‘Tá mé tinn’ and other ways to say “I’m ill” in Irish

Posted on 18. Oct, 2014 by in Irish Language

Cad atá ar Tommy Beag?  Tinneas fiacaile nó tinneas cluaise?  (fearann poiblí: Little Tommy Grace, sa leabhar _The crooked man and other rhymes_ [ca. 1851 - 1870], ag an suíomh seo: http://www.clipartlogo.com/image/little-tommy-grace_151509.html)

Cad atá ar Tommy Beag? Tinneas fiacaile nó tinneas cluaise? (fearann poiblí: Little Tommy Grace, sa leabhar _The crooked man and other rhymes_ [ca. 1851 - 1870], ag an suíomh seo: http://www.clipartlogo.com/image/little-tommy-grace_151509.html)

(le Róislín)

Well, it’s not surprising that the English expression “to be under the weather” doesn’t translate literally into Irish. Most idioms don’t translate well from language to language.  The closest equivalents can be found at the end of this blog. But what are the typical ways to say “I’m ill” in Irish or to mention some of the illnesses that people suffer from?

We’ll start with some of the most typical situations and then suggest a few others that are less common. With all the recent talk about “galar víris Ebola,” it’s especially timely (tráthúil), but of course, health (an tsláinte) is a typical topic of conversation all the time anyway.

I’m ill: Tá mé tinn. OR: Tá mé breoite.

Next, what’s a common illness that we all suffer from soemtimes? Probably the “common cold,” which is “slaghdán” [remember, the "gh" is silent here].

And how do we say we have a disease or illness? It’s “on” us, so we use the preposition “ar” (on), the same one we discussed in the last blog (http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/in-quarantine-or-on-quarantine-how-to-say-it-in-irish/)

I have a cold: Tá slaghdán orm, lit. A cold is on me. Pronunciation tip: remember that “orm” has two syllables, pronounced “orr-um,” with the flapped/broad “r.” It rhymes with “gorm” [GORR-um], which you might remember from the passing reference to “duine gorm” in the 2002 movie, In America, which starred Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Sarah Bolger, Emma Bolger, and
Djimon Hounsou.

To be a bit more technical, one could say, “Tá géarfharaingíteas sróine orm.” And what’s that when it’s at home? Acute nasopharyngitis, lit. acute pharyngitis of nose, that is to say, “a cold.”

By the way, I see no substantial or consistent evidence of actually using the Irish words “coitianta,” “coiteann,” “comónta,” “gnáth-,” or “leitheadach” (all meaning “common,” in various contexts) with “slaghdán” (a cold). In fact, what did I find, from searchable online texts? A few stray uses of “coitianta” (one from an Vicipéid, and one dating back to 1920), two more for “coiteann” (both from an Vicipéid), one for “leitheadach” (ón Vicipéid, freisin) a handful for the prefix “gnáth-“, and no use of “comónta.” So, what’s so coitianta / coiteann /comónta / gnáth- / leitheadach about the “common cold”? Bhuel, it may be widespread, but it’s not so common to actually use the word “common” in referring to colds (slaghdáin) in Irish.

Here are some other typical ailments:

I have a headache: Tá tinneas cinn orm, lit. A sickness of head is on me.

I have an earache: Tá tinneas cluaise orm, lit. A sickness of ear is on me.

I have a toothache: Tá tinneas fiacaile orm, lit. A sickness of tooth is on me.

I have a fever: Tá fiabhras orm, lit. A fever is on me. [fiabhras: FyOW-russ, with the "Fy" like the "f" of "few" and the "-ow" like "cow or "now," not like "row" or "show"]

He has a high fever: Tá fiabhras ard air, lit. A high fever is on him.

She has a low fever: Tá lagfhiabhras uirthi, lit. A low fever is on her. [lagfhiabhras: LAHG-YOW-russ, note that the "fh" is completely silent]

I am nauseous: Tá samhnas orm, lit. Nausea is on me.

