Pronunciation tips for Mamó, Móraí, and Daideo (Grandma/Granny and Grandpa)

Posted on 05. Jun, 2009 by in Irish Language

 (le Róislín)

There have been numerous inquiries on how to pronounce these words, so here are some tips:

To pronounce Mamó: the final vowel is long, so it gets extra emphasis: mam-OH

To pronounce Móraí: the emphasis is on the first syllable, which sounds like the English word “more” but with a flapped (lightly trilled) “r”: MORR-ee.

When you see two vowels together in Irish and one of them is marked long, you usually only pronounce the long one: “aí” sounds like “ee”.  Another example is the surname Rooney in Irish: Ó Ruanaí

To pronounce the flapped “r,” think of how “sure and begorrah” is pronounced.  Even though neither of these words is actually Irish Gaelic, the “flapped r” sound prevails. 

“Begorrah” might look Irish and sound Irish, but it’s actually a Hiberno-English euphemism for a phrase in English.  If you know which phrase, how about sharing with other readers by using the “comments” section?  Hint: it’s related to the traditional Hiberno-English expression, “By Dad!”

To pronounce Daideo: Although this may look like 1950s Beat jive (Daddy-O), it’s not the same!  The Irish “Daideo” is a two-syllable word, whereas “Daddy-O” is three.  Also, the “d” in the middle of “Daideo” is pronounced “caol” or “slender” in Irish.  Depending on what dialect of Irish one speaks, the “slender d” is a little or a lot like the sound “j” in English.  The “eo” vowel is one long “oh” sound, even though it’s not marked as a long vowel.  So “Daideo” is pronounced “DADJ-yoh.”

All three of these will change slightly in direct address, that is, if you’re speaking directly to Granny or Grandpa.  If you’re raising children or grandchildren as English-speakers, for example i Meiriceá Thuaidh (in North America), it may be fine for the child to simply learn to say, “I love you, Mamó” or “Thanks, Daideo.” 

But if the children are growing up speaking Irish, these terms will be converted to the direct-address form, which involves softening (leniting) the first consonant.  Those of you from Ireland might remember this as “An Tuiseal Gairmeach” (the vocative case).  This special form for direct address also applies to names in general, when you are speaking to the person directly, and also to any other noun, animate or inanimate, to whom or to which you are speaking. 

So that would include all your Pegeens and Aidans, as well as anything like a hammer to which you are wishing “bad cess,” that is, if it just smashed your thumb.  It would also include pets’ names, if you’re speaking to the animal directly.  So if you’ve named your madra (dog), after Fionn Mac Cumhaill’s hound, Bran, you can stop calling him back to you with “Here, Bran!  Come, Bran!” and start using the lenited and palatalized version of the dog’s name (“A Bhrain!” [say: “uh vrahn”]), which won’t resemble anything in English.  Then it won’t sound so much like you’re publicly declaiming an ode to breakfast cereal.  Of course, you will have had to have trained the dogs to recognize two different forms of their own name, which might be hard unless they’re still coileáin (puppies).  It’s hard to teach a seanmhadra (old dog) new tuisil (grammatical cases)!    

But guess what, we’re out of space, so stay tuned for “nouns of direct address” i mblag atá le teacht (in a blog to come)!  Slán go fóill — Róislín

Pronunciation tips:

madra: MAH-druh and seanmhadra: SHAN-WAH-druh

tuiseal: TISH-ul; tuisil: TISH-il

thuaidh: HOO-ee (the “t” and “d” are silent)

Mac Cumhaill: mak coo-il (you may have known that one already, from the Legend of Knockmany, Á.B.E.)





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6 Responses to “Pronunciation tips for Mamó, Móraí, and Daideo (Grandma/Granny and Grandpa)”

  1. Pat Fitzpatrick White 28 March 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    My family is just beginning to learn Irish but our FIRST grandchild is due in April 2010. Since I want an Irish moniker for both my husband, son, daughter(uncle and aunt) and myself which are the most endearing terms with direct translations available? Pronunciations appreciated.
    Very excited in FL, USA

    Go raibh maith agat.

  2. róislín 17 April 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    A Pat, a chara,

    I assume what you’re asking for is the set of Irish terms for “granpa,” “grandma,” “uncle” and “aunt,” from a child’s perspective. I’d recommend “Daideo” (DADJ-oh, not like the Beatnik-style “Daddy-o”), “Mamó (mam-OH), Uncail (it’s the same whether it’s a formal term or a child’s), and Aintín (ANTCH-een). The latter is “aunt” or “aunty.” It’s already a diminutive (with the -ín ending, which you may have also seen in words like Micilín / Micileen, Máirín / Maureen, teachín / houseen, etc.). Almost everyone says “aintín” these days, though technically it is a diminutive of “aint” (aunt). So there’s no real differentiation of a child using “aunty” and an adult saying “aunt.” All the best!

  3. Dottie 20 April 2015 at 7:47 pm #

    Somewhere on the internet, I read that MARNEY was an Irish grandmom name!! I must be wrong cause I cannot find it anywhere now!! But that’s what my 2 granddaughters call me! Oh we’ll!

  4. róislín 26 April 2015 at 12:56 pm #

    Hi Dottie, “Marney” is a nice name for a grandmother but it’s not specifically Irish Gaelic and I don’t know of any specific references to it. But thanks for writing in, and enjoy being a “Mamó”!

  5. jono 3 December 2015 at 5:29 pm #

    I have searched every where for the correct pronunciation of teachín. Is tegg-een?

  6. róislín 4 December 2015 at 10:59 am #

    A jono, a chara,

    There are two possible words for “little house” (aside from the phrase “teach beag,” which also means “little house):
    teachín, the one you quote, which is pronounced “TCHAKH-een”, with the “kh” representing the sound in “Chutzpah” or “Chanukah” or the German “das Buch” or Welsh “bach”.
    tigín is also used, also means “little house” and is pronounced like what you suggest: “tegg-een” or “tigg-een”. HTH and thanks for reading “an blag”!

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