Irish Language Blog

Clever, “Cute,” Smart, Intelligent, Wise, and/or Cunning – as Gaeilge! Posted by on Apr 6, 2009 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

We’ve recently discussed fools in general in the April 1st and 3rd blogs.  We’ve differentiated amadáin from óinseacha and worked gámaithe, gamail, gamalóga, agus gamaraill into the mix.  Now lets segue to “wise fools” and then to various terms for being clever, “cute,” smart, intelligent, wise and/or cunning. 


  Wise fools, first.  This will be a direct translation of from the Greek-based “sophomore.” The English word “sophomore” is popularly derived from Greek “sophos” (wise) and “moros” (foolish), although it is actually more likely from “sophumer” or “sophom,” a dialectic exercise.   Either way, the Irish term is “sofamór,” based on the sounds in English.   


  “Sofamór” seems to be a fairly new word in the language.  It’s not in any of the older dictionaries I have and, as of this writing, shows up as being “for approval” in Irish vocabularies, suggesting that it’s a newcomer.  Most likely the term has been added recently to Irish as the language gets increasingly internationalized.  The Irish educational system doesn’t use the terminology found in the U.S. for which year you are in at high school or university (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior).  So far, the word “freshman” doesn’t exist as such i nGaeilge, and the adjectives that mean “junior” or “senior” (sóisearach, sinsearach) would have to be qualified.  At an Irish university, you generally just identify the year you are in by number (sa chéad bhliain, in the first year, for example) rather than by saying “I am a freshman.” 


  Words used to describe smartness in Irish can range from the truly complimentary to those suggesting slyness or cunning, sometimes referred to in Irish English as being “cute” (short for “acute”).  Here’s a selection:


 cliste: clever, smart

 éirimiúil: intelligent, clever, talented, gifted

 cleasach: smart, cute, tricky, crafty

 slim: sly, cunning, also slim, smooth, or sleek (remember to pronounce this one as if it had the English sounds “SH” + “L,” as if it were “shlim,” like the initial sound of “schlemiel,” not like the English word “slim” as in “slender”)

 glic: smart, cute, sly, shrewd, crafty


  As hinted at in a previous blog, “glic” is the key to the wordplay in Doyle’s The Last Roundup, which follows the life of Henry Smart.  When Smart comes to America, he takes the surname Glick, which fits well in the Jewish community where he finds himself in multicultural New York, since Glick, based on German Glück, is well known there.  But Henry knows the word’s double meaning and probably feels all the more “glic” for having picked it. 


  Just one more, for closers, críonna: wise, prudent, mature, thrifty, old


  “Críonna” is used for two of my favorite expressions for grandparents, “máthair chríonna” and ”athair críonna” (wise mother, wise father).  How many expressions for grandparents are there i nGaeilge?  Quite a few more – that’ll be the pointe bíse (cliffhanging or suspense point) for blag éigin eile (some other blog).  Bhur mblagálaí — Róislín

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Keep learning Irish with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Maire Ui Ruairc:

    Feacfaidh me expressions for grandparents i nGaeilge, but ma/thair agus athair crionna is the most precise–of course I am a grandmother! Sla/n, Ma/ire Ui Ruairc

    Sorry, my e-mail doesn’t do fadas

  2. Róislín:

    Aontaím leat! I agree.

    Feicfidh tú níos mó téarmaí inniu sa bhlag nua má fhéachann tú air. An bhféachfaidh tú air? —


  3. Maire Ui Ruairc:

    Feachfidh me/ nios do te/armai. Sla/n.

    An mbi/onn “ma”? (In “ma bhfeachann tu/ air?

  4. Brian:

    Chun fada a scríobh brúigh cnaipe “alt gr” agus an litir ar an am céanna.

Leave a comment: