An Maith Leat __?  (Can you complete the question in Irish?)

Posted on 21. May, 2016 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

'An maith leat __?' le Charles Burton Barber (1845-1894). An féidir leat an bhearna sa cheist a líonadh isteach? Freagra sa téacs. Agus cad a tharlódh dá mbeadh Aimseadóir Buí ag an gcailín? Buíocht cheana féin! Grafaic:

‘An maith leat __?’ le Charles Burton Barber (1845-1894). An féidir leat an bhearna sa cheist a líonadh isteach? Freagra sa téacs. Agus cad a tharlódh dá mbeadh Aimseadóir Buí ag an gcailín? Buíocht cheana féin! Grafaic:


Well, usually we try the buttercup question on people, not dogs, ach tá an pictiúr an-ghleoite, nach bhfuil?  In this blogpost, we’ll take another short break from the flower-themed names series, and look specifically at one more flower, the buttercup, generally known as “cam an ime” in Irish.

First let’s look at the word for “butter” itself, then we’ll look at “buttercup,” and finally the question, “Do you like butter?”

A. “BUTTER” i nGaeilge

im, butter

an t-im, the butter

ime, of butter (scian ime, butter knife, lit. knife of, i.e. for, butter)

an ime, of the butter (praghas an ime, the price of the butter)

We may not use it real often in the plural, but the form does exist:

imeanna, butters (but more likely implying “casks” or “containers” of butter)

na himeanna taiscthe, the stored casks of butter.  This could possibly refer to casks of “bog butter” (im portaigh), sealed in wooden containers, sometimes with plant wrappings, and buried in a bog, either for storage or for primitive chemical processing.  One sample found in Ireland during an archeological dig is about 1300 years old; another may be at least a thousand years older.  Like making the folkloric “heather beer,” the process had almost fallen into oblivion, but there has been a recent revival of interest in the methodology, with some results presented at the 2012 Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery (naisc don alt agus don taifeadadh agus don phodchraoladh thíos).

imeanna, of butters

na n-imeanna, of the butters (blas na n-imeanna taiscthe, the taste of the stored butters)

B. “BUTTERCUP” i nGaeilge

And now for “buttercups.”  There are actually a couple of different words for “buttercup,” and globally there are over fifty different types of the flowers, so I imagine the list could go on longer.  But here are the two main choices:

1) cam an ime, buttercup, lit. the cresset of the butter.  And what exactly is a “cresset,” aside from a word you might find in medieval-esque Victorian literature?  It’s a cup-shaped holder for oil or some flammable substance, like rushes dipped in oil, historically used for beacons or early street lighting, and it can also refer to a simple lamp, with the wick burning in a cavity; check out the link below for a Scottish example made of sandstone from ca. 1300.  And while 1916 literature would no longer be considered Victorian, or even Edwardian, I’m struck by the appearance of “cresset” twelve times in H. Bedford-Jones’ serial novel _Nuala O’Malley_, set in the Cromwell era and published in 1916 in _All-Story Weekly_.   A quick check for _Ivanhoe_ shows no cressets, but any further insight into cressets will have to wait for a rainy day project.   More recently than that, I have to admit I’m drawing blanks on cressets, except of course, _The Cresset_ (

Apparently the word “cam” can also mean a melting-pot, which may be a bit more connected to its use in the phrase for “buttercup.”   This word “cam” is completely different from the more widely used “cam,” whose meanings include “bent” or “crooked” (mar aidiacht), a bent or crooked object (mar ainmfhocal), and “bend” or “distort” (mar bhriathar).

2) crobh préacháin, buttercup, crowfoot, lit. foot/talon of crow.  So far, I remain baffled as to why this cute, bright, and cheerful-looking flower would be called “crowfoot.”  Barúil ag duine ar bith agaibh? 

C. An cheist: “An maith leat im?”

And finally, how about the question, “Do you like butter?” which is the English title of Barber’s painting in the illustration above.  In Irish that would be “An maith leat im?”  And the answers?  For “yes,” the answer is “Is maith,” and for “no,” it’s “Ní maith.”  But, come on, who doesn’t like butter?  It seems to me that the custom of holding the buttercup under someone’s chin to see if they like butter is really an exercise in futility.  But, as I recall, it was fun to do as a child.  Níor bhain mé triail as le madra riamh, mar a fheiceann muid sa phictiúr, ach is féidir liom a rá, gan dabht, go bhfuil dúil mhór ag mo madraí féin in im.  Táirgí déiríochta ar bith, leis an fhírinne a dhéanamh. 

At the beginning of this blogpost, I mentioned that we’d be taking a short break from the series on names, but I can’t resist closing with a brief note on some famous “Buttercups,” both human (albeit fictitious) and bovine.  They can be found in The Powerpuff Girls, The Princess Bride, HMS Pinafore, and Toy Story.  And double-checking online, I find there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of references to cows named Buttercup, in books, as toys, and as TV or pantomime characters.  Examples range from the current craze of the”Sylvanian Families” miniatures to the vintage “Buttercup the Cow” from “The Woodentops,” a BBC children’s television series from 1955.  Ironically, buttercups are actually poisonous to cows, yielding a bitter-tasting oil, protoanemonin, when crushed, and this cute flower can also cause contact dermatitis in people.

So far, I have to acknowledge that I haven’t found any examples of “Cam an Ime,” as a cow’s name in Irish, let alone as a human character’s name.  Somehow, it just doesn’t seem to lend itself to this use.  But one never knows.  Maybe it’ll turn up.  “Crobh préacháin” seems even less likely.

At any rate, there you have it: im, im portaigh, imeanna, cam an ime, crobh préacháin, and a nod to Pinafore and The Woodentops et al.  Ar ais go dtí na hainmneacha cailíní roimh i bhfad.  Slán go fóill – Róislín

naisc d’im portaigh:




nasc don lampa cam: (National Museums, Scotland)

Please Don’t Eat the ‘Nóiníní’ (and a few other flower phrases in Irish)

Posted on 16. May, 2016 by in Irish Language

An bhfaca tú nóinín mar seo riamh? B'fhéidir i dTír na nIontas? Agus ós rud é go bhfuil "aghaidh" ag an "day's eye" (dæges ēage) seo, an bhfaca an nóinín seo thusa? (grafaic:

An bhfaca tú nóinín mar seo riamh? B’fhéidir i dTír na nIontas? Agus ós rud é go bhfuil “aghaidh” ag an “day’s eye” (dæges ēage) seo, an bhfaca an nóinín seo thusa? (grafaic:

(le Róislín)

Mostly we’ve been focusing on ainmneacha lately, but I thought we’d take a short break and look at the flower behind one of the flower-themed girl’s names featured in a recent blog.

So today we’ll look at various uses of the word “nóinín” in Irish.  We discussed ‘nóiníní’ pretty thoroughly in the last blogpost, mostly as a girl’s name, usually in Irish (Nóinín) but occasionally anglicized (Noneen).  Let’s review the different forms of the word, and then look at a couple of different types of daisies and other daisy phrases.

an nóinín, the daisy

an nóinín, of the daisy (same as above; peitil an nóinín)

na nóiníní, the daisies

na nóiníní, of the daisies (same as the 3rd line, because this is one of those wonderful 4th-declension nouns that don’t change when you say “of the ….” ).  Peitil, gais, duilleoga agus bláthóga strapachruthacha na nóiníní


Here are a few varieties:

nóinín páipéir, everlasting daisy (with 2 akas to its credit, “strawflower” and, “paper daisy,” logically enough, since the Irish literally means “daisy of paper.”)

nóinín madaidh, a type of small red daisy, lit. “dog daisy”

nóinín mór, ox-eye daisy, literally just “big daisy.”  But a different type of ox-eye daisy doesn’t use “mór” at all; it’s “easpagán buí,” lit. yellow marguerite (“marguerite” being another word for ‘daisy’).  Actually easpagán must be a sort of diminutive of “easpag” (bishop), but not as small as “*easpaigín,” if that’s even a word, or “*easpagáinín,” which may not be a word either.  “Sagarteen” (Little Priest) I’ve heard, right enough (as in the song, “An Sagairtín,” sung by Joe Heaney and others) but so far no “Little Bishops.”  Well, if flowers can have names like “Jack-in-the-Pulpit’ and “Lus na Maighdine Muire,” I’m sure we could have flowers whose name means “bishop” as well.

The “nóinín mór” is also sometimes translated as “dog daisy,” just to add to the mix.  So what is a “dog daisy,” really?  Is it the flower whose name means “dog daisy” (nóinín madaidh) or the flower described as “big,” and equated in English with an ox’s eye?  And what’s the deal with ox-eyes anyway?  Why not “bull’s eye,” “cow’s eye,” “pig’s eye,” etc.  Next time I meet an ox, I’ll have to look more closely at his eyes.

Leaping from the diminutive daisy to the impressively tall sunflower, we have the term “nóinín na gréine” (lit. daisy of the sun) for “sunflower,” although that plant is more typically called “lus na gréine.”  That latter term, lus na gréine, appears quite charmingly in the children’s book, Camille agus na Lusanna Gréine, by Laurence Anholt, whose Leonardo and the Flying Boy has also been translated into Irish (Leonardo agus an Buachaill a D’eitil).  Both of the Irish titles are available from Cló Iar-Chonnacht (


And a few uses of ‘nóinín‘:

slabhra nóiníní, a daisy chain

Which can be made into a verbal noun:

slabhrú nóiníní, daisy-chaining, in computing

And speaking of daisies and computing, I haven’t seen one for a while, but there’s the term “printéir roth nóinín” (daisy-wheel printer, lit. printer of wheel of daisy).

As for the title of this blogpost, you probably noticed that it’s based on “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” the book (by Jean Kerr), song (with its pleasant but earworm refrain), movie (with Doris Day) and TV series (on NBC), which are quite fun, if definitely “Meiriceá na gCaogaidí/Seascaidí.”  It seemed a shoo-in for offering up a context for our “blagmhírfhocal an lae,” so I couldn’t resist it.  Hmmm, “earworm” i nGaeilge?  Ní fheicim i bhfoclóir ar bith é.  ” *Cluasphéist” nó ” *péist chluaise,” is dócha.

 Bhuel, sin é, an focal “nóinín,” cineálacha nóiníní, agus úsáidí an fhocail i bhfrásaí.  SGF – Róislín

Five More Irish Names for Girls: Nóinín, Pt. 4 of ‘Names with a Flower Theme (Bláth / Bláithín / Bláthnaid, Daifne / Dafnae, Lil / Lile, Nóinín, Róisín / Róis / Róise, and, sort of, Mairéad / Maighréad)’ 

Posted on 11. May, 2016 by in Irish Language

Translation: My name is Nóinín. And Im wearing daisies [nóiníní]! Graphic: pre-1923 image.

Translation: My name is Nóinín. And I’m wearing daisies [nóiníní]! Graphic: pre-1923 image.

(le Róislín)

Daisy?  Nóra? Onóra? Honor? Nóirín vs. Nóinín?  So what exactly is going on here with this name?

Well, here’s the short answer.  “Nóinín” is generally considered to be a variation of the name Nóra (Onóra), even though “Nóra” also has another diminutive form, “Nóirín” (Noreen).  The name “Onóra” means “honor (honour),” close to the generic Irish word “onóir.”  Bhuel, many names have more than one variant and/or diminutive, so that’s nothing new, really.

But “nóinín” is also the Irish word for “daisy.”  The website sums up the situation quite nicely with its comment on the name “Nóinín,” saying that it is a diminutive of “Nóra” but that “It can also be inspired by the Irish word nóinín “daisy” (nasc thíos). “Inspired” may not be real specific here, but it acknowledges the similarity without pinpointing a derivation.

A. “Nóinín” as a Name and as a Flower

At any rate, let’s look first at how we use the name in context.  The good news is there are no changes for direct address or to show possession — unlike so many other nouns and names. No changes at all to the beginning or the end of the word — almost amazing!


Tá Nóinín anseo.  Nóinín is here.

Dia dhuit, a Nóinín.  Hello, Nóinín.

cóta Nóinín.  Nóinín’s coat.


If we’re talking about the daisy, we have:

an nóinín, the daisy

dathanna an nóinín, the colors of the daisy

na nóiníní, the daisies

dathanna na nóiníní, the colors of the daisies

B. “Nóinín” in Direct Address

If we were actually talking to a daisy, we’d say the same as above.  It just wouldn’t be capitalized if we were writing it down.  So we’d say, “… a nóinín.”

So who’s been talking to daisies lately?  Well, maybe not lately, but there’s always Wordsworth, whom I’ll take the liberty of loosely translating into Irish here: … Ach anois lúcháir orm féin a chuirim, / Mo thart ag gach sruthlán a choiscim / Agus go fonnmhar grá Nádúir a chaithim / Tríot, a Nóinín ghleoite!

That’s from Wordsworth’s original, aptly named “To a Daisy”: But now my own delights I make, / My thirst at every rill can slake / And gladly Nature’s love partake / of Thee, sweet Daisy!

Well, there you have it, “daisy” in direct address.

Of course, we could debate ‘sweet’ here.  ‘Milis‘ (sweet) mostly refers to food, and “cumhra” (sweet) is more like “fragrant,” which I don’t really think is what Wordsworth intended.  I believe he meant “sweet” as in “nice” or “pretty,” i.e. “gleoite,” in Irish.  Plus I like the way the long “o” sound of “gleoite” echoes the sound of “nóinín.”  BTW, why is “gleoite” lenited, becoming “ghleoite“?  Because it’s in direct address.  Yes, adjectives can also have direct address forms, ach sin ábhar blagmhíre eile.

As for translating “rill” into Irish, I can’t say I’ve thought much about rills outside of the line “… I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills …”.  A “rill,” at any rate, in Irish, is a “sruthlán,” a slight diminutive of “sruthán” (stream, brook).

Of course, we can see that Wordsworth actually did capitalize the word “daisy,” but that was a 19th-century thing, since he also used upper case for “Nature” and “Zephyrs,” and he consistently capitalizes other words we wouldn’t capitalize today.

Robert Burns’ poem, “To a Mountain Daisy,” might have been a good exercise here but I’ve just double-checked it.  Great, great poem, but he doesn’t literally use the phrase “to a daisy” there.  His phrase “Thou bonnie gem” comes closest, since it’s in direct address, but we’re really trying to stick to daisies here, not poetic epithets for them.

C. “Nóinín” as a Name: A Brief Comment on Frequency and Popularity

As for current usage of “Nóinín” as a name, I see a nice handful of examples online, but not a whole lot, leis an fhírinne a dhéanamh.   Let’s take a quick look at “Nóinín” compared to “Nóirín.”

For “Nóirín” + “name,” I get 28,300 hits in a Google search; without the qualifier “name,” I get 107,000.   For the anglicization “Noreen” + “woman’s name,” I get 229,000; I added the qualifier because “noreen” has so many other meanings and contexts globally.   Searching for “Nóra” as such is almost too broad to be useful–there are about 130,000,000 hits, including on the first page, an anti-snoring device, a lighting company, and the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA), as well as many examples of the name “Nóra” or “Nora.”

In contrast, “Nóinín” + “name” as a search gives a mere total of 140 (adding the qualifier “name” to try to eliminate references that are just to the plant).  “Nóinín” + “woman’s name” yield even fewer results — 11, after duplicates are eliminated.  I haven’t seen too many adaptations of “Nóinín” as “Noneen,” but they do show up from time to time.  One interesting example is the sculpture “Head of Noneen” (aka Head of a Girl), from 1919, by Sir Jacob Epstein (nasc thíos).  It’s curious how an artist in the early 20th century ended up with a girl, presumably named Noneen, as a model.  And how did the girl come to be called “Noneen”?    Who was she?  Eolas ag duine ar bith?

At any rate, it seems clear that “Nóirín” is far more widespread as a name than “Nóinín.”  As for some examples of “Nóinín,” as a name, most of the hits are simply references to baby name sites or Irish name sites.  I don’t find too many examples of “Nóinín” in a real-life context, but here’s one: Nóinín Brugha (1913-2004, daughter of the Irish revolutionaries and politicians Cathal and Caitlín Brugha; Cathal, 1874-1922, was the first ceann comhairle of Dáil Éireann)

I’ve also noted online a few cúnna faoil and capaill named “Nóinín,” usually without the síntí fada, unless the owners are actually Irish speakers.

