Tuilleadh Cainte ar Thurcaithe (Some Irish Vocabulary for ‘Talking Turkey’)

Posted on 20. Nov, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Turcaí fireann agus turcaí baineann,

Turcaí fireann agus turcaí baineann,, by Burton Robert, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

In a recent blog post, I referred to a short article on turkeys written in the Irish-language online newsletter, Líon an Dúlra (Eagrán 6, Geimhreadh 2013).   Here, I thought we could look at a bit more “turkey” vocabulary, based on the article, and do a short Q & A.  I’ll also add some pronunciation notes.

Here’s the link, and you’ll probably want to read that first, or at least have the text open on another screen, for “sruthléamh.”  The article also has its own glossary (leathanach 17, i.e. a seacht déag , den nuachtlitir):

ar mhaithe le [erzh WAH-huh, silent m and t], for the sake of

díothaithe [DJEE-uh-huh-huh, both t’s silent], extinct

seilg [SHEL-ig] hunt, hunting

ag an tseilg [egg un TCHEL-ig], here “by the hunt/hunting” (i.e. because of the hunt/hunting).  Why the “t” before the “s”?  It’s a systematic rule in Irish–after the word for “the,” prefix a “t” before nouns beginning with “s” followed by a vowel if they are singular in number and feminine in grammatical gender.  Additional examples include: súil, an tsúil [un TOO-il] (eye, the eye) and seacláid, an tseacláid [un TCHAK-lawdj] (chocolate, the chocolate).

That may seem like a very specific rule, and it is, but applies widely in Irish.  Some people like to add, “… and if it’s Tuesday and it’s raining,” but, as you must have realized there, níl siad ach ag magadh.  Of course, cainteoirí líofa know there are many more dimensions to this t-prefixing rule, like what to do about “scoil” vs. what to do with “snáthaid,” not to mention the newer borrowings in the language, like “svaeid,” but those will have to wait for blagmhír éigin eile.

taiscealaithe ón Eoraip, “European explorers,” as the article glosses it; literally, “explorers from Europe”.  Notice that “from Europe” is really “from (the) Europe” (ó + an + Eoraip, with “ó + an” becoming “ón“).  The word “Europe” takes the definite article “an” (the) in front of it, as do most country names in Irish (An Fhrainc, An Spáinn, srl.).  In English this generally happens only if a country or area name has a built-in adjective (The Netherlands) or if it’s is plural (The Bahamas, The Philippines, The United States, etc.) or if both situations apply (The Canary Islands, The Lesser Antilles).  But in Irish, most country names do include the word “the,” although there are some notable exceptions (Peiriú, Cúba, Lucsamburg, Madagascar, srl.)

turcaí tí, domestic turkey, lit. “house” turkey or “turkey of house,” with “turcaithe tí” as the plural

turcaí fiáin, wild turkey, basically an exact match to the English, since “fiáin” means wild.  There is a slight change for the plural though: turcaithe fiáine [FEE-awn-yuh], adding the final “-e” to make “fiáin” plural.

Now for “Tráth na gCeist” (or as some might have it, Tráth na gCeisteanna); freagraí thíos

  1. Cén Ghaeilge atá ar na hornáidí feolmhara atá ar mhuiníl agus scornacha turcaithe?
  2. Cá as an Turcaí Fiáin?
  3. An as an Tuirc é an Turcaí Tí?
  4. Cén áit ar thosaigh daoine ag coimeád turcaithe tí ar dtús?
  5. Cén t-ainm atá ar na turcaithe óga?

Bhuel, for those celebrating Thanksgiving (daoine sna Stáit Aontaithe nó Meiriceánaigh thar sáile) or for those anticipating a dinnéar turcaí on Lá Nollag, or just generally consuming turkey am ar bith sa bhliain, go raibh do thurcaí blasta agus go raibh solamar ann.  Agus go n-ithe tú an fuílleach éigríochta sula n-éiríonn sé lofa.  SGF – Róislín


  1. carancailí (caruncles)
  2. Is as Meiriceá Thuaidh [HOO-ee] é. (It’s from North America).
  3. Ní hea, ní as an Tuirc é an Turcaí Tí. (No)
  4. i Meicsiceo [ih MEK-shik-yoh] (in Mexico)
  5. éan turcaí (a turkey chick), éin turcaí (turkey chicks) OR, if the context is clear, éanán, pl: éanáin. Éanán could also refer to other young birds, and éan can be used with other bird names as well (éan circe [KIRK-yuh], a chick, lit. bird of hen; éan gé, gosling)

