Irish Language Blog

Catching Some ‘Z-Words’ in Irish: What Are The Others besides ‘Zú’ and ‘Zúnna’? Posted by on Sep 25, 2015 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Bhuel, we’ve recently looked at Irish words starting with the letters v, w, x, and y.  So logically enough, it’s time now to catch some zzz’s.  Oops, not to put you to sleep, that is, but just to round up some examples.  As with w, x, and y, there aren’t really that many examples, so we’ll make quite a dent in the total in today’s blog.

In previous blog posts, we’ve discussed “zúmáil” and “zeitibheart,” so let’s look at a few other z-words today.

Of course, there’s “” (plural: zúnna), which we might expect.  This word seems to be pretty similar in many languages, mostly going back to the Greek “zôion” (animal).  Some samples, from teangacha eile, are given below (sa nóta), in case you’re interested.

Curiously, there are two words for zoology in Irish.  One is based on our Greek friend “zôion.”  The other has a more Irish-based derivation, from the word “míol,” which is itself a curiosity, since it can mean “animal” or “insect” or “louse,” and with the appropriate adjective, it can mean a whale (míol mór) or a hare (míol buí).  Good thing whales aren’t yellow, or we might get really confused if we had a “míol mór buí.”  Would that be different from a “míol buí mór“?  I think yes, but I haven’t actually put that query to the test.   And what’s a big whale?  *Mórmhíol mór?  Bhur mbarúlacha?

So, what are the two words for zoology?

zó-eolaíocht [ZOH-OHL-ee-ukht]

míoleolaíocht [MEEL-OHL-ee-ukht]

Why is one hyphenated and the other not?  “Zó-eolaíocht” has two vowels in a row, one from the prefix and one from the root word, a situation which usually calls for “fleiscíniú” in Irish.  “Míoleolaíocht” has “míol” as a prefix, but it ends in a consonant, so the word is “gan fleiscín.”

Here are a few more “z” words or phrases, all pretty closely related to their English equivalents (aistriúcháin thíos):

  1. a) oibreán zónóiseach bia-iompartha
  2. b) zónóis
  3. c) ózón
  4. d) and now that you’re warmed up, ózónaisféar
  5. e) zón surfáil eitleoige
  6. f) zipchomhad
  7. g) ziplíne (a giveaway!)
  8. h) zombaí (another giveaway)
  9. i) z-thrasfhoirmiú chomhéifeacht chomhghaolúcháin (just when you thought the z-words were getting predictable)
  10. j) Zúinis

Some “z-words” in English start with “s” in Irish, such as “Sóróstarachas” and “seipilín” (aka seipilin, if you’re detail-oriented!).  But that could be blagmhír iomlán eile, lá eile.

Hmm, and finally, can we or do we have “Z-charranna“?  As Gaeilge?Ag glaoch ar gach Z-char?”  Leis an smaoineamh sin, SGF — Róislín


  1. a) food-borne zoonotic agent
  2. b) zoonosis
  3. c) ozone
  4. d) ozonosphere
  5. e) kite-surfing zone (but remember, most “zone-words” are actually based on “crios,” which also means “belt” (amchrios an domhain, world time zone; crios tionsclaíochta, industrial zone; crios ionraidh, invaded zone — is this à la Cogadh na Reann? Má tá, a thiarcais x 10!
  6. f) zip file
  7. g) zipline
  8. h) zombie
  9. i) z-transformation of the correlation coefficient (níos mó Gréigise, a fhad is a bhfuil mise i gceist!)
  10. j) Zuni (language)

Nóta: An focal “zú” i roinnt teangacha eile (a bhuí leis an Vicipéid, fáilte roimh cheartúcháin; níl cuid mhaith de na teangacha seo agam):

zoo (go díreach mar atá sé i mBéarla): An Ghearmáinis Íochtarach, Briotáinis, Tagálaigis, Winaray

: Breatnais (a near equivalent to zoo/).  Sin ceann a aithním, focal a d’fhoghlaim mé i mo chéad rang Breatnaise riamh, más cuimhin liom i gceart: Ydyn nhw yn y sŵ?  Cé a dhéanfadh dearmad ar abairt mar sin?  An-chraic é a rá!

And some slightly fuller, more formal, two-word phrases, still based on zôion, more akin to “Zoological Garden” as it were:

zoologisk have (Danmhairgis), parc zoologique (Fraincis), and giardino zoologico (Iodáilis)

I’m not sure I could have come up with those on my own, but they look familiar enough.  But why “parc” in French and “giardino” in Italian?  Or are “jardin” and “parco” sometimes used?  Why “garden” anyway, as in “Zoological Garden”?  Was there at one time more emphasis on the plantings than on the “ainmhithe“?  And what would we call a garden of just carnivorous plants, in Irish, or any other language, for that matter?  Gairdín Plandaí FeoiliteachaÁbhar machnaimh, pé scéal é!

And finally, some samples not based on “zôion” or “zoological” as such:

Állakert (Ungáiris), Dierentuin (Ollainnis), Dýragarður (Íoslainnis), Djurpark (Sualainnis).  The last three I can recognize as being related to German “Tier” (animal, beast), a distant cousin of “deer” in English.  As for an focal Ungáirise, I can’t make head or tail of it, even considering whether the tail might fit one of these intriguing categories, all pertaining to real animals or insects, based on “earr” or “earrach,” plus a few miscellaneous:

  1. earr” (tail) as the basis: earrbhán, earrbhandach, earrbhuí, earrdhearg, earrdhubh, earrghearr, earrghorm, earr-dhonnbhuí, earrfhada, earrfháinneach, earrleathan, earrnocht (!), earr-rua (not to be confused with earrdhearg!), earr-rinneach, earrshaor, earrspíonach, earrthruailleach

2. “-earrach” as the basis: bandearrach, biorearrach, claíomhearrach, dingearrach, feanearrach, grianearrach, leonearrach, lorgearrach, luchearrach, mucearrach, stríocearrach, stumpearrach

Of course, that’s “-earrach” as related to “earr” (tail) and “eireaball” (tail), not “An tEarrach” (The Spring).  Although that probably means that the Irish name for the “spring-tailed flea” would be interesting.  Oops, no, not really, that would presumably be “sprionga-earrach,” related to their jumping ability — not that I can find it anywhere!  It’d still be interesting though!

3. ilchineálach: greimeireaballach (based on “eireaball” + “-ach,” an adjective ending, technically giving us “caudal”), and,

4. totally miscellaneous: scothánach, sciota

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  1. Eòghann:

    Z- in these examples, although fun, isn’t really necessary because s- can be substituted in Gaelic instead. For example, the ‘approved’ form of ‘zoo’ in Scottish Gaelic is ‘an sùtha’ which, in the reformed spelling of Irish Gaelic, would yield ‘an sú’. By using an s- rather than a z-, it’s possible to keep all of the traditional declensions caused by lenition, eclipses etc., which you can’t do with z-. Z-, as a dear departed Gaelic-speaking friend of mine might have said, “is not a Gaelic concept”. Is mise le meas, Eòghann

    • róislín:

      @Eòghann Pointe suimiúil, a Eòghainn, grma. Ní chumaim féin an litriú, ar ndóigh, ach sílim go bhfuil sé suimiúil cad a shocraítear.

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