Mothúcháin: Joy, Melancholy, Indifference, Astonishment and more, in Irish

Posted on 21. May, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Seanstraoiseoga, sula raibh na focail "straoiseog" agus "emoticon" ann.   (, public domain)

Seanstraoiseoga, sula raibh na focail “straoiseog” agus “emoticon” ann.
(, public domain)

In the last blog post, we looked at four emotions as shown in an early example of emoticons.  They pre-date the English word “emoticon” by about a century, being from an 1881 issue of Puck magazine.  Perhaps we should call them “proto-emoticons,” which in Irish could be either “prótastraoiseoga” or “luathstraoiseoga.”  Either way, it’s a mouthful.  They’re pronounced “PROH-tuh-STREESH-oh-guh” and “LOO-uh-STREESH-oh-guh,” fairly straightforward, all things considered.

Of course, those were the plural forms.  In the singular, they’d be “prótastraoiseog” or “luathstraoiseog.”  And with the word “the” in front, they’d be:

an phrótastraoiseog [un FROH-tuh-STREESH-ohg], the proto-emoticon, with lenition causing the “p” to change to “ph”

an luathstraoiseog [un LOO-uh-STREESH-ohg], no change to the spelling after the word “the” because “luathstraoiseog” starts with the letter “l.”

I wonder if the person who concocted those four designs for Puck magazine in 1881 had a group name for them, maybe something like “typographical faces.”  I wonder if we’ll ever know!

At any rate, it gives us some food for thought for further discussion of emotions.  The last blog listed several Irish words for each of the English terms given.   Here they are again, but with pronunciation tips and a few other comments:

1) joy

áthas [AW-huss], additional meaning: happiness (as in “Tá áthas orm sin a chloisteáil” or “… a chluinstin“)

lúcháir [LOOKH-irzh], additional meanings: gladness, exultation.  This one can have a special connotation of joy in welcoming someone, as in “An raibh lúcháir ar mhuintir Bozeman, Montana, roimh an triúr Vulcánach a landáil ansin sa bhliain 2063?”  Note that I don’t say “a landálfaidh,” because from today’s perspective, I’m not sure it’ll really happen (less than 50 years from now).   I’m using the past tense (landáil), because, in the First Contact movie, we’re looking back on time from a more distant Star Trek perspective.  “Landálfaidh” [lan-DAWL-hee] means “will land.”

2) melancholy

meon dubhach [myohn DOO-ukh], lit. dark/dismal/gloomy, etc. disposition, temperament, etc

And for “melancholy” as in “melancholia” (for what I assume is a narrow shade of difference in meaning):

lionn dubh [lyun duv OR lyun doo], lit. black mood or humor (“humor” as “mood” or “temperament” being fairly archaic in English, by this point)

dúlionn [doo-lyun], basically the same as “lionn dubh,” but in reverse word order, as a compound noun.  The “-bh” of “dubh” disappears in the modern (post-reform) spelling

galar dubhach [GAH-lur DOO-ukh], lit. dark/dismal/gloomy, etc. disease

galar dúchroíoch [GAH-lur DOO-KHREE-ukh], lit. joyless (from “dubh” + “-chroíoch,” which, in turn, is from “croí,” heart) disease

3) indifference

neamhshuim [nyow-him, silent “m” and “s”, the “-ow” is as in “now” or “cow,” not as in “show” or “grow.”  Some speakers say “nyav-him”], lit. non-interest

fuarchúis [FOO-ur-KHOOSH], lit. “cold cause/reason,” additional meanings: apathy, imperturbability, frigidity

cuma, lit. either “the same” or “a matter of indifference” as in “Is cuma liom faoi” (I’m indifferent about it; It’s equal to me about it; I don’t care about it)

4) astonishment

iontas [EEN-tuss], additional meanings: wonder, surprise, a wonderful thing

alltacht [AWL-tukht], additional meanings: wildness (as in a wild beast), amazement (not as widely used as “iontas,” i mo thaithí féin, ar a laghad)

Bhuel, tá súil agam gur chuir tú suim sna nótaí sin agus go dtaitníonn an pictiúr leat.  SGF — Róislín

Grins, Grimaces, and Emoticons: Straoiseanna and Straoiseoga in Irish

Posted on 18. May, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Seanstraoiseoga, sula raibh na focail "straoiseog" agus "emoticon" ann, iad ingearach in ionad a bheith cothrománach.  Cén Ghaeilge atá ar na mothúcháin seo?   (, public domain)

Seanstraoiseoga, sula raibh na focail “straoiseog” agus “emoticon” ann, iad ingearach in ionad a bheith cothrománach. Cá bhfuarthas na straoiseoga seo? An t-irisleabhar Puck, 30 Márta 1881.  Cén Ghaeilge atá ar na mothúcháin seo?  Léigh leat chun an freagra a fháil.  
(, public domain)

I was tickled pink (is there an emoji for that?) when I found out that the Irish language had its own word for “emoticon.”  The word “straoiseog” [STREESH-ohg] isn’t based on either of the two words that make up “emoticon.”  A classic portmanteau word, “emoticon” in English is quite transparently based on “emotion” (mothúchán) and “icon” (íocón).  Clearly “mothúchán” and “íocón” were not combined to create the word “straoiseog.”

The word “straoiseog” is based on … <significant pause while you recall various Irish words for facial expressions, like, hmm, “cár,” which means “grin” or “grimace,” or “pus,” which means “a sulky expression” or “an animal’s snout”>.  “Pus,” by the way, isn’t pronounced like the English word “pus,” as in weeping wounds.  It rhymes with “wuss,” with the “u” sound of “put,” not “putt.” Anyway, what else did you come up with for Irish words for facial expressions?

Well, the title of this blog post sort of gave it away.  “Straois” [streesh] in Irish means “grin” or “grimace.”  Similar to “cár,” except that “cár” can also mean the teeth themselves, although the more typical words for teeth are “fiacla” (most common) and “déada” (moderately common).  With “grin” or “grimace,” it suggests a mouth with the teeth showing.   Perhaps a threatening grin or an extreme grimace of pain.  Sometime, we can look more at words for smiling, frowning, laughing, grinning, etc., but for now, I’ll just note that the typical Irish word for “smile” is “meangadh gáire,” a phrase, actually, not a single word.  “Meangadh gáire” translates literally to something like “faint laugh” or even “wily laughing expression.”  When we look further at related words, we see some interesting interpretations of smiling.  For example, “meangaire” means a smiling or deceitful person.

The root word behind all of these is “meang,” meaning “wile” or “deceit.”   “Hmmm,” a dúirt sí léi féin agus roic ina héadan.  It’s true that, today, the positive value of a smile is a culturally constructed notion, not always understood in the same way from language to language and nation to nation.  An extreme example is the cartoon figure, “Guy Smiley,” from Sesame Street.   Within American society, he might be recognized as the epitome of extreme smiling.  I’m curious as to how he is interpreted in international versions of Sesame Street.  I do remember that “Guy Smiley” in English was one of the few words I could pick out in episode one of “Fun Fun Elmo,” a Mandarin Language Learning Program (  It made me wonder if they kept his name in English because he was a character, and characters’ name often are not translated, or whether Mandarin didn’t lend itself to the concept of such an aggressively smiling guy.  Cainteoirí Sínise ar bith anseo?  Anyway, back to “straois.”

It’s interesting that both “cár” and “straois” mean both “grin” and “grimace.”  “Straois” also gives us a word for a person, “straoiseachán,” (grinner, grimacer), and a verb for the action, “straoisíl” ([STREE-sheel], grinning, grimacing).   Another related word is “draid,” which also means “grin” or “grimace,” again, with emphasis on the teeth showing.  A “dradaire” is a “grinner” or a “grimacer,” or a “philanderer”, and it has several other interesting meanings as well.  It certainly seems that, traditionally, a grin was something to be wary of.  Today, of course, we have the Hollywood smile, ach sin ábhar blagiontrála eile.

I don’t see “straoiseog,” as such, in any of the older dictionaries, so my hunch is that the “-eog” ending got tacked on to create the word for “emoticon.”  The word could have existed earlier, but I don’t remember seeing it until relatively recently.  Cúig bliana ó shin, b’fhéidir.  If anyone knows of some older, more traditional usage, or pre-emoticon usage, it would be great if you could write in with any further background you have on the word.

Before wrapping up, let’s look at the forms for each of these words, “straois” and “straoiseog“:

an straois, the grin, the grimace

na straoise, of the grin, of the grimace

na straoiseanna [STREESH-uh-nuh], the grins, the grimaces

na straoiseanna (same as above), of the grins, of the grimaces.  Context for that?  Your call!  I’m just trying to be thorough here.

And for “emoticon”:

an straoiseog, the emoticon

na straoiseoige, of the emoticon

na straoiseoga, the emoticons

na straoiseog, of the emoticons

Bhuel, what can I say other than : – ) or should that be:

s( ^ ‿ ^)s


Na mothúcháin sa phictiúr: Since each of the emotions shown in the vintage “emoticons” above has at least 2 words for it in Irish, let’s make a quiz out of it.  Can you match the English word (joy, melancholy–and let’s add melancholia for good measure, indifference, astonishment) with two or more of the following?

  1. lúcháir
  2. meon dubhach
  3. neamhshuim
  4. lionn dubh
  5. dúlionn
  6. iontas
  7. áthas
  8. galar dubhach
  9. alltacht
  10. fuarchúis
  11. galar dúchroíoch
  12. cuma

Na freagraí:

  1. joy: áthas, lúcháir
  2. melancholy: meon dubhach; melancholy, melancholia: lionn dubh, dúlionn, galar dubhach, galar dúchroíoch
  3. indifference: neamhshuim, fuarchúis, cuma
  4. astonishment: iontas, alltacht

Of course, there could be more.  “Brón” is usually translated as “sadness” or “sorrow,” but could fit the 1881 face shown above.  Focail eile?

If ‘straoiseog’ is ’emoticon,’ then what’s the Irish for ’emoji’?

Posted on 14. May, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Well, the short answer to the title question (“What’s the Irish for ’emoji’?), is pretty straightforward–there doesn’t seem to be an Irish word for “emoji.”  Nothing surprising there, since many languages seem to have absorbed the Japanese word ’emoji’ as one of their own.  Irish, on the other hand, has come up with a unique word for “emoticon,” which is “straoiseog,” based on ‘straois” (a grin, a grimace –interesting that they can be the same word, ach sin ábhar blag eile).  “Emoji,” however, seems to remain “emoji.”

But there are still some questions about using the word “emoji” in Irish, much like there were questions about adopting the word “euro” in the late 1990s.  In Irish, there’s always the question of gender (including of borrowed words), how to use the definite article with the new word, and how to make it plural.  So far, I haven’t found the word “emoji” in any Irish dictionary, so there are no official dictionary guidelines regarding its usage, fad m’eolais.

In this blog, we’ll look at using the word “emoji” in an Irish language context, after briefly checking out its Japanese background.

One of the most curiously coincidental aspects of this investigation is that, in English, both “emoticon” and “emoji” appear to start with the same core element–“emo.”  <sound of mental brakes screeching to a halt>.  But wait … it’s not really like that!   The “e-m-o-” of “emoticon” does come from the English word “emotion” but the “e-m-o” of “emoji” is a result of how the two Japanese words combine (e, picture + moji, letter/character).   If anyone reading this blog is also a cainteoir Seapáinise and can add any further depth to these translations, that would always be welcome.   Now my guess is that Japanese would probably offer various ways to combine “picture” and “letter,” and that this particular combination was selected because of the way it would parallel “emoticon.”  But technically, while both “emoticon” and “emoji” are “portmanteau” words, the elements from which they are made are quite different.

So now, let’s look a little closer at the word “emoji” as we might use it in an Irish sentence, with gender (apparently none), definite article use, and plural being our main concerns.  Generally, it’s the lack of specifics which is of interest here.

1) gender: like other borrowed words, notably “euro,” the word “emoji” appears to have no gender in Irish.   If it makes its way into a dictionary, it will probably be labeled “s” (for “substantive”), not “m” or “f” (for the standard masculine or feminine).

2) saying “the emoji” as opposed to “an emoji”:  With no indication of gender for this word, using the definite article with it will follow the path of least resistance: “an emoji” (the emoji).  For anyone really new to Irish, remember that “an” means “the” and that there is no specific way to say “an apple” or “an orange” or “an emoji.”  Those are just “úll,” “oráiste,” and “emoji.”