Mutating Turkeys, With ‘Séimhiú’ and ‘Urú’ That Is

Posted on 17. Nov, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

‘Tis the season to “talk turkey,” so let’s go for it.  And by the way, “mutating” here (as in the title of this blog) doesn’t refer to “sócháin” (mutations in genetics:  A thiarcais, sin turcaí a bhfuil trí shnúda air!) but rather to “athruithe gramadaí,” that is, the use of “séimhiú” and “urú” to show changes in how an Irish word works in context.

Let’s start with a quick review of “séimhiú” ([SHAY-voo], lenition) and “urú” ([UR-oo], eclipsis).

Séimhiú” (lit. softening) is a “softening” of the initial consonant of a word, shown in writing by inserting the letter “h” right after the initial consonant.   Among its uses, we see it:

  1. a) to show possession: Séamas but “cóta Shéamais” [KOH-tuh HAY-mish], Séamas’s coat)
  2. b) to show direct address: Séamas becomes “a Shéamais” [uh HAY-mish] when speaking directly to him, or in a salutation in a letter to him (“A Shéamais, a chara …”)
  3. c) following the words “mo” (my), “do” (your), and “a” (his), as in the song title, “An bhfaca tú mo Shéamaisín?” Hypothetically, as an example of “do” (your), we could answer, “Ní fhaca, ní fhaca mé do Shéamaisín?” but I don’t think that line is actually in the song.  An example with “a” (his) would be, “Seo Séamas agus seo a mhadra.”  (Here’s James and here’s his dog) or “Seo Séamas agus seo a mhadra.  An té a bhuailfeadh a mhadra, bhuailfeadh sé Séamas é féin” (the Irish equivalent, not very literal, of “Love Séamas, love his dog;” exact translation below)
  4. d) after the number 2 (as in “dhá mhadra” or “dhá bhliain“) and after “beirt” (2 people), as in “beirt bhan” or “beirt mhac“)
  5. e) after the numbers 3 through 6, as in “trí mhadra,” except for 1) certain, but not all, units of measurement, like “trí bliana,” 2) dialects where point “1” just mentioned doesn’t apply (a bit “athluaiteach” but c’est la vie), or 3) when counting people, using the “uimhreacha pearsanta” system, as in “triúr ban” or “triúr mac

There are about a dozen more situation in which lenition (séimhiú) applies, but they don’t pertain as readily to turkeys, so we won’t address them here.

As for “urú” (eclipsis), here’s a quick review of some of the circumstances in which it occurs:

  1. a) after “ár” (our), “bhur” (your, plural), and “a” (their), as in “ár dteach,” “bhur dteach,” and “a dteach”
  2. b) to show possession or a similar “of” concept with plural nouns following the word “the,” as in “díonta na dtithe” (the roofs of the houses) or “Cumann na mBan
  3. c) after the numbers 7 through 10, including the special units of measurement (Yay! The rule is consistent here), as in “ocht dteach” or “ocht mbliana

And again, there are more uses and applications, but, aríst eile, they’re mostly not so relevant to turkeys.

So now let’s get down to the brass tacks and really talk turkey.  In fact, all we have left to do look at the basic forms of the word for turkey and then mutate the word for different contexts.  Like this:

an turcaí, the turkey (no change)

sprochaille an turcaí, the wattle of the turkey (still no change for this particular word; other pairs would change, like “cailín, cóta an chailín” or “madra, cos an mhadra“)

cearc thurcaí, a turkey-hen, with lenition because “cearc” is feminine

na turcaithe, the turkeys

ar thurcaithe, on turkeys, with lenition after “ar“; Bíonn sprochaillí ar thurcaithe (There are wattles on turkeys)

sprochaillí na dturcaithe, the wattles of the turkeys, with eclipsis for the plural possessive form

And now, let’s mutate some more!

