Irish Language Blog

Athair, An tAthair, Aithreacha, and more ways to say ‘father’ in Irish (just in time for Father’s Day) Posted by on Jun 14, 2014 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

‘Sea, is é an t-am sin den bhliain é — tá Lá na nAithreacha ag teacht. 15 Meitheamh i mbliana.

So first let’s look at the various forms of the word for “father” in Irish. Then we’ll think of the Irish words for a few typical Father’s Day gifts. Perhaps you’d like to send another gift idea in to the nótaí tráchta (comments).

Here are the basics:
athair [AH-hirzh, note the “t” is silent]
an t-athair [un TAH-hirzh], the father (note the prefixed “t-“)
athar [AH-hur], of a father. This form is probably not all that common as such, but it is typical in phrases like “hata m’athar” (the hat of my father, my father’s hat) or “ainm d’athar” (the name of your father, your father’s name). For “of a father,” as such, we could have phrases like “cúram athar” (a father’s responsibility)
an athar [un AH-hur], of the father, as in “In ainm an Athar” (In the name of the Father) or “pas an athar” (the father’s passport)

And the plural forms:
aithreacha [AH-hruh-khuh, with the “t” silent], fathers
na haithreacha [nuh HAH-hruh-khuh], the fathers
aithreacha, of fathers (no change from the first plural form)
na n-aithreacha [nuh NAH-hruh-khuh], of the fathers; when capitalized, this is written: na nAithreacha, with the fleiscín dropped.

Of course, there will be some other changes if we say something about giving a gift to “my father” or to “their fathers.” Here are some samples:

Thug mé hata do m’athair.
Thug tú mála gailf do d’athair.
Thug sí slat iascaireachta dá hathair.
Thug sé uaireadóir Rolex dá athair.

And plural — we’ll make these several people talking about several fathers, for additional practice:

Thug muid stocaí dár n-aithreacha. Ní raibh siad róshásta leo ach dúirt siad “go raibh maith agaibh,” pé scéal é.
Note: you can say “Thugamar” for “Thug muid.”
Chniotáil sibh stocaí do bhur n-aithreacha. Bhí bhur n-aithreacha an-sásta leis na stocaí mar bhí siad lámhdhéanta.
Phéinteáil na páistí pictiúir dá n-aithreacha agus thug siad dóibh iad. Bhí a n-aithreacha thar a bheith sásta leis na pictiúir áille.

What changes did you notice as we used the word “athair” in different ways? Can you fill in the blanks below?

She gave a fishing rod to her father. Thug sí slat iascaireachta dá __athair. (reminder: prefix “h” to “athair” to show that it’s “her father,” not “his father”)

In the next three sentences, using “to our fathers” or “for their fathers,” etc., there will always be a prefixed “n-” (that’s “n” with the fleiscín unless the word is going to be capitalized, in which case you’d have “dár nAithreacha,” “do bhur nAithreacha,” and “dá nAithreacha”).  So, to review:

Thug muid stocaí dár __-aithreacha.
Chniotáil sibh stocaí do bhur __-aithreacha.
Phéinteáil na páistí pictiúir dá __-aithreacha agus thug siad dóibh iad.

(reminder: all of the above have the prefixed “n-“).

And did you also notice what happened to the preposition “do” [say: duh], which means “to” or “for,” in some of these examples?

It combines with the following “a” (his, her, their) or “ár” (our) to form:
with a prefixed h before vowels (dá hathair, likewise: dá huncail or dá haintín) for “to/for HER father,” etc.
with no change to the following word (dá athair, dá uncail, dá aintín) for “to/for HIS father,” etc.
+ r with a prefixed n- before vowels (dár n-athair, dár n-uncail, dár n-aintín) for “to/for OUR father,” etc.
+ with a prefixed n- before vowels (dá n-athair, dá n-uncail, dá n-aintín) for “to/for THEIR father,” etc.

A younger child might use “Daidí” or “Deaide” and there are other variations as well, but that will have to be the subject for yet another blog.

At any rate, bain sult as Lá na nAithreacha, and if any of you have other gift ideas, please do write them in! SGF — Róislín

am [ahm], time (an t-am sin, that time)
bliain, year; den bhliain [den VLEE-in], of the year, referring to parts or portions of the year in this case; i mbliana [im-LEE-uh-nuh, for pronunciation, think of it as one word], this year; note that “i mbliana” literally means “in year” — the normal word for ‘that,’ (“sin“), isn’t used for this adverbial expression and “bliain” gets a special ending
cniotáil [KNIT-aw-il, the initial “k” sound is pronounced, unlike English], to knit; for the past tense, insert an “h” (chniotáil), which makes the initial “c” silent.  Yes, an initial “hn-” sound is unusual from an English perspective, but it’s a bit like “huh-nuh” but really glided together, so the first “-uh” part isn’t really there.
dóibh [DOH-iv], to them
lámhdhéanta [LAWV-YAYN-tuh, the “mh” is like a “v” and the “d” is silent], handmade
Meitheamh [MEH-hiv], June
sin [pronounced like English “shin,” as in a part of the leg], that

sult, enjoyment

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