Irish Language Blog

Beannachtaí i nGaeilge a Trí – Or How to Reply to a Greeting in Irish Posted by on Mar 27, 2009 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Beannachtaí i nGaeilge (Cuid a Trí) – Or How to Reply to a Greeting in Irish

After two full blogs worth of information, we can finally say, “hello” in Irish. And now, how to reply!

Here we’ll be keeping track of singular and plural, as noted in the previous blogposts, but for the traditional blessings we’ll also have to start using saints’ names as well. Sound unusual? The key lies in the fact that the blessings are formulaic, so up to about three people, you add saints. If there are more than three people to be greeted, one may resort to the room-blessing form mentioned in an earlier blog (Dia isteach anseo or its variation, Dia anseo isteach).

If you’re using haló or haigh, or their variants, you don’t have to be concerned with singular and plural, since the word “you” is not actually involved. One other thing you generally don’t have to worry about in Irish is a formal/informal distinction for the word “you.” Basically, it seems that most Irish speakers were on fairly equal footing as far as hierarchy goes, at least for the past several hundred years. I have heard of the plural form being used to address a priest, but this custom seems to be fading.

To go back to our original conversation, here’s the continuation.

Úna: Dia duit, a Aoife. [Hello (God bless you), Aoife]

Aoife: Dia’s Muire duit, a Úna. [Hello (God and Mary bless you), Úna]

So we’ve added two words. Well, one is just a contraction with an apostrophe, but it still counts as a word. The letter “s” with the apostrophe is short for agus (and). Muire is specifically the Virgin Mary; “Mary” as a name for girls or women is spelled Máire,

If Úna greets two people, the formula would go like this:
Úna: Dia daoibh, a Aoife agus a Shéamais. [God bless you, Aoife and James]
Aoife and/or Séamas: Dia’s Muire duit, a Úna. [God and Mary bless you, Úna]

If a third person joins the conversation, we call upon Naomh Pádraig, saying “Dia’s Muire daoibh agus Naomh Pádraig.” At least supposedly we do. I can’t say I’ve heard this all that often in real life, any more than I’ve really heard the traditional blessing for sneezes, “Capall bán fút” (a white horse under you) used in real life. Speaking of sneezes and responses for them, keep an eye out for that to be covered in another blog soon. There are, of course, more choices for “Gesundheit” than white horses, “Dia linn,” mar shampla. Meanwhile, ááátisiúú, and I’ll be waiting for your response!

Bhur mblagálaí — Róislín

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