Irish Language Blog

“Comharsa,” “Monarcha,” “Pearsa”: An Cúigiú Díochlaonadh Arís Posted by on Jun 10, 2011 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

We’ve recently seen several patterns for 5th-declension nouns in Irish.

One small group, which contains some very important kinship terms, looks like this:

athair (father), athar, aithreacha

máthair (mother), máthar, máithreacha

Another group sometimes also has the “-air” ending but works slightly differently when you create the possessive form (adding “-ach”) and includes the following:

cathair (city), cathrach, cathracha

nathair (snake), nathrach, nathracha

This second pattern also contains nouns that work the same way (adding “-ach”), but have slightly different endings (-il, -ir, -in) in their basic form, all within the same family, though.  These include:

triail, trialach, trialacha (trial, attempt)

uimhir, uimhreach, uimhreacha (number)

traein, traenach, traenacha (train)

And now for our third sub-section of 5th-declension nouns.  These add “-n” for genitive singular and, with a few exceptions, “-na” for all the plural forms.  Examples include the following:

comharsa (neighbor), comharsan (of neighbor, neighbor’s), comharsana (neighbors)

monarcha (factory), monarchan (of factory, factory’s), monarchana (factories)

pearsa (person, in the literary, grammatical, or philosophical sense; also, a character in a play), pearsan (of person, person’s), pearsana (persons, cast of characters in a play); “person” in the more physical sense is “duine.”

It’s worth noting that this “-(a)na” plural ending is structurally quite different from the much more widely used “-(e)anna” plural ending (busanna, carranna, ceisteanna, feiseanna, srl.).  For “comharsa,” “monarcha,” and “pearsa,” we’re basically taking the “-n” ending used to show possession and adding an “-a” to it for the plural.  So, there’s only one “-n.”  Another point of contrast is that there are probably thousands of words that have the “-(e)anna” plural, including a lot of recently borrowed ones, but probably only a couple dozen, at least of reasonably widely used words, that are part of this 5th-declension “-(a)na” subset.

How about a little cleachtadh now.  Freagraí, as usual, thíos.  First we’ll practice the most recent batch, the “-n, -na” words.  Remember these are all feminine, so you’ll have “na” in the middle for “of the,” singular as well as plural.  Oh, and that “na” (meaning “of the”) is not at all related to our “-na” suffix; it’s just a chance similarity.

Cleachtadh A: Word bank: comharsa, monarcha, pearsa (but you’ll need to add the endings, where necessary)

a) úinéir na _____________  (the owner of the factory)

b) úinéirí na ________________ (the owners of the factories)

c) Tá lomaire faiche mo _______________ an-challánach agus úsáideann siad go moch sa mhaidin é.

d) Tá an briathar “táid” sa tríú __________________.  (Leid: táid = tá siad)

e) Cé mhéad ______________ atá sa dráma sin? 

And now, let’s mix it up with other 5th-declension nouns, not just today’s “-n, -na” set:

Cleachtadh B: Word bank: athair, cathair, comharsa, monarcha, nathair, traein.  Sé fhocal i mbanc na bhfocal, ach ocht gceist?  Tá cúpla ceist bhreise ann le haghaidh an chraic agus mar tá na hábhair chomh suimiúil!  It’ll be up to you to decide if you need a possessive or plural form here, and to add the appropriate ending.  

1)     An bhfuil preabmhúnlanna i lár na _________ ? (city)

2)     Cad é ainm d’___________ ? (father)

3)     Cá bhfuil an stáisiún ______________ ? (train)

4)     Na hAchtanna ________________ ? (factory)

5)     An fearr leat cáis ____________________ nó cáis cheardaí ? (factory)

6)     An bhfuil mórán eolais agat ar _________________?  Cad í an ______ is lú sa domhan? (snake)

7)     Cén fáth a dtugtar an leasainm “Juteopolis” ar Dhún Déagh, in Albain?  Freagra: Mar gheall ar na ________________ siúite a bhíodh ann.  (factory)

8)     Ná santaigh teach do ______________; ná santaigh bean do ______________, ná a dhaor ná a dhaoirseach, ná a dhamh ná a asal, ná aon ní is leis (Eaxodus 20:17).  Leid: the use of forms like “a dhaor” and “leis” tell us that the answer is singular; also, unlike some fill-in-the-blank questions, both blanks here are identical.  (neighbor)

And finally, while still talking about “an cúigiú díochlaonadh,” what do “porridge” and “fingernails” have in common.  Well, that’s the cliffhanger don chéad bhlag eile.   Slán go fóill, ó Róislin

Freagraí do Chleachtadh A: a) na monarchan, b) na monarchana, c) mo chomharsana; has to be plural here because of the “siad,” d) pearsa, e) pearsa (singular after the question “Cé mhéad”)

Freagraí do Chleachtadh B:

1) i lár na cathrach

2) ainm d’athar

3) an stáisiún traenach

4) Na hAchtanna Monarchan (sa Bhreatain)

5) cáis mhonarchan (“mh” instead of just “m” because “cáis” is feminine)

6) nathracha; nathair; an ceann is lú (de réir snáthnathair Bharbadós (Leptotyphlops carlae), a bhfuil cónaí uirthi ar Bharbadós, í 10cm (ceithre horlaí) ar a fhad agus chomh tanaí le ribe spaigití. 

7) monarchana.  Dála an scéil, ceann amháin acu fágtha anois, fad m’eolais, a bhfuil an t-ainm “Verdant Works” air.  Maidir leis an difear idir an téarma “monarcha” agus an téarma “muileann” sa chás seo (muilte siúite a bhí i gceist, le bheith cruinn), sin idirdhealú nach bhfuil agam go réidh.  Ach chonaic mé “muileann síoda” i liosta na “monarchana” ba shine i Sasana agus mar sin is dócha go dtig linn “monarcha” a úsáid do mhuileann siúite sa chás seo.  “Monarcha” mar scáth-théarma, b’fhéidir.  Agus an Ghaeilge ar “Juteopolis”?  *Siúiteapolas, b’fhéidir.  Bhur mbarúlacha?     

8)) do chomharsan, do chomharsan.  Hmmm, why is the “bean” part of that “aithne” (commandment) so much more memorable than the “damh” and “asal” part?  Changing times, is dócha.  And what about “santú fhear do chomharsan”?  I wonder why that wasn’t specified. 

Gluais: asal, donkey; ba shine, oldest; callánach, noisy; ceardaí, artisan; damh, ox; daor, unfree person, slave; daoirseach, slave, serf; idirdhealú, distinction; is lú, smallest; lomaire, mower; orlach, inch; ribe, strand (of hair, etc.); santú, to covet; síoda, silk; siúit, jute; snáth, thread

Nóta re: *preabmhúnlann (pop-up urinal): If you have any doubts about the *preabmhúnlann concept, which I have not seen implemented in the U.S., just check out the website of the UriLift manufacturer, which cites their popularity in London and Belfast, amongst other places (  My question is what to call these devices in Irish, since, yet again, I find nothing online for this phrase.  The choice is basically whether to use “preab-“ as a prefix or “aníos” as a modifier.  “Preab” literally means “bounce,” “spring,” or “leap,” and “aníos” means “upward” or “from below.”  “Preab aníos” means “pop up from below,” but would seem to be overkill for the pop-up urinals.  With “preab,” we have samples like “preableabhar” (pop-up book) and “preabdheis” (pop-up device).

Using “aníos,” we have phrases like mír aníos (a pop-up, i.e. ad, message, etc. on computer), bacaire míreanna aníos, pop-up blocker (lit. blocker of pop-ups), pictiúr aníos (a pop-up picture), and roghchlár aníos (a pop-up menu, as on a computer, not, afaik, as a 3-dimensional feature on a dining table in a restaurant, although, come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea).

Of course, we could always drop the colloquialism “pop-up” and describe them in scientific terms: múnlanna a ardaítear go hiodrálach (múnlanna inardaithe go hiodrálach).  Curiously, at least to me, the Irish for “retractable” is “inardaithe,” but literally, that would mean something more like “able to be raised.”  The word “retractable” in English puts more emphasis on the “lowering-down” aspect.  Either approach seems reasonable, since that’s exactly what the UriLift does – it gets raised in the evening when it will help with public urination problems, typically around 10 pm, and lowered again in the morning when it’s not needed and would block traffic.  All with a cianrialtán (remote control).

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  1. Mise Áine:

    @ And what about “santú fhear do chomharsan”? I wonder why that wasn’t specified.

    Fear a scríobh é…:-)

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