not a natural light; i.e.
a supernatural light.
Saoirseacht, the work of a mason or of a carpenter or of
any artisan. (It does not mean "freedom.") Sclábhaidh-
eacht, labourer's work.
Saor. Chuadar saor, they escaped.
Chuadar a lán de sna mion-uaislibh saor ó'n
léirsgrios a lean briseadh Chionntsáile, implies
that the destruction did not reach them (Mo Sgéal
Féin, p. 3).
Chuadar saor as… would mean that it did reach
them, but that they escaped.
Saoráidí, exemptions, immunities, privileges.
Saoraim, protect; ar, against.
When ó is used the idea is that the protected person
is taken away from the attacker… e.g. saor sinn
Sárú. This term is used for violating a sanctuary or
profaning a holy place. It resembles the English
In general, the word means any sort of violent
interference. The phrase, ní ad' shárú-sa é, common
in conversation, means "not contradicting you."
Sás, one capable of doing a thing.
Is maith an sás magaidh a dhéanamh thu, you are "a
good hand" at ridicule. Sás a dhéanta chuimhnigh air!
One capable of doing it it was who thought of it.
Ní'l sás a ghonta i nÉirinn. (It is not the same word
Sásamh. Ceart Dé do shásamh ann, to satisfy the justice
of God for it. Note preposition.
S. a chroidhe de dhíoltas, the satisfaction of his
heart of a vengeance, i.e. a vengeance which would
satisfy his heart.
Scorn, a feeling of disdain, a thing to be ashamed of.
Ba scorn liom é dhéanamh, I'd disdain to do it.
Ba lag liom é dhéanamh has the same meaning.
Scrín, a shrine; i.e. an ornamental case in which relics
Seachain, lit., "shift aside." Equivalent to English "be-
ware" or "take care." Seachain tu féin air, beware
Seachas. "Rather than" is the nearest English ex-
pression. In the people's speech it is translated by
Cad é an paor atá agat orm-sa seachas aoinne
eile sa chuideachtain! What set are you making on
me above any other person in the company!
Seachrán. Ar s., wandering aimlessly.
There is another expression which is somewhat
like this in sense. It is pronounced amhaoíl amháige.
I have never been able to find it in a book — <See
Séadna, 237; Don C., 118>.
Seacht. Seacht mba, or seacht cinn de bhuaibh — ('e bhuaibh).
Séala, a stamp. S. aigne Cholum Cille might be trans-
lated "the stamp of Columcille's personality."
Sealad, a period of time. The word sgathamh is also used,
but not in dignified speech.
Sealbhas, possession; pronounced sealús; pl. sealbhasaí.
S. Eagailse, Church property.
Sealbhas is the thing possessed, the having of the
thing is seilbh. Tá sealbhas im' sheilbh.
Séan is some beneficent influence which leads to good.
Ádh is a good result to which something has led.
Rath is a blessing of increase. Áird is that quality
in a thing on account of which good can be got out
of it by proper handling. Daoine gan áird, a useless
Séan means luck attached to a day or to a person
or to a course of action. Lá séin, a propitious day;
a day of good luck.
Seanachus béil, tradition. Seanachus, history. The
Irish for "history" is not stair. Stair means
Seans. This is one of the words which have got a
bad name amongst learners on account of their
apparently English sound. They mean "luck" and
Searaim, cut, mow. Carbad seartha (Sg. III. 266), a
scythed chariot. Seartha is gen. of the verbal noun,
Seargadh, shrinking, contracting, shrivelling.
Séide. Séidfidh slat na treibhe sin bláthana (Sg. II. 72).
The rod of that tribe shall blossom; lit., shall blow
blossoms. This sense of séid is quite common. Do
shéid sí fuil-shrón, she bled from the nose. A person
has a swelling on the face some distance from the
situation of a bad tooth and explains it by saying —
séid ó'n bhfiacal iseadh é.
Ar séide, at full speed; "like the wind."
Seift, a plan. Tharaig sé chuige seift eile, he adopted
A certain man once made a mistake of which he
was rather ashamed. A servant said to him in public,
Dheinis é siúd, a Sheáin! He pretended not to hear.
She said it again and still he took no notice. She
said it a third time… Taraig chúghat arís é, a dhiabhail!
said he at last.
Seilbh, possession; gen. sealbha (pron. sealú). S. chríche,
proprietorship in a territory. Seilbh chríche i n-Inse
Seirbhís. Chun do sheirbhíse, at your service.
Seó. <This word is in no way connected with the English
word "show."> An Irish speaker might say:- Bhíos
ag an show agus bhí seó daoine ann. In his mind
the word "show" is a borrowed English word and
he treats it as such, whereas seó is an old genuine
Bhí an cnoc 'n-a sheó, the mountain was in a terrible
Ní'l aon tseó ach. This is a common phrase
equivalent to the English "It is wonderful." Another
form is ní'l aon iongnadh ach.
Seoid, any precious thing, e.g. a masterpiece of art-work,
or even a beautiful animal.
Seól, motion. S. trom, great speed.
Seólaim. Bhuail sé amach lá agus do seóladh é chun áite
'n-a raibh, agus c. (Sg. I. 123) — "something directed him
to the place," i.e. he happened to go in that
Ag seóladh na ndaoine chun Dé. The one word
combines the three ideas of guiding, directing and
Ar seól, in full career.
Sgagadh, filter, strain, analyse. Sgagaire, a strainer.
Sgáinte, thinly scattered, "few and far between"; not
the English "scanty."
Sgairt, "nerve." When a person does not shrink from
something which would shock ordinary people, the
remark is made, is láidir an sgairt atá aige. In
the plural it means the feelings: gráin mo sgart ort!
the detestation of my heart upon you!
Sgalóideach. Lá s., a hard blowing day.
Sganán, a limp membrane.
Sgaoilim. Do sgaoil sé fé smacht na bhPh. iad. Here
the word sgaoil is like the English word "let."
Sgaoil leis, let it alone.
"Tá mo bhean i gCill Cré, go tréith, agus leac
le n-a ceann." "Má tá, ar nóin, sgaoil léi.
Ní baoghal ná go bhfanfidh sí ann!"
Sgaoil thart an gé! Pass the goose! Sgaoil thart an
deoch! Let the bottle pass! Sgaoil thart rud! Let
things pass, i.e. it is wiser not to appear to take
notice of everything which occurs.
Sgárd a wild look of terror and amazement.
Sgartálaim. To sack, plunder. Primarily, the act of
pulling the roof off a house.
Sgáth, shelter. S. a gcluas, "a shelter for their ears,"
i.e. a place to take refuge in.
Fé sgáth an chrainn (Sg. III. 271), under the shade
of the tree (at rest). Ar sgáth follows verbs of motion,
e.g. an ghealach ag dul ar sgáth na cupóige agus an
chupóg ag teiche uaithi. But the distinction is not always
Ar sgáth is used figuratively to express "on
the score of", e.g. Ní raibh aige ar sgáth a chod'
foghluma ach an dealbhas agus an t-ocras (Craos-
Deamhan, p. 16).
Sgéal. S. fóghanta, a good piece of news.
Sgéala maithe, good news in general. Droch sgéal,
a bad item of news. Sgéal mór, a great calamity.
Sgéala. This is not the plural of sgéal, any more than
the English word "news" is the plural of "new."
The plural of sgéal is sgéalta. The word sgéala
means an account or intimation. Tháinig sgéala,
word came; cuir sgéala chuige, send him word,
not send him stories.
Sgeanach, a shred, a membrane, a slice cut off with a knife.
Sgeanthairt, any sort of a cut-up mass; "giblets."
Tá mo pháirc 'n-a sgeanthairt acu.
A defeated army is made sgeanthairt of when it
is cut to pieces.
Sgéidhe, overflow. Used figuratively to express reveal-
ing secrets. Do sgéidh sé orm, he told on me, he "let
the cat out of the bag." In this tense, 3rd sing. past,
the final dh is distinctly heard (sgéig).
Sgeilimis, a dreadful mauling, rough treatment which
reduces one to extremities. S. ort is a common
Sgeit. Sgeit 'n-a gcroidhe, a terror that seems to make
the heart stand still. Sgeón, fright, panic. Alltacht,
Tá iongna (alltacht, uathbhás) orm — but tá sgeón
Sgiath tar lorg, "a shield across the trail," i.e., a rear-
guard. Sgiath dín is another expression for the same
Sgiot sgot, a breaking in bits and dissipating.
Dheineadar s. s. de'n dlighe sin, "drove a coach-
and-four" through it, made "fritters" of it.
Sgoth. Bchal gan sgoth, a wisp-less mouth, i.e. a mouth
not protected by a beard.
The phrase has a secondary meaning. A person
who speaks with a foolish want of caution is called
béal gan sgoth, because his mouth does not show the
wisdom which ought to be expected behind a beard.
Sgothaim, shed, drop, leave behind, "scutch." Do sgoth
sí an t-arbhar (Sg. III. 320).
Sgríb, a scratch. S. pinn, a scratch of a pen.
Sgrios. Primarily means to take the upper surface off
a thing. Hence, léirsgrios, utter destruction (léir-,
intensive), léirsgrios teine agus fola, destruction
by fire and sword.
Sguimh. S. fé fhiacalaibh, an "edge" on the teeth.
Síbhialtacht, gentleness of speech and of manner.
Silte, disorganised, disunited.
An dream bocht silte nár chuir le n-a chéile (oldsong).
Ní gádh dhomh-sa lámh do shíne leis (Sg. III. 377),
to reach a hand to him; i.e. for the purpose of killing
him. To reach a hand for the purpose of helping is
lámh do shíne chuige. Sínfad-sa bata leat, I will give
you the stick. Sínfad-sa bata chughat, I will reach a
stick to you (to save you from drowning, for instance).
Sinn féin sinn féin.
Some writers put a comma after the second word.
That makes nonsense of the expression.
The four words are one sentence. The first pair
of words are the predicate of that sentence and the
second pair are the subject. The English is "Ourselves
are ourselves." The word is is understood at the
beginning of the sentence.
We ourselves are ourselves, i.e. no outsider has
any right to interfere.
We have also, Sibh féin sibh féin (T.B.C., p. 180).
For instance, a person asked to make peace in a
quarrel feels that he is too much of an outsider, and
says sibh féin sibh féin. If a third party asks him to
interfere, he says iad féin iad féin, i.e. their business
is their own.
Sinn féin, sinn féin amháin is simply nonsense.
It shows that the speaker does not understand the
Sionach, a fox. An older and better word than madaruadh.
Síos. In Irish, the direction towards the capital is síos.
We say síos go Corcaigh, síos go Baile Átha Cliath.
The fall of the land and the fall of the water are in
those directions; cf. thíos i gConndae na Midhe
(Lughaidh Mac Con, p. 71). In English, people say
"up" when they mean towards the capital.
Siubhal often has the sense of the English word "progress."
Siubhal na Sacsan óthuaidh, the northward progress
of the S.
