Irish Language Blog

Na Míonna, Na Mìosan, Ny Meeghyn (in Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx), Cuid 3 as 4 Posted by on Sep 24, 2012 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Working up these months and their meanings is taking longer than I expected.  Bhuel, bhí tuaileas (hunch) agam …  (but I ambitiously thought that two parts would be enough for the topic).  So you may have noticed that I’ve just expanded the number of sections this mionsraith (mini-series) will have.  At this point, we’re up to ceithre chuid so the title now notes “Cuid 3 as 4.”  That would read out loud as “Cuid a Trí as Ceathair” (or “Ceithre Chuid“).  Comparing the Scottish Gaelic month names to the Irish is going to take at least two blogs, six months to be  discussed per blog.

If I do follow up at some point with the months in Welsh, Breton, and Cornish, as alluded to sna nótaí tráchta, that will be in a separate mionsraith.  Those three languages, na teangacha Briotainise, are not part of the Gaelic (Goidelic) group (na teangacha Gaeilise), so I didn’t originally plan them as part of this series.  But given an opportunity to translate Breatnais into Gaeilge and to compare Cornais to Briotáinis, I’ll always jump on it.  So please keep a look out for another blog on months, perhaps after sos beag (a little break).

You might also have noticed that here I’ve headed up one of the columns with “ciall” (meaning) instead of “aistriúchán” (translation), since, to the best of my knowledge, these terms anns a’ Ghàidhlig aren’t usually translated as such, except to say the “am Faoilleach” means “January.”  What I’m really looking at here are the actual Gaelic components of words like “Faoilleach” or “Iuchar,” since they are so strikingly different from the Irish terms.  In contrast, most of the Manx terms, as previously discussed,  can readily be “translated” since many of them can be used as generic phrases (as in “Mean Arree,” which literally means “middle of spring” (meán earraigh) for “March.”

Gaeilge Gàidhlig Ciall i mBéarla Focail Ghaolta (Gaeilge)
Eanáir am Faoilleach the wolf season (OR month OR ravage) faol (wolf)
Feabhra an Gearran the short one gearr (short)
Márta am Màrt (as with Irish and English, based on Latin “Mars“) Márta
Aibreán a’ Ghiblinn no etymology available unrelated; “Giblinn” is a WoW character though!
Bealtaine an Cèitean OR a’ Mhàigh Cèitean:  first one; “Màigh” is based on “May” an chéad (the first)
Meitheamh an t-Ògmhìos the young moon or month óg, young; , month

(na míonna eile sa chéad bhlag eile)

For “am Faoilleach,” the ending of the word doesn’t specifically mean “month” (ScG: mìos, Ir: ), or “season” (ScG: aimsir, ràithe, Ir: séasúr, ráithe), or “ravage” (ScG:  sgrios, creach; Ir: scrios, creach, amongst other possibilities ).  The “-each” ending is fairly generic and has been given these interpretations by lexicographers.

Ironically, there is another word in Scottish Gaelic, “faoilteach” (“welcoming”), which is very similar-looking, but completely different in meaning (nearly a comhainm, a homonym, or, as the Scots would have it, a co-ainmnear).  In fact, the spelling of “faoilteach” exactly matches an alternate spelling of the month name “Faoilteach,” except for the capital letter.  The Scottish Gaelic adjective “faoilteach,” and related words like “faoilteachd” and “faoiltich,” are related to the Irish “fáilte” (a welcome).  Like I said, íorónta (ironic), since for most of us, January is the month we welcome least, at least weather-wise.

Faol” itself, as a word for “wolf,” is probably not quite as widely used in Irish as the alternate epithet-style name, “mac tíre” (wolf, or “son of (the) land”).   But it certainly has its role, especially in compound words or terms like “faolchú” (wolf), “faolscadán” (wolf-herring), or “cú faoil” (wolfhound).

For “May,” it’s worth noting that Scottish Gaelic uses the word “Bealltainn” (cognate to “Bealtaine” and to Manx “Boaldyn”) for May Day (1 May), but not for the month itself.

