Cineálacha eolaithe (síceolaí agus bitheolaí, mar shampla … agus mar nuafhocal–*Pottereolaí)

Posted on 31. Jul, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Ó “agraimeitéareolaí” go “zó-eolaíocht” tá a lán téarmaí leis na foircinn “-eolaí” agus “-eolaíocht” sa Ghaeilge. 

To back up, just as English has many “-ologists” and “-ologies,” Irish has many words based on “eolaí” (scientist) and “eolaíocht” (science), all related to an even more basic word, “eolas.”  You might recognize “eolas” from phrases like “eolas turasóireachta” (tourist information).

Unlike “-ologist” in English, “eolaí” is a word in its own right in Irish.  It has several meanings in Irish besides “scientist,” including “knowledgeable person,” “expert,” and “guide” (though a tour guide is usually a “treoraí turasóireachta“).  It can even refer to a non-person, when used for “directory,” as in “eolaí an teileafóin.”  A “directory” in the computing sense is usually either “comhadlann” [KOH-wud-lahn, lit. “file-place”] or “eolaire,” the latter being yet another word related to “eolas.”

So what are some of these “-ologist” words?  Does one of these describe your job?  If so, please write and let us know.  Or write in even if you’re not an “-ologist.”  There are lots of other occupational terms in Irish (Is dochtúir/ altra / dlíodóir / múinteoir / feirmeoir / ríomhchláraitheoir / ceoltóir, srl. mé).

The words below are listed with the Irish for the job term and the field of study, with pronunciation when it seems helpful.  The English is given in the Nóta, so you can see if you can work them out yourself.

1) agraimeitéareolaí  (agraimeitéareolaíocht)

2) bia-eolaí  [BEE-uh-OH-lee]  (bia-eolaíocht)

3) bitheolaí [BIH-HOHL-ee]  (bitheolaíocht)

4) cairdeolaí  (cairdeolaíocht)

5) feiniméaneolaí  (feiniméaneolaíocht)

6) gaistreintreolaí  (gaistreintreolaíocht)

7) síceolaí [SHEEK-OHL-ee] (síceolaíocht)

8) uaimheolaí [OO-iv-OHL-ee]  (uaimheolaíocht)

9) úfó-eolaí [OO-foh-OHL-ee, if really carefully pronounced, more likely “OO-fohl-ee, with the “-oh-” sound sort of drawn out in rapid speech]

10) zó-eolaí [ZOH-OHL-ee]  (zó-eolaíocht), also called “míoleolaí,” with “míoleolaíocht” as the field of study.

Well, that’s a sampler.  There are scores more.   And then there are a few terms in English for which I haven’t yet found an official Irish equivalent.  Some are “focail ócáide,” some are, perhaps, tongue in cheek, and some are simply very new, but they all provide food for thought.  Any thoughts about the meanings of the following words, which I have newly coined (fad m’eolais)?

a) *beoireolaí [ByOHRzh-OHL-ee, the “b” as in “beauty,” not “booty,” and the “r” slender as in “Jiří“]

b) *coineolaí

c)  *measceolaí

d) *straoiseogeolaí [STREESH-ohg-OHL-ee]

e) *Pottereolaí

Aistriúcháin do 1 go 10 agus do “a” go “e” thíos.  Tá súil agam gur bhain tú sult as seo, fiú murab í an fhocleolaíocht an cheird atá agat.   SGF – Róislín

Nóta: na haistriúcháin

1) agraimeitéareolaí, agrometeorologist

2) bia-eolaí, food scientist (this one doesn’t end up as an “-ologist” in English)

3) bitheolaí, biologist

4) cairdeolaí, cardiologist

5) feiniméaneolaí , phenomenologist

6) gaistreintreolaí, gastroenterologist

7) síceolaí, psychologist

8) uaimheolaí, speleologist

9) úfó-eolaí, ufologist.  Self-explanatory.  “Úfó″ can be used in Irish although there is another term based on the actual idea in Irish words:”réad eitilte gan aithint” (lit. flying object without recognition).    Can’t say I’ve heard that latter much i ngnáthchaint na sráide though.  Or should that be “i ngnáthchaint na dtiúb Jefferies.”   

10) zó-eolaí, míoleolaí, zoologist

And the newly coined words:

a) *beoireolaí, beerologist.  Coincheap nua, an ea?  Well, you might want to check out this website, or the exhibit itself, which has been held over through Summer 2015, in San Diego.  The description starts with the intriguing lead-in: “Modern civilization is beer civilization!  Agriculture, cities, writing, and religion all have ties to ancient craft brewing.”  See more at:

An cheist atá agam faoi — an bhfuil an taispeántas ag taisteal go cathracha eile?  Ba dheas an smaoineamh sin! 

b) *coineolaí, cynologist (specialist in the study of dogs).  Based on “” (hound) with its historic dative/plural forms, “coin” (ag an choin, na cointe, both non-standard forms today), to more closely match the Greek root, “kyn-,” from which we get both “canine” and “cynical.”  But the study of cynics, in contrast, would be ” *ciniceolaíocht ” (another word I just coined, fad m’eolais).  More on how cynicism is connected to dogs will have to wait for blag éigin eile, but the key is in the ancient Greek for “churlishness.”  ‘Nuff said, for now (or should that be “Wuff said”?).   Pronunciation tips: coineolaí [KwIN-OHL-ee], coin [kwin], choin [khwin] and cointe [KwIN-tchuh].  These days, the plural of “” is usually “cúnna.”

c)  *measceolaí, mixologist

d) *straoiseogeolaí, emoticonologist.  If this is new to you, you might want to check out  “Straoiseog” [STREESH-ohg] is the Irish for “emoticon.”  And I wonder who coined that one, since I’m sure the word wasn’t “ag na Gaeil san am fadó!”

e) *Pottereolaí, Potterologist.  A Harry Potter specialist.  I got 21,300 results (unsorted) for “Potterology” on a Google search, so it’s clearly a viable word in English.  OMG, “Potterologist” just got 134,000 hits (unsorted).  But for ” *Pottereolaí ” and “Pottereolaíocht” I got no hits (amas ar bith), even with the various possible permutations of the word (an Phottereolaíocht, na bPottereolaithe, srl.).  I guess that says something faoin saol, faoin chruinne, agus faoi ‘chuile rud (about life, the universe, and everything).   But I’m not sure what yet.  Guess I’ll have to ask “an brádán feasa.”  Or should that be “an brádán amhrais“?


Níl aon “P” bréagléannta i nGaeilge (Béarla: ptarmigan vs. Gaeilge: tarmachan)

Posted on 27. Jul, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Cén cineál éin mé?  -- Is tarmachan mé.  Agus níl an litir "P" i m'ainm mar atá sa  Bhéarla bréagléannta atá orm.

Cén cineál éin mé? — Is tarmachan mé. Agus níl an litir “P” i m’ainm mar atá sa Bhéarla bréagléannta atá orm. Image:

We recently noted some extreme examples of English spelling (like chthonic, mnemonic, and pneumonia) and a couple of English words with initial “pt” like “pteranodon” and “ptarmigan” (naisc thíos)  One of those words was an example of pseudo-learned spelling in English since the initial silent letter was added, to make the word look impressively Greek.  While most English words beginning with “pt-” do come from Greek (ptosis, ptomaine, pterodactyl, Ptolemy, etc.), there’s at least one that doesn’t.  Which one?  Kudos (arís) to Seán Ó Briain who sent in the correct answer for that: ptarmigan, with the pseudo-learned “p” prefixed to an anglicization of the solid Gaelic word, “tàrmachan” (tarmachan, with no long mark, in Irish).  Why bother, one might wonder, but what’s done is done, and “ptarmigan” doesn’t seem to be changing.

So let’s look at a few other words that start with “pt” in English,” in this case, legitimately.  In other words, these “pt” clusters do in fact go back to the ancient Greek.  And, in all cases, the Irish words are spelled without the “p,” showing us that the Irish spelling system can be straightforward and logical.  Remember the “p” of the “pt” cluster isn’t pronounced in any of these English words, so it seems consistent that all the Irish words simply start with “t.”  Here are some samples:

1) pteranodon: tearanódón.  You might remember this from the 3-part blog on “Traein na nDineasár” (nasc thíos), where I also provided the vocabulary for the very catchy theme song (téamamhrán) for the show, great in English (Dinosaur Traaaiiin!), níos fearr fós i nGaeilge (i mo bharúil féin).

2) pterido- (as a prefix): teiridea- (before broad consonants) and teiridi- (before slender consonants)

3) pteridology (the study of ferns and other pteridophytes): well, I haven’t actually found this one in print or cyberprint so far, but putting the prefix and suffix together, we should have *teirideolaíocht.  Eolas ag Gaeilgeoir/teirideolaí amuigh ansin faoi seo?

4) pteridophyte (a plant in the Pteridophyta division, including ferns, horsetails, and club mosses): teiridifít

5) pterodactyl – just a brief mention here since the topic was pretty thoroughly covered in the blog “An Éan É? An Reiptíl É? An Dineasár É? Bhuel, Ní Hea, ‘Sea, agus Ní Hea (nasc thíos): teireadachtalach, with the caveat, as discussed in that blog, that, technically, pterodactyls don’t exist.

But, as Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill wrote about in her famous essay “Why I Choose to Write in Irish: The Corpse That Sits Up and Talks Back” (New York Times, 8 Eanáir 1995), non-existent things exist, at least according to the Irish Folklore file on “Neacha Neamhbheo agus Nithe Nach Bhfuil Ann” (Unalive beings and things that don’t exist).  So we might as well deal with the word for “pterodactyl,” even if they didn’t exist.  First “Plútón,” then “domhantarraingt” (yes, that’s been challenged too, nasc thíos) then pterodactyls.  What will be eliminated next?  In my imagination (Lennonesque-ly), it would be fuath, santacht, and foréigean, but I think that’s a long way off, given the state of the world.

And boy, did I just drop a heavy dose of philosophy about human nature into our otherwise light-hearted discussion. (Hey, that was supposed to be the “brief reference.”  Ah, well, sin mar atá.  Níl aon dochar déanta.)

6) pteropod (a mollusk, with <you guessed it>, a wing-like foot): teireapódach

and irresistibly:

7) pteropod ooze (I shudder to think …): púscán teireapódach

8) Ptolemy: Tá níos mó ná ceathrar acu ann agus “Tolamaes” mar ainm orthu go léir i nGaeilge:

a) Ptolemy (an matamataiceoir Gréagach): Tolamaes

b) Ptolemy (sinsearach ríshliocht Macadónach a bhí ina rialtóirí san Éigipt ó 323 BC go 30 BC):  Tolamaes. And, yes, there’s a plural: Tolamaesaigh.  Wondering about the lack of vowel harmony there?  The vowel cluster “ae” is considered “broad” in Irish, so it does “harmonize” with the “-aigh” of the suffix.  BTW, the slender version of the suffix would be ‘-igh,” which we see in words like “Fairisínigh” (Pharisees) and “Filistínigh” Philistines), where “-igh” matches up to the preceding “-in” syllable.

c) Ptolemy I (Ptolemy Sotor): rí na hÉigipte (306-285 BCE): Tolamaes I

d) Ptolemy II (Ptolemy Philadelphus): rí na hÉigipte (285-ca. 247, BCE): Tolamaes II

9) ptomaine (poison produced during putrefaction of animal or plant proteins): tóiméin, with a variant, tóimín.  Cheerily, this derives from “ptóma,” a ancient Greek word for “dead body”

10) ptyalin (enzyme which converts starch to dextrin and maltose): tiailin

And finally, an ironic note: the English word “pseudo-” includes the silent “p,” as do so many other Greek borrowings.  But in the case of the word “bréagléannta” (pseudo-learned), Irish jumps to a more traditional word, based on “bréag” (a lie).  So the “learned P” isn’t even an issue for that word.

So, what’s the takeaway here?  While Irish has plenty of silent letters (just think of “fadhb,” “fhadhb,” and “bhfadhb,” for starters), it doesn’t have a pattern of using “pseudo-learned” prefixes with silent letters.  The silent letters in Irish mostly occur for grammatical reasons (“sráid” becoming “an tsráid,” with the “s” becoming silent, but not “pseudo-learnedly”).  I’d hazard a guess that the pseudo-learned prefixes aren’t part of modern Irish spelling at all, but there could always be a stray example, so I won’t say never.  I never say “never” when it comes to language issues.  The pattern seems pretty clear as we look at words like “néamónaic” (aka cuimhneolaíocht) and  “niúmóine,” where the Greek “m” and “p” respectively have disappeared.  We certainly see the trend there.

And the final takeaway?  Now you say things like:

Tá cnámha na dtearanódón agus iontaisí na dteiridifítí sa phúscán teireapódach.

So just when you got used to discarding the silent pseudo-learned English “p,” in jumps the Irish “d” for eclipsis, making the original “t” of “tearanódón” and “teiridifít” silent.  Remember, Irish, logically and consistently, makes certain letters silent to show what’s happening grammatically.  Cén córas is fearr leat?  Which system do you like better?

So what did that sentence mean anyway?

The bones of the pteranodons and the fossils of the pteridophytes are in the pteropod ooze.

If you don’t imagine taking part in too much discussion on the “paleo” side of things, at least that last sentence gave you the imminently useful words “cnámha” (bones) and “púscán” (ooze).  I see there are at least five other types of “ooze” we could potentially discuss, but they’ll have to wait for blag éigin eile.  And that’s not even counting “Armus” from the “Skin of Evil” episode (Craiceann Oilc, b’fhéidir) of “RéaltAistear: An Chéad Ghlúin Eile.”  Or was Armus more “sláthach” (slime) than “ooze?”  Why does every topic seem to take me back to Star Trek.  Hmmm, I wonder.  Anyway, stay tuned, since we can’t let that topic go undiscussed.  It might even take us back to that baker’s dozen of words for “mud” in Irish, which some of you might remember from a couple of years ago (nasc thíos).

I can potentially see the pailé-ointeolaithe and teirideolaithe challenging me for my probable telescoping of geologic time periods in the sentence above, but, my main goal was simply to use these words in a somewhat plausible context.  And if “pteropod ooze” isn’t an engaging topic of conversation, I don’t know what is.  On that slithery note, SGF – Róislín


How To Say Irish Words Like ‘Aghaidh,’ ‘Bhratach,’ and ‘Shaoirse’ (Pronunciation Guide for the Red, White and Blue Blog)  Posted on 20. Jun, 2013 by róislín in Irish Language

Athphostáilte ar 31 Iúil 2014 mar: How do you pronounce that? A sample Irish pronunciation guide:

An Éan É? An Reiptíl É? An Dineasár É? Bhuel, Ní Hea, ‘Sea, agus Ní Hea  Posted on 27. Jun, 2013 by róislín in Irish Language

Traein na nDineasár: Gluaisín do Théamamhrán an Chláir Teilifíse (Cuid 1/3) Posted on 07. Jul, 2013 by róislín in Irish Language .  If you open the first of the three, you’ll be able to link to the other 2 in the series), which quotes physicist Erik Verline as telling a New York Times reporter, “We’ve known for a long time gravity doesn’t exist. It’s time to yell it.”  To which my humble response is, “Say what?”  But then, ní fisiceoir mé.

Maidir le “Mud” (Muck, Mire, etc.) Posted on 23. Mar, 2012 by róislín in Irish Language


Vocabulary and Pronunciation Guide for the Recent Blog: Cé mhéad “Shades of Gray” (Grey … Liath … Léith … de Grae, srl.)?

Posted on 25. Jul, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

In the last blog, we zoomed (zúmáil muid!) through a fair amount of vocabulary to take some steps towards translating the general phrase “shades of gray” and the title of the recent book and upcoming movie, Fifty Shades of Grey.  So this blog will take a closer look at some of those words and their pronunciation.  Specifically, we’ll look at the following: imeartas, sloinne, imir, doimhneacht, liath (léith), dearg (deirg), gorm (goirm), Ó Liatháin (Uí Liatháin), Mac Giolla Riabhaigh (Mhic Ghiolla Riabhaigh), and Mac Cathail Riabhaigh (Mhic Chathail Riabhaigh).

imeartas: based on the verb “imir” (play), but note that the “r” is now broad.  “Imir” ends in a slender “r,” a sound I’ve been representing in this blog with “rzh” as in “IM-irzh“).  This is also the “r” of “Éire,” “Máire,” and “fir” (men).  The broad “r” of “imeartas” is “flapped” (like the beginning of a trill), but, admittedly, the trill sound is a little reduced since it’s right next to another consonant (“t”).

Imeartas” can mean “playfulness” and “trickery,” as well as “play.”  Followed by “focal” (of words), it means “word play” or “pun.”

sloinne: surname.  The “-oi-” in Irish is usually pronounced “ih,” as in “it” or “in,” not like the “oi” of English “oil” or “foil.”  So “sloinne” can be represented as “SLIN-yuh.”  You may well have seen the plural of this word if you’ve ever delved into Irish genealogy; it’s “sloinnte” (SLIN-tchuh).

imir: this can either be the verb “play” or a noun meaning “tint,” “shade,” or “tinge.”  Either way, it’s pronounced the same: IM-irzh, with the “-rzh” representing the Irish slender “r,” a sound not typically found in English.  The Czech “r” in the first name “Jiří,” as in  “Jiří Trnka,” is about the same, and can be heard at  As for the near vowellessness of the Czech surname “Trnka,” I’ll leave that to the Slavic language specialists to explain.  Who was Jiří Trnka (1912-1969) anyway?  Puipéadóir an-chlúiteach agus stiúrthóir scannán ab ea é.  He was sometimes known as “the Walt Disney of Eastern Europe.”

doimhneacht: shade, depth, deep place. Pronounced “DIV-nyukht,” this word is related to “domhain” (“deep” as an adjective, in “poll domhain,” mar shampla) and to “domhain” (as a noun: depth, abyss, inmost part, etc.).  Both as a noun and as an adjective, “domhain,” has additional forms that switch to the same slender “-mh” that we see in “doimhneacht.”  These include “i ndoimhneacha an tsléibhe” (in the innermost part of the mountain) and “leicne doimhne” (sunken, hollow, or “deep” cheeks).  Note the slender pronunciation: i ndoimhneacha [in-IV-nyukh-uh] and doimhne [DIV-nyuh].

The last blog referred to several colors besides gray, each with an additional form in the genitive case:

liath [LEE-uh], gray color; léith [lyay], of the color gray.

dearg [DJAR-ug, note that it’s 2 syllables], red color; deirg [DJERzh-ig, also 2 syllables], of red color

gorm [GOR-um, another 2-syllable word], blue color; goirm [GIRzh-im], of blue color

Of course, liath, dearg, and gorm, can also be used as adjectives, but that would have to be ábhar blag eile!

We saw “liath” in the surname “’Ó Liatháin” [oh LEE-uh-haw-in], and its genitive form: Uí Liatháin (of Ó Liatháin).  “” is pronounced “ee” and is routinely used as the genitive case of “Ó,” as in “Áras Mháirtín Uí Chadhain” (from the surname “Ó Cadhain“) and “Corn Uí Dhubhthaigh” (The O’Duffy Cup, for camogie, from the surname “Ó Dubhthaigh,” sometimes now spelled “Ó Dufaigh“).

And that leaves us with the two of longest surnames in Irish, long because they each are made of three separate words, instead of the more typical two words.

Mac Giolla Riabhaigh [mahk GyIL-uh REE-uh-vee] and its genitive case Mhic Ghiolla Riabhaigh [VIK YIL-uh REE-uh-vee]

Mac Cathail Riabhaigh [mahk KAH-hil REE-uh-vee] and its genitive case Mhic Chathail Riabhaigh [VIK KHAH-hil REE-uh-vee]

There always seems to be questions about pronunciation where learning Irish is concerned, so I hope this helped as a “blag coimhdeachta” (or maybe I should just say, “comhbhlag“) to the last one (nasc thíos).

Sonas na hurlabhraíochta ort!  SGF — Róislín 

Nasc don bhlag eile faoi Fifty Shades of Grey sa tsraith seo: (22 Iuil 2014)