Irish Language Blog

Sacar / Peil (Soccer / Football) : A “Matching” Game of Terminology in Irish Posted by on Jul 9, 2014 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Drawing of the several phases of a bicycle kick ("rovesciata" in Italian), by Fabio Messina.  If "rothar" is "bicycle" and "cic" is "kick" in Irish, how do we combine them?  And what's the Irish for "ethogram"?  For "bicycle kick," read on, and for "ethogram," see one suggestion below.  (Nasc don phictiúr thios)

Ethogram of the phases of a bicycle kick, by Fabio Messina. If “rothar” is “bicycle” and “cic” is “kick” in Irish, how do we combine them? And what’s the Irish for “ethogram”? For “bicycle kick,” read on, and for “ethogram,” see one suggestion below. BTW, that “if” might be bigger than anticipated. Why? See Note 3 below. (Grafaic:

This blog will present 10 soccer (football) terms in English and Irish.  Can you match them up?  Note also that there is one extra Irish term, just for the challenge (“dúshlán” [doo-hlawn] note the silent “s”).

Some of the Irish terms can also be used outside of soccer/football discussions, as can some of the English words.  “Tackle” in English can also be used for “gear” or “equipment, as in “fishing tackle,” which, in Irish,  is based on the word “gléas.”  So what’s “fishing tackle” in Irish?  See if you can figure it out based on this “leid” (clue): “fish” = iascMuna bhfaigheann tú é, tá an freagra (answer) thíos (below).

Seo na focail:

Gaeilge: ardscórálaí, druibleáil, foireann, drochphas, clibirt, cúl, cuaille báire, taicleáil, rotharchic, tosaí láir, cothrom na Féinne.  (NB: mar a dúirt mé cheana, tá aon fhocal déag anseo, deich bhfocal do na ceisteanna agus focal breise chun beagáinín níos mó de dhúshlán a chur ann). 

1. scrum

2. team

3. goal

4. goalpost

5. tackle

6. striker

7. bad pass

8. bicycle kick

9. top scorer

10. fair play

And, speaking loosely of football, let’s see, well, there’s lots of English words that I’ve never found exact or official Irish equivalents for, but here’s a football one I’d like to throw out to any takers.  An bhfuil an Ghaeilge ar “crab soccer” (“crab football”) ag duine ar bith?  I suppose it would be “sacar portáin.”  Or “peil phortáin” if specifically Irish, perhaps.  Moltaí ar bith uaibhse?  I Googled both these terms and came up with one hit (one measly hit in that great big cyberworld) for “sacar portáin” on a somewhat dubious-looking website on how to get your Social Security number.  Any context seemed to be meaningless, since the previous word was ‘digging” and the following word was “tlú” (tongs)!  Didn’t even dare open that one!  Maidir le “peil phortáin,” tada.  And yes, I tried variants with séimhiú and urú, but to no avail.

Hope you enjoy the match game and that even intermediate learners may pick up “focal nó dhó.”  – SGF, Róislín

Na Freagraí:

1. scrum (scrummage, scrimmage): clibirt.  I’ve never been completely sure if there’s a difference between “scrimmage” and “scrummage,” but it’s the same word in Irish, at any rate.

2. team: foireann, which can also mean “a group of people,” “crew,” “staff,” and “set” as in chess

3. goal: cúl, which has many other meanings, most prominently “back” (of a house, one’s head, etc.) and also “delay,” “reserve,” “pillion” (position in riding a horse), and “reverse” (of a coin).  Two more words for “goal” in sports are “báire” and “góraí.”  “Goal” as “destination” is “ceann scríbe.”

4. goal post: cuaille báire.  Hmm, could we say “cuaille cúil” as well?  Or does that sound too alliterative?  Can there ever be too much alliteration in this world?

5. to tackle: taicleáil (basically borrowed from “tackle” with an Irish verb ending, “-áil,” added).  One can also say “dul i ngleic le duine,” lit. to “go in struggle” with a person.  Note that for this second phrase, “the preposition “le” (with) is needed.

6. striker (center-forward / centre-forward) tosaí láir

7. bad pass: drochphas [drokh-fahss]

8. bicycle kick: rotharchic [RUH-hur-HyIK].  Have to admit I got a “kick” out of that one!  Who would have thought that the Irish for “bicycle kick” would end up looking so much like a fashion statement, “rothar, errmm, chic.”  Well, it’s sheer coincidence, of course, because “cic” (kick) has simply been lenited (to become “-chic“) because it’s part of a compound word, like “pas” was for “drochphas.”   But still, makes you wonder if Izumi or Giordana couldn’t do something with that!

