When Does ‘X’ Become ‘CS’? Freagra: In the Middle of Some Irish Words

Posted on 28. Sep, 2015 by in Uncategorized

(le Róislín)

Your first thought on looking at the combination “cs” might be the element ‘cesium’ (caeisiam, i nGaeilge).  Well, maybe not.  Not exactly a “téarma laethúil.”  Maybe “Csárdás,” the Hungarian dance?  That’s “cardas,” i nGaeilge, by the way.  Maybe CSI (an clár teilifíse)?  Any way you look at it, “cs” as a cluster doesn’t occur very often in English words; when it does, it’s usually the s-ending of words like “logistics,” “physics , or “aerobics” (an Ghaeilge orthu sin thíos).

In Irish, the consonant cluster “cs” isn’t that widespread either.  When it does occur, it typically replaces “x,” especially in some “focail iasachta.”  There aren’t lots of examples but there are some interesting ones.  They fall into two basic categories:  a) a small handful that refer specifically to Irish culture, and b) the rest, much more numerous, which are often scientific and/or heavily Latin-based.

Let’s look first at the Irish cultural terms:

bacstaí, the Irish for “boxty,” a type of bread or cake made with grated raw potatoes.  The origin of this word is mysterious.  Some say it may come from “to bake,” but it’s really more fried, rather than baked.  Another possibility is “arán bocht tí,” consisting of the words “bread,” “poor,” and “of house,” but there’s probably no way to prove this.  As far as I know, this word first showed up in print with the anglicized spelling (boxty) and eventually got gaelicized, with the “x” being represented by “cs.”  We may never know the exact origin, but for our purposes, the key point is that it shows the x / cs alternation.

plancstaí, the Irish for “planxty,” a type of musical composition.  Again, as far as I know, the ultimate origin of this term is mysterious, and again, I think it showed up first in print as “planxty,” not as “plancstaí” as such.  It’s another example of the x / cs alternation.

As I mentioned above, the second and much larger, category consists of scientific terms or Latin-based words (many of which are also scientific).  Here are some examples.  Can you figure out what they mean?  (Freagraí thíos, 1)

An Féinics

An Sfioncs

An Stiocs

An tSacsain








Some less everyday words that still fit the pattern are “adacs,” “aircitéacs,” and “amocsaicillin” (freagraí thíos, 2)

And there’s at least one noteworthy “x” in English (and Latin), which doesn’t become “-cs-” but rather becomes “-sc-” in the middle of the word.  An cuimhin leat é?  ‘Sea, “ascaill.”  Which means “armpit.”  You might remember this word from a previous blog (nasc thíos).  Wait!  Where’s the “x” in “armpit.”  Well, it’s not there in English, of course, but it is in Latin (axilla), which also gives us the English word “axillary” as in “axillary temperature” (taking the temperature via a baby’s armpit).  Hmm, yeah, we may have less and less need for that phrase as we now have scanning and patch thermometers, but it’s a good vocabulary example, anyway.

A word of warning though:  “cs” in Irish can also replace English “ct” in words like “aicsean,” “ficsean,” and “traicsean” which, you guessed it, mean “action,” “fiction,” and “traction.”   Nobody ever said spelling was consistent or logical.

And while we’re looking at exceptions, there’s one interesting example of “-cs-“in Irish replacing an English “ch.”  This is an English “ch” with a k sound, not as in “chew” or “child.”  The word is “áracs,” which means “auroch” (Bos taurus), now sadly extinct, but undergoing their own Jurassic Park treatment (nasc thíos).   Getting back to the language aspect, I wonder if any other words fit that English “ch” to Irish “cs” pattern!

