Irish Words for Brothers, Sisters, Stepbrothers, Stepsisters, and Blended Families Posted by róislín on Oct 31, 2016 in Irish Language
Continuing our theme of gaolta teaghlaigh (family relationships), let’s look at brothers, sisters, stepbrothers, stepsisters, and the overall concept of “blended families.”
The basic siblíní are probably quite well known:
deirfiúr, sister, pl. deirfiúracha
deartháir, brother, pl. deartháireacha
To say “stepbrother” or “stepsister,” we add the same prefix as for step-parents (leas-). This gives us:
leasdeirfiúr, stepsister, pl. leasdeirfiúracha
leasdeartháir, stepbrother, pl. leasdeartháireacha
When people talk about siblings, be they step-, adoptive, or birth, they often say how many they have, so let’s practice a few of these with the uimhreacha pearsanta (personal numbers) used in Irish. For those new to the language, it’s a special system of counting for twelve or fewer people. Over twelve, the counting system changes to the basic cardinal numbers. Of course, not too many people need to say they have thirteen or more siblings today, but one never knows. And we might need some higher numbers for talking about current celebrities or famous historic figures of the past who came from very large families (Betsy Ross and Celine Dion, with 16 and 13 sibs respectively) or had very large ones (B.B. King, with 15 children, and Leo Tolstoy, with 13 children). In the Irish context, Peig Sayers’ parents also had a famously and tragically large family (dháréag páistí), but at twelve, her family size just fits within the “uimhreacha pearsanta” limits. Of that “dháréag,” eight (ochtar) died before Peig was born, leaving her with three living siblings and eight who pre-deceased her.
Anois roinnt samplaí:
Tá deirfiúr amháin agam. I have one sister.
Tá deirfiúr amháin agam agus beirt dheartháireacha. I have one sister and two brothers.
Tá beirt leasdeirfiúracha agam agus triúr deartháireacha. I have two stepsisters and three brothers.
And Celine Dion would say, if she spoke Irish, “Tá trí shiblín déag agam” (I have 13 siblings). She might also be very likely to say the exact number of sisters and the exact number of brothers: “Tá ochtar deirfiúracha agus cúigear deartháireacha agam.”
To work some stepsiblings into the mix, and if we could assume the Brady Bunch spoke Irish (or has it been dubbed yet?), we could have Greg Brady saying: “Tá beirt dheartháireacha agam agus triúr leasdeirfiúracha.” (I have two brothers and three stepsisters).
And if we want to notch up the family size, we could imagine Colleen, one of the daughters from from Yours, Mine, and Ours (1968, with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, no less) saying:
Tá triúr deirfiúracha agus ceathrar deartháireacha agam agus seachtar leasdeirfiúracha agus triúr leasdeartháireacha!
These two families, the Brady Bunch and the Beardsleys from Yours, Mine, and Ours, may have been among the first “blended” families on TV or on the silver screen. It’s an increasingly widespread family structure, although these days, it’s more likely to be a blend of two or three or four children than the Beardsley’s eighteen! One way to say blended family in Irish is “teaghlach cumaisc.” We can also use the word “leasteaghlach” for stepfamily, although like “stepgrandmother” and “stepgrandfather,” I don’t think the term was used that much traditionally.
Can anyone think of any other fun families to describe in terms of brothers and sisters, or stepbrothers and stepsisters? Or if you can think of a well known only child (páiste aonair), it would be great to have some sentences with that as well (Heidi agus Clóicín Dearg, mar shampla). Or you could write in about your own family, if you wish. SGF Róislín
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