It’s easy enough to get used to saying “an emoji” for “the emoji” in Irish, but it is a little unusual when we’re used to thinking if it’s masculine, it’s “an t-emoji” and if it’s feminine , it’s “an emoji.”  In Irish, you can usually reverse engineer a phrase with “the + noun” and determine the gender of the noun.  And remember, especially those of you who are native English speakers, almost all nouns in Irish have gender, regardless of any biological relevance (a quick sampler: “bord” and “amhras” are masculine while “síleáil” and “Gaeltacht” are feminine).  English is fairly unique among European languages in having abandoned grammatical gender.

I also find it a little strange to have “an,” which looks like an English word, and “emoji,” which is the same in English, right next to each other.  I sort of have to keep reminding myself that “an emoji,” in an Irish context, is “the emoji,” not “an emoji.”

It may be an increasing trend for borrowed words in Irish to be genderless, but it’s at least worth noting that some relatively recent additions to Irish vocabulary have been gaelicized and do have gender, such as “móideim” (masculine) and “teilifís” (feminine)

At any rate, it seems, so far, that we have:

emoji, an emoji

an emoji, the emoji

3) Finally, for the plural, I have found exactly no guidelines on the Web.  To me, “emojithe” seems quite reasonable and natural, based on Irish words that normally end in “-í” (rúnaí, pl: rúnaithe; tógálaí, pl: tógálaithe).

Often, in English, the word “emoji” is considered to have no separate plural form, like the native English words “sheep” and “deer.”  In that case we could just say, “An bhfaca tú na emoji sin?” (Did you see those emoji?)

Another alternative would be to give the word the English “-s” ending for plural (emojis), as is sometimes done in Irish.  “Leoraí,” for example, borrowed from the English “lorry,” has two possible plurals, the more official one based on Irish grammatical structures “leoraithe,” and the other, a dialect form, “leoraís,” pronounced, a little unusually with a broad “s” (as in “hiss”) although the spelling would suggest a slender pronunciation (as in “fish”).

As for what to do with a plural form plus the definite article (the emojis), again, I get no results online.  Normally if an Irish plural noun begins with a vowel, we prefix an “h” in front of it (na húlla, na horáistí), but I find no precedent, one way or another for “emoji.”  A similar question exists for “euro,” as used in Irish, and for which I have seen both “le euronna” and “le heuronna” (for paying by euro) in reasonably official-type documents.  In the case of “le heuronna,” the “h-” prefixing is because of the preposition “le” (with), not because of the definite article (“na“), but the same basic issue applies.

So that leaves us with a variety of possibilities:

emoji, plural of emoji

emojithe, plural of emoji (my suggestion, at any rate)


na emoji , the emoji

na emojithe, the emojis


na hemoji, the emoji

na hemojithe, the emojis

Related to the idea of plural is counting emojis.  How to say “seven emojis,” for example.

a) follow the traditional rule for nouns beginning with a vowel, and prefix an “n-” (seacht n-emoji), like “seacht n-úll” or “seacht n-uaire“)

b) drop the rule, as is usually done with the word “euro,” giving us “seacht emoji” and “seacht euro.”

It’s all a fairly recent topic, since the emoji concept itself is fairly new, even in Japan (late 1990s) and later outside of Japan.  So, on the one hand, it makes for a fun, novel topic to write about.  On the other hand, as you can see, there aren’t really many answers, or even examples of usage, out there for Irish.  If you’ve seen any examples online or on your phone that point to gender or number aspects of this word, it would be great if you could write in and let us know how you find people using the word “emoji” in an Irish context.

Tá an bhlagiontráil fada go leor anois agus mar sin, beidh orainn fanacht go dtí an chéad iontráil eile le rud éigin faoi “straoiseog” (emoticon) a scríobh.  Go dtí sin – Róislín

For a little further reading on “emoji” as a word, in English, you might want to check out:, by Mathew Kassel (21 November 2014).  Usage in English varies, with both “emoji” (no plural marker) and “emojis” currently in use.  Kassel points out that the AP style guide specifies “emojis” as the plural, although beyond that, usage varies.  Kassel also quotes Mark Allen, a board member of the American Copy Editors Society as saying that “emojis is the better English plural.”  Allen further comments, on linguistic purism, that ‘Purists will insist on ‘I found some great emoji’ rather than ‘I found some great emojis.’  They might also visit several baseball stadia, driving there in their Prii.”

The issue of skin-tone in the emojis has been prominent, although a little off topic for us here.  You might want to read about it at:, by Robinson Meyer (23 February 2015)