Athair, An tAthair, Aithreacha, and more ways to say ‘father’ in Irish (just in time for Father’s Day)

Posted on 14. Jun, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

‘Sea, is é an t-am sin den bhliain é — tá Lá na nAithreacha ag teacht. 15 Meitheamh i mbliana.

So first let’s look at the various forms of the word for “father” in Irish. Then we’ll think of the Irish words for a few typical Father’s Day gifts. Perhaps you’d like to send another gift idea in to the nótaí tráchta (comments).

Here are the basics:
athair [AH-hirzh, note the "t" is silent]
an t-athair [un TAH-hirzh], the father (note the prefixed “t-“)
athar [AH-hur], of a father. This form is probably not all that common as such, but it is typical in phrases like “hata m’athar” (the hat of my father, my father’s hat) or “ainm d’athar” (the name of your father, your father’s name). For “of a father,” as such, we could have phrases like “cúram athar” (a father’s responsibility)
an athar [un AH-hur], of the father, as in “In ainm an Athar” (In the name of the Father) or “pas an athar” (the father’s passport)

And the plural forms:
aithreacha [AH-hruh-khuh, with the "t" silent], fathers
na haithreacha [nuh HAH-hruh-khuh], the fathers
aithreacha, of fathers (no change from the first plural form)
na n-aithreacha [nuh NAH-hruh-khuh], of the fathers; when capitalized, this is written: na nAithreacha, with the fleiscín dropped.

Of course, there will be some other changes if we say something about giving a gift to “my father” or to “their fathers.” Here are some samples:

Thug mé hata do m’athair.
Thug tú mála gailf do d’athair.
Thug sí slat iascaireachta dá hathair.
Thug sé uaireadóir Rolex dá athair.

And plural — we’ll make these several people talking about several fathers, for additional practice:

Thug muid stocaí dár n-aithreacha. Ní raibh siad róshásta leo ach dúirt siad “go raibh maith agaibh,” pé scéal é.
Note: you can say “Thugamar” for “Thug muid.”
Chniotáil sibh stocaí do bhur n-aithreacha. Bhí bhur n-aithreacha an-sásta leis na stocaí mar bhí siad lámhdhéanta.
Phéinteáil na páistí pictiúir dá n-aithreacha agus thug siad dóibh iad. Bhí a n-aithreacha thar a bheith sásta leis na pictiúir áille.

What changes did you notice as we used the word “athair” in different ways? Can you fill in the blanks below?

She gave a fishing rod to her father. Thug sí slat iascaireachta dá __athair. (reminder: prefix “h” to “athair” to show that it’s “her father,” not “his father”)

In the next three sentences, using “to our fathers” or “for their fathers,” etc., there will always be a prefixed “n-” (that’s “n” with the fleiscín unless the word is going to be capitalized, in which case you’d have “dár nAithreacha,” “do bhur nAithreacha,” and “dá nAithreacha”).  So, to review:

Thug muid stocaí dár __-aithreacha.
Chniotáil sibh stocaí do bhur __-aithreacha.
Phéinteáil na páistí pictiúir dá __-aithreacha agus thug siad dóibh iad.

(reminder: all of the above have the prefixed “n-“).

And did you also notice what happened to the preposition “do” [say: duh], which means “to” or “for,” in some of these examples?

It combines with the following “a” (his, her, their) or “ár” (our) to form:
with a prefixed h before vowels (dá hathair, likewise: dá huncail or dá haintín) for “to/for HER father,” etc.
with no change to the following word (dá athair, dá uncail, dá aintín) for “to/for HIS father,” etc.
+ r with a prefixed n- before vowels (dár n-athair, dár n-uncail, dár n-aintín) for “to/for OUR father,” etc.
+ with a prefixed n- before vowels (dá n-athair, dá n-uncail, dá n-aintín) for “to/for THEIR father,” etc.

A younger child might use “Daidí” or “Deaide” and there are other variations as well, but that will have to be the subject for yet another blog.

At any rate, bain sult as Lá na nAithreacha, and if any of you have other gift ideas, please do write them in! SGF — Róislín

am [ahm], time (an t-am sin, that time)
bliain, year; den bhliain [den VLEE-in], of the year, referring to parts or portions of the year in this case; i mbliana [im-LEE-uh-nuh, for pronunciation, think of it as one word], this year; note that “i mbliana” literally means “in year” — the normal word for ‘that,’ (“sin“), isn’t used for this adverbial expression and “bliain” gets a special ending
cniotáil [KNIT-aw-il, the initial "k" sound is pronounced, unlike English], to knit; for the past tense, insert an “h” (chniotáil), which makes the initial “c” silent.  Yes, an initial “hn-” sound is unusual from an English perspective, but it’s a bit like “huh-nuh” but really glided together, so the first “-uh” part isn’t really there.
dóibh [DOH-iv], to them
lámhdhéanta [LAWV-YAYN-tuh, the "mh" is like a "v" and the "d" is silent], handmade
Meitheamh [MEH-hiv], June
sin [pronounced like English "shin," as in a part of the leg], that

Sula bhfágann muid na Fritíortha (Before we leave the Antipodes)

Posted on 09. Jun, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

An tOileán Thuaidh (dath: dearg) agus An tOileán Theas (dath: liath), An Nua-Shéalainn (foinse: nasc thíos)

An tOileán Thuaidh (dath: dearg) agus An tOileán Theas (dath: liath), An Nua-Shéalainn (foinse: nasc thíos)

In this blog we’ll take a last look at some geographical terms pertaining to New Zealand, including the interpretation of “Aotearoa,” as mentioned in the last blog.  All of the words in today’s basic vocabulary also have wide applications for conversation in general.  We’ll be looking at the following words:

tír, land, country, and talamh, land, ground

scamall, cloud (a cognate of “cumulus,” although the specific meteorological term for “cumulus” in Irish is actually a more recent borrowing, “cumalas“)

fada, long

bán, white

oileán, island; “inis” is used for some islands (Inis Fada [sic] in New York, for example) but not for New Zealand’s two main islands.

thuaidh [HOO-ee, silent "t"], north

theas [hass, silent "t"], south

First we’ll return to the question raised one blog back: What does the Maori name for New Zealand, “Aotearoa,” mean if translated literally into Irish?

I’ve included “tír” since many interpretations of “Aotearoa” seem to slightly extend the concept to mean “Land of the Long White Cloud.”  Apparently, though, it’s really just “long white cloud” (no “land of”), which is the most popularly agreed upon interpretation of the name.

Tír an Scamaill Fhada Bháin OR Talamh an Scamaill Fhada Bháin.  Hmm, perhaps it should be “talamh,” by analogy with “Talamh an Éisc” (lit. the land of the fish), the Irish name for Newfoundland.

Either way, if we’re including “land of,” the “long white cloud” part will be in the genitive case (an tuiseal ginideach), which involves some changes to “scamall,” “fada,” and “bán.”

1) scamall becomes “scamaill,” with an inserted “i” (slenderization/ caolú)

2) fada [FAH-duh] becomes “fhada” [AH-duh] with lenition (séimhiú)

3) bán [bawn] becomes “bháin” [wawn].  A little more specifically, it sounds like “wawin” with a slight change to the final “n,” making it more of an “in” sound.  Remember, though, this is quite subtle, not like, hmm, “Put your paw in mine”  Not that I have paws (lapaí!)–that’s just an example of where the “-aw” and the “in” sounds are more separated.   Why “bháin“?  Séimhiú at the beginning, typical for marking the genitive case; the slender “n” also marks the genitive case.

And secondly, let’s look at one last set of geographical phrases for New Zealand:  An tOileán Thuaidh and An tOileán Theas.

An tOileán Thuaidh means “the North Island.”  You might have noticed the prefixed “t” at the beginning of “oileán,” kept lower case even in a proper name.   That’s a general rule that applies to nouns that are masculine, singular and start with a vowel, when they come after the word “the.”  You’ve probably seen it before (uisce, an t-uisce; úll, an t-úll; Úll Mór, an tÚll Mór; Úcránach, an tÚcránach; Ugandach, an tUgandach, srl.)

Thuaidh” means “north” or “northern” and is related to words like “tuaisceart” (a northern area), “Tuaisceart Éireann” (Northern Ireland), Tuaisceartach (Northerner), tuaithiúr (northerly aspect), aduaidh (from the north), and ó thuaidh (to the north, with “ó″ which ironically looks like it should mean “from”).  It’s used in place names like “An Chóiré Thuaidh” and “An Mhuir Thuaidh.”

Theas” means “south” or “southern” and is related to words like deisceart (a southern area), Ndeibéilis an Deiscirt (Southern Ndebele, a South African language), Deisceart Chorcaí (South Cork), Deisceartach (Southerner), deisiúr (southerly aspect), aneas (from the south), and ó dheas (to the south, with the same ironic “ó″ as “ó thuaidh“).  It’s used in place names like “An Afraic Theas” and “An Chóiré Theas.”

So “An tOileán Thuaidh” and “An tOileán Theas” are quite predictable and straightforward as place names.  I understand that there is a lot of debate as to whether one really says “the North Island” and “the South Island,” or just “North Island” and “South Island.”  I’ll just compromise by offering both options.  For “North Island” and “South Island,” we just drop the “an” (the) and the prefixed “t-” that it triggered: Oileán Thuaidh and Oileán Theas.

I hope you’ll find some application for these words, even when not talking about An Nua-Shéalainn, for example: Bostún Theas, An Trian Theas (the South Riding), An Pol Theas (“Dia dhuit, a Roald!”), and An Tioróil Theas (geoidil-í-hí-hí, to coin a phrase).  On the northerly side, we have, for example,  Filideilfia Thuaidh, An Trian Thuaidh, An Pol Thuaidh (“Dia dhuit, a Roibeaird, a Mhaitiú, a Ootah, a Seeglo (a Sheeglo?), a Egingwah, agus a Ooqueah”), and míol mór socach na Mara Thuaidh.  That latter phrase might not be as transparent as “An Pol Theas” but, rest assured, it’s a whale of a topic.  Hunh?  Aistriúchán thíos.

Maybe some day we’ll tackle another New Zealand place name, “Taumata­whakatangihanga­koauau­o­tamatea­turi­pukakapiki­maunga­horo­nuku­pokai­whenua­kitanatahu”(aka Taumata), but, once again, that’ll have to be ábhar blag eile.  SGF – Róislín

Nóta: míol mór socach na Mara Thuaidh, lit. beaked whale of the North Sea.  So, “beaked,” an ea?   “Socach” also means “snouted” (!).  I guess every mammal has some kind of snout, be it a “geanc” or a “cromóg.”  “Socach,” the adjective, comes from “soc,” which has many meanings, including “projecting end,” “nose” (after “srón” and “gaosán“), “nozzle,” “muzzle,” and “beak,” as well as “snout.”  Remember all those muzzled calves we discussed way back when?  It was in (26 Feabhra 2010).  “Déanann sí soc don lao.”  “Seo í an bhean a dhéanann soc don lao.”  “Seo í an bhean a ndéanfaidh a hiníon soc don lao.”  ‘A, ‘sea, the theme of that blog (téama an bhlag sin) was actually “clásail choibhneasta” (relative clauses), not “soic” as such.  But we got a lot of mileage out of “na soic sin,” nach bhfuair (a Áine ó “MiseÁine”)?

Kudos to anyone who can send in the formal name for this whale.  Leid: it’s named after a person.  Leid eile: the person’s (unintentional) namesake is a character in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden.

Gluaisín don nóta: cromóg, aquiline nose; geanc, snub-nose

Nasc don mhapa:,_New_Zealand#mediaviewer/File:New_Zealand_North_Island.png

tír + scamall + fada + bán = Aotearoa (probably!)

Posted on 05. Jun, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Scamall fada bán mar seo atá i gceist san ainm "Aotearoa," b'fhéidir -- cé go bhfuil an ceann seo thar Wyoming (nasc thíos)

Scamall fada bán mar seo atá i gceist san ainm “Aotearoa,” b’fhéidir — cé go bhfuil an ceann seo thar Wyoming (nasc thíos)

So what was that dú-shlán [DOO-hlawn] mentioned in the last blog (nasc thíos).  Gaeilge a chur ar Mhaorais (to translate Maori to Irish)?  Bhuel, cén fáth nach ndéanfaí sin (Well, why not, lit. why wouldn’t that be done)?The hitch is, here, that I’m just going to set out the vocabulary in this blog, and see if any readers take up the challenge of putting the phrase together. An freagra, nó mo leagansa d’fhreagra? Sa chéad bhlag eile.

