Irish Language Blog

Laethanta na Seachtaine, Laethanta Aimsir na Cásca Posted by on Apr 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

(le Róislín)

Stretching from Céadaoin an Spiaire to Máirt Chásca, there are enough special days surrounding Easter to give a specific Irish name for each day of the week.  Since there are already several forms for each day, aside from Easter usage, let’s look at them grouped together in a chart.  That will enable us to focus on changes like initial mutation (séimhiú, urú), h-prefixation, and endings (an tuiseal ginideach)

Even for ordinary purposes, each day has at least two forms, one for the day as a subject or concept (like “An Luan,” Monday, lit. “the” Monday) and one used to say when something is happening (like “Dé Luain,” lit. “on the day of” Monday).

This chart has four columns, the first one giving forms that would rarely occur on their own.  For these, I have followed the linguistic practice of putting a réiltín in front of them.  It’s not that these forms are completely hypothetical (as we might find in historical linguistic reconstruction), it’s just that they would almost always be part of a two-word phrase, sometimes an even longer phrase.  From this “root,” we get the subject form (An Luan), and, by following genitive case rules, we get the preposition form (Dé Luain).  Hmmm, you might ask, why genitive case (possessive) rules when using a preposition phrase?  It’s because “,” when preceding a day of the week, functions as a preposition but is really a noun.  This “” comes from the word “dia” (note lower-case), which is an alternate word for “day” in Irish, now somewhat archaic, or, we could say, fossilized.  This process is much like what happens with “cois” in the phrase “cois na tine,” where “cois” (from “cos,” foot, leg) is really a noun but functions like a preposition, resulting in the meaning “by the fire” (lit. “at the foot of the fire”).

Some of the words in the chart will also be changed if they’re in a prepositional phrase starting with “ar an,” as in “ar an gCéadaoin” (lit. on “the” Wednesday).  Ulster Irish will have lenition in these cases (Chéadaoin).

Unlike “,” which seems to be unique in the Indo-European panorama of languages (except for Scottish Gaelic “latha” and Manx “laa”), the word “dia”/”dé” is a cognate to other European words for “day,” such as “dies,” “dydd,” “tag,” and even “day” itself (plus, less directly, “jour” from Latin “diurnus”).  So, somewhat unusually, the word “” isn’t used in the names of the days of the week.  But you probably noticed that already!

The “dia” form of “day” also shows up in the old spellings of the Irish words for “today” and “yesterday,” which are “indiu” and “indé.”

So here’s the chart.  Hope you find it helpful.  There are additional notes for three of the terms below.

“Root” Subject Form ” Form (w “tuiseal ginideach” ending) ar an” Form Easter Terms
*Domhnach An Domhnach Dé Domhnaigh ar an Domhnach Domhnach Cásca
*Luan An Luan Dé Luain ar an Luan Luan Cásca
*Máirt An Mháirt Dé Máirt ar an Máirt, alt., ar an Mháirt (U) Máirt Chásca (2)
*Céadaoin An Chéadaoin Dé Céadaoin, or alt., Dé Céadaoine (U) ar an gCéadaoin, alt. ar an Chéadaoin (U) Céadaoin an Spiaire, (? Céadaoin Naofa) (3)
*Déardaoin An Déardaoin Déardaoin (1) ar an Déardaoin, ar Déardaoin Déardaoin (na) Mandála
*Aoine An Aoine Dé hAoine (h-prefix) ar an Aoine Aoine an Chéasta
*Satharn An Satharn Dé Sathairn ar an Satharn, alt. ar an tSatharn (U) Satharn Cásca

1) Although it’s not often explicitly stated, “” is not needed before “Déardaoin” because it’s already built into the word.  Having said that, a recent Google search brought up about 300 hits for “Déardaoin” with “” in front of it!  Either the usage is changing, or these are all just slip-ups.  Bhur mbarúlacha, a léitheoirí?

2)  I noted last year ( that I found no instances of “Máirt Chásca” being used online for “Easter Tuesday,” but, interestingly, this year I found three hits.  The three are duplicates (sigh!) and all refer to the founding of the Kilkenny branch of the Gaelic League in 1897.  However else the phrase may be used or not used, it’s interesting to note this designation as opposed to just saying “April 20th,” which was the date of Easter Tuesday in 1897, if serves me right.  Go raibh maith agat, a Choinín Cásca!  An ceann ponc com, that is!

Of course, there is a long-standing tradition in both Irish and British writing of dating certain events by referring to a holiday, instead of a date, as in the réamhráite of “An Fear Eagair,” in Myles na gCopaleen’s parody An Béal Bocht being written on “Lá an Ghátair” [Day of Distress] and “Lá an Luain” [Day of Doom].  Or, more straightforwardly, the preface to C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, dated “Christmas Eve, 1943.”  It’s not a practice I’ve seen used much in American literature.

As for the general significance of Easter Tuesday, as noted last year, I still see it listed as a public holiday in just one place, An Tasmáin.  There it is described as a “restricted public holiday currently observed by certain awards/agreements and the State Public Service (  Suimiúil!  A New Zealand site ( discusses Easter Tuesday as a potential holiday for employees of New Zealand Educational Institute, but they must have served 10 years and they must incorporate it into their annual leave.  I don’t quite get that last bit, but I guess it doesn’t really matter.  Suffice it to say that Easter Tuesday may have greater recognition elsewhere than seems apparent in 21st-century America.  Many American school districts simply make their Spring Break surround Easter and avoid all discussion as to whether the break has anything to do with Easter at all.

3)  There are plenty of references to the Wednesday before Easter being called “Céadaoin an Spiaire” (Wednesday of the Spy) in Irish, but for “Céadaoin Naofa” (the presumed form for “Holy Wednesday”), my search online turned up one questionable reference (in a very mixed-up hybrid site) and in dictionaries I found nothing.  As I understand it, the term “Spy Wednesday” has been changed to “Holy Wednesday,” but I simply don’t find much evidence of this usage in Irish and I also can’t find an exact year for the change.  Vatican II?  If it were that long ago, I’d expect to find more evidence of “Céadaoin Naofa” online.  Maybe I’m just barking up the wrong tree, but between Google searches, online dictionaries and hard-copy dictionaries, I usually find some evidence of what I’m looking for, vocabulary-wise.  Of course, I always try to build on what I’ve heard and read in everyday usage for years, but I do like to check these sources for more specific information.  Btw, I also found nothing under the old spelling, which would be “Céadaoin Naomhtha,” but of course, the formal date of the change, assuming there is one, might preclude that.  Hmmm.  Lenited and eclipsed versions of the above?  Amas ar bith!  (No hits) and no luck in dictionaries.  Sin sin go dtí an bhliain seo chugainn, is dócha.

And, last but not least, a bit of Google-based trivia that some of you may find amusing as I did.  When I tried searching for “Máirt Chásca” without comharthaí athfhriotail and without sínte fada, the first hit (of 7,360,000!) that came up was for the K-Mart in Chaska, Minnesota.  Wonders never cease!  On that bemused note, SGF, Róislín

P.S. Anyone still wondering about the phrase “Aimsir na Cásca”?  Why “weather”?  Answer: here it’s not “weather.”  “Aimsir” can mean “time,” “tense,” or “tide” in the sense of “time.”  So “Aimsir na Cásca” is “Eastertide.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Keep learning Irish with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

Leave a comment: