Irish Language Blog

Rós agus cúpla ainm eile air (a ‘rose’ and a couple of other names for it) [Ainmneacha Plandaí i nGaeilge: 1] Posted by on Sep 20, 2016 in Irish Language



(le Róislín)

It looks like this will be the beginning of another occasional series, this time on plant names, probably mostly flowers (bláthanna), but eventually trees (crainn), bushes (toim, srl.), grasses (féara), and that intriguing category, “weeds” (fiailí).  You might remember that we previously did a series of girls’ names based on flowers (nasc thíos), focusing on how to say things like “Haigh, a Nóinín” or “Dia dhuit, a Róisín.”  In this blog and series, we’ll look at the plants from a botano-linguistic perspective.  That is to say, what the plant is and, where available, what its name really means in Irish, if different from the English, or where relevant, the Latin.  I can’t wait till we get up to the cachtas turc-chaipíneach céirghasach.

And btw, “botano-linguistic” really is a word.  It got me a grand total of two hits on the Internet, one from and one from, reasonable enough sources for credibility (naisc thíos), at least tongue-in-cheekily.  And what would that be in Irish?  Hmm, botano-linguistic?  *Luibheolaíochtheangeolaíoch, is dócha.  Gotta love that one!

For today, as the illustration of the rósanna i rónna and the rósanna randamacha shows, we’ll look at An Rós (of the géineas, that is genus, Rosa).

Bunrudaí ar dtús, ar ndóigh:

rós, a rose

an rós, the rose

róis, of a rose

an róis, of the rose

The plurals are pretty predictable, once we learn the ending (-anna): rósanna, na rósanna (the roses), rósanna (of roses), na rósanna (of the roses, with no change from the Irish for “the roses”).  This word is a little different from many of its declension-mates (which would include words like “cupán, pl: cupáin,” “fear, pl: fir,” and “bád, pl: báid“) because we don’t slenderize to make the plural.  Instead we add an ending.

Roses, of course, can be many colors.  We can have rósanna dearga, rósanna buí, rósanna bándearga, rósanna bána, srl., and even, perhaps apocryphally, rósanna dubha.  There are about 150 species, not to mention cineálacha (varieties) and saothróga (cultivars).  But what interests me for current purposes, is the small group of plants that are called something “rose” in English but that do not contain the word “rós” in Irish.  Some aren’t actually roses at all, and the lingering question is how did they come to be called “rose” in English.  Ach sin ábhar do bhlag faoin teanga Béarla!  Nó faoi stair luibhainmneacha.  Anyway, these non-roses known as roses in English and these roses not known as roses in Irish include:

briúlán, burnet rose (Rosa spinosissima) — this one is a type of rose.

feirdhris, dog-rose (Rosa canina), with “dris” itself meaning “berry,” “bramble,” or “briar,” related to “dreas,” with similar meanings.  Please don’t tell me this “dris” is also the root of “drisín,” cooked stuffed sheep or goat intestines, the original concept of “pudding”!  This plant is a type of wild rose.

eileabar, Christmas rose, hellebore (Helleborus), not really a rose

and a real eye-catcher here: lus buí Mhanannáin, rose-of-Sharon (lit. yellow plant of Manannán).  That’s also not really a rose, so there’s no reason it should be called  “rós” anything in Irish.  But I love the name.

So, those could be the roses by completely different names.   Are non-roses known as roses as “cómhilis” as fíor-rósanna?  An bhfuil a fhios agat?

And now back to our main theme.  If téama an lae’s againne inniu is “a rose by any other name,” then we might also consider the word for “rose” in other languages.  “Rose” [sic], “rosa,” and “rhosyn” come to mind.  Any more contributions from readers out there?  You don’t need to be an actual luibheolaí or gairneoir for this one.  Most of us know a rose without having special training or study.   From what I’ve seen, this word is remarkably consistent across the Indo-European continuum.   And even outside of it, but neighboring: rózsa (Ungáiris).

Finally, although I haven’t found any official translation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, I’ll propose this translation for his famous, “a rose by any other name” quote:

Rós agus ainm ar bith eile air, bheadh sé cómhilis.

And that’s a great way to practice one of the most basic features of Irish (or any language, for that matter) — how to say one’s name, in real life, that is, not while waxing poetic about what a rose is.  Of course, Irish has a couple of patterns for this, one using forms like “dom” (Yu Ming is ainm dom) and “duit” (Cad is ainm duit?) but the one modeled in the phrase “rós agus ainm ar bith eile air” is “Tomás atá orm” or “Sinéad atá orm,” with “Cén t-ainm atá ort?” as the underlying question.  “Air” replaces “orm” or “ort” in sentences like these to mean “on it” or “on him.”

In my version of the Shakespeare quote, we see the use of “air” (meaning “on it”).  By the way, for any newcomers, that “air” isn’t pronounced like the English word “air” at all.  And no reason it should be, since they’re not even related.  Irish “air” is pronounced like “erzh,” with the Irish slender “r” sound, similar to the “r” in the Czech name “Jiří” (and not similar to much in English, otherwise I’d use that as the comparison!).    Tagairt eile uait?  Bunaithe ar an nGaeilge?  Bain triail as an bhfocal “tír” mar atá sé sa bhfrása “Tír na nÓg.”  Now I can’t guarantee that all of the popular usages of “Tír na nÓg” capture the slender “r,” sound, especially if embedded in some English-medium discussion, but within Irish, the “r” should be a nice distinctively slender buzzy-sounding “r.”  Maybe some ambitious soul and kind volunteer could track down this phrase as it appeared in the movie Titanic and see how it was pronounced there.  Bheadh sé sin suimiúil.

Anyway, literally we have, for “rós agus ainm ar bith eile air, bheadh sé cómhilis” (lit. a rose, and/with any other name on it, it would be equally sweet).  On that note, ar mhaith leat scríobh isteach agus insint dúinn cén t-ainm atá ort?  (Would you like to write in and say what your name is?)  Maybe get an online dialogue going?   Fíorainm nó ainm scáileáin (screen name), is cuma!

Bhuel, for now, slán go fóill — Róislín (PS: Guess who I was named after!)


re: ainmneacha cailíní: Five More Irish Names for Girls — Names with a Flower Theme (Bláth / Bláithín / Bláthnaid, Daifne / Dafnae, Lil / Lile, Nóinín, Róisín / Róis / Róise, and, sort of, Mairéad / Maighréad) Posted by róislín on Apr 21, 2016 in Irish Language, and several more after that

I mBéarla, don choincheap a thugaim “luibheoaíochtheangeolaócht” air; sin “botano-linguistics,” mar dhea


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