Irish Language Blog

M3, .i. An Téarma Gramadaí (Ní Mótarbhealach Atá i gCeist) Posted by on Apr 27, 2011 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

The abbreviation “M3” may suggest many things to many people: mótarbhealaigh (to traffic planners), soláthar airgid (to financial analysts), tomhas scriú sa chóras méadrach (to carpenters), an teanga ríomhchlárúcháin  Modula-3 (to computer programmers), and an réaltbhraisle chruinneogach sa réaltbhuíon “na Madraí Fiaigh,” .i. Canes Venatici (to astronomers), to name just a few.  But to an andúileach gramadaí (mise mar shampla), it means only one thing – an tríú díochlaonadh, firinscneach (3rd-declension, masculine), regarding grammatical gender.  Likewise, “f3” usually stands for “3rd-declension, feminine.”  That is, unless you’re using an Irish-to-Irish dictionary, in which case the abbreviations are all in Irish and “f3” would stand for “firinscneach, tríú díochlaonadh.”  Ach “f3” mar “fhirinscneach” agus f3 mar “bhaininscneach,” sin ábhar blag eile!

I could have started using the abbreviations earlier in this series, but with so many other points to cover, it wasn’t as critical for 1st– and 2nd-declension nouns, which are more predictable in terms of gender.  As you may recall, samplaí tipiciúla for the first declension would be fear (fir, etc.), niút (niúit, etc.) and ciseán (ciseáin, etc.), all masculine in gender.  The second declension is almost entirely feminine, with the two prominent exceptions I described a couple of blogs ago.  Samplaí tipiciúla for the second declension, feminine, would be ubh (uibhe, etc.) and cos (coise, etc.).  As for the 2nd-declension masculine ones, anyone remember the two examples I provided?  Leid: think “tósta” and “gCuillinn aka Gullion” (not “slumgullion,” just “Gullion,” which of course is capitalized here since it’s a part of a place name.).  Freagraí thíos (1).

The full set of abbreviations is: m1, f2, m2 (rare), m3, f3, m4, f4, m5, f5, and then the irregulars.  Since the abbreviation usually follows the noun it describes in a dictionary entry, it is, in fact, usually lower-case.  But using it as the title of this blog required capitalizing it, triggering all the other associations.  But I still have one more reason to indulge in all those other M3 terms, which will either be at the end of today’s blog or coming up.  Ach ar dtús, an ghramadach!

We’ve already dealt with some of the “f3” nouns (Cáisc, uaineoil, feoil, Gaeltacht, srl.), so now we’ll look at some “m3” ones.  These include lots of occupational terms, so let’s start there.

an t-aisteoir, the actor.  Remember the “t-“ is added since the noun is masculine, singular, and begins with a vowel.  That “t-“ prefix isn’t really a declension feature, but more a “definite-article” feature, if we have to label them.

an aisteora: “tiúd” an aisteora, the actor’s “tude,” (OK, beagán trendy, ach cén dochar, is teanga bheo í).  Typical of 3rd-declension nouns, we add a final “-a” for the tuiseal ginideach.  This requires dropping the “i” before the “r,” for the sake of vowel harmony, so “aisteoir” becomes “aisteora.”

aisteoirí, actors.  Go minic bíonn aisteoirí ag obair mar fhreastalaithe freisin.

na haisteoirí, the actors.  Tá na haisteoirí sa seomra sosa (aka seomra scíthe aka seomra glas, even though I would have thought the last “aka” should be “seomra uaine,” ach scéal na ndathanna “glas” agus “uaine,” sin scéal eile!)

na n-aisteoirí, of the actors.  Seo cultacha na n-aisteoirí.

An example with the “-óir” ending: fiaclóir

an fiaclóir, the dentist: Tá an fiaclóir san oifig.

an fhiaclóra, of the dentist: druilire mór scanrúil an fhiaclóra

na fiaclóirí, the dentists: Tá na fiaclóirí sna hoifigí seo.

na bhfiaclóirí, of the dentists: druilirí móra scanrúla na bhfiaclóirí

Other m3 occupational terms include:

ban-aisteoir, an ban-aisteoir, an bhan-aisteora, na ban-aisteoirí, na mban-aisteoirí 

bainisteoir, an bainisteoir, an bhainisteora, na bainisteoirí, na mbainisteoirí

Péire maith do dheachtú i rang fóineolaíochta, an dá fhocal sin thuas!  Tá nóta fúthu thíos. 

grianghrafadóir: an grianghrafadóir, an ghrianghrafadóra, na grianghrafadóirí, na ngrianghrafadóirí 

Could I call this next batch a sort of ‘non-human interface” with the concept, or at least with the paradigm?  I’m not really sure about the “interface” part. but I’ve always liked the term.  In a nutshell, fearais, meaisíní, giúirléidí agus a leithéidí:

cuisneoir, an cuisneoir, doras an chuisneora, na cuisneoirí, na gcuisneoirí

uaireadóir, an t-uaireadóir (t-prefix b/c n m sg V_), an uaireadóra.  That glafaireacht (béarlagair) idir lúibíní is a short-cut way to say “add the t-prefix because the noun is masculine, singular and begins with a vowel).  All of which, as you may have noticed, went away sa tuiseal ginideach (ever think you’d be grateful for an tuiseal ginideach?), where we resume the normal initial vowel “u.”  Again, none of that t-prefix bit pertains to díochlaonadh as such, just to inscne, uimhir (ghramadúil), agus litriú.  Anyway, here’s the plural, before this nóta tráchta becomes longer than the rest of the blog itself: na huaireadóirí, na n-uaireadóirí.  More réimíreanna there, obviously (h- and n-) but they’ll have to wait for blag éigin eile. 

And now, one of my favorites, “prioslóir” (which we’ll distinguish from a “beibe” below).  But I promise you, I didn’t start this whole series just to talk about prioslóirí.  It’s just a linguistic perk.  Suim agat droichead i mBruiclín a cheannach?

prioslóir: an prioslóir, an phrioslóra, na prioslóirí, na bprioslóirí

It means “a dribbling bib.”  Not a bib that dribbles, but a bib to catch dribbles.  That is to say, a baby’s bib, or sometimes a bib as part of some industrial uniform (not that I see much evidence of the latter being discussed in Irish.  Tagairtí ag duine ar bith?).

The subtle distinction between prioslóirí and beibí (or bibí) seems to be slowly fading.  We can see this in two of my favorite Irish language picture books for very young children, which use “bibe,” not “prioslóir.”  Of course, “bibe” is a nice familiar simple word, 4th-declensions even, which means no separate endings for an tuiseal ginideach!  And so it’s probably the more practical choice for such publications.  The two books are still great resources though, and among my favorites: 100 Focal Tosaigh do do bhabaí, le Edwina Riddell (leagan Gaeilge leis an nGúm), agus Aibítir na Gaeilge, le Helen Ó Murchú (Comhar na Múinteoirí Gaeilge). 

So what is the traditional meaning of “bibe” or “beibe”?  Last time you wore one was probably the last time you (ladies) wore your best “bib and tucker.”  Actually, I don’t think anyone would wear both a traditional “bib” and a “tucker” at the same time.  They’d overlap..  A “tucker” is a “chemisette” (love that word!) or, in Irish, “éadach brád,” meaning “neck cloth.”  Literally (of course there’s a difference in word order), it’s “cloth of neck,” since “brád” is sa tuiseal ginideach.  And of course, “bráid” isn’t the most basic word for “neck,” that would be “muineál.”  The astute observers among you might be wondering, bráid, brád, what’s going on there?  Cén díochlaonadh?  Don’t panic!  It’s a category we haven’t gotten up to yet, former 5th-declension, now typically considered “neamhrialta.”  A “beibe” or “bibe” in Irish is similar to a “tucker,” a traditional a woman’s garment, worn around the neck and shoulders for warmth or modesty.  As with English “bib,” it can also be used for an apron top

There’s actually more “bib” terminology in Irish, if you’re interested, so maybe that will become ábhar blag eile.  If I could actually find some full-fledged histories of the topic, I could even offer you a “bib-liography,” but I have feeling the data will be somewhat more limited   Fun though!

Anyway, prioslóir is from “priosláil” (to dribble from the chin); prislín is “slobber” itself (ah, I see the abairtí faoi Rótvaidhléirí coming up in future blog!), and prioslálta (or priosláilte) is a somewhat obscure adjective meaning “covered with dribbles” or “dirty” (as in “dirty weather”).  So I guess the prioslóir itself could be prioslálta depending on degree of the activity of the prioslálaí (dribbler).

Returning to our initial paragraph, the exercise in imdhealú débhríochta, and speaking of disambiguating the term M3, I can’t help but notice the delightful tidbit of information offered up by “Pathetic Motorways” at  This site describes secretive, lost, former, unbuilt, and otherwise odd motorways, and non-motorways (well, road-type non-motorways; I guess anything other than a motorway could qualify as a non-motorway).  Apparently a stretch of road totaling 0.8 mi in length (1.3 km) has its own motorway designation, M3.  An bhfuil a fhios agat cá bhfuil sé?  Leid: i dTuaisceart Éireann, which has its own series of “M” designations, separate from those sa Ríocht AontaitheFreagra thíos (2).

Hoping my discussion of “priosláil” (dribbling) hasn’t turned into sheer “priosla” (drivel, yes, the words are related, both in Irish and in English), sgf ó Róislín

Nóta: ban-aisteoir [BAHN-ASH-chorzh], actress vs. bainisteoir [BAN-ish-chorzh], manager.  The first one (ban-aisteoir) gets equal stress on the first two syllables since it’s a compound word, with “ban” as the feminizing prefix.

Freagraí 1: im (butter), sliabh (mountain, as in Sliabh gCuillinn, which is Slieve Gullion in English)

Freagra 2: Tá an M3 seo idir an M2 agus Seachbhealach Shuideanam (Sydenham Bypass) agus is é an mótarbhealach is gaire i dTuaisceart Éireann é.

Gluais: andúileach, addict, fiend; córas, system; cruinneogach, globular; cuisneoir, refrigerator; fiaigh, of hunting; grianghraf, photograph; i gceist, involved, at issue, lit. in question, but not with the implication of doubt or interrogation; réaltbhraisle, star cluster; réaltbhuíon, constellation; scanrúil, scary; soláthar, supply; tomhas, size; uaireadóir, watch (n)

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