Irish Language Blog

How To Pronounce ‘A Dheaide,’ ‘A Dhaidí,’ and Other Forms of ‘Dad/Daddy’ in Irish Posted by on Jun 6, 2013 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Since June is mí Lá na nAithreacha, let’s look once more at the various words for “Dad” and “Daddy”  in Irish, specifically in direct address.  So we’ll take a brief break from the Irish names we were working on in the last blog  (Seán, Sinéad, srl.) and their direct address forms (“Dia duit, a Sheáin!,” “Slán agat, a Shinéad!,” srl.).  Tá nasc don bhlag sin thíos (link below, nasc 1).

First a quick review of “direct address.”  In English, the concept exists and, in writing, it’s marked by punctuation, specifically, the comma (an chamóg).  Perhaps you’ve been diligently applying that comma all along, as in “Let’s eat, Grandma!”  In speech, direct address is generally marked a little bit by a slight pause before the person’s name, but there’s no grammatical change to the noun of direct address as there is in Irish (or for that matter, Scottish Gaelic, Latin, etc.).  If we don’t use the comma or make that slight pause in English, the implication is more like “Let’s eat Grandma!,” a much more drastic suggestion.  For English, commas rule!  In Irish, there would never be any confusion in these two Grandma phrases, as long as direct address was properly marked.  Which of the following means “Let’s eat, Grandma!” in Irish?: a) “Ithimis, a Mhamó!”  b) “Ithimis Mamó!”  (Freagra thíos).

Now let’s look at what happens to the “Dad/Daddy” words we identified in the recent blog about the word father: daid, deaid, deaide, daidí, daide, deaidí (nasc 2 thíos).  As you might have noticed, some begin with “de-” and some begin with “da-.”  That will make a world of difference in pronunciation, both in their basic form and when  they’re put into direct address (a Dhaid, a Dheaid, srl.)

Before we actually turn to the direct-address forms, let’s briefly look at the pronunciation of the “slender d” (as in “Deaid,” for both of the “d’s”) and the pronunciation of the “broad d” (the first “d” of “Daid“).  Before they change to “a Dheaid” and “a Dhaid,” that is.  First, the “slender d” of “Deaid“:

Deaid (slender d): this “d” has a slight “j” sound with it, somewhat like the British (but not the American) pronunciation of “Duke.”  I usually transcribe it as “dj.”  In some dialects, the “j” element is stronger, in others it’s less noticeable.  At any rate, I’d transcribe “Deaid” as “djadj” (a near rhyme with “badge” or “Madge), because both “d’s” are slender.  Another example of this sound in Irish would be “deo,” as in “go deo,” which, by the way, is not at all like Latin “deo,” nor like Belafonte’s “Day-O!” for that matter.  <tentative grin>.   Irish “deo” is closer to English “Joe” and it’s just one syllable.  Additional examples of the slender “d” in Irish are: Diarmaid, deor, deas, dian, etc.  By the way, that comparison is to English “j,” not to “j” in Spanish or German, perhaps other languages, which would be a completely different sound.

And now, the “broad d” of “Daid“:

Daid (broad initial d): this is the “dental d,” meaning that as you pronounce it, the tip of the tongue is pressed against the back of the upper teeth.  It’s about halfway between English “dinner” and “thinner.”  Saying “back” of the upper teeth is almost superfluous here , since it would be just about impossible to say anything if you were pressing the tip of the tongue against the front of the upper teeth.  Try it!  This broad “d” sound is basically impossible to represent in standard Roman letters.  We could use the actual International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), not the “Irish-modified” International Phonetic Alphabet, in which case, the symbol  would be /d̪ˠ/.  That’s good and accurate and all, but a bit cumbersome for present purposes.  In the Irish-modified IPA, “broad d” is simply represented by /d/, which doesn’t really tell us anything about the “dental” aspect.  Also, I don’t want to mix my transcriptions with half-IPA, half-non-IPA, so I’ll stick to describing the sound and recommending listening to recordings of native speakers.

So that’s the “d” sound at the beginning of the various words for Dad and Daddy–almost like a “j” for “Deaid”  and “dental” for the first “d” of “Daid.”  The second “d” of “Daid” is slender, and isn’t really our main focus here.   Now let’s look at those sounds in direct address.  There’s a change both in spelling and pronunciation at the beginning of the word.  In both cases, the spelling change is adding an “h” after the “d” (marking lenition or séimhiú).

For the slender “d,” the new sound (slender “dh”) is like English “y” as in the following basic phrase:

Haigh, a Dheaid! [… uh yadj], “Hi, Dad!”

Slán abhaile, a Dheaide! [… uh YADJ-uh], “Safe home, Dad!”

Lá na nAithreacha Sona duit, a Dheaidí! [… uh YADJ-ee], “Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!”

A transcription note before we proceed.  The three examples above have a “y” sound as in English “yak” or “Yazoo.”  The gamma sign (/ɣ/), used to transcribe the voiced velar fricative that we’ll discuss below, looks a lot like a “y” but please do note the difference.  Visually the gamma sign is curvier at the bottom and in this font, at least, it’s perfectly vertical while the lower-case “y” is on a slant.

