Irish Language Blog

Giving Commands in Irish, from the Cheerful ‘Be Happy’ to the Brusque ‘Shut Your Gob!’ Posted by on Feb 12, 2018 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Dearadh na haghaidhe agus téacs Gaeilge le Róislín, 2018; Rainbow Stripes Background by Karen Arnold; CC0 Public Domain,

Continuing with our recent ‘happy’ theme (nasc thios), the above graphic illustrates one way of saying “Be happy” in Irish.  As you may have noticed, it’s the plural form.  No special reason for the plural — it’s just that the singular form (““) would have made for pretty minimal eyebrows (malaí fíorbheaga).

The structure of the phrase “Bígí sona!” is pretty straightforward.  It’s literally “Be happy.”  The singular form would simply be “Bí sona!

While we may not give many commands to our fellow adults (reserving them mostly for children and animals), there are a few more phrases with “bígí” that could be useful for any age group:

Bí foighneach, plural: Bígí foighneach, Be patient!  As an alternative to the “bí/bígí” structure, this could also be expressed as “Bíodh foighne agat / agaibh!” (lit. Let there be patience at you!) or simply “Foighne ort / oraibh!” (lit. “Patience on you!” with no actual verb)

Bí freagrach as … , plural: Bígí freagrach as … ! Be responsible for … !, lit. Be answerable for ….

Bí i do shuí, le do thoil!, plural: Bígí in bhur suí, le bhur dtoil! Sit, please!, lit. Be in your sitting, please!

And finally, more often to children than adults, we have: Bí ciúin!, plural: Bígí ciúin! Be quiet!  And there are a few other ways that can be expressed:

For emphasis: Bí thusa ciúin!, plural Bígí sibhse ciúin!  You, be quiet!

A different structure: Bí i do thost!, plural: Bígí in bhur dtost!  Be quiet!, lit. Be in your silence!

And of course, there are some blunter ways to request silence, moving away from our “bí/bígí” structure, since these are more direct: Dún do bhéal! or Druid do bhéal! Shut up!, lit. Shut your mouth! OR Éist do bhéal! Shut up!, lit. “Hush your mouth!”

OR pleadingly: Dún do bhéal, in ainm Dé!, Shut up, in the name of God! OR: Dún do bhéal, as ucht Dé! Shut up, for God’s sake! (“as ucht Dé” could also be loosely translated as “for goodness sake!” or as “for crying out loud!”  Literally, though, “ucht” means “chest,” “breast,” or “lap,” and sometimes could be translated as “arms” in phrases like “an leanbh agus é ag gáire in ucht a mháthar” from Douglas Hyde’s play, An Pósadh.  “Ucht” is also the root of the verb “uchtú,” to adopt)

And getting quite a bit edgier: Dún do chlab!  Shut up! but more like “Shut your gob!” or “Shut your trap!” or “Hold your jaw!” or “Stow it!”  And we can also use the Irish word “gob” (beak, beak-like mouth) itself: “Dún do ghob!” or “Druid do ghob!

And by the way, getting back to the “Be happy!” theme, and its companion phrase, “Don’t worry!”, as in Bobby McFerrin’s song, here are some possibilities:

Ná bí buartha (said to one person), “Don’t worry!” or “Don’t be alarmed!” lit. “Don’t be worried”

Ná bígí buartha (said to two or more people)

OR: Ná bíodh imní ort (said to one person), lit. “Let there not be worry on you”

Ná bíodh imní oraibh (said to two or more people)

OR, a little more emphatically:

Ná bíodh aon imní ort. (said to one person), “Don’t worry!” or “Don’t be alarmed!” lit. “Let there not be any worry on you”

Ná bíodh aon imní oraibh. (said to two or more people)

And a couple that I think are slightly less widely used:

Ná bí ag déanamh aon imní de (said to one person), lit. “Don’t be doing any worry of it”

Ná bígí ag déanamh aon imní de (said to two or more people)

Ná buair do cheann faoi (said to one person), lit. “Don’t bother your head about it”

Ná buairigí bhur gceann faoi (said to two or more people)

Bhuel, there’s three sets of phrases for you, dealing with happiness, worry, and silence (or the lack thereof).  That should get you some traction in society!  SGF — Róislín

Nasc: How to Say ‘Be Happy’ in Irish and 20 Ways to Say ‘Happy’ Itself:  ‘Ádhúil’ to “Toilteanach’ with an Emphasis on “Sona”Posted by  on Feb 10, 2018 in Irish Language

Naisc eile d’iarbhlagmhíreanna faoin fhocal “happy”: Twenty Ways to Say ‘Happy’ in Irish and Which Ones to Use for ‘Christmas’ and ‘New Year’Posted by  on Dec 25, 2017 in Irish Language

How many ‘happys’ are there in Irish for the various seasonal greetings? Posted by  on Dec 14, 2017 in Irish Language

Happy, Happiness and Happy Dances in Irish (mostly based on ‘áthas’) Posted by  on May 25, 2015 in Irish Language

Happiness Is … Lots of Ways to Say “Happy” in Irish (including “Happy Christmas”) Posted by  on Dec 3, 2011 in Irish Language

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