Irish Language Blog

Deich gCineál Laghairteanna i nGaeilge (Irish Names for 10 Types of Lizards) Posted by on Nov 12, 2015 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Our recent blog (nasc thíos) about sprochaillí (such as wattles on turkey and dewlaps on other animals) happened to mention the word “laghairt” (lizard), pronounced “lyrtch” (or, in full Irish-modified IPA: /lairt΄/).  The “y” in the rough transcription is like the “y” in “my” or “fly” and the /ai/ in the IPA transcription represents the same vowel sound.

Continuing with that lacertilian theme, let’s look a few more types of lizards, and, while we’re at it, let’s see which one of the following actually lives in Ireland.

Here is a list of 11 terms in Irish, with some pronunciation tips; one term is extra, to make the exercise more challenging.  The English terms are in the word bank below.  Tá na freagraí  thíos.  Together with the answers, there’s a further breakdown of the vocabulary, since even if we may not speak that often about “Zonosaurus quadrilineatus,” we might well use words like “crios,” “ceithre,” and “stríoc,” the components of its name in Irish.

1.. laghairt ghlas [the “gh” of “ghlas” is like the “gh” of “Mo ghrá thú” or “Dia dhuit, a Ghráinne,” with the name “Gráinne” in direct address; in other words, this “gh” sound is the voiced velar fricative)

  1. laghairt ailigéadair chrannach [AL-yih-gyay-dirzh KHRAHN-ukh]
  2. laghairt chriosach cheithrestríocach [HRISS-ukh HyEH-rzhuh-SHTREE-uh-kukh]
  3. laghairt shúilíneach [HOOL-een-yukh]
  4. laghairt adharcach chósta [ Y-IRK-ukh KHOH-stuh]
  5. dragan Chomódó ([khoh-moh-doh]; as you can see, this one isn’t literally called a “laghairt“–of course, in English, it’s called a “dragon” not a “lizard,” as well)
  6. laghairt chadhmain [KHY-min]
  7. laghairt choiteann [KHUTCH-un]
  8. ollphéist Gila ([ol-faysht HEE-luh, with the “G” of “Gila” pronounced as in Spanish, like an English “H”]; the second one in this group that’s not literally called a “laghairt“)
  9. laghairt chrogaill Shíneach [KHROG-il HEEN-yukh]
  10. laghairt earrspíonach [AR-SPEEN-ukh; remember, the “spío” part is pronounced “spee” (not “shpee”) even though the first vowel is slender (the “í”); same rule as in “spéir” and “spiorad“)

Agus ceist bhreise: of course, there’s at least one so-called “lizard” that really isn’t a lizard, or even a reptile.  It’s a type of person, known in Irish as a “leadaí teach tábhaire.”  So what kind of “lizard” would this be?  Freagra thíos.

Banc na bhFocal

arboreal alligator lizard, beaded lizard, Chinese crocodile lizard, coast horned lizard, common lizard, four-lined girdled lizard, Gila monster, girdled lizard, green lizard, Komodo dragon

Pretty soon we’ll have to stop talking about laghairteanna and get seasonal with turcaí, liamhás, and other seasonal treats (arán sinséir, mar shampla), but for now, it seemed like a nice follow-up to discussing dewlaps and wattles.  SGF – Róislín


1.. laghairt ghlas, green lizard

  1. laghairt ailigéadair chrannach, arboreal alligator lizard, with “c(h)rannach” based on “crann” (tree)
  2. laghairt chriosach cheithrestríocach, four-lined girdled lizard, incorporating the words “crios” (belt, girdle) and “stríoc” (stripe, streak), plus the number “c(h)eithre” (four)
  3. laghairt shúilíneach, beaded lizard, with “s(h)úilíneach,” based on “súil” (eye) + “-ín,” the diminutive suffix
  4. laghairt adharcach chósta, coast horned lizard, based on “adharc” (horn) and “cósta” (coast)
  5. dragan Chomódó, Komodo dragon
  6. laghairt chadhmain, caiman lizard
  7. laghairt choiteann, common lizard, also known as the “viviparous lizard,” which gives us another name for this lizard, “laghairt bheobhreitheach” (lit. live-bearing). This one is native to Ireland, but, to my surprise, according to the reptile-database map (nasc thíos), it’s not native to Britain. Intriguing.

That sounds good so far, but I have to admit, that not being a herpetologist, I’m a little puzzled by the fact that I read in various sources that the “laghairt choiteann” (Lacerta vivipara) and the “earc luachra,” common newt, (Lissotriton vulgaris) are both the “only” lizard native to Ireland.  For what insight it might shed on the subject, the “earc luachra” (lit. newt of rushes) is also known as the “earc choiteann” (lit. common newt).  And while there are many newts that are called some type of “earc,” in Irish, there’s also another word, “niút,” which means, lo and behold “newt.”  But “niút” doesn’t seem to be used for any of the taxonomic names.  All the ones I can find are “earca,” ranging from “earc California” to “earc palmatach.”

Furthermore, I also wonder whose perspective that is, to single out one lizard to be called “common,” but I guess that’s another issue for “lá na coise tinne.”  Since many animal species are called “common” something or other, the question doesn’t pertain just to the “laghairt choiteann,” but to many issues concerning taxonomic naming, far too broad for consideration here and well beyond my ken.

So, what I can say for certain is:

laghairt choiteann = common lizard

laghairt bheobhreitheach = viviparous lizard

earc luachra = common newt, and also

earc choiteann = common newt

The questions of habitat and place in the taxonomic family, I’ll have to let rest here.

  1. ollphéist Gila, Gila monster, from “oll-” (great, large, as in “ollscoil“) and “péist” (worm, monster)
  2. laghairt chrogaill Shíneach, Chinese crocodile lizard. Hmm, as far as I can tell, China has its own species of alligator (ailigéadar Síneach) but no “alligator lizard,” and it has a “crocodile lizard” (laghairt chrogaill), but no native species of crocodile. The Chinese crocodile lizard appears to be severely threatened, with only about 950 specimens reported in 2008 according to C. M. Huang et al. in Animal Biodiversity and Conservation.  For a country as large as China, that seems drastically small.  The various species of “alligator lizard” are native only to North America, as far as I can tell.

Téarma breise: I didn’t actually include the English for “laghairt earrspíonach” in the word bank, so the extra term could be a challenge, but we may as well answer it here:

  1. laghairt earrspíonach, spiny-tailed lizard, based on “earr” (end, used for “-tailed,” in many combinations, such as “earrdhubh” and “earrbhuí”) and “spíon” (spine)

Agus ceist bhreise: leadaí teach tábhairne, lounge lizard

Nasc don bhlag: Cén Ghaeilge atá ar … wattle? (Stór focal in am do Lá an Altaithe); Posted on 06. Nov, 2015 by in Irish Language (

Tuilleadh eolais faoin “earc luachra” anseo:  (alt i nGaeilge)

Mapa: reptile-database map:

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