So now we have the broad “dh” versions, with the guttural (voiced velar fricative) pronunciation, often described as “throaty.”  This sound has been discussed in various previous blogs in this series (nasc 3 thíos).   It’s a bit like the guttural “ch” of “Chutzpah” and “Achtung,” but a little softer and it comes from lower down in the throat.  One good reason to master this sound is that then you can convincingly also say “Mo ghrá thú” ([muh ɣraw hoo], I love you!), since broad “gh-” has the same sound.  This sound is also needed to talk to Dónal (a Dhónail) or to Gráinne (a Ghráinne), to say that you have two oxen (dhá dhamh), to talk about an x-ray (x-gha) or to say that Scotty beamed you up “Gha-sheol Scotty aníos mé” (for more on “ga-sheoladh,” check out yet another earlier blog, nasc 4 thíos).  At any rate, here are our examples for “Dad” and “Daddy” with the broad initial “d”:

Cá bhfuil eochracha an chairr, a Dhaid? [… uh ɣadj], Where are the car keys, Dad?

Tá méadú i mo liúntas de dhíth orm, a Dhaidí! [… uh ɣADJ-ee] “I need an increase in my allowance, Daddy!”

A Dhaide dhílis, ó a Dhaide dhil, a’ mbíonn madraí ag brionglóideach?  A’ bhfuil cluasa ag lachain? ! [uh ɣADJ-uh; the full vocative phrases here are: uh ɣADJ-uh YEEL-ish, uh ɣADJ-uh yil], “Daddy dear, o Daddy dear, do dogs dream? Do ducks have ears?”  In case you wondering about the surreal nature of that, you might want to go back and check out Sesame Street ca.  1972 (“Daddy Dear, O Daddy Dear”).  You might remember how the man and little girl sang “dee, dee, dee, dee,” as the actual letters popped out on the screen.  I can just imagine a chorus of children singing the voiced velar fricative version “dhaoi, dhaoi, dhaoi, dhaoi“!

We could extend this to practice the word “Daideo” (Granddad or Grandpa), which has both a broad “d” (da-) and a slender “d” (-de-):

Lá breithe sona duit, a Dhaideo!  [… uh ɣADJ-oh], “Happy Birthday, Granddad!”

Well, we haven’t exactly exhausted all the “Dad” possibilities, but I’d say we’ve made a good dent in the daddy paradigms and some of the pronunciation issues (broad and slender d, broad and slender lenited d).   One of these days we’ll catch up with the Irish for “Daddy-Long-Legs” (not a “daddy” word in Irish) and maybe even “sugar daddies.”  And/or the difference between “dádónna” and “daideonna.”  Leid: they’re completely unrelated.   Unless “Daideo” is an “ailtire,” that is, in which case he might have built a “dádó.”  And still in the offing, “na Daidíní” as such.   And maybe even “a Dhaidín” as part of an intriacht, which I’ve seen a few times ar an Idirlíon, traceable back to one of our faithful readers (MiseÁine).  SGF, Róislín

Gluais: ailtire, architect; grá, love (becomes “ghrá” after “mo“); intriacht, interjection; mo, my; seoladh, sending, to send

Freagra: a) “Ithimis, a Mhamó!” means “Let’s eat, Grandma!”  The second choice, “Ithimis Mamó!” means “Let’s eat Grandma!”


1) and


3) Maidir leis na cuimiltigh choguasacha:, for which the subtitle is “and minding your velar fricatives,” so, yes, there is a connection

4) Maidir le “ga-sheoladh” (lit. beam-sending),

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  1. Jan Keenan:

    My Daddy just passed away andi would like to get an Irish Gaelic tattoo that says
    “I Love You Daddy-Heart and Soul”. Can you please translate this for me?


    • róislín:

      @Jan Keenan A Jan, a chara,
      I’m sorry to hear about your loss. There are several possibilities for the phrase you requested:

      Tá grá agam dhuit, a Dhaidí (This is what one what normally says in the present tense, “I love you, Daddy”)

      Bíonn grá agam dhuit, a Dhaidí (This is a very emphatic way to say “I love you, Daddy.” One wouldn’t normally use this for a living person, but given the situation, it would emphasize how constant the love is).

      Remember also that the accent marks above the vowels are really important, so makes sure the tattoo artist is aware of them.

      The “Heart and Soul” part is fairly straightforward: “Croí agus Anam” (remember the long mark above the letter “i.”

      I hope this helps and provides some consolation.

  2. Joan:

    I’m Irish on my mother’s side and just found out that I’m going to be a grandmother for the first time. Is “mhamo” the common word used for grandma? Are there other words? I don’t like grandma in English. Thanks in advance for any help you can give me!

    • róislín:

      @Joan A Joan, a chara,
      “Mamó” is the basic word for “grandma.” It’s what children are more likely to say when speaking directly to the grandmother. The words for “grandmother” are fairly different, and more formal-sounding: seanmháthair (most standard), máthair mhór (used mostly in Donegal/Northern Irish), and máthair chríonna (used mostly in SW Ireland).

      As for “Mamó” vs. “a Mhamó,” the first is the general term, and probably what most people outside Ireland would say. In an Irish-speaking environment, you’d use “Mamó” for talking about her (Tá Mamó ag teacht inniu / Mamó is coming today) and you’d use “A Mhamó” if talking directly to her (“Go raibh maith agat as na brící Lego, a Mhamó!”). For pronunciation, the “mh” of “Mhamó” is either a “w” sound (WAH-moh) or a “v” sound (VAH-moh). HTH – Róislín

  3. Tommy McAloon:

    I learned Irish at college in Belfast for 5 years. I was pretty good at it. If you could converse in a fairly easy way you qualified to wear a silver or a gold Fainne. I had a silver. From my college in Belfast we used to go to a place in Donegal called Rannafast where Irish was the Spoken language. We would be taken to a house where an old man spoke Irish and we would be expected to produce a written examination of what we thought he was saying. I enjoyed that. I’m 85 years old now and from time to time I can’t help wishing what happened to my Fainne which I can’t find anymore.

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