Siubhal lae, a day's journey, "a day's walk."
In this expression the word lá is used when
speaking of a number of days — siubhal dá lá, trí
Slacht, neatness, tidiness, exactness of finish. Fé shlacht,
in a well-ordered manner.
Slán. Tiocfad-sa anso ag triall ort um an dtaca
so an bhliain seo chughainn, agus sinn slán (Sg. I. 25);
lit. "and we well"; i.e. if we live and are well.
The common expression is "le congnamh Dé agus
<Um an dtaea, at the point of time.>
Tar slán! may you come safe out of it.
Nára slán comórtas! the sense is "a pretty
The phrase has the form of a negative wish, as if
one were to say, "that the comparison may not hold!"
Slat. This word is constantly used in the sense of power,
or authority, or jurisdiction.
Sléachtuighim. Do shléachtadar i láthair Dé (Sg. II. 6),
bowed down, prostrated themselves.
Slighe. Ar dhá shlighe, in two ways; not i ndá shlighe.
Cad tá déanta as an slighe aige? what crime
has he committed?
A rogha slighe thabhairt ortha; lit. to bring on them
their choice way; i.e. to go in whatever direction
A common way of telling a person to "go his road"
is tabhair do bhóthar ort.
Slighe chun Dé is a common phrase. Is maith a shlighe
chun Dé signifies that he is in the way of salvation.
Sliocht. Ní raibh sliocht air, he had no children; not aige.
Sliocht-lorg, impression of footsteps.
Sid é sliocht-lorg an tslóigh (T.B.C., p. 62).
Slógadh. This word includes the raising and organisation
and setting in motion of an army. The English word
"hosting" is inadequate.
Smacht. Has a great many shades of meaning, but the
enforcing of obedience is in them all. When that
enforcing is carried to excess, e.g. by acting the
martinet, that conduct is called smachtúchán ("bossing").
Mara gcuiread-sa smacht air sin cas liom é, if
I don't tame that fellow reproach me with the fact.
Smacht often is equivalent to the English word
Smalla adhmaid, a block of wood; dim. smaillín.
Sméaramhán, anything intensely black.
Smidireacht, tittering. S. gáirí.
Smól something which tarnishes.
Smúsach, the soft, spongy interior of a bone.
Snagadh, a catch in the voice.
Snáithín, a single thread; snáith, thread in general. The
effect of the i before the t is to give the word a ring-
ing nasal sound. The word tráth, for example, has
no such sound.
Snámh, swim, float on a liquid. Do shnáimh sé ar bara
Snámhán, a raft.
Socair. Mar a bhí socair eatartha, as had been arranged
between them; not socaruighthe.
Sochar, the produce of land, or of any productive thing,
the nourishing effectiveness of certain foods. Socharach,
Sochraid, a funeral procession.
Sofheicse, manifest, conspicuous.
Soillsiú, a revelation.
Sonuachar, a good husband or a good wife. Therefore
do not say sonuachar maith.
Sos, an easing off, cessation. S. cogaidh, a truce. Gan
sos, without cessation, without rest.
Ní sos d'á mhuinntir é (T.B.C., p. 30); lit. it is
not a mitigation for his people; i.e. his evil plight
does not mitigate by contrast the evil plight of his
people; i.e., his people are just as badly off as he is.
Sos here means a mitigation.
Suppose a person is suffering from some severe
pain. Then if another pain comes on which is still
more severe, that very severity relieves the first
pain. If it does not, then it follows that the first is
as severe as the second.
Tháinig an tarna teinneas air, agus níor shos
do'n chéad theinneas an tarna teinneas.
Sósar, junior. It is the opposite of an sinnsear, the
So-thógtha, easily reared; i.e. not delicate, not liable
Spaid, a "make-believe"; something which is but
a weak imitation of what it purports to be.
Spala. S. feóla, a large piece of meat, generally about
the size of a quarter or of a flitch. A "joint."
Spionadh, an access of energy. A "spurt" is used in
English, but the spurt is the result of the spionadh.
Spleadhachas, dependence. Ár s. féin go fóirlíonta
leis, our entire dependence on Him. Note pre-
Splínc, a glimpse, a glimmer.
Spreas, a fellow who has no energy in him.
Spriúchadh, lashing out in the manner of a vicious horse.
The word is constantly applied to what a violent
tempered person does when he gets into his
Spriúnlaithe. Fear s., "a shabby man," i.e. in his
Srann, a snore.
Sreangadh, a wrench, a strain, the tightening of a string;
gen. sreangtha. Déine an tsreangtha.
Srón is applied to a headland, a promontory.
Stair, a declamatory gush of speech, a rush of speed
in running. It does not mean "history."
Staon sé, he refrained.
Stiall, a piece torn off, or cut off from something.
"Is fial stiall de leathar duine eile" — i.e. a person
cuts off a generous piece when he is sharing out
Stoc. A general word for cattle.
Stracaim, tear; trans. or intrans. Do strac an clóca
(Sg. III. 367).
Stuacach, stubborn, rebellious, stiff-necked. Bhíos stuacach
lem' mhnaoi, I was harsh with my wife.
Stuamdha, sedate, steady, dignified. Fear stuamdha,
a man of firmness.
Stupadh, the act of ramming or stuffing into something.
Suairc, pleasant, etc. Go suairc, with keen enjoyment.
Suantraighe, music which had the effect of sending people
Suas. An saoghal a bhí suas le n-a linn. The sort of social
life which was in existence in their time.
Bhí a cheann suas os cionn an phobuil (Sg. III. 349);
not thuas. In suas the act of extending upwards is
expressed. Thuas would express the state of rest in
a place above.
Suas le n-a chluais, close to his ear.
Suathantas, an immense swarm of living things, men
Suidhe has two distinct meanings, viz. "sitting" and "up."
Táim am' shuidhe ar chathaoir. Tá an ghrian 'n-a suidhe.
Suthain, unlimited in variety. The opposite is duthain,
Tabhairt amach, any sort of display or ostentation.
T. a. ríoga, a royal turn out. Ana thabhairt amach,
great pomp, a great show off.
Cad is dóich leat dom chulaith éadaigh? said a
rather badly-built little man to a friend one day.
"Tá an chulaith éadaigh go maith," said the friend,
"ach ní'l aon tabhairt amach ionnat."
Tabhairt le. Ní fhéadan sé an focal a thabhairt leis is
said of a sick person who begins a word and fails
to finish it.
Tabhairt suas, education. Do cuireadh tabhairt suas air.
Tabhall, a sling. Le taibhlibh, with slings.
Tabhartha. Mac tabhartha, an illegitimate son. Mac
dlistineach, a legitimate son.
Taidhbhreamh. Do deineadh taidhbhreamh dom, I dreamt.
I have never heard do thaidhbhrigheas. That is
quite reasonable, because the dream is not the act
of the person dreaming.
Similarly, do taisbeánadh aisling dó (Sg. I. 54),
he saw a vision.
Taise, relics. I have not seen taise used in the singular.
Taise, a feeling of tenderness. Gníomh gan t., a cruel
Taithighe. Ag déanamh t., practising.
Tánaist, the person or thing coming immediately after
It is used exactly as the word "lieutenant" is
used. It has the exact meaning of the prefix "vice"
in such words as "vice-president," "vice-chairman,"
etc. Tánaist is the exact Irish of "viceroy."
Tánathas. Go dtánathas a gan fhios ortha, that (the
punishment) came on them unexpectedly. Tánathas
is the autonomous form of the verb. It is just as
active as go dtáinig sé ortha.
Taobh. 'N-a thaobh san, nevertheless.
This phrase may also mean account of that,"
and then there is a strong emphasis on the last
Taoiseach airm, a military officer.
Thar. Do lean G. an namhaid chómh fada leis an abhainn
agus thar abhainn soir (Sg. III. 280). Thar an abhainn
soir would weaken the expression very much.
Thárla. Do thárla… go raibh Lot 'n-a shuidhe, agus c., it
But there is no "it" in the Irish. The nominative
case to "do thárla" is the statement from "go"
down to the end of the sentence.
Ní raibh ann ach gur thárla (Sg. III. 338), there was
nothing in it but the fact that it so fell out; i.e. it
merely happened by chance.
Tarna, second. Note: i lár na h-oidhche, but i lár
an tarna h-oidhche. So, i ndeire an tarna h-aoise
déag. Why? The only answer is, such is the
Tarrac. Chun síothchána tharrac ameasg na ndaoine.
Here the word tarrac has exactly the force of
the English words "bring about."
Tascar, a fleet.
Aireach is the commander of a fleet, the admiral.
Tásg. By itself means tidings of the death of a person,
or animal. Tásg ná tuairisg is equivalent to the
English "tale nor tidings."
Tástáil, a testing. Aimsir thástála, a period of
Tathaiceach. Having a strong consistency, substantial,
with staying power. Márla (clay) breágh righin
saidhbhir tathaiceach. Go tathaiceach, perseveringly.
Tathant, the act of pressing or urging.
Táthar. Táthar chun na catharach do dhíthiú, the city is about
to be destroyed. In the English "city" is nom. case
to "is." In the Irish "catharach" is gen. case governed
by "chun." Then what is "táthar"? I will ask
those who persist in calling the Irish autonomous
a passive, to crack that nut.
Teacht fé, an oozing of water up through the floor.
Téagartha, thick, stout. Dheineadar bun an túir go breágh
leathan téagartha láidir. Tá an snáith so ró-théagartha
do chró na snáithide seo. Táid na crainn sin ró-óg,
ní'l aon téagar ionnta fós.
Teaghlach. This word is often used in the sense of a
"family," just as the word "house" is often used
in English; cf. Sg. III. 287.
Óightheaghlach, a young community going out from
the parent house.
Teanachair, a smith's tongs; any implement similarly
constructed, such as a pair of pincers; pron. teanachair.
Tlúth, or ursal, is the domestic tongs.
Téanam, let us come, let us go, come along.
When addressed to a number téanaidhidh is used.
When the speaker wishes emphatically to include
himself he says téanaighmís.
The word can be used in the 3rd person singular
or plural — téanaigheadh sé, téanaighdís.
Ort, orainn, ortha, etc., are frequently added.
Teangmháil. Teacht i dt. le, into touch, collision with
(Sg. III. 266).
Teannadh, make stiff. Ag teannadh leis, giving him aid
that would "stiffen him up."
Teannta. I dt., in a desperate strait.
The idea in the word teannta is that a person is
attacked in front, and is held for the attack by some
solid resistance which is behind him. For example,
a person caught between the incoming tide and a
perpendicular wall of rock is i dteannta (chruaidh).
It is a good word for fulcrum.
Teasbach, wantonness, high animal spirits.
Teasgadh, the act of lopping off with some sharp instrument.
Teilgean, hurl, fling away. There is also a substantive
teilgean. An bhfuil an díg doimhinn a dóithin? Ní'l;
bain teilgean eile as.
Or, a certain class of corn may be very unsubstantial,
it is no way lasting, it does not gofar. An Irish speaker
would say in that sense, ní'l aon teilgean ann.
