Irish Language Blog

Merry, Month, May, and How to Say It All in Irish Posted by on Apr 24, 2014 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Go minic bíonn daoine ag damhsa ar Lá Bealtaine (1 Mí na Bealtaine).  An mbeidh tusa ag damhsa freisin? (nasc don phictiúr thíos)

Go minic bíonn daoine ag damhsa ar Lá Bealtaine (1 Mí na Bealtaine). An mbeidh tusa ag damhsa freisin? (nasc don phictiúr thíos)

As we approach Lá Bealtaine and mí na Bealtaine, it seems a good time to break apart the time-worn phrase “merry, merry month of May,” and see how these words appear in Irish.  So we’ve got at least four words for “merry” plus a curious use of “buí,” one basic word for “month” (Phew!  Just one, although it does have three main forms), and one basic word for “May” (the month, not the girl’s name or the auxiliary verb, which could fill several more blogs).

I will note, though, before we really plunge in, that “May” in English is not always “May” in Irish.  One favorite example of this dilemma?  “Priompallán samhraidh,” which in English is “May-beetle” or “May-bug,” but which in Irish has the word “samhraidh,” not “Bealtaine.”   Good thing the word “samhraidh” [SOW-ree, “of summer”] is there though.  “Priompallán” on its own is “dung beetle,” as immortalized in the proverb  “Dá airde a éiríonn an priompallán, siar ar an gcac a thiteann sé i gcónaí.”  The “priompallán” is also known as the “trumpallán” and, as far as I can tell, the “cearnamhán.”  Feithideolaithe?  The May-bug is also known in English as the “cockchafer,” at least according to Tony Barton’s “Nature Notes” (nasc thíos).  Some say “Northern” Cockchafer.  At any rate, adult May-bugs apparently eat duilleoga (go mór mór duilleoga darach) and the grubs eat fréamhacha plandaí ( go mór mór fréamhacha plandaí prátaí).  Beagán níos blasta ná bualtrach, déarfainn, ach ar ndóigh, sin claontacht an daonnaí.

Anyway, back to our main topic:

1) Merry: probably the most basic translation is “meidhreach,” as in “cuideachta mheidhreach” (merry or convivial company).

For “Merry Christmas,” though, we have “Nollaig Shona” (lit. “Happy Christmas”)

Croíúil” [KREE-oo-il], from “croí” (heart), means “merry” or “cheerful,” sometimes “hearty,” as in “gáire croíúil” (a hearty laugh)

“súgach” [SOO-gukh] is “merry” in the sense of “tipsy.”

And then there’s the approximate Irish equivalent to “the merry month of May,” which is “mí bhuí na Bealtaine” [mee wee nuh BAL-tin-yuh], lit. the “yellow/golden month of May.”  Normally, “golden” is “órga” or “óir” (of gold), ach, bhuel, traidisiún.   Curiously, “buí” can also be applied to “Meitheamh” (June) and somehow the concept seems to apply to the Manx “Mee Vuigh,” used for “July.”

2) The word for “month” is more straightforward, though irregular.

, a month

an mhí [un vee], the month

míosa, of a month; sicín míosa, a month-old chick; i gceann míosa, in a month, lit. in/by the end of a month

míonna, months

na míonna, the months

na míonna, of the months (same as above); ainmneacha na míonna (the names of the months)

3) And finally, our third keyword of the day:

Bealtaine, May

Bealtaine OR na Bealtaine, of May; Lá Bealtaine (May Day), na Bealtaine (month of May)

For the occasional instances where it might be plural:

Bealtainí, but that’s really pretty unusual

In a previous blog (To ‘Mí’ or Not To ‘Mí,nasc thíos ), we discussed the phrases “merry month of May” and “merry, merry month of May,” which come from, yes, two different songs.  If you’re intrigued, you might want to check back there.  Somehow “merry merry” sounds far “merrier” than just one “merry.”  But maybe it’s all just due to the catchy alliteration in the phrase.   BTW, in case you’ve been wondering about the definite article usage, that blog also gave a pretty thorough cover of when to use “” in front of the month’s name and when not to (hence teideal an bhlag sin, ‘To “Mí” or Not To “Mí”).

Now, of course, the real response to the title of this blog (“Merry, Month, May, and How To Say It All in Irish”) would be “(s)é go léir” or perhaps “(s)í go léir.”  Why?  Because those phrases mean “it all.”  So that’s really how to say “it all” In Irish!  But that, I believe, is somewhat along the lines of the classic “say it backwards” type jokes, which were popular when I was, b’fhéidir, seacht mbliana d’aois.  And actually, there are more ways to say “all,” in Irish, but we’ll have so save that for blag éigin eile (sa todhchaí). 

So, to conclude, we could use the traditional “ bhuí na Bealtaine” for “the merry month of May,” but to be a little more literal, “mí mheidhreach na Bealtaine” would also do.

SGF – Róislín

Gluais: bualtrach, cow-dung; claontacht, bias; daire, oak (darach, of oak); daonnaí, human being;  feithideolaí, entomologist; duilleog, leaf); fréamh, root; todhchaí, future (n)

Naisc: (12 Meán Fómhair 2011), Tony Barton, “Nature Notes” (31 Bealtaine 2009)

Nasc don phictiúr:

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