turcaí amháin, no change, because the number (amháin) comes after the noun, so it can’t trigger lenition or eclipsis

lenition: dhá thurcaí, trí thurcaí, ceithre thurcaí, cúig thurcaí, sé thurcaí, with “thurcaí” pronounced “HERK-ee” (silent t)

eclipsis: seacht dturcaí, ocht dturcaí, naoi dturcaí, deich dturcaí, with “dturcaí” pronounced “DERK-ee” (silent t)

more lenition:

sprochaille mo thurcaí, the wattle of my turkey

sprochaille do thurcaí, the wattle of your turkey

sprochaille a thurcaí, the wattle of his turkey

But note that the word “turcaí” doesn’t change for “her turkey”

sprochaille a turcaí, the wattle of her turkey

more eclipsis:

sprochaillí ár dturcaithe, the wattles of our turkeys

sprochaillí bhur dturcaithe, the wattles of your turkeys

sprochaillí a dturcaithe, the wattles of their turkeys

and, as we saw above (sprochaillí na dturcaithe), when something is “of the turkeys,” we also have eclipsis:

cosa na dturcaithe, the feet/legs of the turkeys

praghasanna na dturcaithe, the prices of the turkeys

gogail fhiánta dheireanacha na dturcaithe roimh Lá an Altaithe, the last frantic gobbles of the turkeys before Thanksgiving

On that note, so much for mutating turkeys.  “Wattle” we do next time? – SGF, Róislín

Nóta: An té a bhuailfeadh a mhadra, bhuailfeadh sé Séamas é féin.  The one who would hit his (i.e. Séamas’) dog would hit Séamas himself.  The standard phrase for “Love me, love me dog” is, An té a bhuailfeadh mo mhadra, bhuailfeadh sé mé féin, lit. The one who would hit my dog would hit me (myself).

Deich gCineál Laghairteanna i nGaeilge (Irish Names for 10 Types of Lizards)

Posted on 12. Nov, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Our recent blog (nasc thíos) about sprochaillí (such as wattles on turkey and dewlaps on other animals) happened to mention the word “laghairt” (lizard), pronounced “lyrtch” (or, in full Irish-modified IPA: /lairt΄/).  The “y” in the rough transcription is like the “y” in “my” or “fly” and the /ai/ in the IPA transcription represents the same vowel sound.

Continuing with that lacertilian theme, let’s look a few more types of lizards, and, while we’re at it, let’s see which one of the following actually lives in Ireland.

Here is a list of 11 terms in Irish, with some pronunciation tips; one term is extra, to make the exercise more challenging.  The English terms are in the word bank below.  Tá na freagraí  thíos.  Together with the answers, there’s a further breakdown of the vocabulary, since even if we may not speak that often about “Zonosaurus quadrilineatus,” we might well use words like “crios,” “ceithre,” and “stríoc,” the components of its name in Irish.

1.. laghairt ghlas [the “gh” of “ghlas” is like the “gh” of “Mo ghrá thú” or “Dia dhuit, a Ghráinne,” with the name “Gráinne” in direct address; in other words, this “gh” sound is the voiced velar fricative)

  1. laghairt ailigéadair chrannach [AL-yih-gyay-dirzh KHRAHN-ukh]
  2. laghairt chriosach cheithrestríocach [HRISS-ukh HyEH-rzhuh-SHTREE-uh-kukh]
  3. laghairt shúilíneach [HOOL-een-yukh]
  4. laghairt adharcach chósta [ Y-IRK-ukh KHOH-stuh]
  5. dragan Chomódó ([khoh-moh-doh]; as you can see, this one isn’t literally called a “laghairt“–of course, in English, it’s called a “dragon” not a “lizard,” as well)
  6. laghairt chadhmain [KHY-min]
  7. laghairt choiteann [KHUTCH-un]
  8. ollphéist Gila ([ol-faysht HEE-luh, with the “G” of “Gila” pronounced as in Spanish, like an English “H”]; the second one in this group that’s not literally called a “laghairt“)
  9. laghairt chrogaill Shíneach [KHROG-il HEEN-yukh]
  10. laghairt earrspíonach [AR-SPEEN-ukh; remember, the “spío” part is pronounced “spee” (not “shpee”) even though the first vowel is slender (the “í”); same rule as in “spéir” and “spiorad“)

Agus ceist bhreise: of course, there’s at least one so-called “lizard” that really isn’t a lizard, or even a reptile.  It’s a type of person, known in Irish as a “leadaí teach tábhaire.”  So what kind of “lizard” would this be?  Freagra thíos.

