Irish Language Blog

Ceathairchosaigh Chrúbacha (Say WHAT Kind of Quadrupeds?) Posted by on Sep 9, 2012 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Cé leis an chrúb seo?

 “Crúbach” is a readily recognized word if you know “crúb” (hoof).  It can mean “hoofed,” of course, but, in more technical jargon, it also means “ungulate.”  Anyone recognize the Irish word related to “ungulate”?  Try “ionga,” or, as you might know it, in the plural, “ingne,” seen in the well-known curse, “Tochas agus dith ingne ort.”  That means “(May you have) an itch on you and no fingernails (to scratch it).”   Literally, it’s “Itch and lack of fingernails on you,” with “ingne” meaning “fingernails.”  You might remember an mhallacht seo from the blog of 17 Meitheamh 2011,, which was actually a grammar unit in disguise, about ainmfhocail sa chúigiú (5th) díochlaonadh.  Anyway, the Latin word “unguis” (claw, finger- or toe-nail) gives us “ungulate” and is related to the Irish “ionga” (finger- or toe-nail, or clove, as in garlic).   Go cognates!

But wait, there’s more.  Latin “unguis” can also mean “hoof” (wouldn’t you know it?), but more often “ungula,” a diminutive of “unguis,” is used for “hoof.”  That also explains the “l” in “ungulate.”  And for anyone who’s really interested in this stuff, there’s also “unguiculus” (a little “unguis“) for “fingernail.”

Now, as usual, there are other words for “claw,” like “ladhar” (for a gliomach, lobster), or “crág” (for an éan, bird), but at least one of the main words, “ionga,” is nicely connected to Latin.  So that ties in to “ungulates,” and now, we can go back to “crúbach.”  Irish is a little more direct than English with the word “crúbach,” here specifying “hoofs,” which are really extended nails.  So the Irish for “ungulate,” instead of being based on “ionga,” is based on “crúb,” which more specifically means “hoof” (as opposed to “nail”).  Just to reambiguate things, though, “crúb” can also mean “claw” or “talon” depending on context.   One might wonder how a word can be so all-encompassing.  I think it helps to think of “crúb,” or other similarly open-ended words, as basically meaning the “horny end part of a human or animal foot.”  If translating “crúb,” we can adapt the translation to English expectations (quadrupeds have hoofs, birds, amongst other animals, have claws).

In fact, there is an Irish adjective based on “ionga / ingne,” which is “ingneach,” but that means “having claws, talons or nails” (not “having hoofs”).  “Ionga” gives us a further interesting word, “ingneadóireacht” (the act of picking at something or someone with one’s nails, or clawing at them).  Aaargh, ae bocht Phroiméitéis (eisean bocht freisin agus truacánta leis) agus na hiolair nó na bultúir ag ingneadóireacht air nuair a bhí sé faoi chuibhreach.   An créatúr!  Agus eisean a thug tine dúinn in aimsir na ndéithe Gréagacha!

If it’s ever necessary to distinguish fingernails from toenails, “ionga láimhe” (lit. nail of hand) and “ionga coise” (nail of foot) or “ionga laidhre” (nail of toe) can be used.

Anyway, back to “crúbach,” just to bring things full circle, it can also mean “clawed” (having claws) or “lame” (which is usually “bacach“) or “talipedal” (which is usually the adjective “reiligíneach” or expressed with the noun phrase, “cam reilige“, aka talipes, which is more widely, but less politically correctly known as “clubfoot”).

Just to recap all that, the most basic meanings I’d expect to find for the main words above, separating out the overlap,  are:

crúbach, hoofed, ungulate (from crúb)

ingneach (or “iongach“), taloned, clawed, or having nails (from ionga)

And all of this leads up to our selection of ceathairchosaigh chrúbacha, which I’ve listed here in the plural.  How about filling in the blanks with the singular form of the noun, with and without the definite article (always a good workout)?  Some of the animals have been discussed in recent blogs, others I’ve rounded up from various other vocabulary lists.  I’ve done the first row, just for good measure.  Freagraí thíos, mar is gnách.

