Irish Language Blog

A Práta by Any Other Name: Téarmaí Bia agus Cócaireachta (Food and Cooking Terms) Posted by on Jun 23, 2009 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

What better place to begin a discussion of Irish cuisine than with the potato?  Still one of the príomhbhianna (staple foods) of Ireland, potatoes may be served in two or even three different ways in one béile (meal).  Typical styles of preparation would include: prátaí bruite or beirithe (boiled), prátaí friochta (fried), and brúitín (mashed potatoes). 


You might have noticed that the last term doesn’t actually have the word “potato” in it.  Brúitín is generally understood to be mashed potatoes, not anything else mashed.  Perhaps a bit of foreshadowing of your local diner, in the U.S., offering you “meat loaf and mash, hon.”  Context tells us that your server doesn’t likely mean mashed tornapaí, ionaim (yams), tarónna (taro), or casabhaigh (cassava). 


“Mash,”  you might ask, “what about “mash” as food for animals?”  No worries – Irish can distinguish that as “maistreán” (mash of boiled bran or grain).  And if it’s the stuif coipthe (fermented stuff) you’re thinking of, Irish has you covered, with the word “braichlis” (beer wort, derived from the word for “malt,” braich). I don’t suppose, by any seans caol (slim chance), that there are any readers in bhur measc (amongst you) who would like to know some more Irish terms for brewing or distilling, are there?  But if there are, do let me know and the topic will be froth-, whoops, forthcoming. 


Pé scéal é (anyway), back to potatoes.  And not surprisingly, it looks like this particular blog won’t get much beyond potatoes, due to considerations of length..  But that’s been many people’s experience with bia Éireannach (Irish food), so here, with various dialect variations indicated in parentheses, is the not-so-lowly potato.  “Práta” is probably the most widespread and is used in “An Caighdeán” (the official standard form of the Irish language):


práta (Mumhain / Munster)

fata (Connacht)

préata (Ulaidh / Ulster, and closest to the Hiberno-English “praties”)

buntáta (mostly Scottish Gaelic but may occur in Irish, presumably in the areas where the language most resembled Gàidhlig or Gaeilge na hAlban, that is Gleannta Aontroma, the Glens of Antrim, or Reachlainn, Rathlin Island)


And yes, an official term was finally concocted in Irish for “couch potato,” but it contains neither the word for “couch” (tolg) nor the word for potato (práta).  The word is “sámhaí,” literally a “placid person” or “restful person,” based on the adjective “sámh” (peaceful, tranquil, placid, restful).  Personally, I don’t think the word has quite the panache of “*tolgphráta” or “*práta toilg.” Those are the phrases I had adopted some years back when the term first came into English and students would ask me what it was in Irish.  On that note, slán go fóill — Róislín

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  1. Ma/ire:

    Guiness may be “good for you”, auk ta/ pra/tai e’ fearr du/inn.

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