Irish Language Blog

‘Bléinbheart’ go ‘Zeitibheart’  — Cineálacha Beart agus Beartanna i nGaeilge Posted by on Aug 14, 2015 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

When I first thought of this blog topic, I thought I’d just do types of clothing, like “bléinbheart” and “coisbheart.”  But then I figured we might as well do “an banana iomlán.”  If we’re in for a “pingin,” we may as well be in for a “punt.”  Or actually, as the more traditional Irish expression goes, “Ó loisc mé an choinneal, loiscfidh mé an t-orlach.”

So today we’ll mostly just look at the different meanings of “beart.”  Eventually we’ll look at more of the compound words that use “beart,” including the fairly transparent “meigibheart” and “gigibheart” and the mindboggling “zeitibheart.”

First, let’s distinguish two main catagories here.   We have “beart” (plural: beartanna), which means “berth” as in “beart dúbailte” or “beart curtha in áirithe.”

And then we have “beart” (plural for common case usage: bearta), which has three distinct meanings:

1. beart (pl: bearta), bundle, mar a fheiceann muid sa seanfhocal: Bailíonn brobh beart,” many a little makes a mickle. “Brobh” [broh] on its own? It means a “wisp,” a “blade” (as in grass or straw) or a single rush plant (they usually come in clusters).

2. beart (pl: bearta), covering or garment. This is where “bléinbheart” and “coisbheart” come in. “Coisbheart” we discussed recently.  It’s based on “cos” (foot; also means “leg” but that’s less relevant here).  So “coisbheart” [kwish-vyart] means ‘footwear.”

As for “bléin,” as I mentioned before, I haven’t seen this one in any textbook, but, um, it’s basic meaning is “cavity” or “cove.”  It can be used in a phrase for “bubo,” as in the buboes that gave us the Bubonic Plague (an Phlá Bhúbónach [un flaw WOO-boh-nukh]).   A “loch ascaille” is an armpit  bubo — remember our discussion of ascaillí (armpits) way back when?  The nasc is thíos.  And a “loch bhléine” is a groin bubo.

So, getting back to “bléinbheart,” it means “jockstrap” (lit. groin-covering).  For whatever reason (diabhal a fhios agam!), it’s not based on the word “strapa,” which we saw for “brógstrapa.”

Bléin” also shows up in a few other compound words: bléineann (bléinfhionn): white-loined, as in “bó bhléineann,” and bléineasna: groin rib (in architecture) and a few other phrases, such as: cumhdach bléine, cup protector (also in Sports), and teilgean ón mbléin, an inner thigh throw, in, let’s see, cén spórt?  Freagra thíos!

3. beart (pl: bearta): finally, the third type of “beart” that has “bearta” as the plural.  Its meaning depends largely on context.  In games, it can mean a “move” or, for dice, a “throw.”  It also can mean:

a) a plan or maneuver (beart cliste)

b) an action, circumstance, or plight, often in a negative context (beart díchéillí, i mbearta crua).  Come to think of it, is “plight” ever positive?  How did “plight” come to be inherently negative?  Ábhar blag eile, is dócha!

c) a more general sense of actions, proceedings, transactions or experiences as in “i rith mo bheart” (in/during my experiences); “tar éis na mbeart” (when everything is said and done, lit. after the proceedings); and, “ i ndeireadh na mbeart” (finally), which, i rith mo bheart féin, is more typically “faoi dheireadh“.  The form “mbeart” is used for genitive plural, after the word for “the.”

So, that’s ceithre chatagóir for the word “beart.”  And remember those slight differences in the plural can help distinguish which “beart” is which.  A phrase like “na mbeartanna” will clearly mean “of the berths” (in boats, ships, etc.) and “na mbeart” has three basic meanings: a) of the bundles, b) of the garments/coverings, and c) of the casts, moves, plays, plays, actions, transactions, etc.

Sin é don lá inniu.  Next up, b’fhéidir, an Ghaeilge ar “pelvic protector,” an item similar to the “bléinbheart,” but for cailíní and mná.  Presumably something like ” *cosantóir peilbheach.”  As you can probably tell from the way I just wrote that, I haven’t actually seen the phrase in a real-life context yet.  SGF–Róislín

Freagra: júdó, almost the same as the English spelling, but the Irish version does have the long marks

Nasc: Ascaill, Axilla, Armpit — Who Says Irish Doesn’t Have Many Cognates with English? (Cuid a hAon/Pt. 1)  Posted on 24. Apr, 2013 by in Irish Language (

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