Irish Language Blog

An Focal “Twerking” i nGaeilge (Yet Another “tv+vowel” Word!) Posted by on Oct 11, 2013 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

I started pondering this question shortly after the Miley Cyrus escapades broke the news but I simply thought I’d eventually do a blog on the various words used to describe what “twerking” is, like “gyrate,” “thrust,” etc.  I wasn’t sure if the powers that be in the Irish vocabulary world would decide on an official translation.  I did look in a few online sources and didn’t see an actual Irish equivalent for “twerking” in any sort of dictionary or reference source, and that is still true as of the time I’m writing this blog.

But new words are amazingly quick to appear in Irish these days and I recently noticed that “tvueircíocht” has surfaced.  So far I’ve only found one googlable hit for it (from 27 Lúnasa 2013) but it’s also popped up in some Facebook chats.  Go raibh maith agat, a Dháithí!

Toward the end of this blog, we’ll look at “tvueircíocht” itself.  Meanwhile, here are some possibilities for related words:

to gyrate: casadh [KAHSS-uh], which also means “to twist,” etc. OR rothlú [RUH-loo], which also means “to rotate”

to thrust: OR sacadh

hip (anatomically speaking): cromán OR corróg

buttocks: tóin (which also means “backside,” ní nach ionadh, and, of course, there are other translations!) OR leath deiridh (which also means “hindquarters”)

provocative: corraitheach [KOR-ih-hyukh] OR gríosaitheach [GREESS-ih-hyukh]

low: íseal [EE-shul]

stance: seasamh [SHASS-uv].  This also means “standing,” which is a little problematic here, since the twerk “stance” is not actually “standing.”  So how about “position,” but, hmmm, that’s usually “suíomh” [seev], which also means “sitting.”  Ábhar machnaimh, is dócha.

As for “squatting,” this is a bit tricky because most of the Irish words or phrases for “squatting” assume that you are squatting completely, with the buttocks almost on the ground, but when “squatting stance” is used to describe “twerking,” it’s not quite that low.  So first I’ll list some possibilities for “squatting” in the normal sense, and then suggest how to say “almost squatting” (trying not to make a mountain out of a molehill here, but not wanting suggest the incorrect stance!)

to squat: suí ar do ghogaide, lit. to sit on your hunkers, i.e. to hunker down OR tú féin a ghróigeadh, lit. to “huddle” yourself.  “Gróigeadh” is often used for “footing” turf, but that is definitely “ábhar blag eile.”

to be almost squatting: a bheith i do shuí beagnach ar do ghogaide, lit. to be sitting almost on your hunkers

Hmmm, I wonder if someone could be “ar a leathghogaide” (half-hunkered down), which I think is the closest to the twerking stance.

Aside from gaelicizing the original, what would the other choices be for creating an Irish word for “twerking”?  Bhuel, one approach in word-coining is to look at the origin of a word and rework it from its roots (like “guthán” for “phone,” instead of simply “fón/teileafón,” or the now obscure “cianradharcán” for “teileascóp“).

Hitch is … what’s the origin of “twerk”?  Apparently it’s uncertain, but some top contenders appear to be:

a) a variation of “work it, work it” (presumably with the “t” of “it” attaching on to the following “work it” phrase)

b) a shortening of “footwork”  (unlikely, especially since we’d wonder what’s “foot” really got to do with it … ach sin ceist eile!), and

c) a portmanteau of “twist” and “jerk.”

Even if we can’t be certain about the exact history of “twerk,” we can at least look at these words in Irish:

a) work it, work it: I don’t think this would normally have the implication in Irish that it would in English, but for what it’s worth, “Oibrigh é!”  More likely, for normal contexts, I believe, people would say, “Bí ag obair air,” but that would mean “Work on it” (lit. “Be working on it), to describe a project, or one’s homework, etc.

b) footwork: aclaíocht coise

c) twist: casadh (as we saw above) OR cuir cor ann OR bí ag lúbaireacht (and there are more possibilities)

d) jerk: again, various possibilities, among them “preab” (spring, hop, jump, often in a startled manner) and “tabhair ábhóg” (give a jump)  If the idea is intransitive, one could say “snap é” or “tabhair tarraingt thobann dó” (or “di” if referring specifically to the “tóin“).

Could we possibly combine any of these in way that would convey the snappiness of “twerk”?  I doubt it, really, but ideas are welcome!

And then there’s the waggish (i.e. totally tongue-in-, errmm,-cheek) pseudoetymology suggesting the German “Gesamtkunstwerk” (lit. “total-art-work”) as the origin.  No further comment needed on that one, for which I have the Ben Zimmer’s August 28 2013 Language Log to thank (; he apparently found it on Twitter, presumably this tweet (

As for any other forms of this verb, other than “tvueircíocht,” which is the “ainmfhocal briathartha,” I couldn’t find any online examples.

Given “tvueircíocht” as the “verbal noun,” I would expect the underlying verb to be “second conjugation” (i.e. in the same category as “deisigh,” “ceannaigh,” etc.).  I looked for “tvueircigh” as a command (after all, it shows up that way a lot in the songs in English!) and various other tenses (*tvueircím/*tvueircíonn sí, *tvueircfidh, etc.) but haven’t found anything yet.  By the way, I’ve put in the asterisks before the words I just mentioned to show that they are “unattested,” at least according to my searches so far.  It could be that “tvueircíocht” will prove to one of those words that exists solely or primarily as a verbal noun (i.e. as an infinitive, a gerund, or a progressive form).  This is not particularly unusual in Irish; “súgradh,” for one, is similar.  We typically say “Tá sé ag súgradh” or “Is maith leis a bheith ag súgradh sa chlós,” but we don’t typically conjugate “súgradh” in Irish.

So, for “tvueircíocht,” we’d have:

Tá Miley Cyrus ag tvueircíocht. (Miley Cyrus is twerking).

Is maith le Miley Cyrus tvueircíocht.  (Miley Cyrus likes twerking — at least, I assume she does)

Is maith le Miley Cyrus a bheith ag tvueircíocht. (Miley Cyrus likes to twerk, lit. to be twerking)

Out of curiosity, I did check to see what I could find for “twerking” in other languages besides English.  Here are the results–so far, it’s always “twerking” just as in English:

Francais: le twerking (so it’s a masculine noun, grammatically, while it’s feminine in Irish — all due simply to the, um, endings)

Iodáilis: twerking (I can’t figure out the grammatical gender of this word — eolas ag duine ar bith eile nó an cuma le duine ar bith eile?)

Polainnis: twerking (arís níl mé cinnte faoi inscne an fhocail seo i bPolainnis, ach is cuimhin liom gur chuala mé scoláire ag caint faoi fhocail iasachta i bPolainnis agus dúirt an duine sin go mbíonn an chuid is mó d’fhocail nua mar seo firinscneach sa teanga Polainnise)

Sualainnis: twerking

I tried to find some samples in Welsh, but, alas (or not!), theip orm.  I tried all the likely endings (-cu, -cio, and -co) and also tried embedding the work in various probable Welsh contexts (hoffi twerk, gallu twerk, etc.), but to no avail.  Maybe “twerking” in Welsh is simply “twerking.”

So, Irish is the only language I’ve found so far that has actually given the word a native suffix.  Which leaves me wondering, hmmm, what does it all mean?  To what extent are new words assimilated <errmm, no comments> or not, and why?

Á, bhuel, sin é.  Hope you enjoyed this blog, or at least learned some other non-twerk-related vocabulary from it!   If nothing else, at least there is now a companion word with initial “tv+vowel” in Irish, to keep “tvuít” company in the dictionary! – Róislín

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  1. An Croí Ait:

    Thank you for the title
    Yet Another “tv+vowel” Word and for the exclamation mark. It’s well deserved.
    I would have stopped there and not graced them with a justification of what they have done. It’s wrong and disgraceful and I hope someone stops them from messing up the language like this.

  2. róislín:

    Tá áthas orm gur thaitin an teideal leat, go mór mór an comhartha uaillbhreasa. ‘Séard is mó a bhí i gceist agam sa bhlag seo ná na téarmaí a bhaineanns leis an damhsa (más damhsa é) a phlé, mar shampla “casadh” agus “cromán,” srl. Sílim go mbeadh sin úsáideach taobh amuigh de phlé an damhsa.

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