Irish Language Blog

Dogs, Days, Dog Days (Madraí et al., Laethe et al., Laethe Madrúla, et al.) Posted by on Aug 16, 2012 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Sirius sa réaltbhuíon "An Madra Mór"

Technically speaking, they’re probably just about over, but a lot of people use the term “Dog Days” rather loosely, for mid- to late-summer, so let’s discuss the phrase while “an samhradh” is still “in it.”   The starting date for the “Laethe Madrúla” (aka “Laethanta an Mhadra”) varies, sometimes an tríú lá d’Iúil (July 3rd), sometimes as late as an ceathrú lá is fiche d’Iúil (July 24th), as noted in a previous blog on the topic ( .  But our concern here will be the vocabulary, not the specific astronomical configuration.

Once again, Irish provides us with lots of food for thought, vocabulary-wise.  We’ll look briefly at the main words for “dog,” the various forms of the adjective “madrúil,” different forms of the word for “day,” and finally the two phrases that can be used for “Dog Days” as such.

Starting with “dog” (and what better place to start?), there are three main words to know, without getting into specific breeds such as “Brocairí Albanacha” or “Sí-abhabhaí.”

madra, dog (and this is the word behind both Irish phrases for “Dog Days,” in one case as noun, in the other, as adjective)

Its forms are: an madra, the dog; an mhadra, of the dog, na madraí, the dogs, na madraí, of the dogs (no change)

In the North, the singular form usually changes to “madadh” [MAHD-oo], resulting in:

an madadh, the dog; an mhadaidh, of the dog (as in Léim an Mhadaidh, Limavady, Co. Derry), and the same plural form, na madraí, for “the dogs” and “of the dogs”

Another word for “dog” is “gadhar,” good to know, but not used in the phrases for “Dog Days,” which after all, are named after the star Sirius.  In Irish, the two dog constellations are “An Madra Mór” (which includes Sirius) and “An Madra Beag,” so, whatever dialect variations may occur, “madra” is the word specifically used in the context of “réalteolaíocht.”  “Gadhar” can mean “dog” in general, but in my experience, is mostly used in phrases such as “gadhar fiaigh” (hunting dog) or “gadhar gearr” (mongrel, lit. “short” dog).  Its forms are:

an gadhar, the dog; an ghadhair, of the dog, na gadhair, the dogs, na ngadhar, of the dogs

And then, of course, there are cúnna (hounds), brocairí (terriers), and numerous specific breeds far beyond the scope of this blog.  Ábhar blag eile?

The noun “madra” provides us with the core of the adjective “madrúil,” which can mean “doglike,” “doggish,” “canine,” or simply “of dog” in the adjectival sense.  It can also mean “coarse” or “unmannerly,” though it always disappoints my dog-loving heart to hear this noble animal used in derogatory idioms like “a bheith madrúil le Seán” (to treat Seán in a brutish way).  Maybe we should lobby for PC vocabulary for dogs?  At any rate, the adjective has a plural form, “madrúla,” which is used in one of the two phrases for “Dog Days.”

The word for “day” is quite consistent in the singular (, day; lae, of a day; an lae, of the day), but the plural has several variations: laethanta [LAY-hun-tuh], laetha, and laethe.  Remember, the “t” is lenited in all of these, so it’s always silent.

Finally, there are at least two main phrases for “Dog Days,”

Laethanta an Mhadra [LAY-hun-tuh un WAH-druh], lit. the days of the dog

na Laethe Madrúla, lit. the doggish days

Which phrase is more prevalent?  My most recent Google search turned up no hits (amas ar bith!) for “Laethanta an Mhadra,” though the phrase most certainly exists.  “Laethe Madrúla” turns up 11 hits, several of which point back to the earlier blog in this series, and most of which are followed by “an tSamhraidh” (of the summer).  Adding “of the Summer” (an tSamhraidh, {un TOW-ree]) to “Laethanta an Mhadra” triggers a slight change, resulting in “Laethanta Madra an tSamhraidh,” which gives me a grand total of cúig amas (5 hits) today.  Not much, all around.  Doesn’t seem like there’s that much discussion of “Dog Days” going on in Irish.  And what could we do to remedy that – bheith ag caint faoi ar líne, ceisteanna, tagairtí, srl.

At any rate, that’s the vocabulary for “Dog Days,” broken down into its various component parts.  Next up, and speaking of navigation, how about “the horse latitudes” in Irish?  Hint: in Irish, the phrase doesn’t use any of several words of horse (capall, each [akh], etc.), but refers more fundamentally to the type of waters involved.  On that lexicographical cliff-hanger, SGF, Róislín

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

Leave a comment: