Irish Language Blog

Logainmneacha le “na”: Sna Bahámaí, Sna Forbacha, Sna Hamptons, srl. Posted by on Jul 28, 2011 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

It may seem like a stretch when people tell you that the Irish preposition “i” becomes “sna” before certain nouns, including a small, but not insignificant, number of place names.  But it’s actually quite a logical step when you remember that “i” is another form of “ins,” both of which mean “in.”

So if you have a place name that starts with “na” (“the,” plural), you use “sna” to say “in” that place.

Mar shampla:

ins + na Bahámaí: sna Bahámaí

In Ireland, a fair number of local village, district or townland names may include “na” as the first part of the place name, far more frequently than one would find “the” as part of an American place name.  Mar shampla, agus leaganacha galldaithe thíos ag bun an bhlag (Grúpa 1):

ins + na Forbacha: sna Forbacha

ins + na Cealla Beaga: sna Cealla Beaga

ins + na Beanna Gorma: sna Beanna Gorma

ins + na Dúnaibh: sna Dúnaibh

ins + na Dúiníní: sna Dúiníní, a townland in Cork, not to be confused with the various other places called Dúinín as a singular entity, which occur in Kerry, Clare, Fermanagh, Galway, Limerick, Roscommon, Waterford, and Sligo, and also Cork.  Presumably one of these was the origin of the well-loved song, “The Cliffs of Dooneen,” but, at least according to a thread started by “Paranoid Android” in 2005 (, there are many differing opinions about where those cliffs are, or if, Gloccamorrishly, they just exist in the songwriter’s imagination.  Input from any readers who might know the actual “aillte” themselves welcome! 

You may have noticed that, so far, we’ve seen no initial changes after “sna.”  Is it too good to be true?  Are there really no mutations after “sna”?

Well, remember the same rules you’d use for generic nouns, to say, for example, “the worms are in the apples ” as opposed to “the worms are in the jars”:

Tá na péisteanna sna húlla (or for Gaeilge Chonamara, ar a laghad, ‘sna húllaí’).”  Whichever way you make “úll” (apple) plural, it still starts with a vowel (úlla / úllaí).  And after “sna,” we insert “h” before vowels.

But, Tá na péisteanna (or na cruimheanna, etc.) sna prócaí.  Nice and straightforward.  No change to “prócaí” because it starts with a consonant.

You’ve probably seen all this before in everyday phrases like:

sna hárasáin, sna heilifintí, sna híoglúnna, sna hóstáin, sna hubhchupáin

Well, OK, “sna híoglúnna” might not be so “everyday” unless you speak Irish and live in the Arctic, but there is at least some discussion of íoglúnna” in the bookInuk, An Buachaill Eiscimeachthat was part of the seriously cute 1970s-ish “sraith” called “Tíortha agus Nósanna,” which features a number of interesting non-Irish terms incorporated into Irish versions of tales of children’s lives in various countries.  Any guesses as to which book in this series featured “Kuko” (béar) and “Gora” (moncaí beag)?  Freagra not thíos, this time, but in an upcoming blog, just to keep you geussing!

So, anyway back to place names, we get a nice little lower case “h” before the capital letter of the place name, if it starts with a vowelExamples in Ireland, with leaganacha galldaithe thíos (grúpa 2), include:

sna hAcraí, which could be a townland in Kerry, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Mayo, Monaghan, Roscommon or Waterford

sna hEochracha (i gContae Aontroma)

sna hIalla (baile fearainn sa Chabhán)

sna hOirthir Íochtaracha (i gContae Ard Mhacha)

sna hUillí (i gContae Dhún na nGall)

Back to the world at large, we have

sna hOileáin Fhilipíneacha, or just “sna Filipínigh” (note: “h” before “Oileáin” but no change to “F”when just saying “Filipínigh.” “Fhilipíneacha” is the standard lenited pluralized form of “Philippine” as an adjective, here modifiying a plural noun.

sna Séiséil (“sna” followed by a consonant, so no changes)

And if discussing America, we can say:

sna Stáit Aontaithe, or just “sna Stáit” (if the context is clear)

I’ve been hard-pressed to find American local place names where “sna” would apply, but this one recently occurred to me (not that I hang out there – ródhaor— or have much reason to discuss the area in Irish, but one never knows!):

sna Hamptons (Inis Fada, Nua-Eabhrac)

I suppose a die-hard might want to make a plural ending for “Hampton” if we’re going to go so far as to use “sna.”  Would it be ”na Hamptonaí?” “Na Hamptonacha? Or perhaps “na Hamptoin” – critically avoiding the síneadh fada which would suggest something quite different!  But I think I’ll quit while I’m (hopefully) ahead, and stick with plural Irish preposition and definite article combo (sna) but regular old English “–s” plural.  That’s what sounds nádúrtha for me, if I were discussing my hypothetical multi-million dollar summer “cottage” there!

Sin é don bhlag seo.  Any place names you’d like to discuss or practice, please let me know.  SGF, Róislín

Leaganacha Galldaithe-1: Furbogh, Killybegs, Bingorms, Downings, Dooneens.  As you can see, some of these also look plural in English, with the-s ending, but not Furbogh. 

Leaganacha Galldaithe-2 Acres, Crosskeys (though there’s no “cross” part in Irish), Naheellis, Orior Lower, Illies

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