Irish Language Blog

Lá na nAmadán – The Day of the Fools (April 1) Posted by on Apr 1, 2009 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

As promised in the blog of an t-aonú lá is fiche de mhí an Mhárta (March 21st), we will honor Lá na nAmadán with an assortment of terms for fools. Be advised – it may take more than one blog to get through this!

The most widely used term is “amadán,” although in theory it should be reserved for male fools, since Irish has a word specifically for female fools.

Grammar note: with the definite article, “fool” becomes an t-amadán (the fool), with the prefixed “t.” “The fools” is na hamadáin, with both a prefix (h) and an inserted “i.”

Why, then, “na nAmadán” for the holiday, you might ask? Ceist mhaith (good question)!

The word “amadán” is a first-declension noun, which means its forms are:

an t-amadán (the fool, as the subject or direct object of a sentence)

na hamadáin (the fools, as the subject or direct object of a sentence)

an amadáin (of the fool, the possessive form) or just amadáin (of a fool)

Example: caipín amadáin, the cap of a fool or a “fool’s cap.”

But April Fool’s Day, aka All Fools’ Day, doesn’t celebrate just one fool, so we use the possessive plural form, na n-amadán (of the fools).

I’m not going to try to solve here ceist na n-uaschamóg (the issue of the apostrophes) for the English phrases. I will simply note that, i mBéarla (in English), we see “April Fool’s Day” (one symbolic fool representing the whole), “April Fools’ Day” (a plurality of fools), and “All Fools’ Day,” the latter being inherently plural and, hopefully, with the apostrophe following the “s.”

The Irish phrase literally translates as “the day of the fools” and is closer to the phrase “All Fools’ Day,” where we know we are dealing with the plural.

So back to the possessive plural form (“of the fools”):

na n-amadán, or if used in a phrase with upper-case letters, such as the name of a holiday or a title, say of a blog, na nAmadán. When the word is capitalized, the hyphen between the “n” and the “a” is no longer needed.

That wraps up most of the forms of the word you’ll ever need for male fools. Oops, one more, maybe, for a noun of direct address you would say “a amadáin” (O, fool!).

Please stay tuned for female fools and various specific types of fools.

Bhur mblagálaí, Róislín

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