For “June,” two points of interest, especially for Irish speakers.  First, the word for month in Scottish Gaelic, “mìos,” is masculine, so we have the “t-insertion” in the compound word “Ògmhìos” (an t-Ògmhìos), as we would in Irish with words like “an t-úll” or “an t-oráiste.”  In Irish, though, the word for “month” is feminine (; an mhí).  Second, “mìos” can mean “moon” in Scottish Gaelic, although the usage is archaic.  The most typical modern Scottish Gaelic word for “moon” is “gealach,” as in Irish (also “gealach“), with “luan” as an occasional variant, as also found in Irish “luan” (moon, halo).   The word for “moonwort” in the respective languages provides an example (ScG: luan-lus, lit. moon-plant; Ir:  luanlus, lit. moonplant).

Please stay tuned to this blog for a discussion of the intriguingly named “Iuchar” (July), which I’ve seen variously interpreted as “warm month” and “worm month” (!).  Here, I’ll simply note that the typical Scottish Gaelic words for “worm” are “cnuimh” (cf. Irish cruimh), “durrag,” “daolag,” and “baoiteag.”   The usual Irish word for “worm” is “péist” (ScG:  cf. biast and bèist).  Clearly, none of these are part of the word “Iuchar.”   Perhaps by the next blog I’ll have found something more conclusive.

If only we were talking about a “warm worm,” then we’d have a nice Yu-gi-oh tie-in (  Or we might get some hits from iascairí seeking advice such as the following:  ” To keep your worms from overheating as you fish, transfer your worms from the store bought container to a styrofoam coffee cup with a lid.”  For the rest of the details on preventing róthéamh péisteanna (overheating worms), please just go to  So are we talking “warm month” or “worm month”?  Could we postulate a “warm worm month,” perhaps connected to the fishing season?

Anyway, na sé mhí eile will be sa chéad bhlag eile.  Till then, SGF, Róislín

P.S. A caveat beag for anyone trying to use these calendar terms in any historical context.  Practically every source I look at offers some variations in the time-period implied by the term, since earlier notions of seasons were based more on agricultural cycles than on the Gregorian calendar as such.  This is particularly true for 19th-century or earlier sources.  The month-by-month usage seems to be consistent and systematic for modern Scottish Gaelic, but exactly how that applies for each term would have to be individually researched.  As an example, “Gearran” (February) at one time meant the period from March 15 to April 11th.

P.P.S. In case there’s any doubt, Briotainis is not the same as Briotáinis.  All hail the síneadh fada ríthábhachtach agus uilechumhachtach, ciallmhalartóir gan sárú, übercháilitheoir na Gaeilge!

Gluais don P.P.S.: Briotainis, Brythonic (a linguistic classification); Briotáinis, Breton language; cáilitheoir, qualifier; gan sárú, unsurpassed; malartóir, changer; ríthábhachtach, all-important; uilechumhachtach, all-powerful (uile + c(h)umhachtach)

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  1. Rick Forbes:

    An-suimiúil ar fad a Róislín

    I’ve also found mention of Ógmíos being an old Celtic god (of learning and eloquence)

    • róislín:

      @Rick Forbes Go deas cluinstin uait arís, a Rick, agus go raibh maith agat as scríobh isteach. Sin suimiúil faoin dia. An bhfuil tú páirteach i ranganna Gaeilge fós? Agus ag gabháil do Ghaeilge na hAlban “a-fhathast”?

  2. frank mac kenzie:

    faoilteach : the bloody time : wolf on the prowl for food : time of scarcity: cold of season drives the wolf to seek easier prey ;

  3. Rónán:

    Róislín, an-suimiúl, go cinnte . Níor chuala mé riamh as Gaeilge an focal “faoilleach” mar ainm míosa go dtí go bhfaca mé plaic ar bhalla tí i dTeileann, Contae Tír Chonaill faoi shaol an bhéaloideasaí, Séan Ó hEochaidh. Tá sé scríofa gur rugadh é “‘sna Faoillidh, 1913”. Rugadh é i ndáiríre ar 9 Feabhra, 1913. Cad a ceapann tú?

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