Iolra (plural) Uatha (singular) Leis an alt Béarla
1 capaill capall an capall horse
2 miúileanna
3 antalóip
4 camaill
5 ba
6 onagair
7 picirí
8 muc
9 iompálaí
10 muca faithneacha aka toirc na bhfaithní (two names for the same animal)

Bain sult as!  SGF, Róislín

Freagra don phictiur: Is le capall Clydesdale í an chrúb seo.

Freagraí don chairt (ag tosú le 2 mar tá 1 déanta)

2. miúil, an mhiúil [un VYOO-il, with “vyoo” basically like English “view”], mule; 3. antalóp, an t-antalóp, antelope; 4. camall, an camall, camel; 5. bó, an bhó [un woh], cow; 6. onagair, an onagair, onager; 7. picire, an picire, peccary; 8. muc, an mhuc [un wuk], pig; 9. iompála, an t-iompála, impala;

Number 10 will take a bit of doing, so it gets its separate little section here, níos faide than all the other freagraí combined!

10a. muc fhaithneach, an mhuc fhaithneach [un wuk AH-nyukh, with the “f” and the “t” silent], warthog, lit. warty pig, and no, you can’t reverse that and get “Hogwarts.”  Well, actually you’re welcome to go for it ” * Faithneachmhuca” or, um, should that be ” *faithnímhuice” (lit. warts of pig)?  I don’t know how much Harry Potter and his fellow wizards thought of “Hogwarts” in terms of “Warthogs,” as opposed to “faithní” that are actually on “muca.”  And, come to think of it, I believe “wort” (from Old English “wyrt,” root, plant) was really J. K. Rowling’s subliminal inspiration for “Hogwarts,” based on “Hogwort,” the plant, but I guess there’s always the “féidearthacht.”

10b. torc na bhfaithní , presumably the same (torc na bhfaithní) for the definite form — one could hypothesize ” * torc faithní” for an indefinite form, but I see neither hair nor hide (warty or otherwise) of such a phrase ar líne.  “Torc na bhfaithní” literally means “the boar of the warts.”  Wild boar, that is, a domestic boar (male pig) is a “collach,” which curiously enough, can also mean a male crab (sa chomhthéacs crústach, in the crustacean context), a foreigner (!), or a crude person.

And who’s talking “torc” on the Idirlíon anyway?  Not many people.  Seacht n-amas (7 hits) for “torc na bhfaithní,” and all of them in glossaries of one sort or another, none in a natural context (like “cute warthog tricks”), none for “toirc na bhfaithní,” the plural.  Not that “muc fhaithneach” fares much better: seacht (7) n-amas arís in the singular; these are mostly from Flickr, so at least there’s a real comhthéacs to the use of the word.  For the plural, “muca faithneacha,” there are no hits (amas ar bith).  With lenition, an mhuc fhaithneach, there’s amas amháin, leading back to “Greannáin agus Greannánaíocht” (, where it appears to be somebody’s ainm scáileáin (screen name), or else an ainm cleite (pen name).  An bhfuil aithne agat ar “an Mhuc Fhaithneach”?

Why there are two words for “warthog” in Irish is beyond my ken.  That’s “ken” as in “kennasan Íoslainnis (know, make known), which at least the German speakers reading this will “kennen” (know), unless, that is, they “wissen” it.  Anyway, that’s not as in Ken, an bhábóg.  Although the answer would probably be beyond Ken’s ken, too, for that matter.  As would most most actual eolas (knowledge), given the size of Ken’s ceann beag plaisteach. Not that I ever had a Ken doll, ach sin scéal completely gan baint le scéal an lae inniu.  Mise ag teacht aníos i mo pháiste éaBhairbreach (Barbieless).  Am éigin eile.  B’fhéidir.

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