Irish Language Blog

Na Fáthanna Is Mó: Knowledge, Love, Fun, Culture, Friends Posted by on Sep 25, 2013 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

By now you’ve all probably noticed Transparent Language’s new “balún cainte,” which shows reasons why people choose to learn a new language.   This blog will translate the five most prominent fáthanna (reasons) that show up “sa bhalún cainte” (in the speech balloon).

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But, bíodh cuimhne agat, there’s not always a one-to-one correspondence as we go from one language to another, so “knowledge” is going to get three entries (together with a recommendation for “knowledge” in the context shown by the balún cainte). And “love,” well, what can I say about “love”?  There are many translations, as shown in one of my previous blogs (

So, here we go, balúin chainte Gaeilge at the ready!

1. KNOWLEDGE (trí leagan)

a. eolas [OH-luss], knowledge, often specified as “knowledge of facts,” as in “tá sé ar eolas agam” (I know it, lit. “It is on knowledge at me,” referring to facts, concrete information, etc.).

b. fios [FISS, rhyming with “hiss” or “miss” and NOT like the telecommunications  company, “FiOS”], knowledge, especially about what has happened/is happening/will happen or about someone’s business, case, or situation.  This word is often used in sentences that include indirect statement, such as:

Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil sé ag teacht ag a 7 a chlog.  (I know that he is coming at 7 o’clock, lit. Knowledge is at me that he is coming at 7 o’clock).

Note that we don’t simply use “fios” in these types of sentences but “a fhios” [uh ISS, with silent “fh”], meaning, very literally “its knowledge” or “the knowledge of it”

This word is often used in negative statements or questions:

A: “Cén Ghaeilge atá ar “antidisestablishmentarianism?”  B: (ag freagairt) “Níl a fhios agam ach tá sé sa bhlag seo (

A: “Gabh mo leithscéal, an bhfuil a fhios agat cén t-am é?”  B: “Tá sé a 10 a chlog.”

Fios” is probably used even more often than “eolas” in Irish, but it’s probably not the sort of abstract knowledge hinted at in the balún cainte, so I still recommend “eolas” for that purpose.

c. aithne [AH-nyuh, some might say with a very slight “uh” sound between the “h” and the “n”], knowledge, acquaintance, recognition, especially in talking about people, as in “An bhfuil aithne agat ar m’uncail?”  An identical-looking word, “aithne,” means “commandment,” as in “Na Deich nAithne.”

Eolas” is the word I would recommend for the current context.

2. LOVE (príomhleagan amháin, tagairtí do  choincheapa agus d’úsáidí eile).  The most basic word for the noun “love” in Irish is “grá.”  It can refer to the abstract concept, as in “grá tíre,” or to a person, as in “Mo ghrá thú.”  Other words for “love” as in a “beloved person” include “stór,” “cuisle,” “croí” and “taisce,” and for the concept, we also have “cion,” “gean,” “páirt,” “searc,” and “cumann.”  “Searc” and “cumann” can be the beloved person or the abstract concept.

3. FUN: This is usually an intriguing word to look at in any language.  In Irish, I’d say the most basic word is “spraoi” [pronounced “spree” but with a slightly trilled, i.e. flapped, “r”].  It’s related to the English word “spree” but not identical in that “sprees” in English often have a negative connotation (a killing spree), or at least a possible sense of regret (a shopping spree, with too many bills afterwards).  Other words for “fun” include “greann,” “spórt,” “craic,” “cuideachta,” and “sult.”

4. CULTURE: This one’s a shoo-in, almost.  “Cultúr” would cover most purposes, but “oiliúint” and “saoithiúlacht” could also be used in some contexts.  For biology and bacteriology, we’d really be looking at some different choices (tógáil OR beathú), but I think we can safely say those don’t fit ár mbalún cainte.

5. FRIENDS: And finally, short, sweet, and perhaps familiar, “friends” is “cairde” [KARzh-djuh] (the plural of “cara,” friend).

So that’s a beginning of a translation for the balún cainte.  Several more blogs to go, I’d say, before we’re done!  SGF — Róislín

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