It’s a braw bricht moonlicht nicht

Full moon

I went for a walk with some friends last night and one of the things we were talking about was the moon, which was nearly full and very bright. One of my companions suggested that there should be an adjective similar to sunny to describe such a night. He came up with moony, and I couldn’t think of anything better – can you?

I’ve since discovered that full moons have different names in different months. A December full moon like the one tonight, for example, is known as the oak moon in the medieval English calendar, as the cold moon in the Celtic calendar, as the peach moon by the Choctaw, as the snow moon by the Cherokee, and as the bitter moon by the Chinese. More moon names.

By the way, the title of this post is the Scots for ‘It’s a beautiful moonlit night’ and comes from a song by Sir Harry Lauder called Wee Deoch an Doris, which you can hear here. Deoch an Doris comes from the Scottish Gaelic expression ‘deoch an dorais’ – lit. ‘drink of the door’, which means ‘one for the road’ or ‘the parting glass’.

This entry was posted in English, Language, Scots, Scottish Gaelic.

6 Responses to It’s a braw bricht moonlicht nicht

  1. Dennis King says:

    Some Gaelic moon lore for you, Simon, on my blog, ó tá léamh na Gaeilge agat:

  2. Dennis King says:

    The Irish solution is simple: “geal = bright”, as in “oíche gheal”. It works in part because “geal” is a perfect back-formation from “gealach”, the word for moon.

  3. Christopher Miller says:

    Mithil-lit, to borrow from Tolkien? Silver-lit? I wonder if there are any appropriate equivalents in other languages?

    One thing that bothered me while looking at the site for moon names that you linked to was that many of the alleged names for “moons” (i.e. the visible full moon at that time of year) are probably actually month (full moon to full moon) names, especially in American Indian languages. Cree, for example, has a series of month names that describe natural phenomena that happen at that time of year.

  4. TJ says:

    Very interesting.
    I’m sure there are special names for the moon in certain conditions or months in Arabic, but I can’t recall any. Specially that Arabs are mainly people using lunar calendar rather than solar.

    There is only one word I do remember related to the bright moon, and usually, it was used to describe the beauty of someone (the face mainly). That was “Falqat-ul-qamar.” “Falqah” here (which changes to Falqat when added to other words) can mean the face, the top of something, or the bright light. Related words would be “Falaq” (chapter 113 of Quran is named Al-Falaq), and it points to the time of dusk almost.
    The verb “falaq” is also there, and means “to crack open.”

    @Christopher: The Arabic names for the lunar months are also related to some phenomenon that happened in the past (but not essentially related to it now because the moon do not coincide with seasons of the year most of the time).

  5. Peter Hughes says:

    Nice post thanks. I’ve been getting interested in these names recently too. One thing that some of my sources suggest though is that the current moon isn’t actually a ‘December’ moon – that will be the one on the 31st. If you take the Harvest Moon as the one nearest the autumnal equinox, this year that was in October rather than September, and similarly the ‘normal’ October Moon, was the one in early November, meaning we’re now getting the ‘November’ moon. This is all because we have 13 full moons this year!

  6. Yenlit says:

    Well, seeing as the light from the moon is really the light of the sun shining on the moon’s surface therefore wouldn’t it be called a “sunny moon”?

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