Well, that’s been an interesting work-out, looking at what happens to English medial “x” in Irish words.  What’s next?  Medial “z”?   Hmm, cén Ghaeilge atá ar “pizzazz?  Tá “píotsa” (le “-ts-” ar an bhfocal “pizza,” ach sin fuaim eile ar fad; níl an “zz” san fhocal “pizzazz” mar “ts”).  So far I haven’t found “pizzazz” in any Irish dictionaries, either defined or with a gaelicized spelling.  Oh well, there are lots of other linguistic fish to fry, so I guess I should wrap up now.  <slight pause> … <sneaking back into the blog> … “Pizzazz” is an interesting word though, origin generally considered unknown (attributed variously to show-biz slang, jazz slang, and fashion editor Diana Vreeland) and relatively recent in origin (early/mid-20th c.).  But, of course, that’s not really related to an teanga Gaeilge.   Unless I can find a good Irish equivalent for it.  Maybe searching under “panache”?  Slán go fóill — Róislín


On Armpits: Ascaill, Axilla, Armpit — Who Says Irish Doesn’t Have Many Cognates with English? (Cuid a hAon/Pt. 1) Posted on 24. Apr, 2013 by róislín in Irish Language  (http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/ascaill-axilla-armpit-who-says-irish-doesnt-have-many-cognates-with-english/)
On Aurochs: Breeding Ancient Cattle Back from Extinction By Stephan Faris Friday, Feb. 12, 2010 (http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1961918,00.html)

Aistriúcháin ar logistics, physics, and aerobics:  lóistíocht,  fisic OR an fhisic, aeróbaic.  As you can see, the English “-cs” ending doesn’t carry over, typically being replaced by “-cht” or simply by “s” itself.   However, a further exception to that pattern is the Irish for “Olympics,” which generally becomes a noun-adjective combination (Cluichí Oilimpeacha, lit. Olympic Games).

Freagraí 1: An Féinics, The Phoenix; An Sfioncs, The Sphinx; An Stiocs, The Styx; An tSacsain, Saxony; angla-shacsanach, Anglo-Saxon; innéacs, index; Lucsamburg, Luxemburg; ocsaigin, oxygen; téacs, text; téacsúil, textual; tocsaineach, toxic

Freagraí 2: adacs, addax; aircitéacs, architext; amocsaicillin, amoxicillin


Catching Some “Z-” Words in Irish: What Are The Others besides ‘Zú’ and ‘Zúnna’?

Posted on 25. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Bhuel, we’ve recently looked at Irish words starting with the letters v, w, x, and y.  So logically enough, it’s time now to catch some zzz’s.  Oops, not to put you to sleep, that is, but just to round up some examples.  As with w, x, and y, there aren’t really that many examples, so we’ll make quite a dent in the total in today’s blog.

In previous blog posts, we’ve discussed “zúmáil” and “zeitibheart,” so let’s look at a few other z-words today.

Of course, there’s “” (plural: zúnna), which we might expect.  This word seems to be pretty similar in many languages, mostly going back to the Greek “zôion” (animal).  Some samples, from teangacha eile, are given below (sa nóta), in case you’re interested.

Curiously, there are two words for zoology in Irish.  One is based on our Greek friend “zôion.”  The other has a more Irish-based derivation, from the word “míol,” which is itself a curiosity, since it can mean “animal” or “insect” or “louse,” and with the appropriate adjective, it can mean a whale (míol mór) or a hare (míol buí).  Good thing whales aren’t yellow, or we might get really confused if we had a “míol mór buí.”  Would that be different from a “míol buí mór“?  I think yes, but I haven’t actually put that query to the test.   And what’s a big whale?  *Mórmhíol mór?  Bhur mbarúlacha?

So, what are the two words for zoology?

zó-eolaíocht [ZOH-OHL-ee-ukht]

míoleolaíocht [MEEL-OHL-ee-ukht]

Why is one hyphenated and the other not?  “Zó-eolaíocht” has two vowels in a row, one from the prefix and one from the root word, a situation which usually calls for “fleiscíniú” in Irish.  “Míoleolaíocht” has “míol” as a prefix, but it ends in a consonant, so the word is “gan fleiscín.”

Here are a few more “z” words or phrases, all pretty closely related to their English equivalents (aistriúcháin thíos):

  1. a) oibreán zónóiseach bia-iompartha
  2. b) zónóis
  3. c) ózón
  4. d) and now that you’re warmed up, ózónaisféar
  5. e) zón surfáil eitleoige
  6. f) zipchomhad
  7. g) ziplíne (a giveaway!)
  8. h) zombaí (another giveaway)
  9. i) z-thrasfhoirmiú chomhéifeacht chomhghaolúcháin (just when you thought the z-words were getting predictable)
  10. j) Zúinis

Some “z-words” in English start with “s” in Irish, such as “Sóróstarachas” and “zeipilín” (aka zeipilin, if you’re detail-oriented!).  But that could be blagmhír iomlán eile, lá eile.

Hmm, and finally, can we or do we have “Z-charranna“?  As Gaeilge?Ag glaoch ar gach Z-char?”  Leis an smaoineamh sin, SGF — Róislín


  1. a) food-borne zoonotic agent
  2. b) zoonosis
  3. c) ozone
  4. d) ozonosphere
  5. e) kite-surfing zone (but remember, most “zone-words” are actually based on “crios,” which also means “belt” (amchrios an domhain, world time zone; crios tionsclaíochta, industrial zone; crios ionraidh, invaded zone — is this à la Cogadh na Reann? Má tá, a thiarcais x 10!
  6. f) zip file
  7. g) zipline
  8. h) zombie
  9. i) z-transformation of the correlation coefficient (níos mó Gréigise, a fhad is a bhfuil mise i gceist!)
  10. j) Zuni (language)

Nóta: An focal “zú” i roinnt teangacha eile (a bhuí leis an Vicipéid, fáilte roimh cheartúcháin; níl cuid mhaith de na teangacha seo agam):

zoo (go díreach mar atá sé i mBéarla): An Ghearmáinis Íochtarach, Briotáinis, Tagálaigis, Winaray

: Breatnais (a near equivalent to zoo/).  Sin ceann a aithním, focal a d’fhoghlaim mé i mo chéad rang Breatnaise riamh, más cuimhin liom i gceart: Ydyn nhw yn y sŵ?  Cé a dhéanfadh dearmad ar abairt mar sin?  An-chraic é a rá!

And some slightly fuller, more formal, two-word phrases, still based on zôion, more akin to “Zoological Garden” as it were:

zoologisk have (Danmhairgis), parc zoologique (Fraincis), and giardino zoologico (Iodáilis)

I’m not sure I could have come up with those on my own, but they look familiar enough.  But why “parc” in French and “giardino” in Italian?  Or are “jardin” and “parco” sometimes used?  Why “garden” anyway, as in “Zoological Garden”?  Was there at one time more emphasis on the plantings than on the “ainmhithe“?  And what would we call a garden of just carnivorous plants, in Irish, or any other language, for that matter?  Gairdín Plandaí FeoiliteachaÁbhar machnaimh, pé scéal é!

And finally, some samples not based on “zôion” or “zoological” as such:

Állakert (Ungáiris), Dierentuin (Ollainnis), Dýragarður (Íoslainnis), Djurpark (Sualainnis).  The last three I can recognize as being related to German “Tier” (animal, beast), a distant cousin of “deer” in English.  As for an focal Ungáirise, I can’t make head or tail of it, even considering whether the tail might fit one of these intriguing categories, all pertaining to real animals or insects, based on “earr” or “earrach,” plus a few miscellaneous:

earr” (tail) as the basis: earrbhán, earrbhandach, earrbhuí, earrdhearg, earrdhubh, earrghearr, earrghorm, earr-dhonnbhuí, earrfhada, earrfháinneach, earrleathan, earrnocht (!), earr-rua (not to be confused with earrdhearg!), earr-rinneach, earrshaor, earrspíonach, earrthruailleach

-earrach” as the basis: bandearrach, biorearrach, claíomhearrach, dingearrach, feanearrach, grianearrach, leonearrach, lorgearrach, luchearrach, mucearrach, stríocearrach, stumpearrach

Of course, that’s “-earrach” as related to “earr” (tail) and “eireaball” (tail), not “An tEarrach” (The Spring).  Although that probably means that the Irish name for the “spring-tailed flea” would be interesting.  Oops, no, not really, that would presumably be “sprionga-earrach,” related to their jumping ability — not that I can find it anywhere!  It’d still be interesting though!

ilchineálach: greimeireaballach (based on “eireaball” + “-ach,” an adjective ending, technically giving us “caudal”), and totally miscellaneous: scothánach, sciota

Some Irish Words Starting with the Letter ‘Y’ (yóyó ina measc)

Posted on 21. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

In the past few blagmhíreanna (naisc thíos), we’ve looked at some Irish words that start with letters not traditionally in the Irish alphabet (v, w, x).  Today’s blog will deal with the letter “y” and soon we’ll do “z.”  Someday we’ll get to the other three non-traditional letters (j, k, q), but for now let’s continue with our end-of-alphabet selection.

While the sound of “y” occurs widely in Irish, as in “an ghealach” [un YAL-ukh] or “gheobhaidh” [YOH-wee] or “a Dhiarmaid” [uh YEER-mwidj], the letter itself does not.  There are very very few Irish words that begin with “y,” but there are some examples.  Among them we have the following:

yaincín, a “yankee” or working foresail

yóyó, plural: yóyónna.  And the gender is masculine, in case you were wondering.

Then we get the “y-prefix,” fairly scientific or technical:

y-ais, y-axis

y-chrómasóm, y-chromosome (occasionally spelled y-chrómosóm, but medial “-a-” seems to be the norm)

y-chruthach, y-shaped (from “cruth” [kruh], shape)

y-nasc, y-connection

What happens to loan-words that begin with “y” in English or other languages?  Some of them end up with an initial “i,” as in iógart, ióga, itriam, and An Iúgslaiv (the former Yugoslavia).  Some get an initial “g” as in “geoidil” (yodel), “Giúdais” (Yiddish), and “geac” (the animal, yes, that’s the Irish for ‘yak’).  “Yucca” can be either “yucca” or “gioca.”  Sometimes we go right to a vowel, as for the English interjection “yuk” (or “yuck”) which is “uch” in Irish.  “Yemen” is “Éimin.”   The County Cork place name “Youghal,” of course, didn’t originally have a “y” in it; the actual Irish spelling is “Eochaill.”

Of course, many English words that start with ‘y’ have traditional Irish equivalents, starting with whatever letter happens to apply to that particular Irish word.  These aren’t our main concern here, but a few examples won’t hurt:

yacht: luamh

Yankee: Poncán OR Poncánach

year: bliain

yet: fós OR go fóill

young: óg

yahoo (also “curmudgeon” or “churl”): bodach OR brúisc (and yes, “yahoo” way predates yahoo.com, as we know from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726).  Hmm, is Yahoo planning a big celebration of the word’s 300th birthday in 2026?  It wasn’t exactly flattering in Swift, but then he was pretty much an equal opportunity satirist.  Something to look out for, anyway, sa todhchaí.

Needless to say, those in the last batch weren’t loan-words.  They’re simply the original Irish words for the English.

Additionally, there are foreign words, which are not gaelicized in any way, and which retain their original spelling.  They include the following: yang, yen (money), yeti, yin, yuan, yuko, yurt, Yggdrasil, and as noted above, sometimes “yucca.”

Bhuel, now, I guess all I need to do is to determine the Irish for “yadda-yadda-yadda” or “yakkety-yaking” in general or maybe the Lieber/Stoller song, “Yakety Yak.”  And maybe even the Irish for Spider Rich and Boots Randolph’s “Yakety Sax” and then I guess we’ll be all set.  Or sorted.  SGF–Róislín


From ‘vacsaín’ to ‘vuinsciú’ and some other Irish words that start with ‘v’ Posted on 05. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language  http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/from-vacsain-to-vuinsciu-and-some-other-irish-words-that-start-with-v/

Irish Words Starting with ‘w’ (dornán beag ach dornán acu ann!) Posted on 09. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language  http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/irish-words-starting-with-w-dornan-beag-ach-dornan-acu-ann/

Some Irish Words Starting with the Letter ‘X’ (Part 1 of 2) Posted on 14. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/some-irish-words-starting-with-the-letter-x-part-1-of-2/

Some Irish Words Starting with the Letter ‘X’ (Part 2 of 2): xileafón agus xifisteirneam Posted on 18. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/some-irish-words-starting-with-the-letter-x-part-2-of-2-xileafon-agus-xifisteirneam/