First, also let me mention that “land of the long white cloud” is just one interpretation of what “Aotearoa” actually means.  A couple links to sources discussing this further are listed in the links below.

If we accept “land of the long white cloud” as our basic phrase, here are the four main words, with some variant possibilities.  As with any “possessive” phrase in Irish, there will be no word equating to “of.”  Irish uses the genitive case (an tuiseal ginideach) to express possession, even when it’s in the more descriptive sense, not ownership as such.  A typical example is “Tír na nÓg” (land of the young, where the extra lower-case “n” is the real tip-off that the phrase is genitive).

land: most typically, “tír” although there is also “talamh,” which can mean “land” as well as “ground,” as in “Talamh an Éisc” (Newfoundland, lit. the land of the fish, understood to be codfish).  In fact, I’ve always wondered why it’s “Talamh” not “Tír” here, but if there’s an answer to that, it’ll have to be ábhar blag eile.  The word “land” doesn’t seem to literally be in the compound word “Aotearoa,” but, intriguingly, “ao” can mean “cloud” or “world.”  Hmmm.

long (as an adjective here, of course, not as in “to long for”): fada.  Not too much variation here.  There are several related words in different parts of speech (fadó, i bhfad, srl.)  but most of them go back to the basic concept, “fad” (length).   The Maori element is “roa,” which also means “tail.”

white: bán, or sometimes “fionn” (white, bright, fair) and sometimes “geal” (bright, white) which is interesting because the “long white cloud” connected to Aotearoa is sometimes described as “bright.”  Hmm, if a cloud is bright, would it ever be any color other than white?  The Maori element is “tea” (white).

cloud: “scamall” is probably the most typical word, with “néal” as an alternate.  And then there can be “ceo” as in “ceo deannaigh” (a cloud of dust) and “púir” as in “púir deataigh” (a cloud of smoke).   But those latter two examples don’t really apply here.   Both “scamall” and “néal” have nice recognizable cognates: cumulus and nebula

Now all that’s left to do is to string these words together in the right order, check for initial mutations (lenition), and throw in the word for “the” (but, remember, no ‘of” as such”).

Let’s see what you come up with.  And if there could be several correct answers.

By the way, I did look online to see if there was a pre-existing official Irish translation of the Maori “Aotearoa” and found nothing, not even in Wikipedia, which would be the most likely candidate for such a phrase

I did find it in French:  Le pays du long nuage blanc

Agus sa Ghearmáinis: das Land der langen weißen Wolke

Sa Phortaingéilis: A Terra da Grande Nuvem Branca

Sa Tagálaigis: Ang Lupain ng Mahabang Puting Alapaap

San Indinéisis: Tanah Awan Putih Panjang

Sa Haváis: ao-kea-loa (sin “scamall bán fada,” san ord sin, gan “tír”)

Of course, translations like these and our Irish version to come would normally only be used as background information, for the etymologically curious, since, basically, “Aotearoa” is “Aotearoa,” much as “Hawai’i” is “Hawai’i” and “Manitoba” is “Manitoba.”   It could be a blast to find the Irish equivalents of the translations of indigenous names around the world, and it could be quite a challenge, good for vocabulary expansion, and often, for genitive case practice.  But that’s way, way, way more than one blog’s worth.   Maybe one of these days we’ll tackle Sagarmatha aka Chomolungma aka Zhumulangma.  Linguistically only, that is, at least for me, since I’m not really a mountain-climber, though, as a young teen, I did enjoy reading A Yak for Christmas, by Louise Hillary, who, tragically, died in 1975, predeceasing her husband Sir Edmund by over 30 years.  And then there are the renowned cases of Denali and Uluru, where the indigenous name finally became official.  All worth looking into.  Some day.  Some blog.   SGF and looking forward to seeing what you come up with to translate “Aotearoa.” – Róislín

P.S. And the saga doesn’t really stop here because there’s another indigenous name, Te Ika Nui A Maui (The great fish of Maui), but I think one concept is enough, for one blag, at any rate.  Translating “great fish” could be fun though — “olliasc” or just “iasc mór.”  Food for thought!


Aotearoa: agus

Na Scamaill: grianghraf le Kenneth Dwain Harrelson, (8 Feabhra 2008)

Blag faoin Nua-Shéalainn sa tsraith seo: (31 Bealtaine 2014)