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Na Séasúir (The Seasons, in Irish) Posted by on Sep 21, 2011 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Here’s yet another topic based on “an féilire.”  In Irish, na séasúir are samhradh, earrach, fómhar and geimhreadh.  As you may have noticed, I didn’t list them in the order we usually think of them, just so we can do another round of meaitseáil. 

These four words may not very recognizable from an English-language perspective, where we may say “Spring” for the season but can readily recognize the Latin “vēr, vēris” (Spring) or its adjective “vernus,” from phrases like “vernal equinox.”  But the Irish season names actually do have some interesting tie-ins to other languages though.  Can you match them up?

1)      samhradh [SOW-ruh]                   a. gaeaf (Breatnais)

2)      earrach                                        b. samā (Sanscrait)

3)      fómhar                                         c. vār (SeanLochlainnis)

4)      geimhreadh [GyEV-ruh]                d.  foghar (Gaeilge na hAlban)

Each of these “season” words, by the way, has a genitive case form, frequently encountered in phrases like the following:

cúrsaí samhraidh  [SOW-ree]

teacht an earraigh

Meán Fómhair

aimsir gheimhridh [YEV-ree]

And, an tuiseal ginideach arís, for the word “fómhar” in this interesting saying:

Is é do lá fómhair é – it’s your lucky day (i.e. the day you’re reaping your reward).  Remember, “fómhar” also means harvest or harvest-time, not just Autumn/Fall.

The genitive case forms are also used when talking about the solstices (grianstadanna) and equinoxes (cónochtaí)

grianstad an gheimhridh […un YEV-ree]

grianstad an tsamhraidh [… un TOW-ree, “tow” as in “cow” or “now,” not as in “tow-truck”]

cónocht an fhómhair [… un OH-irzh, with the “fh” silent]

cónocht an earraigh [… un YAR-ee]

Hmm, what happened to the word “eacaineacht” (equinox) also used, at least until recently?  Scortha?  As úsáid?  Dímholta?  An “duillín bándearg” tugtha dó (mar a deirtear i Meiriceá)?  “Cónocht” as a term does get to the heart of the issue, “, co- or equal, + nocht, night.”  That’s “nocht” as in “anocht” (tonight).  Not the other “nocht”! “Cónocht” seems to be the more official word for “equinox” these days.

SGF, Róislín

Gluais: duillín, slip of paper; nocht, night, but only as a “root” or element of “anocht” and related compound words, night (the other “nocht” is an adjective meaning “naked”!).  Hmm, come to think of it, there are some interesting possibilities for “-” plus the other “nocht” as well, nach bhfuil?

Freagraí: 1b, samhradh, summer; sama– (Sanskrit, where it more typically means “year” or “season”); 2c, earrach, spring, vār (Old Norse); 3d) fómhar, fall/autumn, foghar (Scottish Gaelic, where the historical spelling reveals the original concept behind this word in Old Irish (lit. “under”-winter).  Of course, the pre-reform Irish spelling also shows us the same thing (foghmhar)!  4a. geimhreadh, winter, gaeaf (Welsh).  Suimiúil, nach ea?

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  1. patrick:

    Am I wrong when I say Irish word spelling has changed since I went to school in Clare late 40s and 50s

    • róislín:

      @patrick You are completelycorrect. There was a major spelling reform in the 1950s. One example is “tighe” changing to “tí.” Good eye, as they say.

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