Irish Language Blog

Pronunciation tips for Mamó, Móraí, and Daideo (Grandma/Granny and Grandpa) Posted by on Jun 5, 2009 in Irish Language

 (le Róislín)

There have been numerous inquiries on how to pronounce these words, since the previous blogpost on this topic came out (nasc thíos), so here are some tips:

To pronounce Mamó: the final vowel is long, so it gets extra emphasis: mam-OH

To pronounce Móraí: the emphasis is on the first syllable, which sounds like the English word “more” but with a flapped (lightly trilled) “r”: MORR-ee.

When you see two vowels together in Irish and one of them is marked long, you usually only pronounce the long one: “aí” sounds like “ee”.  Another example is the surname “Rooney” in Irish: Ó Ruanaí

To pronounce the flapped “r,” think of how “sure and begorrah” is pronounced.  Even though neither of these words is actually Irish Gaelic, the “flapped r” sound prevails. “Begorrah” might look Irish and sound Irish, but it’s actually a Hiberno-English euphemism for a phrase in English.  If you know which phrase, how about sharing with other readers by using the “comments” section?  Hint: it’s related to the traditional Hiberno-English expression, “By Dad!”

To pronounce Daideo: Although this may look like 1950s Beat jive or Beatnik slang (Daddy-O), it’s not the same!  The Irish “Daideo” is a two-syllable word, whereas “Daddy-O” is three.  Also, the “d” in the middle of “Daideo” is pronounced “caol” or “slender” in Irish.  Depending on what dialect of Irish one speaks, the “slender d” is a little or a lot like the sound “j” in English.  The “eo” vowel is one long “oh” sound, even though it’s not marked as a long vowel.  So “Daideo” is pronounced “DADJ-yoh.”

All three of these will change slightly in direct address, that is, if you’re speaking directly to Granny or Grandpa.  If you’re raising children or grandchildren as English-speakers, for example i Meiriceá Thuaidh (in North America), it may be fine for the child to simply learn to say, “I love you, Mamó” or “Thanks, Daideo.” 

But if the children are growing up speaking Irish, these terms will be converted to the direct-address form, which involves softening (leniting) the first consonant.  Those of you from Ireland might remember this as “An Tuiseal Gairmeach” (the vocative case).  This special form for direct address also applies to names in general, when you are speaking to the person directly, and also to any other noun, animate or inanimate, to whom or to which you are speaking. These forms are written “a Mhamó,” “a Mhóraí,” and “a Dhaideo.” 

So that would include all your Pegeens and Aidans, as well as anything like a hammer to which you are wishing “bad cess,” that is, if it just smashed your thumb.  It would also include pets’ names, if you’re speaking to the animal directly.  So if you’ve named your madra (dog), after Fionn Mac Cumhaill’s hound, Bran, you can stop calling him back to you with “Here, Bran!  Come, Bran!” and start using the lenited and palatalized version of the dog’s name (“A Bhrain!” [say: “uh vrahn”]), which won’t resemble anything in English.  Then it won’t sound so much like you’re publicly declaiming an ode to breakfast cereal.  Of course, you will have had to have trained the dogs to recognize two different forms of their own name, which might be hard unless they’re still coileáin (puppies).  It’s hard to teach a seanmhadra (old dog) new tuisil (grammatical cases)!    

But guess what, we’re out of space, so stay tuned for “nouns of direct address” i mblag atá le teacht (in a blog to come)!  Slán go fóill — Róislín

Pronunciation tips:

madra: MAH-druh and seanmhadra: SHAN-WAH-druh

tuiseal: TISH-ul; tuisil: TISH-il

thuaidh: HOO-ee (the “t” and “d” are silent)

Mac Cumhaill: mak coo-il (you may have known that one already, from the Legend of Knockmany, Á.B.E.)

Nasc d’alt eile ar an ábhar seo:
Mór? Críonna? or Sean? — Grandparents By Any Other Name!Posted by on Apr 9, 2009 in Irish Language




Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Keep learning Irish with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Pat Fitzpatrick White:

    My family is just beginning to learn Irish but our FIRST grandchild is due in April 2010. Since I want an Irish moniker for both my husband, son, daughter(uncle and aunt) and myself which are the most endearing terms with direct translations available? Pronunciations appreciated.
    Very excited in FL, USA

    Go raibh maith agat.

    • róislín:

      @Pat Fitzpatrick White A Pat, a chara,

      I assume what you’re asking for is the set of Irish terms for “granpa,” “grandma,” “uncle” and “aunt,” from a child’s perspective. I’d recommend “Daideo” (DADJ-oh, not like the Beatnik-style “Daddy-o”), “Mamó (mam-OH), Uncail (it’s the same whether it’s a formal term or a child’s), and Aintín (ANTCH-een). The latter is “aunt” or “aunty.” It’s already a diminutive (with the -ín ending, which you may have also seen in words like Micilín / Micileen, Máirín / Maureen, teachín / houseen, etc.). Almost everyone says “aintín” these days, though technically it is a diminutive of “aint” (aunt). So there’s no real differentiation of a child using “aunty” and an adult saying “aunt.” All the best!

  2. Dottie:

    Somewhere on the internet, I read that MARNEY was an Irish grandmom name!! I must be wrong cause I cannot find it anywhere now!! But that’s what my 2 granddaughters call me! Oh we’ll!

    • róislín:

      @Dottie Hi Dottie, “Marney” is a nice name for a grandmother but it’s not specifically Irish Gaelic and I don’t know of any specific references to it. But thanks for writing in, and enjoy being a “Mamó”!

  3. jono:

    I have searched every where for the correct pronunciation of teachín. Is tegg-een?

    • róislín:

      @jono A jono, a chara,

      There are two possible words for “little house” (aside from the phrase “teach beag,” which also means “little house”):
      teachín, the one you quote, which is pronounced “TCHAKH-een”, with the “kh” representing the sound in “Chutzpah” or “Chanukah” or the German “das Buch” or Welsh “bach”.
      tigín is also used, also means “little house” and is pronounced like what you suggest: “tegg-een” or “tigg-een”. HTH and thanks for reading “an blag”!

  4. Kathleen Brown:

    Oh, I so hope you are still there. My great grandmother from Ireland was here during the Depression (1920’s) and supported she and her children by cooking what my mother described as a donut. BUT she called it FAS A NAUT A KEEK A LEE. That is the best I can do to spell it phonetically. Are you able to tell me what this might be? I am sure it is Gaelic knowing of my Mamo. Her name morphed into Mamaw but I see it was Mamo. I so appreciate your help.

    • róislín:

      @Kathleen Brown And to continue, I’m glad you found it helpful to see the Irish versions of the various words for grandparents.

      Do you know what part of Ireland “do shin-seanmháthair” (great-grandmother) was from?

    • Jeanne O’Brien Mahoney:

      @Kathleen Brown My dad’s grandmother, whose family immigrated from Coounty Cork, was also called Mamaw.

  5. Kathleen Brown:

    Oh, I so hope you are still there. My great grandmother from Ireland was here during the Depression (1920’s) and supported she and her children by cooking what my mother described as a donut. BUT she called it FAS A NAUT A KEEK A LEE. That is the best I can do to spell it phonetically. Are you able to tell me what this might be? I am sure it is Gaelic knowing of my Mamo. Her name morphed into Mamaw but I see it was Mamo. I so appreciate your help. now if I can get a recipe to see what was in it–that would be great.

    • róislín:

      @Kathleen Brown A Chaitlín, a chara, Tá mé anseo fós. I’m still here! The food item you’re talking about is probably a “fastnacht,” a German word for a type of doughnut. It’s a well known word among the Pennsylvania Germans (Amish, Mennonite, etc.) people, even among English speakers in that area. I’m not sure what the “a keek a lee” might be but I can ask a German-speaking friend. Did your great-grandmother spend any time in that part of Pennsylvania or some other German community in the US (like Cincinnati, which is famous for its goetta). Here’s one fastnacht recipe I found online.

      • Sean Cummings:

        @róislín So funny to see this term used by someone other than my Irish mother. It was used not to describe food by as a cutsy name or silly term of endearment. Doubt it was Irish in origin and out family is from upstate New York. No idea where it came from. My mother used to Calle that occasionally as a term of endearment. Had nothing to do with doughnuts, but cannot say it didn’t start that way.

  6. Seán Moran:

    a Róisín.
    If I ate a Granny Smith apple, would I say:
    D’ith mé ull Mhamó Gabha?

  7. Seán Moran:

    no ‘Mhóraí’?

  8. Lisa:

    My 3 grands call me Morai! I love being able to use my Irish heritage for my special title!

    • róislín:

      @Lisa Go hiontach (wonderful), a Mhóraí! Thanks for writing in.

      • Nicole:

        @róislín How do your grandchildren pronounce Morai? Moree or do they trill the r. Morr-ee? Thank you!

  9. Tracy Hare:

    Okay, I hope you are still here too! I thought I saw Mhoma (M-long o-Mah) somewhere for Grandma?? I have been calling myself this the whole time my daughter is pregnant!! lol. I dont see it anywhere now!

    How do you pronounce Morai?

  10. Rachel:

    My mom wants to be called what we think is “Móraí” but she pronounces it more like Mar-ree and less like More-ee. Is it much of a big deal? She says she saw the spelling somewhere as “Mowry” but “Móraí ” is all I find when in reference to a grandmother in irish/gaelic. Can you help with some clarification here?

    • róislín:

      @Rachel Well, I’ve always heard it more like “MORR-ee,” not “Mar-ree.” Perhaps the flapped “r” in the middle causes the vowel to sound different, although in theory there should be no effect. The flapped “r” is like the “r” in Irish words like “cailíní móra” (big girls) or in the Hiberno-English “sure and begorrah.” HTH!

  11. V:

    So can móraí be used for either grandpa or grandma?

  12. Maura:

    I hope this comment isn’t too old! But, I am now Morai to 2 (almost 3) grandchildren. With my given name of Maura – it works well. We will never get the trill of the r in America – pronounced “MO-ree” love it!

Leave a comment: