Irish Language Blog

Cuir Cluas Ort! Listen Up! (but where’s the “up”?) Posted by on May 27, 2012 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Before we completely leave the topic of ears, eaves, and eavesdropping, let’s look a little closer at the word for “ear” itself — cluas [KLOO-uss].

First a pronunciation note, “ua” in Irish is pronounced as two syllables [oo-uh].  You may well have heard the sound in other words, such as “rua” [ROO-uh], “nua” [NOO-uh], or, a relatively new feature in the Dublin cityscape, “an Luas,” the light-rail tram system, based on the word “luas” (speed, pace, velocity, etc.)

And back to na cluasa.  Here are na bunfhoirmeacha:

cluas [KLOO-uss], ear, also “handle” as in “cluas cupáin” (a handle of a cup)

an chluas [un KHLOO-uss], the ear, also, the handle

cluaise [KLOO-ish-uh], of an ear, as in “curca cluaise,” an ear-tuft (of a bird!) or “dallán cluaise,” an ear-plug

na cluaise [nuh KLOO-ish-uh], of the ear, as in “maothán [MWEE-hawn] na cluaise,” the ear-lobe, lit. the soft part of the ear

cluasa, ears, as in the seanfhocal: Bíonn cluasa ar na claíocha, translated as “Walls have ears” but remember these “walls” (claíocha) are probably outside walls, as of stone or sod, for marking fields or boundaries.  But “cúléisteacht” or “cluasaíl” could as easily happen outdoors as in, as long as there is some way for the “cúléisteoir” or “cluasaí” to remain out of sight.  This proverb may also show up as “Bíonn cluasa ar na clathacha,” with the same meaning, or with “ar na fallaí” or “ar na ballaí,” which would be indoor walls.

na cluasa, the ears

cluas, of ears, as in “cosaint cluas” (ear muffs, lit. protection of ears)

na gcluas, of the ears, as in “clinic na gcluas” (audio clinic, lit. clinic of the ears) or “seamróg na gceithre gcluas” (a somewhat old-fashioned phrase for “the four-leaved shamrock”)

The diminutive form “cluaisín” [KLOO-ish-een], lit. “little ear,” has several interesting usages as well:

cluaisín caipín, ear-flap (on a cap).  A Arailt, sin ceann duit!

cluaisín scriú, wing of a screw (an chuid eile, dála an scéil, an “lorga,” the shank).

Cluaisín” on its own can also mean “auricle,” regarding the ear, although “auricle” for the heart is “copóg“, which also means “large ear,” “large leaf,” and “dock” (the plant).

A few more expressions with “cluas“:

Cuir cluas ort féin! Listen attentively, lit. “put an ear on yourself,” or, as we might say, “Listen up!” (though there’s no “up” in the Irish)

Cuireann sin cluas orm.  That causes me to listen attentively, lit. That puts ears on me.

Tá mo chluasa bodhar acu.  I’m tired of listening to them, lit. my ears are deaf at them.

Bhuel, hopefully, níl bhur gcluasa bodhar agam!  Although we’re really talking about léamh an bhlag, not éisteacht leis an mblag, so I suppose the phrase should be based on dubh dóite, or some such idea.  SGF, Róislín

Gluais: bodhar [bohr or baur or bower, the “d” is silent], deaf; curca [KUR-kuh], crest, tuft, topknot, cockade; maothán cluaise [MWEE-hawn KLOO-ish-uh], earlobe

P.S. Dála an scéil, kudos do na daoine a rinne an suíomh idirlín don Luas.  Tá sé ar fáil i nGaeilge ( maith le seacht dteanga eile.  Is féidir leat an teanga a athrú ó Bhéarla go Gaeilge agus ó Ghaeilge go Béarla ag barr an leathanaigh le cnaipe scoránaithe (toggle button) agus arís ag bun an leathanaigh, áit a bhfuil na bratacha (the flags).

P.P.S. For a little more “hands-on” practice with the word “cluasa,” you might want to look back at the blog from 23 Meán Fómhair 2009, translating “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” (   A little aclaíocht never hurt anyone!

P.P.P.S. btw, remote as the word “cluas” may seem from anything immediately recognizably as Indo-European, it is a distant relation to the word “listen.”  Think Welsh “clust” (ear), Old Norse “hlust” (ear) as well as “hlystan” (listen, hear), Sanskrit “çrotra” (hearing, ear, cf. shruti regarding “revelation” and Hindu sacred texts) and going as far east as one can go in the Indo-European range, Tocharian A “klots” and even Tocharian B “klautso.”

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