And now for some less typical illnesses, some of which are probably recognizable from English (freagraí thíos):

1) diftéire

2) an bholgach [un WOL-ug-ukh]

3) plucamas

4) leicneach (leid: it means the same thing as “plucamas)

5) an deilgneach (leid: baint ag an fhocal seo le “dealg,” a thorn)

6) an galar corcra (leid: “corcra” means “purple”)

7) porfaire (leid: An Rí Seoirse III)

8) polaimiailíteas

9) gúta

10) impitíogó

And speaking of being under the weather, here are some typical phrases to suggest being somewhat, but not severely, ill:

Tá sí meath-thinn [/m'æ-hin'/ in IPA or "mya-hin," in my rough guide, with the "my" like the "m" of "mew" and the "a" as in "bat" or "cat"; the prefix "meath-," means "middling," "fairly," etc.], she is fairly ill.

Níl Seán ar fónamh, Seán is not well (ar fónamh: fit, well; the basic meanings of “fónamh” are “service,” “benefit,” or “usefulness”)

Níl Síle aici féin, lit. Sheila is not “at” herself (i.e. she’s not feeling like normal)

and on a more general level,

Níl siad rómhaith [roh-wah], They’re not very well.

Bhuel, this blog certainly lets me say “slán agaibh,” in its most literal sense (“health at you”), agus “go raibh sibh chomh folláin le breac,” a saying that really deserves a blog entry of its own. Slán go fóill — Róislín

Gluais: breac, trout; folláin, healthy (another, more predictable word for “healthy” is “sláintiúil“); go raibh sibh … , may you be …


1) diftéire, diphtheria

2) an bholgach, smallpox

3) plucamas, mumps

4) leicneach, mumps

5) an deilgneach, chickenpox

6) an galar corcra, purpura

7) porfaire, porphyria

8) polaimiailíteas, poliomyelitis

9) gúta, gout

10) impitíogó, impetigo

‘In quarantine’ or ‘on quarantine’ — how to say it in Irish

Posted on 15. Oct, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

comhartha bithghuaise (grafaic san fhearann poiblí: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f7/Biohazard.svg)

comhartha bithghuaise (grafaic san fhearann poiblí: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f7/Biohazard.svg)

In the recent blog on the Ebola virus (víreas Ebola), I referred briefly to saying “in quarantine” in Irish.  It seems like a simple phrase to say, and the word for “quarantine” itself isn’t surprising — “coraintín” [KOR-antch-een], no relation to “aintín” as such!

But it’s interesting to note the preposition that’s used for the phrase “in quarantine.”  For Irish, it supports my informal theory that prepositions (e.g. by, for, with, to, at, etc.) are among the most challenging vocabulary words to predict as we learn language after language.

So, to end your possible suspense, if you haven’t already looked up “in quarantine” in your foclóir, the usual Irish phrase is “ar coraintín” (lit. “on quarantine”) using the preposition “ar” (on) instead of “i/in.”  Not a difficult combination to learn, but just a reminder that we can’t assume that any patterns from one language will be repeated in another language, even when the languages are geographic neighbors.  Sometimes, of course, this does happen.  I believe that “Phioc sé suas é,” is a relatively recent borrowing from English, “He picked it up.”  And, in reverse, “He was just after closing the door,” as a phrase, comes from Irish (Bhí sé tar éis an doras a dhúnadh) into Irish English.

But many, many phrases remain distinctively different in two different languages, at least in seemingly minor details.

So let’s look a little closer at the word “ar,” whose basic meaning is “on.”  However, depending on context, it can also be translated in a variety of ways.  Fairly often, “in” or “at” works best (ar neamh, in heaven; ar an gCnoc, at Knock).  Perhaps a little less frequently, other translations are most apt ( -wards, -ways, of, among, for, by, to, when, etc.).

Aside from the various meanings of “ar,” we need to remember what happens to the noun that follows it.  Basically, there are three choices:

1) no change: ar cuairt, ar muir, ar cíos, ar fiar, ar malairt, and of course, ar coraintín; this is often when the meaning is somewhat abstract, less physical than the next set, which have lenition

2) lenition (inserting h, pronunciation of the original consonant changes): ar chathaoir (on a chair, cathaoir), ar bhosca (on a box, bosca), ar choinníoll (“on condition” — so the lenition is not always for physical things, coinníoll)

3) And then there are a few set phrases, which cause eclipsis.  If I recall my Old Irish (SeanGhaeilge) correctly, these use a word which was originally different from modern “ar” altogether, but eventually the spelling was changed and we ended up with the spelling “a-r.”  Two such eclipsed phrases that come to mind are “ar dtús” (at first) and “ar gcúl, backwards), with “tús” and “cúl” changing to “dtús” and “gcúl.”

So, getting back to quarantine, the Irish phrase is literally saying “on quarantine.”

It’s always interesting to see what the search results are for phrases like this, and for the possible alternatives:

ar coraintín, ca. 11,000 reduced by Google filters to a mere 44

To be a linguistic devil’s advocate, I tried the phrase with the preposition “i” and eclipsis (not that this is the standard recommendation).  There were 11 hits, including a discussion of “zombaithe” (http://ga.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pl%C3%A9:Zomba%C3%AD), with this interesting comment, the “grúpa” referring to “grúpa zombaithe”:

Ba chóir aon bhall de do ghrúpa a mbaintear plaic astu a chur i gcoraintín nó a sheoladh chun bealaigh go pras.

So is it really wrong to say “i gcoraintín“?  Doiligh a rá, but it doesn’t seem to be the standard, according to most dictionaries, ar aon chaoi.

On that note, well, I also checked for “ar” followed by “choraintín,” the lenited form of “coraintín,” even though it’s technically considered incorrect.  There were actually six hits (sé amas), not really that different from the results for “i gcoraintín.” Several of them were duplicates, so in the end, there were fewer than six.

As for the spelling of “coraintín,” it’s basically an adaptation of “quarantine.” Most Irish words that are cognates of Latin-based “qu-“ words in English, as well as many Irish surnames starting with “Qu-“, start with “c” in the Irish language version (Quinn / Ó Coinn; Quigley / Ó Coigligh; question / ceist; quorum / córam). There are a few exceptions, where English “qu-” remains “qu-“ in Irish (quinine / quinín and quinol / quionól, which have alternate (newer?) “c-“ spellings with “cuinín” and “cuineol”).

And a final point of interest, given here as a query, what’s the relationship between the Irish word “coraintín” and the Irish word “Carghas” (Lent)?  Tá an freagra thíos ach b’fhéidir go dtig leat é a oibriú amach gan a bheith ag breathnú ar an bhfreagra, ar dtús, ar a laghad. 

Sin é don bhlag seo.  Tá súil agam nach bhfuil duine ar an liosta seo ar coraintín — agus tá súil mhór agam nach bhfuil aintín leat ar coraintín!  – Róislín

Freagra: Tá an dá fhocal, “coraintín” agus “Carghas,” bunaithe ar an fhocal Laidine ar “forty” (quadraginta) as manifested in the Latin “Quadragesima” (Lent, lit. 4oth) and the “quarant-“ part of “quarantine.”  The Latin word had become “quaranta” by the 17th century, in Venetian/Italian, and was borrowed from there into English. s generally been 21 days, the original idea of general quarantine, apparently, was 40 days of seclusion. Of the two (count ‘em!) Irish words for “40,” one is a distant relative of “quadraginta,” but the other isn’t connected to the Latin for “40” at all. Even in the first case, the link may not be overtly obvious, but, like reading between the lines, the connection is there if you look for it.

