Irish Language Blog

Díochlaontaí Arís! Posted by on Apr 24, 2011 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Two words that pertain to Easter conveniently fit our next category of nouns, an tríú díochlaonadh (the third declension).  One is the word “Cáisc” itself, and the other is “uaineoil.”

As you may recall, before we took our “Sos Pónairí Glóthaí” and “Sos Cásca,” we had gotten through the first two declensions of Irish nouns.  Depending on how you count them, there are either four or five such categories.  If it sounds strange to say “either four or five,” it’s because the fifth declension, has been relegated to a sort of non-status by some scholars.  It was, admittedly, a bit of a grab-bag anyway, with a wide variety of patterns and endings.  So, some sources that are otherwise very thorough regarding these issues lump 5th-declension nouns into the “irregular” category (not part of the declension system).  But for further details, we’ll have to go “trasna an droichid sin,” when we get to it, since we’re only up to díochlaonadh a trí so far.  Some approaches to teaching Irish these days don’t even mention declensions at all, but, as I’ve said before, I like to organize words according the patterns they present, at least as much as possible.

Unlike the first declension, which is all masculine, and the second declension, which is almost all feminine, the third declension contains both masculine and feminine nouns.  One huge chunk of 3rd-declension words includes all the occupational terms that end in “-eoir” or “-óir” (m. sh. aisteoir, ban-aisteoir, bainisteoir,  fiaclóir, and grianghrafadóir).  These endings are also used for lots of appliances, gadgets, and items, especially mechanical ones, like “cuisneoir” and “uaireadóir,” as well as one of my favorites, “prioslóir” (which we’ll distinguish from a “beibe” later).  All of these are masculine, even the one that means “actress.”  But “actress” being masculine isn’t really a surprise when you realize that the Irish words for “goddess” and “princess” are also grammatically masculine.  Remember what those are i nGaeilge by any chance?  If not, freagraí thíos.

We’ll start our discussion with a few 3rd-declension feminine nouns and wait for an chéad bhlag eile for the 3rd-declension masculine ones.  In addition to “Cáisc,” “uaineoil,” and some other “feoil-related” words, we’ll also look at examples like “Gaeltacht” and “beannacht,” where the “-acht” ending is a fairly reliable indicator of grammatical gender.  Not always, of course, since “acht” itself, as a completely separate word, is 3rd-declension masculine, and some others follow suit, like “comhlacht” and “leacht.”

By now you’ve seen a number of forms of “Cáisc,” but let’s look at it from the perspective of declensions:

The basic word really is “Cáisc,“ but we rarely see it this way, since it is usually either séimhithe or ginideach.  One reason it is so frequently lenited is that, like some other names of holidays, it has the definite article.  And it’s feminine, so the initial “c” changes to “ch.”

an Cháisc, (the) Easter, compare Welsh, “Y Pasg,” (the) Easter.  Also Irish “An Nollaig,” (the) Christmas

To form an tuiseal ginideach, add a final “-a” ending, which requires dropping the “-i’,” to create vowel harmony:, giving us “Cásca,” which itself is sometimes lenited (Chásca)

Cásca, of Easter: clog Cásca (one of the those flying Easter bells from France that deliver candaí Cásca)

Chásca, of Easter, lenited after a feminine singular noun: ubh Chásca

Chásca, of Easter, lenited after a plural noun ending in a slender consonant, cloig Chásca

The plural endings for 3rd-declension nouns are usually the same for the subject and possessive forms (unlike many 1st and 2nd-declension ones), so

Cáisceanna, Easters: Cáisceanna m’óige, the Easters of my youth (the structure of this phrase makes it definite, hence “the Easters of,” even without the definite article)

na Cáisceanna, the Easters: Níor aontaigh na Cáisceanna Victeoiriacha le Cáisceanna Chathair Alastair (N.B.: this refers to Victorius of Aquitaine, a 5th-century cleric, not an Bhanríon Victoria).

na gCáisceanna, of the Easters: coiníní seacláide Cásca stálaithe na gCáisceanna thart, the stale chocolate Easter Rabbits of Easters past

Another example, uaineoil (lamb, the meat, partly based on uan, lamb, the animal), goes through similar changes:

an uaineoil, the lamb: An bhfuil an uaineoil blasta?

na huaineola, of the lamb: blas na huaineola

This word is rarely used in the plural, although “feoil,” the other element of the compound, can be plural:

an fheoil, the meat

na feola, of the meat

na feolta, the meats

na bhfeolta, of the meats

Any thoughts as to why the “fh-“ was dropped from the standard spelling of “uaineoil?”  As you might have realized, it’s silent (for “an fheoil” say “un yohl”) and so isn’t in the modern spelling.

Similarly, we have caoireoil (caoireola) and mairteoil (mairteola) and more.

Finally (for today), let’s look at the word “Gaeltacht.”  We add “-a” for the genitive and “-aí” for the plural forms.  No need to worry about vowel harmony, since the “–tacht” ending is already leathan, as are the endings.

an Ghaeltacht, the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area)

na Gaeltachta, of the Gaeltacht: Raidió na Gaeltachta

Gaeltachtaí: note that “An Ghaeltacht” is often used collectively, to incorporate all the Irish-speaking areas

na Gaeltachtaí, the Gaeltachtaí: mapaí de na Gaeltachtaí

na nGaeltachtaí, of the Gaeltachtaí: daonra na nGaeltachtaí

Likewise, we have “beannacht” (blessing):

an bheannacht, na beannachta, na beannachtaí, na mbeannachtaí

Finally, to tie several of these words together: An itear raca uaineola sna Gaeltachtaí ar Dhomhnach Cásca nó an fearr le muintir na Gaeltachta ceibeabanna uaineola?  Not that there’s really a specific answer to that question, it’s just a good way to practice plurals and genitives.

Ceibeabanna!  Hmmm, blasta!  And perhaps a nice intro to 4th-declension nouns, when we get there, blag nó dhó síos an bóthar.   SGF ó Róislín

Freagraí: bandia, m., and banphrionsa, m.

Gluais: aontaigh, agree; Cathair Alastair, Alexandria (Egypt); daonra, population; fearr, better; itear, is eaten; mairteoil, beef; óige, youth

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. róislín:

    Mh’anam! Tá mé i ndiaidh botún beag a cheartú, “soc” go “sos.” Níl a fhios agam cén dóigh ar scríobh mé “soc”, agus cén dóigh nár thug mé faoi deara é agus mé ag profléamh an bhlag trí nó ceithre huaire sular sheol mé chuig an suíomh é. Is focal dlisteanach é “soc,” mar is eol daoibh (agus go mór mór d’Áine mar bhí muid ag caint faoi shoic laonna anuraidh) agus sin cuid den fhadhb. Muzzle of Easter, indeed! Dá mba “Easter nuzzle” é, ar a laghad, sin scéal níos suimiúla, agus níos soipriúla. Brón orm má chuir sé mearbhall ort.- R

    (soipriúil – an focal is gaire do “cuddly” a bhfuil mise ábalta teacht air. Moladh r b eile ag duine r b?)

Leave a comment: