Some Irish Words Starting with the Letter ‘Y’ (yóyó ina measc)

Posted on 21. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

In the past few blagmhíreanna (naisc thíos), we’ve looked at some Irish words that start with letters not traditionally in the Irish alphabet (v, w, x).  Today’s blog will deal with the letter “y” and soon we’ll do “z.”  Someday we’ll get to the other three non-traditional letters (j, k, q), but for now let’s continue with our end-of-alphabet selection.

While the sound of “y” (as in English “year” or “yet”) occurs widely in Irish, as in “an ghealach” [un YAL-ukh] or “gheobhaidh” [YOH-wee] or “a Dhiarmaid” [uh YEER-mwidj], the letter itself does not.  There are very very few Irish words that begin with “y,” but there are some examples.  Among them we have the following:

yaincín, a “yankee” or working foresail

yóyó, plural: yóyónna.  And the gender is masculine, in case you were wondering.

Then we get the “y-prefix,” fairly scientific or technical:

y-ais, y-axis

y-chrómasóm, y-chromosome (occasionally spelled y-chrómosóm, but medial “-a-” seems to be the norm)

y-chruthach, y-shaped (from “cruth” [kruh], shape)

y-nasc, y-connection

What happens to some other loan-words that begin with “y” in English or other languages if they don’t keep the initial “y”?  Some of them end up with an initial “i,” as in iógart, ióga, itriam, and An Iúgslaiv (the former Yugoslavia).  Some get an initial “g” as in “geoidil” (yodel), “Giúdais” (Yiddish), and “geac” (the animal, yes, that’s the Irish for ‘yak’).  “Yucca” can be either “yucca” or “gioca.”  Sometimes we go right to a vowel, as for the English interjection “yuk” (or “yuck”) which is “uch” in Irish.  “Yemen” is “Éimin.”   The County Cork place name “Youghal,” of course, didn’t originally have a “y” in it; the actual Irish spelling is “Eochaill.”

Of course, many English words that start with ‘y’ have traditional Irish equivalents, starting with whatever letter happens to apply to that particular Irish word.  These aren’t our main concern here, but a few examples won’t hurt:

yacht: luamh

Yankee: Poncán OR Poncánach

year: bliain

yet: fós OR go fóill

young: óg

yahoo (also “curmudgeon” or “churl”): bodach OR brúisc (and yes, “yahoo” way predates, as we know from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726).  Hmm, is Yahoo planning a big celebration of the word’s 300th birthday in 2026?  It wasn’t exactly flattering in Swift, but then he was pretty much an equal opportunity satirist.  Something to look out for, anyway, sa todhchaí.

Needless to say, those in the last batch weren’t loan-words.  They’re simply the original Irish words for the English.

Additionally, there are foreign words, which are not gaelicized in any way, and which retain their original spelling.  They include the following: yang, yen (money), yeti, yin, yuan, yuko, yurt, Yggdrasil, and as noted above, sometimes “yucca.”

Bhuel, now, I guess all I need to do is to determine the Irish for “yadda-yadda-yadda” or “yakkety-yakking” in general or maybe the Lieber/Stoller song, “Yakety Yak.”  And maybe even the Irish for Spider Rich and Boots Randolph’s “Yakety Sax” and then I guess we’ll be all set.  Or sorted.  SGF–Róislín


From ‘vacsaín’ to ‘vuinsciú’ and some other Irish words that start with ‘v’ Posted on 05. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language

Irish Words Starting with ‘w’ (dornán beag ach dornán acu ann!) Posted on 09. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language

Some Irish Words Starting with the Letter ‘X’ (Part 1 of 2) Posted on 14. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language

Some Irish Words Starting with the Letter ‘X’ (Part 2 of 2): xileafón agus xifisteirneam Posted on 18. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language

Some Irish Words Starting with the Letter ‘X’ (Part 2 of 2): xileafón agus xifisteirneam

Posted on 18. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

As you might recall, the most recent blagmhír here was “Some Irish Words Starting with the Letter ‘X’ (Part 1 of 2)” (nasc thíos).  Today we’ll look at Part 2, Irish words beginning with “x” where the single letter “x” isn’t a prefix.  In other words, this is not the post dealing with words like x-gha, x-ghathaigh, x-chrómasóm, and, however small its cyberfootprint, “x-chomhad” (as in the clár teilifíse, which, in Irish, would be Na X-Chomhaid, if it were translated into Irish.  I haven’t seen it in Irish yet.  If you have, please let us know).

Here we’ll look at some samples from the other small group of “x” words, those that have usually have a “z” sound in English (xylophone, which is a reasonably useful vocabulary word, and xiphisternum, because I can’t resist it!).  There really aren’t that many more, unless we start talking about xeranthemum and xonotlite crystals.

xileafón.  If we adapt the IPA in Foclóir Póca to a more everyday transcription sound, the pronunciation would be indicated as “ZHIL-yuh-fohn,” with the “zh” as in “pleasure” or “leisure.”  Virtually nothing in English is spelled actually spelled “zh,” so, yes, we’re using “zh” to represent the letter “x” in Irish, a sound that is represented by an “s” in English (one of at least 4 ways the letter “s” can be pronounced in English!).  I never said it wasn’t convoluted!  The actual Irish-modified IPA,  in Foclóir Póca, in case you’re interested, is /’z΄il΄әͺfo:n/, with the vertical tic marks indicating stress, the slanted tic marks indicating slenderness, and the colon indicating a long vowel.

As for “zh,” apparently we do have the spelling in English for the Russian place name and surname “Zhdanov” and a handful of other words transcribed from Cyrillic, but not much else.   So would that mean that the Irish spelling of “Zhdanov” (if such a spelling existed), would be ” *Xdeanof“?  Or would we go the “Zhuang” to “Siuáingis” route and do ” *Sdeanof“?  Just askin’!  OMD, and what’s the Irish for “zhdanovism,” which I didn’t realize existed until just now.  Apparently the French is “Jdanovisme” and the Italian drops the “h” altogether, with “zdanovismo,” so the Irish would be … bhuel, cuardach do lá na coise tinne.

Anyway, I emphasize all of that “zh” business because I’ve also heard “xileafón” pronounced in Irish with the same “z” as in English.  That means the only major differences between the English and the Irish versions would be the slight slenderness of the “l” in the Irish version and whether the “i” is like English “ill” or like “tile.”   Endless food for thought!  Someday I’ll have to look into other versions of the word “xylophone” around the world.  It will be fun to see what, happens to the initial “x.”  So far, I’ve noted “xilofono,” “ksylofon,” and “saylopon,” but of course, that’s really another project for “lá na coise tinne,” and may not even make it back into this blog.  And it would be interesting to see if any languages (Íoslainnis, b’fhéidir) break it down into its component parts, which for Irish would render it something like ” *adhmadghuth” or ” *adhmadfhuaim.”  I’m using the “réiltíní” as usual to indicate unattested words.

As for “xifisteirneam,” the pronunciation would be “ZHI-fih-SHTERzh-nyum,” and please do let me know the next time that pops up in your daily small talk!  Of course, if you are an “ortaipéidí” or some other related medical practitioner, it might well be everyday linguistic fare.

Before we close, you might be happy to know that “xylography” in Irish is “adhmadghrafaíocht,” so you don’t even have to worry about an initial “x” sound there!  SGF — Róislín

Nasc: Some Irish Words Starting with the Letter ‘X’ (Part 1 of 2) Posted on 14. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language,

Iarsmaoineamh: I wonder, if The X-Files were translated into Irish, would we pronounced “Na X-Chomhaid” as “nuh HEKS-KHOH-widj” or “nuh EKS-KHOH-widj.”   In other words, would we add the inserted h-sound as we would for “na heilifintí” or “na heitleáin“?  Hmmm…

Some Irish Words Starting with the Letter ‘X’ (Part 1 of 2)

Posted on 14. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

As you might suspect, there are relatively few words in Irish that start with the letter ‘x,’ since it wasn’t part of the traditional original Irish alphabet (which was a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, and u).

We’ve seen something similar for the letters “v” and “w,” but for those, at least we can say that “v” now is fairly well represented in Irish, with examples ranging from “vacsaín” and “vaidhtéir” (groomsman, best man) to “vodca,” “vóta,” and “vultúr.”  For “w,” the examples are still pretty thin on the ground, although “wigwam, wigwamanna” does seem to show up in most recent Irish dictionaries, and “wok, wokanna” is getting some usage online.

So what’s the story with “x”?  It’s getting a little more usage than “w” but much less than “v.”

We can divide the “x”-words in two categories, those which pronounce the “x” like English “-ecks,” which includes most of the scientific terms with just “x-” as a prefix (x-ray, etc.), and those which pronounce the “x” like “zh,” as in the “zh” sound in the middle of “leisure” or “treasure” in English, including “xileafón” and “xifisteirneam.”  All of these “x” words tend to be pretty scientific, with “xileafón” as the main, reasonably everyday, exception.   Today’s blog post will deal with the “x-prefix” words and “xileafón” and related words will be “sa chéad bhlagmhír eile.”

So for today, let’s look at some words that have the “x” separated, as a prefix.  For all of these examples, the “x-” part is fairly straightforward to pronounce, since it’s more or less like the English, as in “necks.”   The trickier part, at least for newcomers to the language, is probably the “gh” and “ch” that come after the “x-.”  These have been dealt with extensively elsewhere in this blog (naisc thíos), but here’s the nutshell version.  The “broad gh” in these words is a sound not in English, but you may hear it in regional pronunciations of Spanish “agua” and German “sagen,” as well as in the Klingon word “gharghmey.”   It’s important to note “regional” here, since we’re not talking about the standard pronunciation for German and Spanish.  The sound is deep in the throat, a little “gargley” sounding, and represented in phonetics by the gamma sign /ɣ/.  There’s no great way to represent this sound in an informal transcription system, so I use the gamma sign.  It may look like the Roman letter “y,” but it isn’t the same letter or sound at all.

x-gha [eks-ɣah], an x-ray

x-ghathanna [EKS-ɣAH-huh-nuh], x-rays

x-ghathaigh [EKS-ɣAH-hee], x-ray (the verb as a command, as in “X-ghathaigh an chos!” (X-ray the foot/leg!)

Next, we break away from the “gh” sound and progress to the “ch” sound of a lenited “c.”  This sound isn’t standard in English, but we do see it in borrowed words such as “Chutzpah” and “challah” (the braided bread).  It may also be somewhat familiar to many English speakers from the Scottish pronunciation of “Loch,” from German words such as “Achtung!” or “das Buch,” and from Welsh (bach, fach, etc., words which may be used even in Welsh English, like “acushla” or “asthore” may be used in Irish English).  While the official IPA symbol for this is /x/, I usually use “kh,” as many other pronunciation guides do

x-chrómasóm [EKS-KHROH-muh-sohm], x-chromosome (which I’m sure you figured out without me really needing to type it).  By the way, if we used the Irish-modified IPA system to transcribe that, it would come out like this:  /’ek΄s ͺ xro:mәso:m/.   It seems a little ironic that the sound of the letter “x” gets written /ek’s/ but the sound of the letters “ch” gets written /x/!  And yes, for any expert fontographers out there, I manually forced a little extra space flanking the vertical subscript line, since otherwise it seemed almost completely unnoticeable.  (9/24/15: occasionally spelled x-chrómosóm, but medial ‘-a-‘ seems to be the norm.

I’m tempted to add “X-Chomhaid” here, for “X-Files,” although I have to admit that I’ve only seen it one other place online, other than the earlier blog where I experimented with it.   If anyone knows of any sites where fans are actively discussing that TV program in Irish, I’d love to know.  Pronunciation-wise, once again, it will give us the “kh” sound for the “ch” [EKS-KHOH-widj].

Of course, there are a few Irish words that start with “x-” and aren’t followed by the “gh” or “kh” sounds, like “x-radaíocht” [EKS-RAH-dee-ukht].  But, for better or for worse, “x-gha” and its cohorts are probably the most commonly used out of all of these.  So the voiced velar fricative once again claims its place on our tongues and in our throats.  (Voiced velar whosit?  Féach na naisc thíos).

By the way, now that you’ve worked on those “gh” and “ch” sounds, you might want to practice them in some more everyday Irish words or phrases, like “Mo ghrá thú” (I love you), “a Ghráinne” (the name “Gráinne” in direct address), “a chroí” (“dear,” literally “heart” in direct address), and the well-worn example “cóta Cháit” (the coat of Cáit).

Bhuel, that’s probably enough to digest for one day.  The next blog post will deal with words that have an “x” syllable as an integral part of the word, not as a separated single-letter prefix.  SGF — Róislín

For the sound “broad gh”: Saying “I love you” in Irish and Minding Your Velar Fricatives Posted on 09. Oct, 2011 by róislín in Irish Language (

Treoir don Treoir: A Guide to the Guide (for Pronunciation), Cuid a 2 Posted on 27. July, 2010 by róislín in Irish Language (…ation-cuid-a-2/

For the sound “broad ch”:  Treoir don Treoir: A Guide to the Guide (for Pronunciation), Cuid a 3 Posted on 29. July, 2010 by róislín in Irish Language  (…ation-cuid-a-3/)