D. “Nóinín” and “Noneen” in Art and Literature

As a fictional character, we have a few “Nóiníní.”  “Nóinín Ní Chathasaigh” appears in the play _Lá Buí Bealtaine_, performed at the Abbey in 1953 and 1959, and written by none other than the author of the Irish grammar workhorse, _Progress in Irish_ and such delightful little books for learners as Micí Moncaí, Luaithríona (Cinderella) and Rápúnzell,  not to mention the pioneering and controversial _An Triail_.  Cé hí sin?  Mairéad Ní Ghráda.  Chun tuilleadh eolais a fháil faoin dráma seo, féach na naisc thíos, léirithe in Éirinn i 1953 agus 1959 agus i gCeanada i 2011.  Eolas faoi léirithe eile ag duine ar bith?   Bearna mhór idir na léirithe, de réir cosúlachta.  Eolas ag duine ar bith faoi léiriú ar bith eile idir an dá am?

Another fictional “Nóinín” is in the recently published children’s stories by Eibhlís Ní Dhonnchadha, _Nóinín agus Siar Aniar_ and _Nóinín agus Rollaí Pollaí_.   Eolas agaibh faoi Nóinín ar bith eile i litríocht?

There is a “Noneen” in a lesser known Seán O’Casey play, _Behind the Green Curtains_ (1961) which had a relatively late world premiere (December 5, 1962, at the University of Rochester, New York — hmm, cén fáth Rochester?).  Ar aon chaoi, it was “Noneen Melbayle,” a maid, played by Elaine Magidson, in a student performance.   BTW, this is not to be mistaken for a similar sounding play, _Behind the Green Curtain_, by Riley LaShea!  A lán cuirtíní uaine i litríocht, nach ea?  OK, whatever.  Gan a bheith ag caint faoi dhoirse uaine!

And there’s a man named “Noneen” in a 2009 Star Wars novel, _Millennium Falcon_, by James Lucerno, but whether that’s even meant to be connected to all our other “Nóiníní” is totally unclear.  Suimiúil, mar sin féin.

E. Spelling the Name “Honor”

One last point about all the women named “Honor “in English that I can think of or find reference to — the spelling consistently has the “-or” ending, not “-our,” as the generic word is spelled in Britain and Ireland.  Examples include Honor Mary Boland Crowley (politician),  Honor Tracy (writer), Honor Blackman (actress), and Dr. Dame Honor Bridget Fell (zoologist), all with British or Irish backgrounds.   Not that that’s really an Irish-language issue, but it’s worth noting if you use the UK spelling and are doing searches for these women or the name “Honor” and its cohorts (Nora, Norah, etc.).

F. Nóiníní — Some Flower References

Finally, two additional interesting uses of the word “nóinín,” in its basic sense as “daisy,” are

a) Nóinín Herbal Products, in Scarriff, Co. Clare ( and

b) the charming Irish knit “nóinín beret” If you follow the link to the photos in the site, you’ll see a cute daisy-shaped pattern creating the crown of the hat (

Bhuel, bhí i bhfad níos mó i gceist anseo ná shíl mé nuair a thosaigh mé an bhlagmhír seo.  Bhabh!  Tá súil agam go raibh suimiúil, do lucht na n-ainmneacha Daisy, Nóra, Nora, Norah, Nóirín, Noreen, Nóinín agus Noneen, ar a laghad! — Róislín

Nasc ginearálta:

1) Nóta tráchta “Nóinín” mar ainm:

Naisc do Noneen / Nóinín in ealaín agus i litríocht:

2) Head of Noneen:

3) an dráma, Lá Buí Bealtaine le Mairéad Ní Ghráda

  1. a) eolas ginearálta:
  2. b) 1953:
  3. c) 1959:
  4. d) léiriú 2011 (giotaí de agus caint faoi): (Dráma an Oireachtais, Oireachtas Gaeilge Cheanada 2011; stiúrthóir John P. Kelly, Seven Thirty Productions)

4) Leabhartha Eibhlís Ní Dhonnchadha le “Nóinín” mar phríomhcharachtar (ní ach sampla de na naisc iad seo):

  1. a)
  2. b)