Two Irish words for “40”? Yep, that’s right. And there’s also “dhá scór” (two score). But for “40” itself, there is “daichead,” the more standard word (caighdeánach de réir mo thaithí féin, ar a laghad), based on “dhá” and “fichead” (lit. two twenties), with no connection at all to the Latin for “40.” The other Irish word for “40” is “ceathracha,” which is based on “ceathair” (4), and so is as related to “quadraginta” as “ceathair” is to “quattuor.” But for Irish numbers in general, and their relation to numbers in other European languages, we’ll have to wait for blag éigin eile, sa todhchaí. Some of the basics have been covered in previous blogs (naisc thíos).


Bunuimhreacha, Orduimhreacha is Maoluimhreacha — A Thiarcais! (Oh my!) Posted on 25. Dec, 2012 by róislín in Irish Language (http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/bunuimhreacha-orduimhreacha-is-maoluimhreacha-a-thiarcais-oh-my/)

Ó 0 go 10 (0 agus 10 agus na hUimhreacha Eatarthu) Posted on 22. Aug, 2011 by róislín in Irish Language (http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/o-0-go-10-0-agus-10-agus-na-huimhreacha-eatarthu/)

For the bunuimhreacha with sound and video, please see: http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/irish-numbers-1-20-with-video/ OR http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-t5NzoxdfE

For counting people, using the “uimhreacha pearsanta,” see:

Ag Comhaireamh Daoine i gCultacha Oíche Shamhna (Vaimpírí, Gúil, srl.), which has a Halloween theme, to boot (http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/ag-comhaireamh-daoine-i-gcultacha-oiche-shamhna-vaimpiri-guil-srl/) Posted on 12. Oct, 2012 by róislín in Irish Language

Na hUimhreacha Pearsanta (ar leanúint) Na hUimhreacha Pearsanta (ar leanúint) Posted on 10. Jan, 2011 by róislín in Irish Language (http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/na-huimhreacha-pearsanta-ar-leanuint/)

Na hUimhreacha Pearsanta i nGaeilge (Irish Personal Numbers and Cuid a Cúig or the Last Installment of Dhá Lá Dhéag na Nollag) Posted on 06. Jan, 2011 by róislín in Irish Language (http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/na-huimhreacha-pearsanta-i-ngaeilge/)

How to say ‘Ebola,’ ‘Ebola Virus,’ and ‘Ebola Virus Disease’ in Irish

Posted on 10. Oct, 2014 by in Irish Language

Fearann poiblí: http://phil.cdc.gov/phil/details.asp?pid=10816, CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith

Ebola (fearann poiblí: http://phil.cdc.gov/phil/details.asp?pid=10816, CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith)

(le Róislín)

Not surprisingly, the word “Ebola” got an impressive 22,700,000 hits (22,700,000 amas), in my recent Google search.   How many of those hits might be Irish-language resources?

Since “Ebola,” as such, is exactly the same in Irish (Ebola), it’s not easy to search for results that are specifically in Irish. In fact, for many of the languages I checked online, “Ebola” is the same in some major ones (e.g. Fraincis, Portaingéilis), almost the same + or – diacritical marks in some others (Spáinnis: Ébola, Rúisis thraslitrithe: Ebóla (ó Эбо́ла), and the same but as part of a compound word in some others (Danmhairgis: ebolavirus, Gearmáinis: Ebolavirus).

So, unlike some other disease names of global importance but with distinctively Irish names, it’s a little tricky to find articles in Irish on Ebola. For example, if you Googled “an bholgach,” you’d probably only get Irish-language results for “smallpox.”   I just tested that and got 350 hits for “an bholgach,” filtered down by Google to 52, avoiding duplications, etc. They all appear to Irish-related. Likewise, the search term “Siondróm Easpa Imdhíonachta Faighte” (SEIF; “AIDS” i mBéarla) will probably mostly get Irish language results (na torthaí: I get 1760, filtered down to 75).

I tried another search, for “víreas Ebola,” adding the Irish word “víreas” to get results that were more likely in Irish. The preliminary results were 955 hits, but Google sorted them down to a mere 42. Of those, the last several, at least, had no obvious Irish language connections so I think they were included perhaps because of machine translations or sheer listing of terms, without context.

Note the word order, by the way, in “víreas Ebola.”  Unlike in English, “Ebola” comes second, after the noun, because it’s functioning as an aidiacht (like “póca” in “scian phóca” or “shnámha” in “culaith shnámha”).

I tried various other searches, using “advanced search” and “hl” restrictions, to see if I’d get any more Irish language hits, but I didn’t get any conclusive results.

So my conclusion is that, not surprisingly, there’s relatively little commentary about Ebola that is completely in Irish. But, additionally, I also conclude, to more or less state the obvious, that it’s difficult to search for Irish-language results for a word like “Ebola,” which is exactly the same in various languages, including Irish. The good news, if anything can be good about this ábhar tromchúiseach, is that the word “Ebola” itself is straightforward in Irish.

From the search results for “víreas Ebola,” I’ve picked out a few links that are actually full articles in Irish (naisc thíos/links below). B’fhéidir go mbeadh suim agat iontu.

As for the river from which the Ebola virus gets its name, I only found three hits (trí amas) in Irish, two of which were “dúblaigh” (duplicates). I wanted to determine the exact form of the river name in Irish, but I found two slightly different versions: “abhainn Ebola” (lit. river Ebola, with no “the”) and “an Abhainn Ebola” (lit. the River Ebola). The presence of the definite article (“an,” in English “the”), may not seem very significant, but it does make a difference in Irish for phrases using prepositions or the genitive case.  Many typical river names in Irish do include the definite article, including most, probably all, that are actually in Ireland, and many abroad, such as Abhainn an Hooghly (i mBeangál Thiar) and An Abhainn Bhuí (sa tSín).  Other river names seem to not include the definite article (Abhainn Charles, Abhainn Yazoo). Others, especially large ones, both in and outside of Ireland, are frequently referred to without the word “river,” (An Volta, An Danóib, An Dnípir, An tSionainn).

In fact, all this is making me consider, what are the rules for English usage with river names? Do we ever just say “Charles River,” aside from adjectival usages such as Charles River Laboratories or Charles River Apparel?  And then there’s the issue of word order (the Schuylkill River vs. the River Liffey). Why does iol.ie give us “The Liffey River, Dublin, Ireland” as a title but refer to the body of water as “the river Liffey” in the text of its article? (nasc thíos).  But those questions, plus the ins and outs of river names in Irish, will have to wait for blag éigin eile. For now, for “the Ebola River” in Irish, suffice it to say that there aren’t many readily searchable examples to look at.

A final phrase that might be useful for referring to Ebola in Irish is “galar víris Ebola” (Ebola virus disease). Here, as we can see, the word “víreas” ([VEE-rzhass] virus) changes to the genitive case (víris [VEE-rzhish, note the “sh” sound at the end) because we’re literally saying “disease (of) Ebola virus.”

One might wonder, what’s the big deal if “Ebola” is “Ebola” in Irish? Well, one thing I’ve learned in Irish is never to assume that any word from another language will be what you think it might be, based on English or other languages. Sometimes simple adjustments are made to gaelicize a word, for example, just a síneadh fada or “long mark” (“Congó” for “Congo”) Other times, adjustments are made for Irish vowel harmony (“móideim” for “modem”). “Ebola,” for example, could have had a couple of letters added to accommodate for Irish vowel harmony rules, or it could have gotten a long mark over the “o.”

And of course, some adaptations can be much more dramatic (“XMODEM” in Irish isn’t simply putting “X” in front of “móideim” because we also have to use lenition, giving us “X-mhóideim” [… WOHDj-em, with the “w” sound for the "mh" (or "v" for some speakers)]. That’s the same process by which “ga” (ray) becomes “gha” in the word “x-gha.” How many people ever talk about an X-mhóideim in Irish?  Níl a fhios agam.  But “X-mhóideim” is the official version, at any rate. What ríomhchláraitheoirí actually say for this in Irish I don’t really know for sure, since XMODEM and its successors YMODEM and ZMODEM, have never been part of mo ghnáthchaint, in Irish or in English (agus ní ríomhchláraitheoir mise!).

