Irish Language Blog

An tAinm Iósaef sa Bhíobla (Iósaef as a version of the name Seosamh / Joseph) Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Irish Language

grafaic: cuid den phictiúr de Naomh Iósaef le José de Ribera (1591-1652), bearrtha don dearadh seo; [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons;

grafaic: cuid den phictiúr de Naomh Iósaef le José de Ribera (1591-1652), bearrtha don dearadh seo; [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons;

(le Róislín)

We’ve recently looked at 10 Irish names for boys, and 5 for girls (naisc thíos), and of course there are hundreds more we could cover.  We’ll at least balance out the count with 5 more names for girls soon.

But for this blog post, let’s look again at those two quotes from the Bible that we used to illustrate the biblical form of the name Joseph, which is “Iósaef” or “Iósaf,” not “Seosamh,” in Irish.  Biblical language is a major notch above the typical “Dia-dhuit-Cén-chaoi-a bhfuil-tú” types of conversations that we might hear in everyday life. so the quotes might deserve a closer look.  Of course, we can easily just look up the text in an English-language Bible, but it would be interesting to do a literal translation, with a glossary.

So let’s start with “Matha 1:20,” which confirms for us that there is no special direct address form of “Iósaef.”

“Ag machnamh ar an méid sin dó, áfach, thaispeáin aingeal ón Tiarna é féin do [sic] i mbrionglóid agus dúirt: ‘A Iósaef, a mhic Dháiví, ná bíodh eagla ort do bhean chéile Muire a thabhairt abhaile leat, óir, an leanbh atá gafa aici, is ón Spiorad Naomh é.'” (Matha 1:20; NB: an litriú “do” in An Bíobla Naofa, Maigh Nuad: An Sagart, 1981, 2000) 

machnamh, thinking, reflecting

, to him

Note the structure of the phrase, which in English would probably start with “as” or “while.”  In Irish, the phrase starts immediately with “ag machnamh” (thinking) and ends with “” (to him), so we could translate it literally as “thinking about that [that amount] to him,” which means, “while he was thinking about that.”  This a very typical structure in Irish, essentially using forms of the pronoun “do” (dom, duit, dó, di, srl.), to suggest the “while” or “as” aspect.  Another example would be, “Ag siúl abhaile dom …” (As I was walking home …).

áfach, however

thaispeáin, showed

do: I assume this is “” (to him) so the phrase would be: An angel of/from the Lord appeared to him

brionglóid, a dream

A Iósaef, a mhic Dháiví”: “Joseph, son of David” (in direct address).  “David” is another name that has at least two versions in Irish, “Dáithí,” the more everyday, and “Dáiví,” usually the biblical but which can also be a given name for a boy.

ná bíodh eagla ort: Don’t be afraid, lit. “Let there not be fear on you …”.  A nice example of the negative imperative, in the third person.  Instead of literally saying, “Let you not be afraid,” the word “fear” becomes the subject of the sentence.

a thabhairt leat: to bring, lit. to “give” with you There are at least 50 ways to say “to bring” in Irish, depending on the exact context, but one of the most basic combines “tabhair” (give) with a form of “le” (with).   AFAIK, there’s no single word in Irish (that is, without using a preposition, like “le“) that simply means ” bring.”   Another example would be, “An dtabharfaidh tú an bascaed picnice leat?” (Will you bring the picnic basket?).

óir: because (mostly used in a literary context, not everyday speech)

gafa: from the verb “gabh,” which can be translated about a 100 different ways.  The most basic include “take,” “catch,” “seize,” “assume,” “receive,” “sing,” “go,” and “proceed,” and in the appropriate context, it can mean “conceive.” So the form “gafa” (grammatically, an aidiacht bhriathartha / the verbal adjective, aka past participle) means “conceived.”

Most of the rest of the vocabulary in that passage is fairly basic, depending of course on when you started learning Irish.

Now let’s look at the second quote (Geineasas 50:23)

Chonaic Iósaef an tríú glúin de shliocht Eafráim, agus chonaic sé leis clann Mháicír mac Mhanaise a rugadh in ucht Iósaef. (Geineasas 50:23)

glúin: this intriguing word means both “knee” and “generation”

an tríú glúin: the third generation (unless we’re talking about someone with three or more knees, perhaps an “eachtardhomhandach” of some sort, or, of course a quadruped — hmm, do all quadrupeds have knees though?  I’ll have to ask my zoologist friends, all one of them, unless somebody else shows up on this list with an answer).  As for *tríchoisíocht (tripedalism) as such, there are, of course the tripod fishes (Ipnopidae), which have three leg-like fins that they appear to walk on, but I don’t think they have knees.  As for “*tríchoisíocht,” the word, it’s another one I’ve found no evidence of online anywhere, so I may well have coined it, though it seems a shoo-in, based on “*déchoisíocht” (bipedalism).  Not a “shoe-in,” by the way, since that would require one and a half pairs (péire go leith), one for each “glúin.”  But, oh, right, we’re talking about “generations,” not “knees.”

Eafráim: Ephraim.  As a 4th-declension noun, the “i” is built in, so there’s no separate tuiseal ginideach for this name.  I do note two slightly different spellings though, Eafráim and Eafráím.

Máicír, as in “clann Mháicír” (the children of Machir).  This name doesn’t change at the end to show possession either, like Eafráim, both being 4th-declension, but it does undergo lenition, so “Máicír” [MAWK-irzh] changes to “Mháicír” [WAWK-irzh].  This would be a standard change, that we would also see in phrases like “clann Mháirtín” or “clann Mháire.” 

mac Mhanaise, the son of Manasseh, again showing lenition of the name “Manaise.”  This name is also 4th-declension, but there wouldn’t be any further change anyway, since the name ends in a vowel (like “Barra” or “Cairbre” or “Dáithí” or “Éanna,” there’s no further change at the end of the word when the name ends in a vowel).

a rugadh [uh RUG-uh, not like English “rug” but more like the vowel in English “rook” or “book” or “put.” The “dh,” anyway, is silent.], was born

ucht: the most basic meaning is “chest” (of the human body) or “lap” (again, of the human body, not as in dogs drinking water). In this case, it’s not a case of male pregnancy and and of some random part of a man’s body serving as the “birth canal,” as happened with Athena, who emerged from Zeus’s forehead, admittedly, after he had swallowed her pregnant mother, ach sin scéal eile.  Or Dionysus being born from Zeus’s thigh, which had served as a surrogate womb, after the mother of the yet unborn Dionysus, Semele, died.  Ach sin scéal eile freisin.

Leaving behind miotaseolaíocht na Gréige and returning to the Irish quote, the sense of “ucht” here is more closely related to the Irish “uchtaigh” (adopt), with the idea that taking a child to your chest or lap was like calling him or her your own.

Bhuel, hopefully that added a little more clarification to those two biblical passages, quoted in the earlier blogpost to show that the name “Iósaef” doesn’t change for direct address or to show possession.  And, of course, they’re interesting in their own right. Sin é don bhlagmhír seo.  Aon ainm ar leith a bhfuil suim agat ann – a chúlra, an fuaimniú, a fhoirmeacha, srl.?  Má tá, scríobh isteach agus déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall do cheisteanna a fhreagairt. SGF — Róislín

Irish Names for Girls: Pronunciation and Meaning (Bláthnaid, Faoiltiarna, Fionnuala, Sadhbh, Saoirse) Posted on 29. Mar, 2016 by róislín in Irish Language (

Five Irish Names for Boys: Pronunciation and Meaning (Alabhaois, Éadbhard, Feardorcha, Rónán, Tiarnán) Posted on 31. Mar, 2016 by róislín in Irish Language (
And the continuations:
1) Five More Irish Names for Boys – Seán, Séamas, Seosamh, Liam, Mícheál, Pt. 1: Seán, ‘sea, ach sa tuiseal gairmeach agus sa tuiseal ginideach? Posted on 05. Apr, 2016 by róislín in Irish Language (
2) Five More Irish Names for Boys – Seán, Séamas, Seosamh, Liam, Mícheál, Pt. 2: Séamas, Seosamh Posted on 10. Apr, 2016 by róislín in Irish Language (
3) Five More Irish Names for Boys – Seán, Séamas, Seosamh, Liam, Mícheál, Pt. 3: Liam, Mícheál Posted on 14. Apr, 2016 by róislín in Irish Language (

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