Teip. Do theip air, he failed. Do theip sé orm, it failed
me; i.e. I couldn't succeed in doing it. Do chaill
sé orm, he failed me; ex. gr. in an emergency.
Teóra, a boundary, a limit, a border. Thar teórainn,
over-bounds, trespassing, invading.
Tearmon, a portion of land surrounding a church, or
belonging to a church in some special way, and
having certain privileges attached to it.
To merely call it "glebe land" would be mis-
leading, as the privileges change by the lapse of time
and with altered ideas.
Tearmon do shárú, to violate sanctuary.
Tigheas, household, housekeeping.
Fear tighis, the house steward, the master of
ceremonies of the feast.
Timpán, a lyre.
Tiobraid, a fountain, generally applied to a holy well.
Tobar a well.
Tiomnú, act of dedicating.
Tionlacan. Iad do thionlacan tamal de'n tslighe, chun
urama do thaisbeáint dóibh (Sg. I. 25). To convey
Tionóisg, an accident.
Tiubh, thick. Sometimes used as a noun. Chuir sé an idh
ar chaol na cloiche agus do bhrúigh sé síos í go dtí
tiubh na cloiche (T.B.C., p. 55). He put the ring on
the narrow part of the stone and forced it down over
the thick part of the stone.
Tnáithte is much stronger than "fagged." Ag tnáthadh
means "mauling to death," or "worrying to death"
as dogs worry sheep.
Tocht, the silence caused by mental trouble, a "pause
of agony," a "lump in the throat." Stadadar 'n-a
dtocht, stock still; dumbfounded.
Tógaint is constantly used in the sense of acquiring
learning. Ní fhéadan sé an léighean a thógaint means
that he is rather stupid..
Tógálach, catching; also sensitive, easily taking offence.
Galar t., a contagious disease.
Toil. Chuireadar a dtoil le toil Dé; lit. they put
their will to the will of God, i.e. they conformed their
will with (resigned themselves to) the will of God.
Do thoil a chéile; lit., by each other's will; i.e.,
by mutual consent; i.e., unanimously. "Of their
own accord" is expressed by uatha féin, e.g. (Sg. III. 350).
Gen. toile. I have never heard tola.
Ar bh'é bhur dtoil…? would it be your will? i.e.,
would you please… would you be so good as to…?
…'ghá thabhairt le tuisgint do mhnáibh gur bh'é smacht
an fhir a gheóbhadh toil ins gach teaghlach; that would
Toircheas, the unborn child, foetus, embryo. But the
word is also often applied to the offspring even after
Tóirse, a torch.
Tóirthneach. I have always distinctly heard this th in
the middle of this word. I have never heard tóirneach.
It is often applied to lightning as well as to thunder.
The full sense of the word is "thunder-fire."
Toisg. A substantive, meaning "a cause." Toisg an
sgeón a bheith ionnta. Here an sgeón a bheith ionnta
is the toisg of their imagining that there were foes
all round them.
Toisg is the external moving force. Bun is the
thing aimed at. Aidhm is the aim itself.
T. an fear a bheith gan radharc (Sg. III. 311), the
reason (being that) the man was blind. Toisg is in
apposition with an fear a bheith gan radharc.
Toisg na geasa bheith oraibh, the reason (is) the
fact that the bonds are on ye. Toisg na geasa would
not do. Toisg is "a cause," not "because." Nor
would de thoisg do. De dheascaibh would.
Tolg, a swell, or big wave. The word is still in use in the
shape of tulca, which is a large mass of water mov ng
irresistibly along. Chonac an tuile ag déanamh orm
aniar 'na tulcaíbh dearga.
Tollaire. T. garsúin, "a lump of a gorsoon"; a boy
with a big head and a general lumpiness of appearance.
Tonn-ar-bogadh, a shaking bog, a quagmire.
Toradh; pl., torthaí, fruits which grow on trees or on
bushes. Figuratively, níor thugamair aon toradh air,
we did not show any concern for him. It really means,
we treated him with contempt.
Tormas, pouting, refusing to eat through sulk.
Trácht. Ag t. na faraige, traversing the sea. Ag taisteal
na faraige, voyaging by sea.
Trácht… ar, not thar. But, teacht thar.
Níor bh'fhiú trácht air (seachas, etc.), it wasn't
worth while to mention it (in comparison with some-
Níor bh'fhiú é trácht air means that the thing itself
was a trifle.
Trághaim. Gur thráigh an t-uisge, that the water ebbed,
Tráigh mór. It is curious that in the present shape of
this name the m of mór is not aspirated, although
the word tráigh is feminine. It would seem to in-
dicate that the ancient word was trágh and that it
was a masculine noun.
Tráth, season, time, occasion.
Beid na fir ag éalódh uaibh gach aon tráth, i.e.,
Treabh. De threibh Cruithneach an chinn teas, of the southern
tribe of the Picts.
A man who lived at the northern side of a certain
townlandwas called jokingly "Tighearna an chinn tuaidh."
Tréas, a preposition, meaning "through."
Tréas gach aon sgéal níor bh'aon iongna é sin;
under all the circumstances, that was not a matter
to be wondered at. The people say: "all through,
that was no wonder."
Treasgairt, overthrow, downfall.
Treasnán, a cross-bar.
Tréith, the nearest English word is "characteristic,"
but tréith means more. It denotes a "gift"; a mental
Treó. Ag cur i dtreó, preparing.
"Is dócha gur agaibh-se bheidh an station againn
an turas so, a Mhaitiais?" said I to a parishioner.
"Táimíd ag cur i dtreó dhuit, a Athair," said he.
Things are i dtreó when they are well fixed. Things
are i n-eagar when they are in good working order.
Triail. Bain triail as, try it, test it.
Trian, a third part. Trí treana, three thirds, i.e. three
equal parts. Trí coda would be three parts, but
not necessarily equal parts.
Tritheamh, an overpowering fit of laughter, or of cough-
ing; pl., trithí.
Triúr fear, three men. Fear is gen. pl., as is proved
by the expression triúr ban.
But in the expression fiche fear the word fear
is singular, as is proved by the expression fice bean.
(gen. trír, e.g. os cómhair an trír).
Troightheach, a foot-soldier. Mór shluagh t., a great host
Tromaidhe. A sort of intensive word from trom,
It has no representative word in English. What
exactly does it add to the sense of "heavy?" If
you pronounce the word "heavy" alone you have
in your mind a certain idea which it expresses. If
you then repeat the phrase "the heavy tread of
marching men," the word "heavy" expresses an
additional phase of the idea "heavy." That
additional phase is expressed in Irish by the word
Similar words are ciallaidhe from ciall, donaidhe
from dona, teasaidhe from teas. They have no
analogues in English.
Truaghbhéil, the act of complaining for the purpose of
Tuairim. Isé is tuairim, the opinion is… not isí (usage).
Tuatha, a tribe. T. cat, the tribe of cats.
Tuathach, a peasant.
Tuathalán, a rough, ignorant fellow; a boor.
T. tréan, "a boor showing his bravcry," i.e. destroy-
ing everything with his headstrong ignorance.
Tugaim. Thug an Tighearna dhom gur bhuadhas ortha.
When a person is in danger and by some action
saves himself, the Irish speaker says that it was God
that gave him the doing of that action. Do leag an
capall me ach thug Dia dhom gur ghabhas mo bhuinn.
The English speaker would say "I had the good
fortune to fall on my feet."
This mode of expression is very common in Irish
Nuair ná tugtar ar ais é do bhéarfar ar éigin é.
(T.B.C., p. 22). This sentence illustrates exactly the
distinction between tugaim and do-bheirim. Dobheirim
involves a sense of loss; tugaim does not. Both
Tugtha. Bhíodar tugtha do'n pheaca, prone to, i.e. by
nature. Bhíodar tugtha chun an pheaca, addicted to,
i.e., by their own perversity.
Tuigim. Thuigeadar 'n-a n-aigne. A phrase used to ex-
press the result of some process of reasoning. The
English equivalent would be "they felt convinced,"
or "they realised the fact," etc.
Tuile cuain, a tidal wave coming into a harbour and
sweeping all before it. It is a usual simile for a head-
Tuillim, merit, deserve.
Fuil nár thuill a dortadh, innocent blood.
Túisge. An túisge 'nar thosnuigh an teiche agus an tóir
(Sg. III. 280). Túisge is a substantive in this con-
struction, "the first moment."
"The sooner" is quite common in English. "The
soonest" (in a corresponding sense) is not used. It
is used in Irish.
Tuisle, a hinge; pl. tuislí or tuisleanna.
Tuitim. When a person is spending the prime of his
manhood in rearing his children, it is expressed
in Irish by saying tá sé ag tuitim leó.
Tulg, a couch, a sofa.
Uabhar, haughtiness. Fear an uabhair, the proud man.
The meaning of an fear uaibhreach is quite different
from that of fear an uabhair. One can respect an f.
uaibhreach; the pride of fear an uabhair is despised.
Uachtarach. An spéir uachtarach, the upper sky. There
is a corresponding expression, an talamh iochtarach,
the lowest depths of the earth.
Uaibhreach (not "proud," but), "noble-minded."
Uaigh, a grave; pl. uaghna.
Uaill, a howling. Chím an uaill chugham anall, I see the
howling mob approaching.
U. liúirighe (Sg. III. 302), a loud, clamorous Shouting.
The word has a number of other meanings, e.g.
uaillín chnámh, a mere little bundle of bones.
Uain is the space of time necessary for doing a thing.
Bhí an uain acu ar an abhainn do ghabháil, they had
time to cross the river. Aimsir would not do here.
Sar a raibh sé d'uain acu teacht, "before it was
of time with them to come," i.e. before they had
time to come.
Uair. Le linn na h-uaire agus na h-aimsire. This
combination of uair and aimsir is common both in
spoken and in written Irish. "It was within that
period of time and it was at that particular point
Uaisle. The word includes both sexes. Hence the phrase
a mná uaisle agus a dhaoine uaisle is not Irish at
all. A uasail corresponds to the English "my lord,"
or "your honour." Uaisle móra, great nobles. Mion
uaisle, an inferior class of gentry; what are now
called the middle class.
Uamhan, the dread inspired by superior power.
Uatha and sochaidhe are two substantives Signifying
"few" and "many." They govern the genitive of the
thing. Uatha slóigh, a small force; sochaidhe slóigh,
a numerous force. Often the governed genitive is
Ubh (pron. obh). The word ubh is hardly ever used alone.
The people say ubh circe, ubh gé, ubh lachan, etc.
Similarly "a lamb" is frequently uan caereach.
Ucht, bosom. Do ghlac sé an bheirt leanbh 'n-a ucht chuige,
Uchtach, chest voice. The term is applied to the voice
when the idea of a great volume of sound is meant.
Uchtmhae, an adopted son.
Uile. An uile lá de'n aimsir, all the days of the time.
The phrase an uile lá takes all the days together.