There’s also the gender issue. Is a new word in Irish, especially a “focal iasachta,” going to be “firinscneach” or “baininscneach”? Or “gan inscne”? “Ebola,” apparently does not have gender in Irish. Grammatically, it’s considered a “substantive” noun in Irish, marked “s” in most dictionaries, and genderless. But “móideim,” a new adaptation, is masculine, despite the fact that some similar-looking words (“reim, ” meaning “rem” in nuclear physics and “peineim,” meaning “penem” in chemistry) are feminine (and, for good measure, let’s note that “greim,” meaning “a bite,” “a stitch,” or “a grip” is masculine). Word endings don’t always accurately predict the gender of a noun in Irish. So, with new words, we need to check if there’s an Irish adaptation, a gaelicization, or a full translation of the word, and if there is, for nouns, what’s the gender. Even if we’re looking at a focal iasachta, and assume it’ll probably be the same in Irish and English, it’s always worth checking.

Next up (sa chéad bhlag eile), since it’s also in the news a lot these days, how do we say “in quarantine” in Irish? Can we count on the preposition still being “in” in Irish, followed by eclipsis? Or, should we assume that prepositions rarely match up from language to language? Oh, how well I remember struggling with “por” and “para” in Spanish! And all that “auf dem Tisch” and “an dem Tisch” differentiation in German!

So the take-away here is that, minimally, we’ve clarified that the Irish and English words for “Ebola” are the same. And we’ve looked at how a few other focail iasachta (loan words) are handled. And reminded ourselves never to take Irish spelling or word adaptations for granted.

While on the topic of Ebola, I also want to add “R.I.P. Excalibur.” I feel that this dog (madra an altra Maria Teresa Romero Ramos, sa Spáinn) was prematurely euthanized. I see from browsing broadly online that some readers in some forums get angry when there is a discussion of canine victims as opposed to human victims of this raging illness. Nevertheless, I’m very sad that the life of this innocent dog, who knew nothing of the controversy or the possibilities of quarantine, was ended, despite the enormous rally to save him. It reminds me of the very sad saga of the dog Lennox in Belfast (http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/failte-na-madrai-roimh-lennox-the-dogs-welcome-to-lennox/), who was also unfairly euthanized, although for completely different reasons.

And given that this is an Irish blog, how eerily coincidental that the first dog known to be euthanized because of Ebola has a Celtic name, or at least a semi-Latinized version of a Celtic name. Not that he was an Irish or Welsh breed of dog as far as I can tell from his photos; he was a mixed-breed dog (mar mo dhá mhadra féin) according to what I read. The word “Excalibur” comes from the Welsh “caled” (hard) and “bwlch” (gap, pass, breach, cleft) and has cognates in medieval Irish (calad(h), hard; bolg, gap, although normally “bolg” would mean “bag” or “stomach” in modern Irish). Mo chomhbhrón do Maria Teresa agus a fear, Javier Limón (úinéirí Excalibur), agus do gach teaghlach a chaill daoine muinteartha san eipidéim seo. Go raibh biseach ar na daoine atá ag streachailt leis an ngalar seo faoi láthair.

Slán go fóill agus go brónach — Róislín


http://antuairisceoir.com/2014/08/16/ebola-an-galar-agus-an-sceimhle/ (Posted on Lúnasa 16, 2014 le Gaeilgeoir na Fionlainne )

http://www.rte.ie/news/nuacht/2014/1007/650621-imni-anois-go-bhfuil-ebola-ar-cheathrar-sa-spainn/ (Imní anois go bhfuil Ebola ar thriúr sa Spáinn – RTÉ News. Dé Máirt 07 Deireadh Fómhair 2014 17.32)