Happy, Happiness and Happy Dances in Irish (mostly based on ‘áthas’)

Posted on 25. May, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

'Prótadhamhsa áthais'?  Pictiúr ca. 1850 le Edward Lear, i bhfad sula raibh an focal 'happy dance' chomh 'trendy' (http://public-domain.zorger.com/a-book-of-nonsense/115-cartoon-happy-dancing-women-with-big-hat-perched-birds-goose-public-domain.gif)

‘Prótadhamhsa áthais’? Pictiúr ca. 1850 le Edward Lear, i bhfad sula raibh an focal ‘happy dance’ chomh ‘trendy’ (http://public-domain.zorger.com/a-book-of-nonsense/115-cartoon-happy-dancing-women-with-big-hat-perched-birds-goose-public-domain.gif)

“I’m just doing a little happy dance.”  Recently overheard at an event I attended, where one of the coordinators had had to sit on the floor because all the seats were taken.  At the end of the event, she got up, did some yoga-like stretches, and one of the other coordinators asked if she was OK.  “Yes,” she answered, “I’m just doing a little happy dance.”

So, I thought to myself, hmm, “happiness” is such an interesting word in Irish, how would we say “happy dance.”

First, let’s review “happy” and “happiness.”  In the last blog post, we looked at two words for happiness (áthas, lúcháir) and today we’ll look further at those, and a few more.   But let’s start with “happy.”


1) sona (as in “Lá breithe sona duit” or “Nollaig Shona duit” or “Tá mé sona sásta.”). Also, “sonasach“.  “Sásta” on its own can mean “happy” but it often means “content” or “satisfied,” so it never seems to me to be as exuberant as “sona” itself.

2) séanmhar (also means “lucky” or “prosperous”).  “Faoi shéan” is similar, but isn’t technically an adjective.

3) gliondrach (also means “joyous” or “mirthful;” has a slightly more poetic sound than “sona,” at least to my ear)

4) lúcháireach (also means “joyous” and “rejoicing,” used more to describe a situation, appearance or smile than for a specific comment on how you feel; e.g.  gáire lúcháireach, a happy smile, although it could also refer to a laugh)

5) áthasach (also means “joyful” and “gleeful”), like “lúcháir,” typically used to describe a situation, appearance, or story (scéal áthasach)

There are more ways to indicate “happy” in Irish, but a lot of these get into prepositional phrases (like “faoi shéan“) so those will have to wait for another day.


1) áthas (also means “joy” and “gladness”).  This is typically used with “orm,” “ort,” etc., in sentences like “Tá áthas orm” (Happiness is on me, i.e. I am happy) and “An raibh áthas ort nuair a chuala tú an nuacht?” (Was happiness on you when you heard the news?, i.e. Were you happy when you heard the news?)

Tearanódón (pteranodon) ag déanamh damhsa áthais.  Ptarraingteach, nach ea?  (Public Domain CC0, http://www.pd4pic.com/happy-wings-dancing-dinosaur-ancient-dance.html).  And no, that's not a new Irish initial consonant mutation.  Just a little "pt" le haghaidh an chraic.

Tearanódón (pteranodon) ag déanamh damhsa áthais. Ptarraingteach, nach ea? (Public Domain CC0, http://www.pd4pic.com/happy-wings-dancing-dinosaur-ancient-dance.html). And no, that’s not a new Irish initial consonant mutation. Just a little “pt” le haghaidh an chraic.

2) lúcháir (also means “gladness” and “exultation” and “joy in welcoming someone”)

3) sonas (related to “sona,” happy; also means “good luck” and “good fortune” — so this has more to do with a situation than an emotion per se; can be used in saying “thank you” (“Sonas ort!“), if you want a change from “Go raibh maith agat.”

4) séan (also means “good luck” and prosperity” and is found in the phrase “faoi shéan” [fwee hayn], as in “Athbhliain faoi shéan agus faoi mhaise duit“)

5) gliondar (also means “joyousness” and “mirthfulness”).  This is typically used with the word “croí,” as in, “Cuireann sin gliondar ar mo chroí” (That makes me joyful, lit. That puts joy on my heart).

So that gives us five choices for “happy” and five related choices for “happiness.”   How about our buzzword of the day, “happy dance”?   While I don’t see any official version out there, I would plump for “damhsa áthais” (a dance of happiness).  Second choice would be “damhsa sonais” (also “a dance of happiness).  Why not the others and why not an adjective?  They just sound a little formal for the lightheartedness (éadromchroíochas!) that the phrase “happy dance” suggests to me.  Do bharúil?

Seamróga ag déanamh damhsa áthais.  An port nó ríl nó cornphíopa é? (src="http://cliparts.co/cliparts/kc8/o9n/kc8o9n5ri.png" width="350" alt="Free Shamrock Clipart - Public Domain Holiday/StPatrick clip art ..." />)

Seamróga ag déanamh damhsa áthais. An port nó ríl nó cornphíopa é? (src=”http://cliparts.co/cliparts/kc8/o9n/kc8o9n5ri.png” width=”350″ alt=”Free Shamrock Clipart – Public Domain Holiday/StPatrick clip art …” />)

So, for “doing a happy dance,” we could say:

Tá mé ag déanamh damhsa áthais.  (I am doing a happy dance).

Or, the above suggestions could be used with “rince” which also means “a dance” (rince áthais).

Bhuel, I hope you have ample opportunities to do happy dances in your life, at least “go hionadach” (vicariously) if not actually “ag déanamh an damhsa é féin.”

Or could I wish you, “Damhsa áthais sona ort!” — Happy ‘happy dance’ to you!  SGF — Róislín

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.   (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Emoticons_Puck_1881.png, public domain)

Seanstraoiseoga, sula raibh na focail “straoiseog” agus “emoticon” ann.
(http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Emoticons_Puck_1881.png, 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 and the “u” gets a long mark to compensate

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 nár chuir tú neamhshuim ann!) 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?   (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Emoticons_Puck_1881.png, 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.  
(http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Emoticons_Puck_1881.png, 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 in the future, 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 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QerlKVfczG4).  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?