If the days were taken singly the expression would
be gach aon lá de'n aimsir.
Uisge-fé-thalamh, secret plotting; a conspiracy. Ceilg,
feall, and meabhal are used in a similar sense.
Ulcha, a flowing beard. Féasóg is a short beard.
Um. I have been told that this word um is obsolete
in other places. Well, it is so thoroughly a living
word for me that I could not get on without it. I
have all my life been listening to um Nodlaig, Um
Cháisg, Um Lughnasa, Um thráthnóna, Um an dtaca
so, Uim Fhéil' Bríghde, Uim Fhéil' Pádraig, Uim Fhéil'
I hear people sometimes now say cuir ort do
chasóg. What I always heard is cuir umat do
Ungadóir, a maker of ointments.
Uradh, a surety. Tugaimíd an Tighearna mar uradh dhuit
ann (Sg. III. 288), as a surety in it, i.e. for it, for the
thing we are promising.
Urús, a security, a bail.
TÁ AND ATÁ.
Tá is always used when the sense is absolute. When
the sense is relative atá is used, even when the relative
pronoun is not used in English:- e.g. "leave it as it is"
is really a sentence consisting of an absolute clause and
a relative clause. It is the same as "leave it in the state
in which it is." Fág mar atá sé é mar tá sé 'n-a cheart.
The same distinction holds between deir and adeir,
dubhairt and adubhairt, etc. In fact this "a," either
expressed or understood, must always precede the
relative form of the Irish verb.
An té 'mhairbh an gadhar.
An fear a mhairbh an gadhar.
Such a question as "cad 'deir sé?" consists really
of two clauses, an absolute clause and a relative clause.
It means "what is the thing which he says?" i.e. cia
an rud adeir sé?
"An té atá síos buailteas cos air;
An té atá suas óltar deoch air."
The person who is down in the world gets trodden
on, but the person who is up in the world has to pay for
Tá sé i n'fhear. Constructions of this sort have been
set down as expressive of some sort of process by which
a thing has become what it now is — that is that tá sé
i n'fhear means that he has grown to be a man. This
statement is quite erroneous.
Do ghoid an fear san airgead as mo phóca. Mara
mbeadh é bheith 'n-a chladhaire bitheamhnaigh ní dhéanfadh
sé a leithéid. Here there is no idea of any process of
becoming in the mind of the speaker. He repeated his
statement more forcibly, saying:-
Mara mbeadh é bheith 'n-a bhitheamhnach, mar ba dhual
agus mar ba dhúchas dó a bheith, ní dhéanfadh sé a
leithéid. There is no idea of a process.
On the other hand statements which do involve the
idea of a process are as common in connection with other
forms of expression as with this.
Bhí sé lag go leór dhá bhliain ó shin, agus féach féin
gur láidir an fear indiu é. Here there is manifestly
the idea of a process, and yet the speaker did not say
…go bhfuil sé i n'fhear láidir indiu.
Expressions such as the following are constantly
Tá sé sin i n'amadán riamh.
Tá sé sin 'n-a dhuine mhacánta riamh.
Tá sé i n'fhear shaidhbhir anois ó fuair sé an t-airgead so.
Bhí sé 'n-a dhuine bhocht dhealbh go dtí san.
A Athair Murchadh atá go gunta líomhtha,
Tabhair cuid de'n mhin seo do Sheághan Ua Gríobhtha.
Tá a bhean 'n-a h-óinsigh, agus a inghean chríonna,
Tá sé féin 'n-a bhreall, agus beidh sé amhlaidh choidhche.
When Barry the Rake composed that verse he did
not wish to imply that Seághan Ua Gríobhtha had been
once a wise man, and that he had gone through the
process of becoming a fool. Not at all. He meant that
the man was a born fool, and similarly for his wife and
daughter. In Barry's mind the construction did not
even remotely imply a process.
What, then, does "tá sé i n'fhear" specially mean?
In other words what exactly is the difference in meaning
between "tá sé i n'fhear" and "is fear é?"
If you look at any collection of men you are justified
in saying of any individual man of them "is fear é,"
i.e., he is a man, i.e., he is not, say, a horse. And yet
every single man in that crowd is an entirely different
man from any other individual man present.
When I say "is fear é," I speak of him as having
the characteristics of manhood in common with the
crowd, as belonging to the class of beings called men.
When I say "tá sé i n'fhear," I speak of him as having
that particular characteristic of man which belongs ex-
clusively to himself.
If it is objected that this is very subtle distinction,
how comes it that the illiterate native-speaker, seeing
an object at a distance, will say "is fear é," or "is
capall é." He will not dream of saying "tá sé i n'fhear,"
or "tá sé 'n-a chapall."
Bhí sé i n'fhear bhreágh go dtí gur baineadh an tsúil as.
Bheadh sé i n'fhear ghroidhe chumasach dá mbeadh sé
aon órlach amháin eile ar aoirde.
Tá Tadhg 'n-a bhuachaill aimsire ag Mícheál Dubh.
In fact the instances where there has been a "process
of becoming" are few as compared with those where
there has manifestly been no such thing.
Irish sermons are frequently finished in this way:-
"Má gheibhean duine bás ar staid na ngrást, beidh
aoibhneas na bhflathas aige an fhaid a bheidh Dia 'n-a Dhia!"
Where is the possibility of a "process of becoming"
in that construction?
"Is fear é," then, states the fact of his manhood as
far as it is a thing which he has in common with all men.
"Tá sé i n'fhear" states the fact of his manhood as
far as that manhood is a thing which attaches exclusively
to himself as an individual.
In "tá sé i n'fhear" the "fear" is the man's own,
and he is in that state of "fear." In "is fear é" the
"fear" is a thing he shares in common with all men.
Tá with the past participle is the Irish present per-
fect. Tá tagaithe suas agam leis an rud a bhí uaim.
(Similarly, the simple past of a verb is very frequently
the equivalent of the English perfect with have; e.g.,
do tháinig, has come to pass.)
Or tá alone may represent the present perfect, e.g.,
tá aon phort amháin ar siubhal ag ár namhdaibh go léir
Tá in answer to cad é.
"Cad é an sgéal é?" arsa Sadhbh.
"Tá, sgéal ait," arsa Diarmuid.
This tá is an introductory particle asserting
beforehand the truth of the statement which is to
follow. It may be regarded as a sort of inter-
jection, the true answer coming after. It is common in
Go dtí a bhfuil le fíor-dhéanaighe, until quite recently.
The a bhfuil here represents the little space of time that
has quite recently passed.
Go dtí a bhfuil le seachtmhain, until within the past
"That is the man to whom I gave my knife" can be
put into Irish by siné an fear d'ár thugas mo sgian. But
siné an fear gur thugas mo sgian dó is often far better.
This latter is the Irish construction which generally
represents the relative in other languages.
An fear gur thugais an t-airgead dó, "the man
that you gave the money to him"; i.e. the man to whom
you gave the money.
An fear go bhfuil an hata bán air, "the man that
the white hat is on him"; i.e. the man on whom the
white hat is.
Siné an fear a chuir an capall amach as an stábla,
who put the horse out of the stable.
Siné an fear gur chuir an capall amach as an stábla
é, whom the horse put out of the stable.
But is not that a very awkward sort of relative con-
struction? On the contrary, it has a decided advantage
over the relative construction used in other languages.
An fear gur thugais do chapall dó.
An fear gur dó a thugais do chapall.
There is only one English form for these two Irish
expressions, viz., "the man to whom you gave your
horse," and yet they have two entirely different meanings.
In Irish the antecedent is, as a rule, repeated before
the relative particle — e.g., chun Mardochaí do chrochadh,
an fear do thug an t-eólus. "To hang M. who gave
the information" is good English; but, chun M. do chrochadh
a thug an t-eólus could not stand in Irish.
The antecedent is not repeated when it is close to
the relative particle and directly connected with it —
e.g., isé M. a thug an t-eólus uaidh.
A raibh de Iúdaígh, all the Jews that were.
A bhfuil de Iúdaígh, all the Jews that are.
A mbeidh de Iúdaígh, all the Jews that shall be.
A mbeadh de Iúdaígh, all the Jews that would be
(under certain circumstances).
That construction runs through the language:-
Cimeád a bhféadfir, keep all you can.
Tabhair leat a bhfaighir, bring with you all you find.
Fág a mbeidh gan mhaith, leave all that turns out
I heard a child say to another child, Cogar, "whisper."
The other child answered, Cogain a bhfaighir! "chew
all you get!" The second child did not want any whispers.
Then the answer could be carried to any extent:-
Do chogain sí a bhfuair sí.
Do choganas a bhfuaras, etc.
Before the past tense of regular verbs it becomes ar.
Ní'l aige ach ar fágadh, he has only all that was left.
D'ól sé ar fhéad sé, he drank all he could.
Cimeádfidh sé cuimhne ar ar dheineamair d'olc air,
he will remember all the evil which we did against him.
B'é an duine uasal céadna é ar ar eitigh sé an
t-airgead agus ar ar (pron. air ur) thug sé "cladhaire
díomhaoin" (Séadna, 134).
There are three demonstratives in Irish and only two
in English. The English of "é seo" is "this." The
English of "é sin" is "that." There is no English for
Bear in mind the three persons of the verb — the
speaker, the person spoken to, and the person spoken
of. When the speaker says "an fear so," he means
the man who is near himself. When he says "an fear
san," he means the man who is near the person to whom
he is speaking. When he says "an fear úd," he means
a man who is now away from both or absent altogether.
That appears very simple, but it depends on what
the idea of absence in the speaker's mind is. One speaker
may refer to a man who is at some distance as "an fear
úd thall." Another may say in similar circumstances
"an fear san thall." But one may not say "an fear
úd annsan at' aice." There is a contradiction in that
statement. It makes the man be absent and present
at the same time.
There are two sorts of absence, space absence and
time absence, and each of them requires the use of "úd."
The time absence is past time, e.g. an fear úd a bhí annso
indé tá sé i gCorcaigh indiu. It would require a very
peculiar context to justify a person in saying an fear
san a bhí, agus rl., in the above sentence. The subject-matter
of a piece of writing is present. If I am reviewing a book
I cannot speak of it as "an leabhar úd" as long as I
am talking about it in the present tense. But that parti-
cular subject-matter may be dropped in an instant and
another introduced, so that the mention of the first would
"Tá ana-theinneas annso i mbéal mo chléibh," said
a sick man.
"An bhfuil teinneas ad' dhrom?" said I.
"Tá," said he, "ar a aghaidh siúd siar."
The moment I spoke of the pain in the back, the
pain in the chest ceased to be the subject-matter of the
conversation, i.e. it became "é siúd."
"A fhir úd a shín do mhéar aréir cuir féin na géana
isteach anocht," said Gárlach Goileánach to his step-
brother. The "a fhir úd" was actually present, but
he was carried back in the Gárlach's mind to the action
of pointing his finger which he had done on the previous
As a general rule, then, the thing which úd indicates
must be away from the presence of the speaker, and
"away" may be in regard to space, or time, or both.
Space: an fear úd thall.
Time: an fear úd adubhairt gur ghoideas a sgian
dubhairt sé bréag.
Both: an fear úd a bhí annsúd thall indé ca bhfuil
Here we have "bhí" expressing absence regarding
time, and "thall" expressing absence regarding space.
The absence of a thing in regard to space may be
different in the minds of different speakers. A thing may
be at a little distance, and one speaker may call it "an
rud úd thall," whereas another speaker may call it "an
rud san thall." The first speaker looks upon the place
where the thing is as away, or absent, from the place
where he himself is, whereas the second speaker mentally
expands the place where he himself is so as to include
the distant place. Very often, almost always, there is
some circumstance which causes the expansion.
Cé h-é siúd thall ar an réidh?
Ní duine é sin. Capall iseadh é.
Here, in the question, the object, because seen for
the first time, is called "é siúd." Immediately after-
wards the object, because it is the subject-matter of
their talk, becomes present as far as both speakers are
concerned, and the second speaker says "ní duine é sin."
An Irish speaker who knew no English would not say
under the circumstances "ní duine é siúd." If he
happened to see a second object he would say "an
capall eile é siúd i n'aice?" i.e. if the second
object were not clearly visible. If both objects were
plainly visible he would say "an capall eile é sin i
This word "úd" is often used for the purpose of
expressing bitter disdain. A parish priest in Bally-
vourney once had occasion to denounce some parties
from the altar. He would up his discourse with these
"Fágfad-sa baluith dóighte loisgithe sgólta ortha
There was no possibility of his saying "ortha san"
nor "ortha so." They may have been present listening
to him, but the use of the words "ortha súd" cut them
off from the congregation and treated them as absent.
It had also the effect of expressing the bitterness of his
condemnation of their conduct.
The second reason for his saying "ortha súd" was
because the action which he was reproving was a past
action and it carried the agents of it with it into the past.
Consequently they were "iad súd," not "iad san"
nor "iad so."
The word "úd" is also used for the purpose of ex-
pressing strong contempt or disgust. Téidhmís anonn
chucha súd (Sg. III. 359), "at those fellows."
There was a certain man living somewhere in the
North of Ireland in the time of the poet Peadar
Ó Doirnín. He came unexpectedly into the possession
of a considerable sum of money and made up his mind
to be a "duke" for one day. He bought a coach and
horses and began to drive madly through the country,
stopping here and there in order to drink. At last the
bottom fell out of the coach, and the "duke" was left
on the road. Peadar Ua Doirnín composed a satire
on the event, and wound up with these words:-
"'S go sgagan an cóiste
Amach ar an ród
An fear úd nách eól dó
'S náire air."
Here the word "úd" expresses in the most beautifully
effective manner the horror and disgust of the coach
at the strange sort of "foreign body" that had got inside
On the day when Cúchulainn took his arm gaisge
he was in the presence of Conchubhar and his court. He
took the spear by the middle and brandished it with
such violence that it broke in halves. He was given
another spear but it broke in the same way. "Ní maith
na h-airm iad so," said he. Conchubhar turned to his
"Tugtar mo shleagh féin dó súd," said he.
Cúchulainn took the king's own spear and brandished
it so violently that the ends almost met. It did not break,
Here Conchubhar used the word "súd" to express
the highest admiration for Cúchulainn. By speaking of
him in that way he placed him above all who were present.
Thus the principle holds that "úd" is used in order
to point attention to something which is not present.
Diarmuid Liath owed some money to Clancy. Clancy
came to Diarmuid's house to ask for it. After beating
about the bush for some time without effect he saw he
would have to come more directly to business. This is
what he said:-
"'Seadh, a Dhiarmuid, ní h-é seo é ach é siúd. Beadsa
ag imtheacht amáireach."
That meant, of course, that he wanted his money but
was too shy to ask directly for it. Diarmuid was equal
to the situation. He assumed a look of utter unconscious-
ness of money, and answered in the most cheerful
"Ó, go n-eirighe leat go geal, a Sheághain! go
n-eirighe leat go geal!"
The expression has passed into a proverb — "Go
n-eirighe leat go geal! a ndubhairt Diarmuid Liath le
One would say in English, "That is not the matter,
but this." A learner may be tempted to put that into
Irish by saying "Ní h-é sin é ach é seo." This would
not do. Observe that the subject of conversation, before
Clancy wished to change it, was present to them. Con-
sequently it was "é seo." Whereas the idea which
Clancy wished to introduce was not as yet present and
was therefore "é siúd."
A certain man at one time took a pledge. Some time
afterwards he happened to be at the house of the priest
who had given him the pledge. The priest had forgotten
the matter and offered the man some "refreshment."
The latter took the glass in his hand:-
"Do shláinte, a Athair!" said he, "agus fágaimís
siúd mar atá sé."
The pledge was the "siúd," and the meaning was —
"this glass is an exceptional one. I can take it with your
permission and the siúd holds good."
It was a practice with the Ballyvourney crier to go
through the throng after Mass on Sundays giving a
description of lost cattle, sheep, etc. He always began
his announcement with:—
"Ar aireabhair é siúd!" He never said "ar
aireabhair é sin!" nor "ar aireabhair é seo!" —
the reason being that the matter which he was about
to introduce was not as yet present. It could neither
be "é sin" nor "é seo" until after he had introduced
it. Of course he could say "ar aireabhair an rud
so atá agam le h-innsint díbh?" But he would then
be speaking of the matter as present to himself.
The past, cast off, is é siúd.
The past, connected with the present, is é sin.
The future, commonly called "the following,"
or what the writer is about to state, is é seo, or an nídh
Besides the demonstratives "é seo," "é sin," and
"é siúd," we have the forms "so," "san," and "súd."
These latter forms point out things taken in a body,
or collectively. For example, is olc é sin, that is a bad
thing. But is olc san uait-se, that course of action is
bad on your part.
When used in that sense those demonstratives have
not substantives going with them. Bhí san i gcoinnibh
dlighe a tíre féin (Sg. III. 315). Bhí sé sin i gcoinnibh
would not be so good here at all.
Cad é sin duit-se sin? (Sg. I. 123).
One may be inclined to ask what the word sin at
the end is for. Would not "cad é sin duit-se?"
be enough? The full expression of the question would
be: Cad é sin duit-se mé bheith 'ghá bhualadh? The last four
words are dropped and sin is put in to represent them.
In questions we have cad é, cad í, and cad iad.
But if eadh is to be used we must say cad iseadh. The
reason is that the word eadh is really a substantive, and
not a neuter pronoun. It means the truth of a statement,
just like the English word "fact." The true English
of iseadh is "it is a fact."
Cad iseadh? corresponds to the English, "what?"
or "what is that?" i.e., what is the statement you
Sin é anois me im' fhear cinn riain…
The learner must not quarrel with this mixture of
first and third persons. It is the people's speech. What
about the English "it is I?"
An é sin grádh atá agat dod' chara?
Why is the definite article omitted before grádh?
There are two reasons. In the first place the word grádh
is defined by the phrase atá agat, and need not be defined
by the definite article. In the second place, the word
grádh here is used in a generic sense; "is that the sort
of love?" To use the definite article would destroy that
Similarly, an é sin eólas atá agat ar an slighe? Is
that the sort of knowledge you have of the road?
Níor bh'é sin féin ach… not only that, but…
Cad é sin?
Cad é an rud é sin?
A teacher in a school holds up a given object and
asks the question "what is that?" the Irish for that
question is cad é an rud é sin?
But suppose teacher and children heard some unusual
sound outside the school, then any of them might ex-
claim cad é sin? If they all walk out and see some curious
object in the distance, then again any of them can say —
cad é sin shiar annsan? Or he may make use of the
other form and say — cad é an rud é sin shiar annsan?
but his thought is then different. When he says cad
é an rud é sin? he wants to know the name of the
object, while cad é sin? is more an exclamation of sur-
prise at the strangeness of the sound or object.
Again, if one hears some astounding or unexpected
news, or is told some false and foolish story, he might
suddenly exclaim — cad é sin agat dh'á rádh?
Cad é an rud é sin? is said in regard to given
Cad é sin? is used to distant and unknown objects,
and as exclamations of surprise and doubt.
I find that, in English, people constantly use the
demonstrative this, where, in Irish, san or sin should
be used. Writers of Irish are misled by that. They write
an rud so, an fear so, where they should write an rud
san, an fear san,
In Irish narrative so or seo refers to something
about to be mentioned, san or sin to something already
Of course if the thing spoken of were actually present,
san and so should be used according to the nature of
the presence. This note refers to narrative.
Siní do dheirbhshiúr imthighthe abhaile (Sg. III. 316), there
is your sister gone home. Note siní, not sin.
Cé h-é atá agam? lit., who is the person whom I
have? i.e. who is this to whom I am speaking?
Cé h-é thusa? (Sg. III. 321), not cé h-í thusa? Although
it was a woman. One woman asks another, an bhfuil
fhios agat cé h-é me? never, cé h-í me.
Chuir san buairt air, that state of things grieved
Chuir sé sin buairt air, that individual thing grieved
I gcoinnibh Alegsandair sin, against that fellow
Seo rud, here is a thing — Sidé an sgríbhinn, here
is the document. I have never heard ag seo rud, etc.
Úd very often has the meaning of the English words
"the said," or "the aforesaid." An targaireacht úd,
that prophecy of which we have spoken.
The Usages of a language are matters of far greater
importance than grammar to the life of a language.
The sentence "these things is" is very bad English
grammar, but it is correct Greek.
Why is míle púnt meághchaint correct? Why not
meághchainte? One might as well ask, why is "1,000
lbs. weight" correct, and "1,000 lbs. of weight" wrong.
1. Na gníomhartha a bhí 'á ndéanamh acu.
2. Na gníomhartha a bhí acu 'á dhéanamh.
Both constructions are correct. All depends on where
the word acu is placed. In No. 1. we must say 'á ndéanamh.
In No. 2. we must say 'á dhéanamh. But why? Simply
because that is the usage of Irish speech, and usage
goes before grammar.
Thánadar thar Iordain anoir. In Irish, words which
express direction, anoir, soir, óthuaidh, etc., must be
expressed, although they would look very ugly if ex-
pressed in English. Their absence in Irish would be quite
Chaitheadar iad féin ar an dtalamh ar a mbéal agus
ar a n-aghaidh. Why not ar a mbéalaibh? For the same
reason that it would be ridiculous to say in English
"they cast themselves faces downwards," instead of
"face downwards." The singular is the usage in both
The noun is often repeated in Irish where pronouns
would be used in English. Do chuaidh sé isteach i bpluais
a bhí ann agus d'fhan sé sa phluais. Thug an Tighearna
mórán sóláis dó an fhaid a bhí sé 'n-a chomhnuidhe sa
phluais sin (Sg. v. 510).
Bhí Maois ag feuchaint ar an dtor agus an lasair ag
eirighe as an dtor agus gan an tor d'á dhóth…
There are innumerable words and phrases in all
languages which have acquired special significations.
Take the English sentence, "they received me with
open arms." English usage has given a certain well
understood meaning to the phrase "with open arms,"
but it would be utterly absurd to put it into Irish by
means of le lámhaibh osgailte. The proper Irish is, of
course, go fáilteach.
"Strike while the iron is hot." There is no such
Irish proverb as — buail an t-iarann an fhaid a bheidh sé
teith. The recognised way of expressing the idea in Irish
is — an rud a théidhean i bhfaid téidhean sé i bhfuaire.
(The Irish for "hot" is not te, but teith. The final
th is most distinct.)
An Mhaighdean Mhuire. One would expect an Mhaighdean
The usage of speech has, however, caused the m of
Muire to be aspirated after the feminine noun maighdean,
just as if Muire were an adjective.
For the same reason exactly we have Muire Mháthair,
"The road is long, narrow and uneven" is all right
in English. Tá an bóthar fada, caol agus anacair would
be intolerable Irish.
Cad é an tslighe, cad é an áit, are what is said.
Not cad í an tslighe, etc., though the words are
D'á mhéid áthas a bhí ortha.
The construction embodied in the first three words
must be studied very carefully.
The first word is made up of do and a. Do is a pre-
position, and a is a possessive pronoun.
The second word, mhéid, is the thing possessed.
The two words together mean "unto its greatness";
i.e., as far as its greatness reaches; i.e. how great
The second word in the phrase is a substantive, and,
from the nature of the construction, it is impossible for
it to be anything but a substantive. Hence it is an utter
mistake to consider that in such expressions as d'á ghéire,
d'á aoirde, d'á throime, etc., the second word is an
adjective in the comparative degree, and that the phrases
are the same as the English phrases "the sharper,"
"the higher," "the heavier," etc.
The words géire, aoirde, troime are three sub-
stantives, and they stand in the construction exactly
as méid stands in it. If those words were comparative
adjectives such constructions as d'á mhó, d'á lugha, would
be admissible. Every Irish speaker knows that they
are outrageously absurd and impossible.
The third word should not be in the genitive case.
D'á fheabhas rith agat tiocfar suas leat.
D'á olcas siubhal aige tá sé ag cur na slighe dhe.
D'á throime codla a bhí air do dúisigheadh é.
Reatha, siubhail, codlata would be impossible, The
genitive is equally impossible after d'á mhéid and d'á
Pé duine thabharfidh easonóir do'n rí ná ná tabharfidh,
ní do cheamalach mar thusa is cóir easonóir a thabhairt
dó (L. Mac Con, 18).
Here the first ná is "nor" and the second ná is "not."
One may ask "why not nú ná tabharfidh?" — Because
the negative sense is not disjunctive. The negation is
total. The meaning is:- it is not permitted you to insult
him in the one case nor in the other case. The English
language does not make this distinction between a dis-
junctive negative and a total negative.
If I say "I will not open the door whether John comes
or does not come," there is a disjunctive negative, i.e.,
there are two distinct contingencies in which I will not
open the door. John's coming is one; his not coming
is the other. The two are disjoined in the Irish… Ní
osgalóchad an doras pé 'cu thiocfidh sé nú ná tiocfidh
If I say "I will not open the door no matter who
comes or does not come," there is a total negative. The
contingencies are taken together. In this case the Irish
is… ní osgalóchad an doras pé duine a thiocfidh ná ná
D'airigh D. gan a bheith dleaghthach d'aon duine…
aon nídh de sna neithibh sin do shárú, etc. (Sg. VII. 835)…
lit., it was not to be lawful for any person. The a of a
bheith is a possessive pronoun representing the genitive
case of the whole clause.
This a, in the living speech, is, in a great many
instances, exactly what "the infixed pronoun" was in
the old speech.
In Irish it very often happens, as already stated
(p.127), that, instead of using a pronoun as in English,
the noun is repeated. To tell when the pronoun might
be used, and when the noun itself should be repeated,
involves one of the subtle niceties of the language.
"Put out the candle, James," arsa bean mo dhrithár
liom. Do rugas ar an gcainnil agus chaitheas an fhinneóg
Now suppose James had spoken in this way: d'osgalas
an fhinneóg agus chaitheas an chainneal an fhinneóg amach.
Here he could not have used the í as he did in the first
expression. D'osgalas an fhinneóg agus chaitheas an
fhinneóg amach í would be quite intelligible, but to an
Irish taste it is very ugly.
Cúig céad nochad a trí (593).
The particle a should be used only before the units
when there are units; when there are no units the a is
used before the tens.
I mblian a dachad beidh aiteann gan síol gan bhláth.
'S an bhliain i n'aice beid Sasanaigh sínte ar lár.
— (Old prophecy).
Rud a thug dó bheith ábalta ar, etc.
A circumstance which gave to him to be able to,
etc., i.e. which gave him the faculty of being able; which
Ó's 'ghá n-aoiradh dhom i n-aon chor (Guaire, 139), since
I am satirizing them at all.
The phrase is 'ghá n-aoiradh dhom is exactly the same
as táim 'ghá n-aoiradh, with the idea of the "occasion"
included. Ag teacht abhaile dhom, as I was coming home;
i.e. on the occasion on my coming home.
The great mistake is to be trying to explain these
Irish subtleties of expression by means of English or
Latin parallelisms. There is no such thing as this in
either English or Latin.
Níor dhein sé ach…
This opening to a sentence expresses the suddenness
and impulsiveness of the action described by the next
verb; e.g., níor dhein sé ach a lámh do thógaint agus urchar
… do chaitheamh, etc. (L. Mac Con, 35). "He merely
raised his hand and," etc., would express an entirely
different idea. The negative in the Irish indicates a
rapidity which left no time for any other action
Dul i n-áit uaigneach, to go into a desert place.
But when the place is specified the preposition is
not i, but go. Dul go Corcaigh, go h-America, etc.
'Ghá and dh'á.
Bhí sé 'ghá mhúine, he was teaching him.
Bhí sé dh'á mhúine, he was being taught.
There is a tendency, which ought to be restricted,
to use these forms indiscriminately.
I cannot understand what some of our writers
mean by using is as a contraction for agus. A century
or two ago it did not matter, but consider our learners
and then look at this:—
Is tusa is mise is lucht múinte is lucht cimeádta
sa sgoil seo, meaning, is tusa agus mise is lucht
múinte agus lucht cimeádta, etc.
D'innis sé an sgéal d'á athair, do Shímon, to his
father Simon. In Irish the preposition must be repeated.
This is true except where the principal noun and the
noun in opposition have become the same as one word,
e.g. do'n Athair Tadhg.
Thosnuigh sé ar bheith ag marbhú na nIúdach. One
might say thosnuigh sé ar na Iúdaígh a mharbhú. But
that would not express the fact that he began to make
it a practice to be killing them whenever he got the
opportunity. "He began to kill the Jews" would not
express that exactly.
Dheineadh muinntir an rí gléasana. One would natur-
ally say in English, "the king's people made machines."
Do dhein muinntir would indicate only one making, while
it is obvious from the context here that they made them
more than once, that they continued to make them. The
English verb has no continuous form for present or
past. Hence one must look for the true sense in the
context when translating.
Mar a h-innseadh (Sg. VII. 773), as has been told.
Here we have a present perfect tense in English, and
it is the tense that must be used in English. In Irish,
however, the simple past must be used. Why? Because
in reality the telling is not present perfect. It is not a
"past extending up to the present," as English grammars
define a present perfect. This a h-innseadh took place
some time ago. It has no connection with the present.
Consequently the Irish present perfect, viz. mar atá
innste, would be nonsensical.
Of course the English "as has been told" is also
nonsensical in itself, but English usage has adopted it and
has taken the nonsense out of it. Usage has made it the law
of the English speech. Irish usage insists on a simple past
when the time of the action is by its nature a simple past.
Má tá aimsir agam déanfad é.
Má bhíon aimsir agam déanfad é.
Each of these two sentences is correct, but they have
The first means, if there be a sufficiency of present time.
The second, if there be a sufficiency of future time.
The English "if I have time I will do it" can have
I will go to town to-morrow if the day is dry. Má
tá an lá tirm, here, would be absurd. The correct Irish
is, of course, má bhíon an lá tirm.
Ba mheasa dhóibh chucha é 'ná Antiochus óg féin, d'á
Why are the two prepositional pronouns used,
dóibh and chucha? Would not dóibh alone do? "He
was worse to them than A." The full thought is:
he was worse for them, dóibh, in his attacks on them,
Suppose he was a great friend who would be more
sorely missed than someone else, then the sentence
would be: ba mheasa dhóibh uatha é 'ná, etc., i.e. he was
a worse loss to them.
Ba chuma gan déanamh riamh na gníomhartha san.
This word, cuma, is the same as the sign of equality.
In the sentence above the second of the equal things
is, déanta, understood. Ba chuma déanta nú gan
déanamh iad; it was all the same whether they were
done or not done.
Cad deirir leis nár ghlac éad! (T.B.C., 182).
"What do you say to him that didn't get jealous!"
i.e., you never would have thought he would get jealous,
but he did.
Cad deirir leis nár dhiúltuigh! "What do you say
to him that didn't refuse!"
This nár is peculiar. It is negative, while the sense
it expresses is strongly positive. The construction
emphasizes the unexpectedness of the event. It is
constantly in the mouths of speakers and is well under-
stood both in the Irish and the English forms. In English
it is sometimes shortened to — "and didn't he refuse!"
contrary to all expectations, he refused.
Sin é an fear gur leis an capall… (owns).
Tá sé imthighthe anois pé duine go mba leis é…
(owned) <see Don C., p. 157>.
Cé leis an t-arbhar san?
Fé dheire do h-innseadh cé go mba leis an t-arbhar.
(Cé go mba leis is often shortened to cé 'mba leis.)
Tá an phiast beó go maith agus ithean sí a lán,
marab ionann agus Bel (Sg. VI. 683).
The word ionann expresses identity. Ní h-ionann
bheith ar buile agus bheith ar lán buile — to be mad and
to be fully mad are not an ionann, i.e., are not one
Note the "and," or the "agus," connecting the
two things whose identity is either asserted or denied.
This is why agus is used in the phrase marab ionann
The word marab is negative. Hence in this instance
identity is denied. The identity which is denied is the
identity of Bel's state regarding life, and the worm's
state regarding life. "The worm is very much alive,
a state not identical with that of Bel," or literally, "the
worm is very much alive if not identical with Bel so
The word "with" here does exactly the work which
the conjunction "agus" does in the Irish. It is just
as if the king said: "I acknowledge that Bel was not
a living god, but this worm is very much alive indeed,"
i.e., "not the same as Bel, so far."
Bhí an snáith sínte ó'n sgamall anuas (An Cleasaidhe,
p. 65); the thread was stretching down from the cloud.
Ag síneadh would not do here. In English the present
participle is frequently used in this way:- e.g., he saw
the level plain extending for miles before him. As a matter
of fact the plain was not doing anything at all; it was
quite still. The Irish would be sínte, or leathta amach.
There is no possibility of expressing in English
the difference between, for example: is breágh an lá
é agus is lá breágh é.
In Irish though the difference is so distinct that
an Irish speaker cannot possibly use one when he means
An Irish substantive is frequently used alone as a
word expressing manner, time, occasion, etc., accord-
ing to the nature of the substantive.
For example: féachaint d'á dtug sé thar a ghualainn
chonaic sé… Here one might expect a preposition
before féachaint, le féachaint, or something of that sort.
There is a manifest difference between fhiachaint and
Tá sé d'fhiachaibh ar gach duine gan cuid a chomharsan
do chimeád go h-aindleaghthach, every person is bound, etc.
Cuirfad-sa fhiachaint ort mé dhíol. I'll make you pay
me (cf. the English "I'll let you see that you'll pay me").
Fiachaibh, deb, obligation.
Go deimhnighthe, most certainly. This placing of go
before an adjective has the effect of intensifying the
idea which the adjective contains. Tá sé liobarnach,
it is untidy. Tá sé liobarnach go maith, it is very untidy.
Tá sé go liobarnach, it is untidy and no mistake.
What the grammars say about turning an adjective
into an adverb by prefixing go gives very little
Do ruithfinn féin leis an gcapall san, ó's me atá
bacach… lit., "I myself would run with that horse,
because I am lame."
My lameness appears to be the reason given why I
could run against the horse.
Chognóchainn féin an fheóil sin, ó's me atá gan
fiacla… "As I am the person who has no teeth, I
can eat that meat."
The ó is of course a causative particle. The clause
which it introduces expresses a cause. The cause,
however, in the present construction, is not the cause
of the truth expressed in the previous statement, but
the cause of my making the statement.
The meaning in each case is: That is a worthless
horse. I say so because I am lame, and still I can beat
him running. That meat is exceedingly tender. I say
so because I have no teeth, and still I can eat it.
An gníomh atá agam dh'á iarraidh air a dhéanamh.
This a dhéanamh is not the same as do dhéanamh. The
a is a possessive pronoun; lit. "the act which I am
asking of him its doing"; i.e. the act whose doing I am
asking of him.
"Thou man of God," said the captain, "thus saith
the king to thee," etc.
"If I am a man of God," said Elias, "let fire come
"A Fhir Dé," ars' an taoiseach, "seo mar adeir
an rí leat…"
"Má's fear le Dia mise," arsa Elias, "tagadh
Why not má's fear Dé mé? — Because in the phrase
"If I am a man of God" the word "man" is indefinite,
whereas in the phrase má's fear Dé me the word fear
is definite, being defined by the genitive Dé. Consequently
the word fear must be rendered indefinite by saying
má's fear le Dia me.
Then why is a fhir Dé correct? Because in the phrase
a fhir Dé and in the phrase "thou man of God" the
words fir and "man" are both definite.
In the case of certain Irish verbs I have always
heard the third person plural used even though the
plural noun was expressed; e.g. chromadar na mná ar
ghol. Old speakers would not use chrom here.
Is áluinn an dán é sin, leis, an té thuigfadh é
(Guaire, p. 14). It is a splendid poem if a person could
only understand it.
This idiom is exceedingly common in the speech of
the people. It would never do to say dá dtuigtí é. That
would mean that the beauty of the poem depended on
its being understood.
Is maith é an t-airgead, an té go mbeadh a dhóithin
Bheadh sé gan meas air gan urraim dó (Guaire,
Without the air the meas would be subjective, i.e.,
it would mean his esteem for somebody else, not the
esteem of others for him.
Similarly for the do after urraim.
Sa bhliain chúig céad… iseadh a thuit san amach.
In the year, etc., it is. In English the usual form is
…it was. In Irish the present tense is used when it is
still true that the thing spoken of happened as stated.
It is as true now as it was then, that it was in the year
573, the event referred to took place.
If there were no reference to the present time all
the verbs should be in the past tense; e.g. sa bhliain
573 adubhairt sé gur bh'eadh, agus c.
A fhearaibh Éirean. It is a mistake to look upon the
Irish termination -ibh as belonging exclusively to the
dative and ablative plural. It is used in the nominative,
accusative and vocative plural as well. Do Lúb an fear
láidir a ghlúinibh. (Mo sgéal Féin, p. 95.)
It is far older than the Latin -ibus, and wider in its
Isiad peacaí is mó a dheineadar 'ná, etc. (Sg. III.
269). Not "na peacaí." Peacaí is defined by is mo a
dheineadar, and consequently need not be defined by
means of the article.
Cad é an coímhsgar a chuir an dá ghé ar siubhal? arsa
S. — Lánamha phósta a bhí ag teacht abhaile, etc. (Guaire, 149).
This way of beginning a statement is frequent when
the beginning is not, strictly speaking, an absolute one.
The statement here is in answer to the question which
Nuair a thóg Iudás an daingean… d'iompuigh sé,
etc. (Sg. VII. 743).
Here do thóg is a simple past. In English it is a
pluperfect. The pluperfect is used in English merely
in obedience to sequence of time. As an old grammar
stated it: The pluperfect is used to indicate "a past
before another past." In Irish the "past" and the
"other past" are both simple pasts unless there be a
natural connection between them, such as the connection
between cause and effect — e.g., nuair a bhí an méid sin
déanta aige bhí a aigne sásta. There we have the
pluperfect both in Irish and English. "When he had
done that his mind was satisfied."
Compare these two statements:-
Bhí an leabhar léighte agam sar ar tháinig Tadhg.
Bhí an gnó críochnuighthe agam sar a raibh an t-am
In the first the two actions are entirely independent
of each other. Their times do not influence each other.
In the second there was manifestly a race against time.
Hence the prior action is pluperfect. That is how it
happens that in Irish a simple past is used very often
where in English a pluperfect would be used.
In practice the safe course is to use the simple past,
except where the sense demands a pluperfect.
Bhíodar tagaithe suas, they had come up. That is
not English-Irish. It would be more correct to say that
it is Irish-English.
Do ghéaruigh ar an ruith, the running became faster;
lit., there quickened on the running… i.e. the running
underwent a quickening.
The construction expresses the fact that some change
took place in a thing, not by the application of some ex-
ternal force, but by the working of some internal force
The English words "become" and "grow" are used
for a similar purpose.
Bhí an duine bocht ró chríonna agus bhí ag dul d'á
chiall (Mo Sgéal Féin, p. 178)… was beginning to dote.
"Má théidhean dem' ghadharaibh," if I run short
of my dogs.
Do chuaidh d'á neart, their strength waned.
Do mhéaduigh ar an amhstarach, the barking increased.
Bhí ag dul 'n-a luighe ar a n-aigne, it was being borne in
upon their minds. They were beginning to feel convinced.
Bhí ag dul d'á radharc agus d'á éisteacht (Sg. I. 48).
Bhí ag dubhadh agus ag gormú agus ag bánadh acu
They were turning black and blue and white. The
absence of acu here would make the construction pure
Muinntir na hÉireann do chur le chéile.
This construction can be understood in a transitive
sense or in an intransitive sense. The former is obvious
enough, but the intransitive sense is also in constant
use by native speakers. The context will often determine
which is correct.
Is olc an díol oraibh é.
Irish speakers put this phrase into English by "bad
deservers ye are of it," and the opposite expression, is
maith an díol oraibh é, by "good deservers," etc.
The literal translation is "it is a good paying
off upon ye"; i.e. ye are equal in value of it as
payment; i.e. ye are worthy of it, ye are good de-
servers of it.
The difficulty is that the Irish expression was built
out of Irish elements long centuries before the English
word "worthy" came into existence, and we must go
all the way back to the building of the Irish structure
in order to understand it properly.
B'iad beirt iad san ná (Ua Conchobhair agus Teabóid
As beirt is only a repetition of the first iad we may,
for purposes of analysis, drop it. Then we have ba iad
iad san. In this sentence the first iad is the information,
and iad san is the thing about which the information
is given. Then ná introduces an explanatory phrase
telling the nature of the information contained in the
first iad, If we put this explanatory phrase in the place
of the first iad we have (ba) Ua Conchobhair Sligigh agus
Teabóid na Long iad san.
As a matter of fact, native speakers use this last form
of the sentence just as often as they use the form at the
top. In this last form the ba is usually left understood.
The placing indicates fully which is subject and which
Trí chéad fear de sna fearaibh ab fhearr a bhí acu.
Trí chéad de sna fearaibh would not be real Irish.
In fact it would mean "3 cwt of the men."
Gan and aspiration.
Chuadar abhaile gan creach gan cath, they went home
without battle or spoils.
In this form the words creach and cath are taken in
a generic sense, and the English is "without spoil, without
battle." Aspiration of the words would signify that
they were used in an individual manner, and the English
would be "without a spoil, without a battle."
The use of the initial aspiration in the Irish has the
effect which the use of the indefinite article has in English.
It turns "battle" in general to an individual "battle."
Irish favours the negative mode of expression.
For the common English phrase "in more ways than
one," the Irish woulb be ní h-ar aon chuma amháin.
Chuaidh sé soir óthuaidh Inbher Loarn agus Loch Linne.
In English the preposition "by" or "along" is used.
It is not needed in the Irish.
Ná feicim fear agaibh beó airís má thagaid siad i
dtír i nbhur n-aindeoin ná a gan fhios díbh; let me not
see a man of you alive again if they land in spite of you
or unknown to you.
Why is the disjunctive a negative in the Irish? or why
is it not also a negative in English?
He ordered them not to see his face if the enemy
should land in spite of them, nor if they should land
unknown to them. The negation covers both contin-
gencies. Therefore the English "or" is logically false,
and the Irish "ná" is the true disjunctive.
This point should be studied, because this difference
between the two languages is constantly turning up,
and the English "or" must then be translated into
Irish by "ná."
"The Irish language is sadly defective in terms suit-
able for the expression of present-day thought."
As a matter of fact the language is rich in such
expressions. But the English terms are to a large
extent derived from the Latin and Greek, and con-
sequently it is futile to go ransacking dictionarieis for their
Irish equivalents. They are not to be found, except in
a few instances, connected with ecclesiastical matters.
Take, for example, the English sentence, "They were
strenuously urging him to do it." This would be in Irish:
bhíodar 'ghá chur chuige go dian. "I objected to it with
energy" would be in Irish: do chuireas 'n-a choinnibh
Such words as "scenery," "picturesque", etc., have
been overworked to such a degree in English speech that
they have long ceased to mean anything in particular.
The Irish would make use of definite expressions like
fiantas na gcnoc, na dúthaí breághtha, etc.
Harmonize, teacht isteach le.
Bhí an t-aingeal ó Ióna go Dairmhaigh, "the angel was
from Iona to Durrow"; i.e., had passed over the distance
between I. and D. This mode of speech is quite common.
Níor tháinig lá d'á chuimhneamh chucha san go raibh aon
rud bun os cionn déanta aige (Sg. III. 264), a single
shadow of the remembrance. The expression must be
a survival out of a distant past.
Tar suas go bara chnuic Nébó agus féach ar an dtír.
(Sg. II. 101.)
If the speaker were above he would say tar aníos.
If he were staying below he would say imthig suas. If
the speaker were going up along with the person spoken
to, he would say — tar suas, or téanam suas.
The Irish for "all right" is tá go maith, or go h-áluinn,
or go dian mhaith, or déanfidh sé an gnó.
I sometimes see as Irish for "that will do" déanfidh
sin. Now that is simply frightful. An Irish speaker
would say: déanfidh san an gnó, or siné! or ní beag san.
"That will do," in the sense of "have done with it,"
is in Irish eirigh as.
Ní túisge a dhein 'ná mar a chuaidh, etc.
Some may say, "what is this mar for? What would
be lost by its omission?" Examine the sense. There
is a comparison made. What are the two ideas compared?
The idea in dhein and the idea in chuaidh? No. The two
ideas compared are the manner of dhein and the manner
of chuaidh. Consequently, the second member of the com-
parison is not chuaidh, but mar a chuaidh. The "how" of
the going was the same in quickness as the "how" of
But where is the first "how?" It is in the word túisge.
Clann na beirte driféar ab eadh Ó Neill agus
Conchobhar; lit., children of the two sisters. The English
would be "of two sisters," without the definite article.
This use of the definite article is common. For instance
"thou son of a king" becomes in Irish "A mhic an rí."
"Thou child of a stainless woman," A leanbh na mná
Nuair a bhí a ndóithin ithte ólta acu (Sg. II. 52).
Agus is omitted when the connection between the
ideas is naturally close. Tá sé fuar marbh; tá sé beó
bocht; tá sé fliuch salach, etc.
Cad é mar atá an fear láidir ar lár! How the strong
man is down. A common construction in the mouths
of old Irish speakers. It expresses wonder, admiration,
Cad é mar saoghal! What a world!
Cad é mar chogadh! What a war!
Cad é mar ná tagan aon lá breágh! How ex-
traordinary that no fine day comes!
Ní leogadh sé aon chrann do leagadh, he used not
allow any tree to be cut down.
Here the English is passive. But in the Irish thought
aon chrann do leagadh is the thing which he did not allow.
Leagadh is a verbal noun, do is a preposition connecting
leagadh with chrann; an chrann itself, together with all
its connections, is the object of leogadh. There is no
trace of an infinitive, active nor passive, in the thought
nor in the words.
So, d'órduigh sé iad do bhreith abhaile, he gave orders
to carry them, i.e., that they should be carried.
Ná leog an doras do dhúnadh, do not permit (any
person) to shut the door; i.e. do not let the door be shut.
Dá dtoilighinn chun tú 'ghá mharbhú; if I were to consent
to you-killing-him. The whole phrase tú 'ghá mharbhú
is a noun governed by chun.
One may say chun é mharbhú or chun a mharbhuighthe.
Both are good Irish, sanctioned by usage.
Many Irish words which are looked upon as adjectives
are in reality substantives — e.g., in the phrase ba ró
mhaith uait é, it was very good of you, the word maith is a
true substantive. It means "a good," and ró mhaith
is "a great good."
Similarly ba ró bhaoghal gur, etc.; baoghal is a noun.
Ar bruach na faraige, on the sea-shore.
Ar bhruach na faraige, on the shore of the sea.
Tá 'fhios ag rí Sacsan, chómh maith agus tá 'fhios agam-
sa é, etc. (Lughaidh Mac Con, 48).
This é would appear at first sight to be redundant,
since the thing known is already expressed in the "a"
which is understood before 'fhios. But the words tá 'fhios
ag rí Sacsan are really followed by the whole passage
from pé méid down to go h-éagcórtha, although the
"a" is here also before the 'fhios, and there is no
Now, that whole passage is the thing represented
by the é after tá 'fhios agam-sa. Therefore the é is no
more redundant than the whole passage is redundant.
Immediately following this we meet:
Ba dhóich liom… dá dtagadh L. i n-aonfeacht linn
gur mhóide agus gur bh'fhearrde a dh'éistfí linn é.
This final é represents, also, the whole passage from
dá dtagadh i n-aonfeacht linn. Of course the same
idea is represented also in the e of móide and in the e
These are speech usages which have had the nation's
sanction for ages. They cannot be interfered with.
They must be accepted like what are called "irregular
verbs" in the classics.
Líon na málaí chómh lán agus is féidir é (Sg. I. 96).
This final "é" is quite common in Irish where
there seems to be nothing to represent it in English.
"Osgail an doras" — "Ní fhéadfinn é."
The omission of the "é" in such a sentence would
destroy the sense. The "é" represents the thing which
the speaker says he cannot do. He must either say "ní
fhéadfinn an dorus a dh'osgailt," or "ní fhéadfinn é."
Bhí 'fhios acu é.
The full expression (in the passage in question)
would be: Bhí a fhios acu an namhaid a bheith ar a dtí.
The possessive pronoun a before fhios represents the thing which
the speaker says he cannot do. He must either say "ní
fhéadfinn an dorus a dh'osgailt," or "ní fhéadfinn é."
Bhí 'fhios acu é.
The full expression (in the passage in question)
would be: Bhí a fhios acu an namhaid a bheith ar a dtí.
The possessive pronoun a before fhios represents the
whole phrase an namhaid a bheith ar a dtí. Then for the
sake of brevity that whole phrase is represented by the
pronoun é at the end of the sentence.
Bhí mar a bheadh solus nua eirighthe, there was some-
thing like a new light arisen.
Note that mar a bheadh does not mean "as it were."
The usual Irish for "as it were" is mar dh'eadh, and it
signifies some unreality. Whereas mar a bheadh signifies
a reality which is like some other reality.
Here are some faulty constructions which I have
I ndáiríribh, I have never heard this, I have always
heard dáiríribh as Irish for "in earnest."
Ofráil na maidne is wrong. It should be ofráil
Paidreacha asdoidhche, ní bhím abhfad leó;
Paidreacha ar maidin, ní deirim go deó.
Isí mo thuairim should be isé mo thuairim.
But is not tuairim feminine? Yes but the pro-
noun represents, not the tuairim, but the matter which
is to follow.
Similarly, is maith an áit í seo should be is maith an
áit é seo. The pronoun refers, not to áit, but to the
thing, the place.
Ní'l an t-aireachas céadna aige 'á thabhairt do'n ghnó
indiu agus thug sé indé dhó.
If the relative a be substituted for agus the con-
struction will be right. Or if céadna be omitted and
if we say ní'l aireachas chómh maith, etc., the sentence
will be correct. But céadna and agus cannot
remain together in the statement, because agus
necessarily implies that we are dealing with two things,
whereas céadna implies one thing only and excludes
the idea of two things. The English phrase "same
as" is the cause of the error. In English one can say
"this is the same as that" both when speaking of
two distinct things which are exactly alike, and when
speaking of two things which are not distinct but exactly
Mar chómhartha air go raibh an bás buailte leis. An
Irish speaker would say… mar chómhartha ar an mbás
a bheith buailte leis.
Is mór an iongnadh liom gur dhein sé é, when the
meaning is… Is mór an iongnadh liom é 'ghá dhéanamh.
The former, of course, is good Irish, but it does not
restrict the wonder to his action.
An rud ba mhaith leat go léighfinn. The correct form
is, an rud ba mhaith leat do léighfinn.
Cá beag and cá mór are emphatic interrogative
forms of ní beag and ní mór.
Cá beag duit do cheart fhághail? Where is it too
little for you to get your right? i.e. is it not enough
for you to get your right?
Cá mór dom mo cheart féin do bhaint amach? Where
is it too much for me to insist on my own right? i.e.
must I not insist…?
Deich with bliain takes the plural, but the multiples
of it take the singular; e.g. i gcaitheamh na ndeich mblian,
but i gcaitheamh an fhichid blian.
With the word lá the singular is always used; i
gcaitheamh an trí lá; an cheithre lá, an cúig lá, etc.
It is well to remember that we have in Irish two forms
of the ordinal number. We may say, for instance, an
chéad lá, an tarna lá, an trímhadh lá, an ceathramhadh lá,
etc., or we may say lá a h-aon, lá a dó, lá a trí, lá a
ceathair, and so on ad infinitum.
Thus the 15th of May, 15adh de Bhealtaine, may be
read, an cúigmhadh lá déag de Bhealtaine. But we have
also the nice, clean, simple expression lá a cúigdéag de
Bh., or B. a cúigdéag.
May 22nd: B. dhá dheich a dó. May 30th: B. a tríochad,
or B. a trí dheich. May 31st; B. tríochad a h-aon, or B.
trí dheich a h-aon.
"Márta 13adh." This, and similar expressions, are
frequently seen in print. Márta 13adh is unreadable in
Irish. There is no such expression as an trídéaghmhadh
lá. One may say an tríomhadh lá déag, or, more simply,
lá a trídéag.
Hence, the easiest way to say in Irish "This is the
13th of March" is Indiu lá an trídéag de'n Mhárta.
In the heading of a letter one may write, an Márta, lá
Níor chuid ba lugha 'ná cúis a dhóithin a bhí chuige; lit.
and it was not a smaller portion than enough of a cause
he had for it; i.e., he had full and plenty cause for it.
Tháinig D. abhaile an trímhadh lá de'n mhí… not, ar
an trímhadh lá. The preposition should not be used
where the occurrence of an action or of an event is
Bhí sneachta ann an trímhadh lá de'n mhí. But, bhí
trosgadh ar an Satharn so a ghaibh thorainn.
Tá sé ar na fearaibh is treise ar a chine.
Now that construction is not Irish at all. It is just
as bad, in Irish, as if a person were to say, in English,
"He is about the strongest men of his race." Yet some
writers persist in using it. I daresay they consider the
phrase, tá sé ar an bhfear is treise absurd. That is
because they do not understand the meaning of ar here.
D'á olcas an chóir éadaigh atá air.
The cóir éadaigh here is defined by the phrase atá
air, and hence the definite article has no place. Write,
d'á olcas cóir éadaigh, etc.
Is focal Gréigise "Telegram," agus tá oiread cirt
againn-na chuige agus tá ag muinntir an Bhéarla chuige.
FOCLÓIR STAIRIÚIL NA NUA-GHAEILGE (FNG) / THE HISTORICAL DICTIONARY OF MODERN IRISH
ACADAMH RÍOGA NA HÉIREANN (ARÉ) / THE ROYAL IRISH ACADEMY (RIA)
Is cuid de Chartlann FNG de théacsanna Nua-Ghaeilge an ríomhthéacs seo. www.fng.ie
Tá an téacs seo á chur ar fáil faoi Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/) Ní bheidh FNG ná ARÉ freagrach as úsáid an ríomhthéacs seo.