Irish Language Blog

How to say ‘leaves’ and ‘foliage’ in Irish  Posted by on Sep 12, 2016 in Irish Language

 (le Róislín)

‘Tis the season, no, not ‘An Nollaig‘ yet, but the season for falling leaves, at least for ‘crainn‘ that are ‘duillsilteach.’  So today, let’s look at the forms of the word “leaf” and also “foliage.”

(grafaic: By Bengt Nyman (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_1233-i) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

(grafaic: By Bengt Nyman (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_1233-i) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Starting with the basics:

duilleog [DIL-yohg, with the “ll” about like the “ll” in English “million”], a leaf

an duilleog, the leaf (it’s feminine, but there’s no change to “d” because of the DNTLS rule)

duilleoige, of a leaf

na duilleoige, of the leaf

duilleoga, leaves

na duilleoga, the leaves

duilleog, of leaves

na nduilleog [nun IL-yohg]

Extended uses of “duilleog” include:

duilleog boird, leaf of a table (the same concept as in English)

duilleog feamainne, a frond of seaweed (Hmm, why do we say “frond” and not “leaf” — ceist mhaith do bhlagmhír eile!).  And lo and behold, there are at least four other words for “frond” in Irish: fronn, scothach, seamaide, and gas, which normally means “stem”

duilleog nuachta, a news-sheet, lit. a leaf of news

Additional related words include:

duille, leaf, leaves/foliage, or, somewhat obscurely in my experience, eye-lid, and even more amazingly (ó mo radharc féin, ar a laghad), “glory” in a phrase like “duille an domhain.”

duilleach, duilleogach, and duilliúrach, which all mean “leafy,” and which all use a typical Irish adjective ending (“-ach”)

And then, to contrast “leafy” with “foliose” (!), there’s “duilliúil,” which uses another typical adjective ending.

Some related nouns include:

duilleachán and duilleoigín, which both mean “leaflet”

duillinn, a leaf in the sense of a sheet or foil, which also means “membrane” (usually “scannán,” i mo thaithí féin) and “caul” (usually “caipín sonais,” lit. cap of happiness, in the medical sense and “caidhp” in the fashion sense, as in the dance, “Caidhp an Chúil Aird, the High-Caul or -Cauled Cap)

And for the scientifically-minded among us, there is “duilleagar” (phyllotaxy, the arrangement of leaves around a stem), which I have totally never had a reason to use in my life, either in Irish or in English!

As we can readily see, almost every word in Irish has siblings, cousins, and second cousins, and more … words that are related but whose meanings stray ever farther into other realms.

Curiously though, for “filo pastry” (aka “phyllo dough) the Irish just takes the word “filo” as it’s been adapted into English (from the Greek φύλλο “leaf”) and uses it to describe “taosrán” (pastry): taosrán filo.  I wonder if “taosrán duilleach” could be used for the leaf-shaped pastry cutouts I made once to go with a Concord grape pie.  It tasted great, by the way, but I’ll never do that much work for a pie again — individual leaves cut out, placed, and glazed, not to mention the fact that the grapes had to be blanched and skinned.  Just call me Martha (as in “Stewart”)

For “foliage” itself, there are at least two choices

duille, which we saw above and which can either be a single leaf or leaves collectively (foliage)

duilliúr, which cannot be broken down into a single leaf; this is the word I’m more familiar with hearing for “foliage”

Well, I guess I’ll have to “leave” you now — that’d be “fágáil,” btw, a completely different word in Irish.  Or more technically, do bhur bhfágáil — but the structure of that phrase would, once again, have to be “ábhar blagmhír eile.”  – SGF  – Róislín

Gluais: duillsilteach, deciduous, lit. “leaf- + -falling/dripping”; feamainn, seaweed ; taosrán, pastry

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