Irish Language Blog

Cuisle vs. Artaire vs. Féith! (Cé acu atá ina théarma muirnéise?) Posted by on Feb 26, 2011 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Cuisle vs. Artaire vs. Féith! (Cé acu atá ina théarma muirnéise?)  Actually, if you’ve been following the blog since Lá Vailintín, you probably know the answer to that already.

Cuisle, ar ndóigh.  Even if you’re brand new to the blog, you might recognize “cuisle” from its various anglicized spellings, dating back at least to John McCormack crooning “Macushla” ca. 1911 or to the 1918 film, “The Little Runaway,” originally titled “Ann Acushla.”

At this point, you’ve heard numerous times that “cuisle” means “pulse” and can be a term of endearment, especially when it’s sa tuiseal gairmeach (“A chuisle!”).  But what else can it mean?  And what else could it have meant in the past?  Deep breath please!

First a couple of definitions that are interesting, if a little dated:

cuisle, a vein, but the normal medical word for this today would be “féith

cuisle mhór, an artery, also a dated term, replaced by “artaire” today.  I wonder what William Harvey (an lia, the physician) would have to say about this terminology!

And some more, which are highly dependent on context:

cuisle, a flute (though the musical instrument is usually “fliúit” these days).  This can also mean a fluted-shape in a column.  A “fluting-machine” is an “inneall cuislithe.

cuisle, forearm or wrist, but those could also be “” (that’s , a feminine noun meaning “forearm,” not the more familiar masculine noun, “,” which means “king”) and, for “wrist,” either “rosta” or “caol láimhe.”  “Caol láimhe” (wrist) literally means “narrow part of the arm (or hand)” and is paralleled by the term “caol coise” for “ankle.  But, never fear, there are at least two more words for “ankle” that don’t involve having the second element in the tuiseal ginideach, namely “rúitín” and “murnán.”

Now I myself, like the Gaeilgeoir Mór in Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin’s song “Amhrán an Ghaeilgeora Mhóir,” love dealing with the tuiseal ginideach, in all of its manifestations and in various languages, including its use for possession (alienable or inalienable), composition (the infamous “partitive” that we drilled over and over in Latin in school), participation (both subjective and objective), and origin, and description, and araile, gabh mo leithscéal, “agus araile” (et cetera).  But as a teacher, I have to acknowledge that it’s somewhat easier to handle a single word like “rúitín” than a two-word phrase like “caol coise,” especially once you start adding additional parts (like “the bone of the ankle” vs. “the bone of the narrow part of the leg”) or additional features (like “the narrowness of the ankle” vs. “the narrowness of the narrow part of the leg”).

For practical purposes, I’d use “” for “forearm,” and “rosta” or “caol láimhe” for “wrist.”  And I’d stick to “artaire” and “féith” in the medical context.  It is interesting, though, to see the connections between the various meanings of “cuisle” and to see why a column can have a “cuisle” even though it doesn’t have a pulse and isn’t someone’s sweetheart!  Except, perhaps, for the Cairiaitidí, ach scéal na gCairiaitidí, sin scéal eile.  We’ll save that for when we discuss an tAcrapolas, someday, sa bhlag seo!

And finally, one more related term, “cuisleoir” (a blood-letter)!  So you want to be careful to distinguish between these two activities: cuisleannacht (feeling the pulse, or, playing the flute) and cuisleoireacht (blood-letting).  Of course, for “playing the flute,” these days I’d mostly say “seinm ar an bhfliúit,” but it never hurts to wax a little poetic from time to time!

Ceistiúcháinín: An féidir leat Béarla a chur orthu seo?  Artaire caratach, féith chuingealach, artaire corónach, féith bhorrtha, artaire cruaite, and one last one that’s not actually medical, cáis ghormfhéitheach.  Freagraí thíos. 

SGF, Róislín

Naisc: You can hear the song “Macushla” on a vintage recording at . For “Amhrán an Ghaeilgeora Mhóir,”

Freagraí: carotid artery, jugular vein, coronary artery, varicose (lit. swollen) vein, hardened artery, blue-veined cheese

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. Mise Áine:

    Tá féith an ghrinn ag Tadhg, nach bhfuil, a Róislín, ach an oiread leat féin…;-)

  2. Mise Áine:

    Táim den bharúil go bhfuil féith an ghrinn ag Tadhg, agus agat féin, a Róislín…:-)

Leave a comment: