Archive for the Category: Irish

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


One word for cupboard used mainly in Hiberno and Scottish English is press. When I encountered it in one of my Irish courses as a translation of the Irish word prios it puzzled me somewhat as I’d never come across this word used to mean cupboard before. Today I spotted the term linen press in […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Language, Words and phrases 7 Comments

Obrigados / Obrigadas

According to someone who wrote to me today, the words obrigados/obrigadas are only used in Portuguese to mean ‘obligated’, and are not used to thank more than one person. However, according to João Rosa, who wrote the article Obrigado – how to express your gratitude in Portuguese, these words are used to mean ‘thank you’ […]

Also posted in Grammar, Language, Manx, Portuguese, Scottish Gaelic, Zulu 14 Comments


While listening to Raidió na Gaeltachta (Irish language radio) today I noticed much use of the word “Jeepers!“. It’s not a word I’ve heard much before so it caught my attention. According to the Free Dictionary, jeepers is used to express surprise or annoyance and is a euphemism for Jesus. A variation on this, “Jeepers […]

Also posted in English, Language 17 Comments

Hunting haggis

I’ve just finished a new video using Xtranormal – it’s in Scottish Gaelic and features Hamish and Helen (Seumas & Eilidh). Hamish is from Harris in the Hebrides and hunts haggis as a hobby with his haggis hound Hector (who doesn’t appear in the video), and also farms ostriches. Helen is a translator from Beijing […]

Also posted in English, Language, Manx, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh 6 Comments

Without one red halfpenny

When putting together this week’s French words and expressions from the French Conversation Group today, I discovered some interesting French and Welsh equivalents of ‘(to be) broke’. In French the equivalent of broke (penniless) is fauché or if you’re really broke fauché comme les blés (broke like wheat). To be broke is être fauché and […]

Also posted in English, French, Language, Welsh 6 Comments

Fá dtaobh de

The Irish expression fá dtaobh de means about, as in tá mé ag cainnt fá dtaobh de (I am talking about it). It is most commonly used in Donegal in the northwest of Ireland, where it’s pronounced something like /fa’duːdə/. In other parts of Ireland it would be pronounced something like /fa.d̪ˠiːv.dʲe/, though other words […]

Also posted in English, Language, Words and phrases 2 Comments


According to the 2011 Irish census, the number of people who use Irish in Ireland as their everyday language outside school is 82,600. Many more speak it, but only in school, or rarely, This compares with 119,526 people who speak Polish at home and 56,430 who speak French. The census also found that just 35% […]

Also posted in Language 6 Comments

Paid a gwgu!

I learnt the Welsh expression Paid a gwgu! [paɪd a ˈgʊgɨ] from friends in Aberystwyth yesterday. It means ‘Don’t frown/glower/scowl!’. I like the sound of gwgu, which doesn’t seem like a frowny word to me – it’s more like a baby’s babbling. Related words include gwg (frown) and gwgus (frowning). Words for frown in Irish, […]

Also posted in Idioms, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Purses and sporrans

The word purse has an interesting history, I discovered today. It comes from the Old English word purs, from the Late Latin word bursa, which had a number of meanings of the centuries, including skin or leather; (money) bag; scrotum; exchange; and scholarship, allowance, and comes from the Greek word βύρσα (hide, leather). bursa is […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Manx, Scottish Gaelic, Spanish 5 Comments