Irish Language Blog

Meán Fómhair, Deireadh Fómhair, and An Fómhar vs. an Fómhair Posted by on Sep 15, 2012 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

We may as well take a break from animal terms for a while, although no doubt we’ll return to the subject, since there are about 5396 more mamaigh to go, and about 1,250,000 speicis if we include inveirteabraigh (m. sh. feithidí, moilisc, crústaigh) and veirteabraigh (m. sh. éisc, amfaibiaigh, reiptílí, éin).   Since the season is upon us, why not take a look at the Irish words for September, October, and “harvest” in general.

But before we actually look at “Meán Fómhair” and “Deireadh Fómhair,” let’s just wrap up that thought about how many mamaigh there are, since I just said 5396.  If, like an geocach ríomhaire críonna (the wise geek) at, we stand at 5416 mamach, and we’ve just covered approximately 20 mamach [say “FIH-hyuh MAHM-ukh”] in this blog, that leaves us with 5396 mamach eile to go.  Of course, the number is always fluctuating, and there are occasional newcomers, such as an luch Chipireach (the Cypriot mouse, Mus cypriacus, discovered in 2004 and first formally described in 2006).

And now to the topic at hand, míonna agus séasúir, just two out the dhá mhí dhéag that exist, and, in the interests of time, just séasúr amháin out the na ceithre shéasúr atá ann.

Meán Fómhair” [myawn FOH-irzh] or “mí Mheán Fómhair” [mee vyawn FOH-irzh] is (the month of) September.  Literally, the phrase means “middle of (the) harvest,” suggesting that Lúnasa (August) could be considered the beginning of the harvest, although it is not named as such.

This somewhat parallels the Welsh language, where September is “Mis Medi” (the month of harvesting), but is in stark contrast to many other European languages which simply call September the “seventh” month, modeled on the Latin  (September, Gearmáinis; Septembre, Fraincis; Septembro, Esperanto, srl.).  Not that the so-called “seventh” month is really the seventh month, anymore, but that’s really a topic for a blog on Latin.

The Manx Gaelic for September is similar to the Irish, Mean Fouyir, but the Scottish Gaelic is completely different, an t-Sultainn, which appears to mean the “fat month”

Sample usages:

i Meán Fómhair: in September

i mí Mheán Fómhair: in the month of September

an chéad lá de mhí Mheán Fómhair, the first day of the month of September

Deireadh Fómhair” [DJERzh-uh FOH-irzh] or “mí Dheireadh Fómhair” [mee YERzh-uh FOH-irzh] is (the month of) October.  Literally, the phrase means “end of (the) harvest.”  As with September, most of the continental European languages are based on the Latin octo (8), as in Oktober, Octobre, Oktobro, etc.

In this case, the Welsh is completely unrelated (Mis Hydref), the Manx is very similar (Jerrey Fouyir), and the Scottish Gaelic, once again, is completely different, An Dàmhair, which literally means, well, rutting time, related to the adjective “dàmhair” (eager, keen, or zealous — say no more!).

Sample usages:

i nDeireadh Fómhair [in YERzh-uh FOH-irzh]: in October

i mí Dheireadh Fómhair [ih mee YERzh-uh FOH-irzh]: in the month of October

an chéad lá de mhí Dheireadh Fómhair, the first day of the month of October

Fómhar” itself means “autumn” or “fall” (mar a deirtear i Meiriceá) as well as “harvest season” or “harvest-time.”  It can even be used in the phrase “fómhar beag na ngéanna” (lit. little harvest-time of the geese”) to give the same meaning as “Indian summer.”  But I have to confess that I’ve heard “Indian summer” used in English far more than I’ve ever heard “fómhar beag na ngéanna” actually used in any natural context in Irish.  It does show up though, minus the “beag” (which is optional anyway) in the title of a volume of poetry by Conleth Ellis (1937-1988), Fómhar na nGéanna, which was published in 1975.

You might have noticed that the basic word “fómhar” doesn’t have the letter “i” that we saw in the words “Deireadh Fómhair” and “Meán Fómhair.”  That’s because in those phrases, “fómhar” is in the genitive, so it becomes “fómhair,” to indicate “of harvest,” not just “harvest.”

On that autumnal note, and wondering, like Brian Friel’s character, Máire Chatach, about that hay to be “saved” in Brooklyn, SGF – Róislín

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  1. Breandán Mac Searraigh:

    Ceapaim gur bháin daoine timpeall na tíre úsáid as bhfócail glan difriúla mar ainmneacha na mhíosa. Fíú ‘céad fómhair’, áit éigin.

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