Heb os nac oni bai

Heb os nac oni bai is a Welsh expression I heard on the radio this morning that means ‘without (a) doubt’ or ‘definitely’, or literally ‘without an if or an unless’. From the context and the meanings of some of the individual words I was able to work out the meaning of the phrase, though I wasn’t sure about oni bai. Now I know it means ‘unless’ or ‘without’.

Here are a few examples:

Heb os nac oni bai , mae i ffermio le canolog mewn datblygu cynaliadwy.
Without doubt , farming has a central role to play in sustainable development.

Heb os nac onibai , mae gagendor iechyd amlwg wrth ystyried clefyd y galon.
Without a shadow of a doubt , the health divide is obvious when considering heart disease.

Dirwasgiad mewn gweithgynhyrchu yw hwnnw , heb os nac oni bai.
If that is not a recession in manufacturing , I do not know what is.

From: http://mymemory.translated.net

Another way to express this meaning in Welsh is: does dim dwywaith / nid oes dwywaith = there are no two ways about it, without question

A similar is English is ‘no ifs or buts’, though this means ‘no reservations, restrictions or excuses’ rather than ‘without doubt / definitely’. Welsh equivalents of ‘no ifs or buts’ include nid oes amheuaeth and nid oes unrhyw ‘os’ neu ‘oni bai’ [source].

According to dict.cc Wörterbuch, the German equivalent of ‘no ifs or buts’ is ohne Wenn und Aber (‘without if or but’), which is translated as ‘unconditionally; no ifs, no buts; no muss, no fuss; without fuss or quibble; no strings attached’. I haven’t heard of ‘no muss, no fuss’ or ‘without fuss or quibble’ before but like them a lot, especially quibble.

Are the similar phrases in other languages?

This entry was posted in English, German, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases.

5 Responses to Heb os nac oni bai

  1. Jerry says:

    A Dutch expression is that something is like a post (literally: pole) above the water (“dat staat als een paal boven water”).
    I tried to find the origins of this, it probably has to do with bollards being above the water, giving the boatman the certainty he could find his boat back or something.

  2. Italian has the following expression with a similar meaning: senza se e senza ma.

    Interestingly, it is only in 2003 that this expression became very common, almost fashionable, in Italian, when pacifist movements vehemently opposed the Second Gulf War in Iraq “senza se e senza ma” during their demonstrations and articles. Ever since, it has been used (and abused) by several politicians, and personally I don’t like to use this phrase for this very reason.


  3. Andrew says:

    For what it’s worth I’ve always heard it as “No ifs, ands, or buts”, not “no ifs or buts”.

    Interesting though, thanks.


  4. Andrew says:

    Oh, sorry for the double post but I just thought of a close equivalent in Spanish: “sin chistar”. “Chistar” is a verb that means “to mutter or mumble” and “sin chistar” is a very common phrase that basically means “without a word of protest”, so not perfectly identical but pretty close and it basically conveys the same message.


  5. Chris Waugh says:

    Français: sans doute – probably; sans aucun doute – without a doubt. I was unsure of the gender of doute so checked my 《Le Robert Micro》, and saw that it gave ‘sans nul (aucun) doute’.

    Mandarin: 肯定/kěndìng by its dictionary definitions is not quite the same, but I’ve certainly heard it used to mean ‘without a doubt’.

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