Archive for the Category: Irish


While I was in Scotland last week I took part in conversation circles in the evenings after class. Among those attending there were some whose Scottish Gaelic was very fluent, others who struggled to put sentences together, and people like me who are somewhere in between. I could understand almost everything people said and could […]

Also posted in Language, Scottish Gaelic 8 Comments


I came across the Scottish Gaelic word spòg (foot) in a song I learnt today and it caught my attention because I heard it a couple of weeks ago when I was in Ireland being used to mean foot in English. I thought it might be a Irish word, but didn’t get round to checking. […]

Also posted in English, Language, Scottish Gaelic, Words and phrases 4 Comments

Menhirs, dolmens and cromlechs

The word menhir come up in discussion yesterday and I posted it on Facebook today along with the the Welsh translation maen hir, which is what I found in this dictionary. This provoked further discussion about whether the two terms mean the same thing. So I thought I’d find out. A menhir is a standing […]

Also posted in Breton, English, Etymology, French, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 6 Comments

Cars, carts and chariots

Last week I was told that the English word car originally comes from the Irish word carr (donkey cart). Apparently when cars came to Ireland Irish speakers thought it was better to come up with a new word for them than to name them after the humble donkey cart, so the term gluaisteán (‘moving thing’) […]

Also posted in Breton, Cornish, English, Etymology, French, Italian, Language, Latin, Manx, Proto-Indo-European, Spanish, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Counting rhymes

We learnt this Irish counting rhyme in class today: Lúrabóg lárabóg Ladhra buithe Buíeán Eoghain Eoghean an Phreabáin Preabán suilí Súilí saic The first two words are made up nonsense words, the others mean something like, “yellow toes, Eoghain’s egg yolk, Jack-in-the-Box, ??, eyelets of a sack”. There are quite a few other rhymes like […]

Also posted in English, Language 10 Comments

Deiseal agus tuathal

Yesterday we discussed the Irish words deiseal (/ˈdʲɛʃəl/) and tuathal (/’tuəhəl/) in class. Deiseal means clockwise, dextral, right-hand, rightward, starboard, and tuathal means the opposite: anticlockwise, sinistral left-hand, leftward, port. Some examples of usage: – bogadh ar deiseal = to go in a clockwise direction – dul deiseal = to go in a rightward direction […]

Also posted in English, Language, Words and phrases 3 Comments

Gleann Cholm Cille

I returned to Bangor from the Isle of Man yesterday after a very enjoyable week at Yn Chruinnaght. I spoke and sang lots of Manx, and heard all the other Celtic languages, except Breton, being spoken and/or sung. I also spoke a bit of French and German, and even some English. I was even inspired […]

Also posted in Cornish, English, French, German, Language, Manx, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh 5 Comments

Sonic the happy Manx hedgehog

Arkan sonney is a Manx expression I came across today that means hedgehog, or literally “happy sucking pig”. Arkan is a diminutive form of ark (piglet), and sonney means ‘affluent, lucky, fortunate, happy’, and sounds a bit like sonic, hence the little of this post. Another Manx word for hedgehog is graynoge, which is related […]

Also posted in English, Language, Manx, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Words and phrases 4 Comments

Yn Chruinnaght

Tomorrow I’m off to the Isle of Man for Yn Chruinnaght (‘the gathering’) – a celebration of Manx and Celtic music and culture featuring performers and participants from the Isle of Man, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. I’m really looking forward to it as it’s a great opportunity to see old friends and make […]

Also posted in Breton, Cornish, English, Language, Manx, Scottish Gaelic, Travel, Welsh 3 Comments

True sisters

The word for sister in Irish is deirfiúr /dʲɾʲəˈfˠuːɾˠ/, and it has always puzzled me why this word is so different from the words for sister in the other Gaelic languages: piuthar /pju.ər/ in Scottish Gaelic and shuyr /ʃuːr/ in Manx. Yesterday I discovered that deirfiúr is in fact a combination of deirbh /dʲɾʲəv/ (true) […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Language, Proto-Indo-European, Scottish Gaelic, Words and phrases 10 Comments