Irish Language Blog

Cúpla Cor Cainte Eile leis an bhFocal “Ceann” (A Few More “Ceann” Idioms) Posted by on Sep 7, 2009 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Here are a few more “head phrases,” that is, phrases with the Irish word “ceann” (head, end, extremity, one, top, etc.).  There are actually probably several hundred idiomatic, figurative, or non-literal uses of “ceann,” so once again this is just cúpla sampla. 


Teach ceann tuí: thatched house, lit. house of a head/roof of thatch


Ná déan ceann díot féin!  Don’t make a show of yourself!


Oíche Chinn Bliana or Oíche Chinn Bhliana, New Year’s Eve, lit. eve of the end of the year.  There seem to be different interpretations here of séimhiú with the double genitive, for the word “bliana.”  And there are other, less literal phrases for New Year’s Eve, too, but we’ll save all that for another day.  Note to self: ábhar an bhlag don 31ú lá de mhí na Nollag.  If any can help me remember to do that in 3 ½ months, bheinn buíoch díot (I’d be grateful).  Cén Ghaeilge atá ar “tickler file”? 


Euro an ceann, a euro each, and by the way, this is one of the very few words in Irish where you’ll see “eu” as a vowel combination.  Apparently the idea for the word “euro” was to keep it intact in all the languages where it came into effect.  The Irish words for “Europe” and “European” all have an initial “eo” (Eoraip, Eorapach).


There are some interesting uses of “ceann” to describe specific animals.  So, mar shampla, a big-headed sideneck turtle is a “turtar píblúbach ceannmhór” but for some animals, the “-headed” part actually gets an adjective ending (-ach), as in pearaicít bhláthcheannach (blossom-headed parakeet).  I’ll have to look into those pearaicítí bláthcheannacha – sounds very Peter Maxian to me!


There are quite a few place names in Irish that use the word “ceann.”  Seo cúpla ceann:


Ceann Bhré, Bray Head (Co. Wicklow) but Ceann Bhreagha, Bray Head (Co. Kerry)


Ceann Ros Eoghain, Rossan Point, Co. Donegal, lit. the end of the promontory of Eoghan


Ceann Toirc, Kanturk, Co. Cork


Ceann Sléibhe, Slea Head, Co. Kerry


I’ll leave you with a very intriguing phrase, and perhaps any sailors out there could comment on what exactly the English means:


dearadh ceannramhar, which literally would most readily be translated as “fat-headed design,” but for which I presume “thick-headed” would be a somewhat nicer literal rendition.  This is the Irish for “cod’s head and mackerel tail design” in boatbuilding.  The phrases might mean the same thing, but, as you might have guessed, there’s not much overlap in the actual words, since Irish phrase doesn’t use any form of the words trosc (cod), ronnach (mackerel), or eireaball / ruball (tail).  Not that one would expect them to, since the cod and mackerel analogies are already being used figuratively, and figurative language jumps all over the map as you go from language to language. SGF — Róislín

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