Irish Language Blog

Na Míonna, Na Mìosan, Ny Meeghyn (in Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx), Cuid 4 as 4 Posted by on Sep 27, 2012 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Gotta love the etymology–each one of these months could be a blog in and of itself!  But for now, I’ll post this as a summary chart, with some notes for each month below.  The Irish is still on the far left, the Scottish Gaelic next, the English meaning next, and finally related words in Irish.

Although I’m still intrigued by the widely-cited interpretations of the Scottish Gaelic “an t-Iuchar” as either “warm month” or “worm month,” I’m going to backburner that for now.  The “warm” part certainly makes sense, at least as far as “warm” in Scotland goes, as opposed to, say, “warm” in Kerry or in the United States.  But the word “Iuchar” doesn’t incorporate any actual word for “warm,” which in Scottish Gaelic most typically would be “blàth,” or, less commonly, “te“or “teth” (identical to Irish “te“); tuilleadh eolais air sin thíos.

Nor, as discussed in the September 24th blog, does the word “Iuchar” refer directly to worms (cnuimhean, daolagan, darragan, baoiteagan, or the like), even if they are more active in July than in January.  My hunch is that perhaps in some 19th-century dictionary the word “warm” got substituted for “worm,” or vice versa, but that is, once again, ábhar blag eile.

Seo an chairt (na míonna ó Iúil go Mí na Nollag, i nGaeilge agus i nGaeilge na hAlban):

Gaeilge Gàidhlig Ciall i mBéarla Focail Ghaolta (Gaeilge)
Iúil an t-Iuchar bordertime eochair (border, edge, side), not the other “eochair” (key)
Lúnasa an Lùnastal month of Lug (Lugh) Lúnasa, Lughnasa
Meán Fómhair an t-Sultainn fat month sult, now “enjoyment” “satisfaction;” cf. Old Irish “sult” (fatness, joy)
Deireadh Fómhair an Dàmhair rutting of the deer damhaíre: damh, ox, stag + gáir, roaring
Mí na Samhna an t-Samhainn Samhain (no equivalent in English) an tSamhain
Mí na Nollag an Dùdlachd dark season dubh (black)

(na míonna eile, Eanáir go Meitheamh, sa bhlag a phostáil mé ar an 24ú Meán Fómhair 2012;

Here I’ll also repost the alternate versions and spellings for Scottish Gaelic from the September 18th blog (, with a few more notes added:

an t-Iuchar: sometimes writtenwithout the definite article (Iuchar), also spelled, somewhat archaically, “Uthar” and “Iuthar.”  Remember, despite what you may see elsewhere on the Internet, we’re looking at a capital “i” here (I), not a capital “l” (L).  While I’m not going to name names, I’ve seen the “L”-spelling on a peer-created flash card site and on a site promoting the preservation of Scottish Gaelic (i.e. reasonably authoritative looking), as well as in the arena of screen names, where I’d say anything goes anyway, unless you’re really trying to spell the word correctly.

an Lùnastal: also spelled Lùnasdal; may also be translated as “Lammas,” but remember, although Lammas coincides with Lúnasa/Lughnasa/Lùnastal, it actually comes from “Loaf-Mass” (Old English: hlāf-mæsse).  So Lúnasa and its counterparts come from pre-Christian tradition and Lammas comes from Christian tradition.

an t-Sultainn: also spelled an t-Sultuine, aka “September” as such, and also aka “mìos deireannach an fhoghair” (end month of the harvest).  This term has also been applied, in the past at least, to October and to the month-straddling combo of the second half of October and the first half of November.

As I said previously, many of the month names are not really month names as such, but references to the seasonal cycle of agriculture.

an Dàmhair: I’ve also seen “Octòber,” as in English, except with an accent mark.  “Dàmhair” is a compound word.  The first element is based on “damh” (no accent when it’s not in the compound word), which means “stag,” or “ox” (as in Irish “damh“).  The second element is related to “gàirich” (roaring, wailing), itself a cognate of Irish “gáir” (a cry, a shout).  There is also an Irish word, “damhghaire,” nowadays usually spelled “damhaíre” (because the “gh” was nearly silent), although I’ve had little opportunity to use it, ní nach very ionadh!  It means “bellowing” or “lowing,” or as they say in reference to stags, “belling.”  I guess that’s the sound effects that accompany the act itself. As for the Irish word for the rutting of animals, there are several, one of the most basic being “rachmall,” which can also be used in a less animal-husbandryish way, to mean “lust,” “playfulness,” and “excitement.”  I guess that’s only slightly less animal-husbandryish.  “Rachmall” can also be used in a nautical context (no leaping to assumptions there, le do thoil), in the phrase “imeacht le rachmall seoil” (to go full sail).

an t-Samhainn: I’ve also seen “November” as such.   BTW, it used to be fairly common for the English month names to be used in Irish.  “Mí January,” in particular, seems to ring a bell.

an Dùdlachd: also written as an Dùbhlachd, which really shows the “dubh” (black) connection; “December,” as such, may also be used.

A general note of comparison between Irish and Scottish Gaelic regarding punctuation, specifically, na fleiscíní (hyphens).   Irish used to use the hyphen between prefixed t’s  and s’s and it also used to use them between prefixed t’s and capital letters.  But it no longer does so, at least not go hoifigiúil, so we have, in Irish, an tSamhain, with no fleiscín.  Likewise we have “an tÚll Mór” (leasainm Nua-Eabhrac) but “an t-úll mór” (a generic big apple) and “an tAigéan Atlantach” for “the Atlantic Ocean” but “an t-aigéan” for a general reference to the ocean.

On that punctuational note, SGF, Róislín (and if a punctuational note doesn’t bring a full sense of closure to this blog, perhaps the nóta thíos will.)

Nóta faoi na focail blàth” (anns a’ Ghàidhlig) agus “bláith” (i nGaeilge), aguste“/”teth” (anns a’ Ghàidhlig) agus “te” (i nGaeilge):

Blàth,” is the most widely used Scottish Gaelic word for “warm,” at least in my experience.   Somewhat on the obscure side in Irish, probably limited to Ulster usage, and probably dated at that, the Irish adjective “bláith” can sometimes mean “warm,” although it usually means “smooth” or “fine.”

Conversely, the Gaelic word “te“/”teth” usually means “warm” or “hot,” but, at least in the past, also meant “smooth” or “fine.”   There’s probably some underlying concept there worth winnowing out, but as with so many tantalizing topics, ábhar blag eile.

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  1. Mise Áine:

    Suimiúil, mar is iondúil, a Róislín. Táim ag foghlaim liom!

    Agus, ó tharla ‘na fleiscíní’ luaite agat, b’fhéidir go mbeadh tú in ann, am éigin, mura miste leat, a chara, blag a scríobh ar an stair a bhaineann leis an bhfleiscín úd, i gcomhthéacs, b’fhéidir, an ‘ceart’, nó an ‘mícheart’, a bhaineann le húsáid, nó le heaspa, an fhleiscín sna focail ‘Dún na nGall’ – le trácht, más féidir é, ar cheartúsáid an uraithe roimh an bhfocal ‘Gall.’

    Fáth m’iarratais le feiceáil anseo.

  2. Celtic John:

    Interesting blog this. Thank you very much for posting it.

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