Irish Language Blog

Deireadh Hanukkah, an Grianstad ag Tarraingt orainn, agus an Nollaig faoinár Súile Posted by on Dec 18, 2009 in Irish Language

Tá Hanukkah ag tarraingt chun deiridh ach tá grianstad an gheimhridh  ag tarraingt orainn, ar an Luan, an 21ú lá (say: an t-aonú lá is fiche) de mhí na Nollag.  Agus tá an Nollaig í féin sa mhullach orainn.  


The word “grianstad” breaks apart quite straightforwardly into “grian” (sun) and “stad” (stop), just as the word “solstice” does (sol + sistere, to stand still).  An ndéanfaidh duine ar bith agaibh aon rud ar leith Dé Luain chun an grianstad a cheiliúradh (to celebrate)?


An bhfuair duine ar bith agaibh ticéad sa chrannchur (lottery) le dul isteach i mBrú na Bóinne (Newgrange) i rith Shéasúr an Ghrianstad?  Más amhlaidh go bhfuair, nach ortsa atá an t-ádh!    


Generally there are about 30,000 iarrthóirí (applicants) in the lottery to gain access to the inside of Newgrange during the Winter Solstice season, which lasts for cúig lá. 


Tá cead ag fiche (20) cuairteoirí a bheith istigh sa Bhrú ag am amháin chun éirí na gréine a fheiceáil ón taobh istigh.  Mar sin faigheann caoga (50) duine ticéid agus is féidir leo comrádaí amháin a bheith acu.  Téann an chéad fiche duine isteach ar an chéad lá den séasúr, agus téann sé ar aghaidh mar sin go dtí an cúigiú lá.  Fiche duine in aghaidh an lae.  Nach ámharach na daoine iad!


Here are some pointers about the vocabulary used above:


ag tarraingt, pulling, drawing, dragging, towing, in phrases like “ag tarraingt chun deiridh,” drawing to a close, and “ag tarraingt orainn,” approaching (us)


deireadh, end (as in deireadh seachtaine) changes to “deiridh” after the preposition “chun


faoinár súile [FWEE-nahr SOO-il-yeh] in the offing, lit. “under our eyes”


an gheimhridh [un YEV-ree] of the winter, cf. “geimhreadh” [GYEV-ruh]  (winter)


sa mhullach orainn [suh WUL-ukh OR-in] coming on apace, lit. “in the summit on us,” with no actual verb “coming”


an ndéanfaidh X? [un NYAYN-hee, lots of silent letters!] will X do / make?


ar leith [err leh] special, particular


an bhfuair X [un WOO-irzh] did X get? (from “faigh” (get), one of the 11 irregular verbs in Irish)


You might recall that the word “grian” is grammatically feminine, so we say “an ghrian” for “the sun.”  But when you make the compound word “grianstad,” the “stad” part determines the gender, so it’s masculine, giving us “an grianstad.”


When the whole word “grianstad” is possessive, as in “season of the solstice,” it picks up lenition, resulting in “ghrianstad.”  You might have seen this lenition marking possession  in phrases like “hata an bhúistéara” (the hat of the búistéara, butcher). 


Ironically, feminine singular nouns, which you’re probably used to leniting (bó / an bhó, muc / an mhuc, srl.) lose their lenition if they’re in the possessive.  Examples include “ruball na bó” (the tail of the cow) and “ruball na muice” (the tail of the pig).  The latter can also be a colloquialism for “everyone else under the sun.”  That will be, I think, ábhar blag eile, maybe for when I finally get around to writing an animal series, including the donkey sanctuaries, which I had threatened to start cúpla mí ó shin, and perhaps including the late Orla, allegedly the smallest cow in the world, whom I was lucky enough to photograph in 2000.  But first, we have Oíche Nollag, an Nollaig, Lá an Dreoilín, Lá Crosta na Bliana, Oíche na Coda Móire, and Lá Coille to deal with, and I might even stretch out this holiday stuff until Nollaig na mBan, aka Eipeafáine, is are finished for the year.  Catching my breath here!


There’s more to “grian,” though, than just “grian / an ghrian” and “grianstad” with its possessive “an ghrianstad,” in case that nice reversal of lenition was too straightforward for you!  The possessive form of “grian” itself undergoes a vowel change in the middle, so we have phrases like “éirí na gréine” (the rising of the sun), as used above, or “clog gréine” (sundial). 


an t-ádh [un taw, or, in the North, un tæ, with the vowel sound like “happy” or “cap”] luck, which in Irish, is “ort” (on you). 


cead [kyæd] permission, not to be mistaken with “céad” [kyayd] hundred. Síntí fada rule!


faigheann, get, gets (pronounced like “fie” + un)


an chéad [un hyayd] the first


aghaidh [ai} face; ar aghaidh [err ai] on(ward); in aghaidh an lae [in ai un lay] per day. “Aghaidh” is here transliterated as “ai,” rhyming with “eye” or “pie” or “aye” or “nigh,” which is why its pronunciation isn’t so easy to indicate.  Key thing though, it has more silent letters than letters that are actually pronounced.


ámharach [AW-wur-ukh] lucky

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