Love (Grá) and the Art of Applying Initial Consonant Mutations in Irish

Posted on 14. Feb, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

In recent blogs and a few others from previous years, we’ve looked at ways to say “I love you,” in Irish.  Often these phrases include initial consonant mutation, so what better way to practice the mutations than with variations on a theme of “grá“?

In this blog, I’ll use some of the phrases we learned in previous blogs, but this time I’ll leave some blanks to be filled in.  In some cases, the blank will be just one added letter.  In a few other cases, the first two letters will be needed, which makes this a vocabulary review as well as a mutation workout (hmm, that sounds strange, but I guess it works).  If two letters are needed, there will be two blanks.

Oh, and there may be some repetition in the answers.  I guess there are only so many ways to say “I love you” in typical use, unless we turn to some of the more unique, less everyday phrases, perhaps from other languages.  One example would be the Japanese expression for, “The moon is beautiful, isn’t it?” as suggested by Soseki Natsume (1867-1916) and posted in 2013 by Masato Hagiwara on Quora (nasc agus an tSeapáinis thíos).  Hmmm, not that Natsume probably expected the phrase to be translated into Irish, but why not?  It would be “Tá an ghealach go hálainn, nach bhfuil?”  That would be interesting to try on your significant other, in Irish, the next time the mood strikes, wouldn’t it?

But anyway, back to the more typical Irish.  The answer key, to the extent possible in one blog entry, will include a brief explanation of why the consonants change.

  1. Mo ___ ___rá t___ú.  You (are) my love.  Really a little more like saying, “My love you (are),” if you consider the word order.
  1. Is tú mo ___ ___rá. You are my love.
  2. Is tú mo c__uisle. You are my pulse, with “pulse” here being a term of endearment.
  1. Is tú mo ___ ___uirnín.  You are my darling.
  1. Is tú grá geal mo ___ ___roí. You are the bright love of my heart.
  1. Táim i ___grá leat. I am in love with you.
  1. Tá mo ___ ___ roí istigh ionat(My heart is within you), or more literally, “inside in you.”

And here are a few phrases that don’t require initial consonant mutation.  Why?  Because the “st-” combination, found in the words “stór” and “stóirín,” never takes mutation in Irish.  It’s exempt from lenition and eclipsis.

  1. Is tú mo stór.  You are my sweetheart.
  2. Is tú mo stóirín.  You are my (little) sweetheart

And if those phrases don’t give you enough ways to proclaim your affection, you might like to try the following quote from J. M. Synge, which I have translated from his Hiberno-English original to Irish.  For present purposes, I’ve also changed the line from the 3rd-person to the 2nd-person so it’s in direct address.  In other words, instead of Synge’s main character Christy talking to the Widow Quin about his darling Pegeen, this is a line you could say, if you dare, to the object your affection

  1. Nach bhfuil mé tar éis grá-sholas réalta an eolais a fheiceáil agus é ag taitneamh as d’éadan

(“Amn’t I after seeing the love-light of the star of knowledge shining from your brow …)  For the translation, I kept the Hiberno-English “Amn’t I,” but of course one could change it to “Aren’t I.”  I also added the phrase “and it” (agus é) for smoother flow in Irish.

So with all the phrases we’ve been practicing, you should have plenty of choices for saying “I love you” in Irish.  And with the extra attention to differences like “grá” and “ghrá” and “ngrá”  you should be well prepared to take care of the mutations as you go.  Hope that works, for Lá Vailintín, or any other time of year!  – Róislín

Nasc don abairt i Seapáinis:,  Agus seo cuid de phost Masato (April 11, 2013): … “Here’s one of my favorite stories to tell Japanese characteristics — when the great Japanese novelist, Soseki Natsume, found one of his students trying to translate “I love you” into “我君ヲ愛ス,” (lit. I love you) he suggested it be translated as “月が綺麗ですね” (lit. The moon is beautiful, isn’t it?) instead. Just imagine — a Japanese couple sitting side by side, looking up the moon together, and one of them says this — it would be enough to convey his/her feelings to the other. ”


1. Mo ghrá thú. You (are) my love.  Or really a little more like saying, “My love you (are),” if you consider the word order.  (“ghrá” after the possessive adjective “mo” and “thú” instead of “” because it’s separated from where the verb would be if there were a verb in this sentence.  But, remember, as previously stated, this sentence is complete without an actual verb.

  1. Is tú mo ghrá. You are my love. (“ghrá” after “mo“)
  1. Is tú mo chuisle. You are my pulse, with “pulse” here being a term of endearment. (“c” of “cuisle” becomes “ch” after “mo“)
  1. Is tú mo mhuirnín.  You are my darling. (“m” of “muirnín” becomes “mh” after “mo“)
  1. Is tú grá geal mo chroí. You are the bright love of my heart. (“c” of “croí” becomes “ch” after “mo“)
  1. Táim i ngrá leat. I am in love with you. (“g” of “grá” becomes “ng” after “i“)
  1. Tá mo chroí istigh ionat(My heart is within you), or more literally, “inside in you.” (“c” of “croí” becomes “ch” after “mo“). Some versions of this say “isteach” instead of “istigh;” I’ve seen both.

Examples 1 through 5 and example 7 all show “lenition” (adding the “h) while example 6 shows “eclipsis,” covering over the original first letter.

Abair ‘I Love You’ i nDeich dTeanga (and Irish as the 11th)

Posted on 11. Feb, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Cad a déarfaidh mé má deir sé (sí) 'Nagligivagit'?  Agus cén teanga í sin, ar aon chaoi? -- Léigh leat chun an freagra a fháil!  (grafaic: fearann poiblí per

Cad a déarfaidh mé má deir sé (sí) ‘Nagligivagit’? Agus cén teanga í sin, ar aon chaoi? — Léigh leat chun an freagra a fháil! (grafaic: fearann poiblí per

‘Tis the season to speak of “amour,” and the more ways, plus on rit, n’est-ce pas?   So let’s briefly review the most traditional Irish phrase for “I love you,” and then we’ll look at the same phrase in 10 other languages.  So how much more Irish will you learn from that?  Well, the matching game part of this blog will give you the language names in Irish.  So you’ll pick up some linguistic geography as you go.  Plus we’ll look at the details for the Irish phrase and review the pronunciation of the voiced velar fricative, a sound that is hard to avoid when saying you love someone in Irish.

There is a caveat about the phrases other than the Irish — they’re culled from the Internet, so if anyone has better suggestions, I’d certainly welcome them.   Some of the languages listed I speak tolerably well, but others, bhuel, níl siad agam ar chor ar bith.

First, let’s look at the Irish (an Ghaeilge):

Mo ghrá thú!, lit. My love you, i.e. You are my love.  Note: there’s no verb in this sentence.  “Love” is a noun here.

For pronunciation:

mo, which means “my” [muh, as in “monk” or “mud,” not like “Mo Willems” (the author) or “Keb’ Mo'” (the musician)]

For “mo ghrá,” let’s look first at “grá” [graw], love.  “Grá” is pretty straightforward to pronounce.  The “g” is “hard” (like English “grand”) and the “r” is flapped (lightly trilled).

Following the word for “my” (mo), grá becomes:

ghrá [γraw, using the IPA symbol /γ/ since there’s no specific way to represent this sound using the Roman alphabet] ] after “mo” (mo ghrá).  This “gh” sound has been described in previous other blogs, such as Saying “I love you” in Irish and Minding Your Velar Fricatives (Posted on 09 Oct, 2011,  Remember that this “gh” sound is specific to when the adjacent vowels are either “a,” “o,” or “u” (that is, specifically, not “e” or “i,” which trigger a different sound).

Let’s do a brief review of the sound /γ/, just in case.  It’s sort of like the “ch” of “Chutzpah,” but softer and deeper down in the throat.  In other words, it’s nothing like an ordinary English or Irish “g” (as in “good” or “gúna“).  Nor is it like the initial “gh” of Hindi “ghat” (as in “the Western Ghats”) or “ghī” / “ghee,” which you may know as “im gléghlanta” (i.e. clarified butter, used in cooking).  Those Hindi “gh’s” are like a hard “g” followed immediately by a “h” sound, a completely different sound from what we have here in Irish.  And, in Irish, we can’t ignore the “gh”-ness of this sound the way we do in English, where “ghetto” has the same “g” sound as “get” and “gherkin” has the same initial “g” sound as “girl.”  In their original languages (Iodáilis/Eabhrais agus Ollainnis), maybe the “gh” of “ghetto” and “gherkin,” was significant, but not in Modern English.

This change of “g” to “gh” happens routinely in Irish with many other words, such as “gúna” becoming “ghúna” (mo ghúna),”glan” becoming “ghlan” (Ghlan mé an gort), and Gort a’ Choirce becoming “Ghort a’ Choirce” (muintir Ghort a’ Choirce).

But for our purposes, we just need to be aware of “ghrá” for our phrase of the day, “Mo ghrá thú.”

Thú,” the final word in the phrase “Mo ghrá thú,” is easy enough to pronounce but the spelling can throw newcomers off.  The “t” is silent, so “thú” is pronounced “hoo,” as in “hoot.”

So to recap, “Mo ghrá thú” sounds like “muh γraw hoo.”

Now let’s see what some other languages have to say.  First there’s a banc focal, with the names of the languages involved, then the various phrases.  There are eleven language names because one “I love you” phrase is the same in two of the languages.  Where the languages have special scripts, I’ve saved that for the answers, so the script doesn’t give the language away.

BANC FOCAL: Albáinis   Fraincis   Portaingéilis   Gearmáinis   Hiondúis   Súlúis   Aragóinis   Ionúitis   Iarúibis   Sairdínis   Breatnais

Na Frásaí

  1. Je t’aime.
  2. Të dua.
  3. Nagligivagit.
  4. Eu te amo.
  5. Ngiyakuthanda
  6. Mo nifẹẹ rẹ.
  7. T’amo.
  8. Ich liebe dich.
  9. Rwy’n dy garu di.
  10. maiṅ tumhaiṅ bahut cāhatā (cāhatī) hūṅ.

Tá súil agam go mbainfidh tú sult as.   SGF – Róislín


  1. Fraincis (French): Je t’aime.
  2. Albáinis (Albanian): Të dua.
  3. Ionúitis (Inuktitut/Inuktituk): Nagligivagit (ᓇᒡᓕᒋᕙᒋᑦ).
  4. Portaingéilis na Brasaíle (Brazilian Portuguese): Eu te amo.
  5. Súlúis (Zulu): Ngiyakuthanda.
  6. Iarúibis (Yoruba): Mo nifẹẹ rẹ.
  7. Aragóinis (Aragonese) agus Sairdínis (Sardinian): T’amo.
  8. Gearmáinis (German): Ich liebe dich.
  9. Breatnais (Welsh): Rwy’n dy garu di, lit. I am loving you, or even more literally, “I am (in) your loving you.”
  10. Hiondúis (Hindi): मैं तुम्हैं बहुत चाहता (चाहती) हुँmaiṅ tumhaiṅ bahut cāhatā (cāhatī) hūṅ (feminine form in parentheses)

You’ve Gotta Have ‘Croí’ (Heart): Irish Terms and Expressions from ‘heart-ache’ to ‘heart-whole’

Posted on 05. Feb, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Feabhra … mí leannán … mí Lá Vailintín … agus a lán mothúchán eile bunaithe ar ár gcroí.  So let’s take a closer look at this word “heart,” in its basic Irish form and in some loving or love-lorn expressions.

Lá Vailintín i gCathair Taipei, an Téaváin -- croí mór dearg i soilse an fhoirgnimh (pictiúr: By Jnlin (Jnlin) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (

Lá Vailintín i gCathair Taipei, an Téaváin — croí mór dearg i soilse an fhoirgnimh (pictiúr: By Jnlin (Jnlin) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (

First the basics:

an croí [un krrree, with a nice flapped Irish “r,” that is, slightly trilled], the heart

an chroí [un khrrree], of the heart; méid an chroí

croíthe [KRrrEE-huh], hearts; note that the “í” stays long here, unlike words like “rúnaí,” pl. “rúnaithe,” or “tógálaí,” pl. “tógálaithe,” both with the “i” shortened.

na croíthe [KRrrEE-huh], the hearts

na gcroíthe [nuh GRrrEE-huh], of the hearts; x-gha na gcroíthe (the x-ray of the hearts, which would most likely only pertain to who(m)?   An freagra: An Dochtúir sa chlár Doctor Who, duine (más duine é) a raibh dhá chroí aige.  Aside from that Doctor, you’d probably only have one heart per x-ray image.  So if you saw more than one heart, you’d probably be looking at “x-ghathanna” (x-rays), not just “x-gha amháin).

And some phrases and expressions:

heart-ache, scalladh croí, lit. a scalding of heart

heart-burn, dó croí (this is from “dóigh,” burn, not “,” the number two)

heart-felt sorrow, brón ó chroí, lit. sorrow from heart

heartless, cruachroíoch.  Gotta love having two voiceless velar fricatives in a row (the ch’s).  And why not make it three, while we’re at it?  That’d be “bean chruachroíoch,” since initial may “c” change to “ch” after a feminine noun

heart-sick: this can be expressed two ways (at least): as an adjective: éadóchasach (hopeless), or, to use our “focal an bhlag inniu,” the other choice would be to say “Níl croí ná misneach ag an bhfear truamhéileach tromaigeantach tréigthe sin.”

heart-whole, which has the interesting qualification of meaning a)  “not in love” (nach bhfuil i ngrá) or b) sincere (dílis, as in cion dílis, heart-whole affection)

hearty: croíúil

Mh’anam, there did seem to be a negative strain running through those examples, so let’s not forget some terms of affection (the first two given in direct address):

a chroí, dear, lit. heart, as in “A Chonnla, a chroí,” in the song “Connla”

a chuisle mo chroí, pulse of my heart

grá mo chroí, love of my heart

grá geal mo chroí, bright love of my heart

And then there’s the Tin Pan Alley-era “Mother Machree,” which, in theory, would be “Máthair Mo Chroí.”  In reality, in direct address, the phrase would more likely be “A mháthair, a chroí,” since “a” (the vocative particle) is more typical than “mo” (“my”) in direct address in Irish.

Speaking of direct address, me mateys, we can easily see another example of using “a” instead of “mo” in direct address in Irish for “me hearties.”  So what is the Irish phrase for “me hearties,” as in a group of people, or team, or crew, especially of pirates?  Do the Irish words for “me hearties” have anything to do with being “hearty” (croíúil)?  Not really.  Curiously, Irish brings gender into the issue, but there’s nothing about heartiness in the phrases, as you’ll see in the examples below.

Actually, it’s not so curious, I suppose.  Most “hearties,” as addressed by pirate captains were probably male.  Unless of course, they included the likes of Anne Bonny or Mary Read.  Gráinne Ní Mháille (Gracie O’Malley), of course, was another example of a famous female pirate, and she was Irish to boot (or “to booty”!), but I wouldn’t say she was from the “Aaargh-yo-ho-ho-walk the plank” type of piracy.  Maybe more about her in a future blog.  Of course, maybe there never really was so much emphasis on “aaargh” in real-life pirate discourse, but it makes for some great special events, like “Talk Like a Pirate Day” (September 19).

Anyway, what is the Irish for “me hearties”?   There are two main choices, both starting with “a” (O), not “mo” (my, “me”):

a chailleacha, lit. O hags! or O old women!  (Hmm, yet another case of calling men women?)

or more straightforwardly, but less specifically nautical:

a fheara, me hearties, lit. “O men!”   Other translations of this, simply as “men,” are possible if the context is not nautical.

I use the “O” here to highlight the direct address, but it’s not as philosophical an “O” as in phrases like “O Tempora, O Mores!” or as prayerful as “Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!”

This use of “cailleach” may seem surprising, compared to, say, the infamous “Cailleach an Airgid,” in the song which really is about a “hag” (as it were).  But consider its fellow idiom, “Maith thú, a chailleach,” which can be translated as “Good man yourself.”  My hunch is that this phrase isn’t used all that much today, but I did find one (just one) recent example online, in the singular form (, from cathaltv to ronanbeo).  In the plural, there’s a handful more examples, like this one from CLG Naomh ColumCille: ” Cath fíochmhar ó cheann ceann na páirce. Maith sibh a chailleacha!”  (  But overall, “a chailleacha” for addressing men doesn’t seem to have much cyberpresence today, compared to “a leaids” (which has a tidy 176 hits), “a fheara” (an impressive 132 hits), and “a bhuachaillí” (237 hits).

Anyway, that’s an overview, at least, of “an croí,” including the heart itself, some comhfhocail based on the word “heart,” a few terms of endearment, and the Irish equivalent to “me hearties.”

Up next, cluaisíní agus méadailíní?  Or perhaps some heart-related topic that’s beagán níos rómánsúla?

Ó!  “Cad is ciall le cluaisíní agus méadailíní?” a deir tú.  Seo leideanna: cluaisíní can also mean a clew of a sail, a tab on a card, a lug (in mechanical equipment), and a type of scallop.  So for the heart, it also means _________ (freagra thíos).  “Méadailín” isn’t used much today outside of discussing the heart (fad m’eolais) but it could mean “little maw” (hmm, can a “maw” be little?) or a small paunch.  So “méadailín,” the counterpart of the “cluaisín,” means __________ (freagra thíos).

Slán go fóill – Róislín

Freagraí: auricle and ventricle