Irish Language Blog

Logainmneacha Ceilteacha agus Náisiúntachtaí a Cúig: Celtic Place Names and Nationalities 5 – Brittany (Breizh / Bretagne) and the Bretons Posted by on May 19, 2009 in Irish Language

We’ve recently discussed the place names Albain, Éire, An Bhreatain Bheag, and Oileán Mhanann.  Today we’ll turn to Brittany.  Below you’ll find some examples of how to use the place name and how to indicate that a person or thing is Breton. 


One of France’s 22 régions, Brittany is called “An Bhriotáin” in Irish.  It is a feminine noun, so it has the lenition (softening and insertion of the letter “h”) after the initial letter “B.”  The “B” goes back to normal in other forms of this word, such as “muintir na Briotáine” (the residents of Brittany). 


Briotánach, a Breton or Breton person.  Like the terms “Éireannach,” “Albanach,” “Breatnach,” and “Manannach,” it can be made feminine, “Briotánach mná,” but, as I’ve previously mentioned, this form is rarely used.  The feminine form basically means “a woman Breton man.” 


an Briotánach, the Breton. 


Briotánach is also the adjective form, as seen in “spáinnéar Briotánach” (a Brittany spaniel). 


We can see the importance of the síneadh fada (long mark over a vowel) as we note that the word “British” in Irish is “Briotanach,” almost the same as “Briotánach,” except the vowel in the middle is short. 


Some phrases with the place name “an Bhriotáin” include:


sa Bhriotáin: in Brittany


go dtí an Bhriotáin:  to Brittany


Diúcacht na Briotáine, the Duchy of Brittany, a historical term (Dugelezh Vreizh or Duché de Bretagne).


Just speaking of Brittany reminds me of a crêpe dinner (an-bhlasta, very tasty) that I had at a restaurant called Au Petit Coin Breton i gCathair Québec (Quebec City) a few years ago, as part of the annual conference of the North American Association for Celtic Language Teachers (NAACLT).  Not only did an bhialann (restaurant) have wonderful food, but its atmaisféar (closest one can get to the word “ambiance” as Gaeilge) was an-Bhriotánach (very Breton) with maisiúcháin Bhriotánacha (Breton ornaments) and cultacha traidisiúnta Briotánacha (traditional Breton costumes).  Meas tú cén sórt crêpe a bhí agam ansin (What kind of crêpe do you suppose I had)?  Crêpe torc allta (wild boar crêpe)!


And speaking of crêpes, you might wonder “Conas a deir tú sin i nGaeilge (How do you say that in Irish)?”  The word “pancóg” has been used but really, it’s just as well to follow the practice in languages such as German, Portuguese, and Swedish and just call this food “crêpe.”  Pancóg” implies a thicker, less crispy texture, a veritable flapjack!  And “pancóg Suzette faoi lasair” doesn’t quite have the same panache as “crêpe Suzette flambé,” at least in my opinion. 


We’re nearly finished this series of Celtic place names and identities.  Shortly we’ll start a series of hyphenated ethnicities, like Irish-American, but meanwhile, since there’s probably a higher proportion of people with Breton heritage in Canada than in the U.S., how about Briotánach-Cheanadach!


 Bhur mblagálaí, Róislín

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  1. bretagne:

    Die keltische Musikfestivall ist eine feste Brücke zur erhalten der bretonischen Kultur, Sprache, sowie Tracht und Brauchtum. Zu diesem Anlass ein Ferienhaus ist eine ideale Wahl diese Veranstaltungen beizuwohnen und weitere Sehenswürdigkeiten in der Bretagne zu erkundigen.

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