And what’s the Irish for “chic” anyway?  Well, there are a couple of choices.  One can go with “chic,” straight from the French.  Hmm, so could we say, “Tá cuma an-chic uirthi” for “She has a very chic appearance” (She looks very chic).  I suppose so, but somehow seeing “chic” in a slot that would normally take lenition (after “an-“) makes my eye want to read it as a variant “cic” (kick) again.  But then, “kickin'” isn’t so bad either, is it?  Getting to the more general meaning of “chic,” we have “faiseanta” (fashionable), and a word with some implied value judgment going on, “péacach” (showily- or gaudily dressed, based on “péacóg“).  “Péacóg,” in addition to meaning “peacock,” can also mean a “showily-dressed” girl.   And just for gender equity, we also have the choice of “coileach péacóige,” which is literally “peacock” but also “a dandified vain man.”

An a further note to boggle the mind, or perhaps more accurately, the eye: as an Irish word, “an-chic” would mean “a great kick.”

Pronunciation differences: “an-chic” (in fashion): ahn-sheek but “an-chic” (great kick): ahn-hyick, with the “hy” like the “h” of “human” or “humid”

9. top scorer: ardscórálaí [ARD-skor-AWL-ee].  One can also say “príomhscórálaí” [PREEV-skor-AWL-ee].

10. fair play: Cothrom na Féinne, lit. the levelness or fairness of the Fianna (the warriors of Fionn Mac Cumhail, aka Finn McCool).  One of my favorite phrases, since it harkens back to the time of Ireland’s legendary past.

Sin deich bhfocal i mBéarla agus an Ghaeilge atá orthu.

Nóta 1: the extra Irish word, “druibleáil” means “to dribble” as in “to dribble a ball.”  In case you’re wondering, “to dribble” as in “to drool,” is “priosláil,” previously discussed in this blog: M3, .i. An Téarma Gramadaí (Ní Mótarbhealach Atá i gCeist) at (27 Aibreán 2011)

And yes, we’ve already covered the basics for dribbling, dribbler, and dribble bibs in this blog series.  Can’t say we’re not wide-ranging and comprehensive!

Nóta 2: “fishing tackle,” is “gléas iascaireachta,” lit. “tackle of fishing.”  As for the “Normal Fishing Tackle Choir,” well, I think it gets a bit lost in the translation!

Nóta 3 (an focal “ethogram”): ni fheicim in áit ar bith i nGaeilge é, ach is dócha gur ” *eiteogram “ a bheadh ann.  Barúil nó eolas ag duine ar bith eile?  Do we need such a word?  Well, why not?  Googling it, I see an interesting book title using the term in English, The Equid Ethogram: A Practical Guide to Horse Behavior (by Sue M. McDonnell, Ph.D.).  And since there’s definitely a great interest in horses in Ireland, the phrase “eiteogram eachaí” would appear to be of some use.  As for “eachaí” as “equid” vs. “equine,” The Brooke (Hospital for Animals) has the most interesting commentary I’ve seen on the issue, regarding one of their own publications: “[…] we decided to use equid, which is a noun, instead of equine, which is the adjective. If we had used the term Equine Veterinary Manual it implies that all of our vets are horses!”  (

Hmm, do I detect another “ábhar blag” lurking in the wings?  “Capall” and “each” [say “akh,” it’s not like the English “each”] for starters, not to mention some other horse terms (stail, láir, searrach, bromach, pónaí, capaillín).  Hmm, and then maybe a segue to Myles na gCopeleen, one of my favorite authors, whose pen name means “Myles of the Little Horses,” technically, “na gcapaillíní.”  Mealltach!

Nóta 4: rothar vs. badhsacail.  Many people, especially in the Gaeltacht, say “badhsacail” or “baidhseacail” instead of “rothar.”  It was years before I ever saw the transliterated Irish spelling, and even then, the first variations of it I saw were actually Scottish Gaelic (baidhseagal or badhsagal).  The “-dh-” is silent, but it does give us the IPA /ai/sound, as in English “eye,” “pie,” or “my”.  So, could we venture ” *badhsacailchic ” for “bicycle kick”?  Or is that definitely over the top?


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