Banc na bhFocal

arboreal alligator lizard, beaded lizard, Chinese crocodile lizard, coast horned lizard, common lizard, four-lined girdled lizard, Gila monster, girdled lizard, green lizard, Komodo dragon

Pretty soon we’ll have to stop talking about laghairteanna and get seasonal with turcaí, liamhás, and other seasonal treats (arán sinséir, mar shampla), but for now, it seemed like a nice follow-up to discussing dewlaps and wattles.  SGF – Róislín


1.. laghairt ghlas, green lizard

  1. laghairt ailigéadair chrannach, arboreal alligator lizard, with “c(h)rannach” based on “crann” (tree)
  2. laghairt chriosach cheithrestríocach, four-lined girdled lizard, incorporating the words “crios” (belt, girdle) and “stríoc” (stripe, streak), plus the number “c(h)eithre” (four)
  3. laghairt shúilíneach, beaded lizard, with “s(h)úilíneach,” based on “súil” (eye) + “-ín,” the diminutive suffix
  4. laghairt adharcach chósta, coast horned lizard, based on “adharc” (horn) and “cósta” (coast)
  5. dragan Chomódó, Komodo dragon
  6. laghairt chadhmain, caiman lizard
  7. laghairt choiteann, common lizard, also known as the “viviparous lizard,” which gives us another name for this lizard, “laghairt bheobhreitheach” (lit. live-bearing). This one is native to Ireland, but, to my surprise, according to the reptile-database map (nasc thíos), it’s not native to Britain. Intriguing.

That sounds good so far, but I have to admit, that not being a herpetologist, I’m a little puzzled by the fact that I read in various sources that the “laghairt choiteann” (Lacerta vivipara) and the “earc luachra,” common newt, (Lissotriton vulgaris) are both the “only” lizard native to Ireland.  For what insight it might shed on the subject, the “earc luachra” (lit. newt of rushes) is also known as the “earc choiteann” (lit. common newt).  And while there are many newts that are called some type of “earc,” in Irish, there’s also another word, “niút,” which means, lo and behold “newt.”  But “niút” doesn’t seem to be used for any of the taxonomic names.  All the ones I can find are “earca,” ranging from “earc California” to “earc palmatach.”

Furthermore, I also wonder whose perspective that is, to single out one lizard to be called “common,” but I guess that’s another issue for “lá na coise tinne.”  Since many animal species are called “common” something or other, the question doesn’t pertain just to the “laghairt choiteann,” but to many issues concerning taxonomic naming, far too broad for consideration here and well beyond my ken.

So, what I can say for certain is:

laghairt choiteann = common lizard

laghairt bheobhreitheach = viviparous lizard

earc luachra = common newt, and also

earc choiteann = common newt

The questions of habitat and place in the taxonomic family, I’ll have to let rest here.

  1. ollphéist Gila, Gila monster, from “oll-” (great, large, as in “ollscoil“) and “péist” (worm, monster)
  2. laghairt chrogaill Shíneach, Chinese crocodile lizard. Hmm, as far as I can tell, China has its own species of alligator (ailigéadar Síneach) but no “alligator lizard,” and it has a “crocodile lizard” (laghairt chrogaill), but no native species of crocodile. The Chinese crocodile lizard appears to be severely threatened, with only about 950 specimens reported in 2008 according to C. M. Huang et al. in Animal Biodiversity and Conservation.  For a country as large as China, that seems drastically small.  The various species of “alligator lizard” are native only to North America, as far as I can tell.

Téarma breise: I didn’t actually include the English for “laghairt earrspíonach” in the word bank, so the extra term could be a challenge, but we may as well answer it here:

  1. laghairt earrspíonach, spiny-tailed lizard, based on “earr” (end, used for “-tailed,” in many combinations, such as “earrdhubh” and “earrbhuí”) and “spíon” (spine)

Agus ceist bhreise: leadaí teach tábhairne, lounge lizard

Nasc don bhlag: Cén Ghaeilge atá ar … wattle? (Stór focal in am do Lá an Altaithe); Posted on 06. Nov, 2015 by in Irish Language (

Tuilleadh eolais faoin “earc luachra” anseo:  (alt i nGaeilge)

Mapa: reptile-database map: