Irish Language Blog

An bhfuil peata agat? Talking about Pets in Irish: Hamstair (hamsters) Posted by on Jul 24, 2017 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Continuing with our ongoing “peataí” theme, the “hamstar” is today’s “ainmhí an lae.”  We’ve actually discussed hamsters (hamstair) previously in this blog, and even had a comhrá between “Hamaltún an Hamstar” and “Searbhán an tSeirbil” (naisc thíos).  Given téama an bhlag, it seemed like a good time to revisit these popular “creimirí” (rodents, lit. “eroders” or “gnawers”).

The Irish word “hamstar” is a relatively straightforward word to deal with, in terms of mutations and endings, since it is simply an adaptation from the English “hamster,” which itself is believed to derive from the Old Church Slavonic word “chomestoru,” meaning “hamster.”

The first slight change to notice is that the “e” of “hamster” has changed to an “a” (the second “a” of “hamstar“).  The reason is vowel harmony, a rule that governs the spelling of, I’d say, over 99% of Irish vocabulary (but not quite every single word!).  With the vowel harmony rules, a broad vowel  (guta leathan) like “a” must be followed by a syllable with another broad vowel  (a, o, u).  So “hamster” borrowed exactly as such from English wouldn’t fit because we have “a” followed by “e.”  Of course, some words are borrowed from other languages with the original spelling left intact (Gestalt, alleluia, intaglio, although the latter also has an Irish equivalent, “inghearradh“)  but these would be considered “borrowed words,” not words that have been “adapted” into the Irish system like “nirbheána” or “caiféin.”  The spellings “nirvana” and “caffeine” would break Irish vowel harmony rules.

Next point: since “hamstar” belongs to that small group of Irish words beginning with the letter “h,” it can’t undergo initial mutation (unlike many other adapted words, like “móideim,” which can, for example, become “mhóídeim“).  So, no worrying about “b’s” becoming “bhf’s” or “c’s” becoming “ch’s.”  Osna faoisimh!  “Hamstar” in Irish will always start with the letter “h” — alleluia!

Third point: “hamstar” has relatively few changes to show plural and possession.  Here’s the pattern — note where the letter “i” is inserted:

an hamstar, the hamster

an hamstair, of the hamster (cás an hamstair, the cage of the hamster)

na hamstair, the hamsters

na hamstar, of the hamsters (cásanna na hamstar, the cages of the hamsters)

As for the hamster in the “grianghraf” above, he’s probably tired of being cooped up “ina chás” (in his cage), unlike Hamaltún, who as you may remember had the following in his cage: tigín (a little house), dréimire dreapadóireachta (a climbing ladder), giomnáisiam beag déanta as adhmad (a wooden gym), crandaí bogadaí (a seesaw), roth hamstair (a hamster wheel) and cúpla tollán (a couple of tunnels).

In the graphic (thuas), the hamster is saying “Spring me!  Spring me!” (more literally: Release me free!  Release me free!).  In fact, the Irish expression “duine a scaoileadh saor” (to spring / free / or release someone) really is more literal than “Spring me!,” which is much more idiomatic.  It sometimes does concern me that dictionaries may suggest equivalents, but that the two phrases involved may be quite difference in context or innuendo.  Ach sin ábhar blag eile.

Now if we were to have a “mionhamstar” (a dwarf hamster), there would be one additional type of change to the word, because of the prefix.  But just one — lenition.  So the forms are:

an mionhamstar

an mhionhamstair (mionchás an mhionhamstair)

na mionhamstair

na mionhamstar (mionchásanna na mionhamstar)

BTW, “mion-” more literally means “mini-.”  The usual word for “dwarf” in Irish is “abhac,” but for whatever reason, “dwarf hamster” in Irish is “mionhamstar,” not “abhac hamstair” or “abhac-hamstar” or “hamstar abhacach.”  At least not “de réir an chaighdeáin.”

Ar aon chaoi, sin an focal “hamstar” i n Gaeilge.  Cén peata eile don chéad bhlagmhír eile?  Do mholadh?  SGF  — Róislín

Blagmhíreanna faoi hamstair: 

 Which Celtic Language Has 5 Words for ‘Hamster’ (Leid: Ní hí an Ghaeilge í!)?Posted by róislín on Jan 28, 2016 in Irish Language

Comhrá: Searbhán an tSeirbil agus Hamaltún an Hamstar ag caint faoina gcásanna Posted by róislín on Jan 31, 2016 in Irish Language

Irish Vocabulary Round-up for ‘Comhrá idir Hamstar agus Seirbil’ Posted by róislín on Feb 6, 2016 in Irish Language

Naisc (previous pet-themed blogposts): cait agus madraí agus pearóidí

Aghaidheanna Cat (Faces of Cats) — Their Main Features in Irish Posted by róislín on Jun 25, 2017 in Irish Language; An bhfuil peata agat?  Talking about Pets in Irish: Piscíní (Kittens) Posted by róislín on Jun 16, 2017 in Irish Language 

An bhfuil peata agat?  Talking about Pets in Irish: Madraí (Dogs) Posted by on Jul 18, 2017 in Irish Language 

An bhfuil peata agat? Talking about Pets in Irish: Pearóidí (parrots) Posted by  on Jul 21, 2017 in Irish Language

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