Irish Language Blog

Saying ‘East’ and ‘West’ in Irish, or, de réir an tseanfhocail, ‘Soir gach siar, faoi dheireadh thiar’ Posted by on Apr 30, 2018 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)


grafaic (mapa):; téacs Gaeilge & dearadh le Róislín, 2018

North and South pair up nicely in many parts of the world, as we’ve seen in some recent blogposts here (naisc thíos).  Examples included Baile Átha Cliath Thuaidh / Theas, Meiriceá Thuaidh / Theas, and very timely for current events, An Chóiré Thuaidh and An Chóiré Theas.  One pair we didn’t get to last time is An Mol Thuaidh agus An Mol Theas.  (The North Pole, The South Pole).



If you’re wondering how to pronounce “Thuaidh” and “Theas,” there is a brief pronunciation tip below for newcomers.  It includes Thuaidh and Theas, mentioned above, and also “Thoir” (East) and “Thiar” (West) which will be discussed below.  For a brief note on the numerous other forms of words for east (like “Oir-) and west (like “Iar-), please see the second note below.



And now, some of the pairs.  In Ireland, there are various voting constituencies, such as the following:

Gaillimh Thoir, Gaillimh Thiar, Galway East, Galway West

Corcaigh Thoir, Corcaigh Thiar, Cork East, Cork West

an Mhí Thoir, an Mhí Thiar, Meath East, Meath West

Luimneach Thoir, Luimneach Thiar, Limerick East, Limerick West

Béal Feirste Thoir, Béal Feirste Thiar, Belfast East, Belfast West  (Northern Ireland)

Note that these are not the same forms for saying West Cork or East Belfast, geographically, although it wouldn’t surprise me if there has been some overlap, at least in the past.


Here are some more pairs

Sléibhte Cugais Thiar: West Caucasus (lit. mountains of West Caucasus); Sléibhte Cugais Thoir: East Caucasus (lit. mountains of East Caucasus)

Flóndras Thoir, East Flanders; Flóndras Thiar, West Flanders

na hIndiacha Thoir, the East Indies; na hIndiacha Thiar, the West Indies

an Fronta Thoir, an Fronta Thiar; the Eastern Front (I found only a handful of Irish language references online, but enough to count!), the Western Front



Historically we have:

Afraic Thiar na Fraince, French West Africa

Afraic Thoir na Breataine, British East Africa



And my new favorites,

Gonduana Thoir, East Gondwana,

Gonduana Thiar, West Gondwana

Who was mapping out directions back then?



So that’s the basic terminology and some examples for “thiar” and “thoir.”  In almost all cases, the use of “Thiar” and “Thoir” seems to correspond specifically to “East” or “West,” as such (not to “eastern” or “western”).  But there’s at least one prominent exception, “An Sahára Thiar” (Western Sahara, which is the official name of the region, or at least as official as it gets for this contested region, afaik).  Normally, as we’ve seen above, “Thiar” would be translated “West,” not “Western,” but so be it, sin mar atá.



Finally, let’s consider the seanfhocal (proverb) used in the title of this blogpost: ‘Soir gach siar, faoi dheireadh thiar” (lit.  East every west, finally west).  Just as a preview for some future post, “soir” and “siar” indicate motion (eastwards and westwards, respectively).  “Thiar“corresponds to the phrases we’ve used today, and is for something stationary, like, we hope, land masses or nations (although there was the floating Sea-Star Island, in the movie Doctor Dolittle).  Um, Gondwanaland, though — I dunno.  I thought the whole theory of teicteoinic phlátaí (or should I say “plátaí teicteonacha” here?) involved movement soir and siar and also “ó thuaidh” and “ó dheas.”  Bhuel, sin ceist do na geolaithe!  Ní saineolaí geolaí mé.



It has always struck me as odd that if we’re in Ireland, say, and we travel west, eventually we come to the Far East.  Then, traveling further in the same direction, we come to Southeast Asia, South Asia (the Indian subcontinent), and the Middle East, then eastern Europe, and then, lo and behold, it’s western Europe again.  So we traveled through all those areas called east to get west.  It would be a fascinating trip.  Somehow, it reminds me of Dervla Murphy’s Full Tilt, but in reverse.  For the India-to-Ireland leg of the journey, we could be retracing the route of the amazing Irish travel writer Dervla Murphy, backwards of course.  We’d work our way westward through Europe and end up back in Ireland.  You can read about Murphy’s journey, done on a bicycle (!), which she named “Rozinante” and nicknamed “Roz,” in her 1965 book, Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle (nasc thíos).  Say, I should go back and re-read that!  I remember some details of her adventures traveling eastward toward India, but did she also cycle back?


At some point I’ll look further into some east-west phrases that may not work in pairs, but that will have to wait for another post.  SGF — Róislín


Nóta 1 (Pronunciation tip):

Thuaidh – the “t” is silent and the “-aidh” part sounds like “ee.”


Theas –  the “t” is also silent and the final “s” is hard, so it rhymes with “mass” or “class,” or Irish “deas.”


Thoir – the “t” is silent (arís!) and the “r” is “slender,” meaning it’s not like most “r’s” in English but it is similar to the “r” in the Czech name Jiří and like other Irish examples, such as “tirim” or “Máire.”  If it helps, it also sounds to me like the “rz” combination in Polish “rzeka” (river), but since I don’t speak that language, I don’t know if it’s an exact match.


Thiar – the “t” is silent (as you’re getting used to by now!), the two vowels are pronounced separately, as in Irish “bia” or “Dia,” and as in “Tia Maria.”  The “r” is lightly flapped, since it’s “broad” (not “slender” like the “r” of “thoir”)


Nóta 2: Just a disclaimer, I haven’t dealt much with “eastern” and “western” or “east (part of)” and “west (part of”) here,  except to note the forms in passing here.  Why no further exploration?  It would make the blogpost way too long, so let’s just note the following for future reference:  oirthearach or oir– (east), iartharach or iar– (west), Oirthear (East, as is Oirthear na Gearmáine, formerly, of course, and Iarthar na Gearmáine, again, until 199o, both aka an Oir-Ghearmáin and an Iar-Ghearmáin, respectively ). BTW, for an interesting, if short article in Irish on Oirthear na Gearmáine, you might want to check out the link below, for an article from 1961, the year the Berlin Wall was started.


And for simplicity’s sake, I’m also not doing the geography terms that indicate motion eastward or westward (siar, soir, aniar, anoir), except as noted in the graphic above.  Barraíocht do bhlagmhír amháin.

Naisc d’iarbhlagmhíreanna

Saying ‘North’ and ‘South’ in Irish (A Follow-up to the Blogpost on North and South Korea)Posted by  on Apr 28, 2018 in Irish Language

Nasc don iarbhlagmhír faoin  gCóiré Thuaidh agus faoin gCóiré Theas: How to Say ‘North Korea’ and ‘South Korea’ in Irish, and Some Other ‘North/South’ CombinationsPosted by róislín on Feb 21, 2018 in Irish Language


Naisc faoi cheangailtí Éireannacha:

Ó Maoilbhríde, Seán. “Éireannach in Oirthear Na Gearmaine.” Comhar, vol. 20, no. 2, 1961, pp. 11–14. JSTOR, JSTOR, Comhar, vol. 20, no. 2, 1961, pp. 11–14. JSTOR, JSTOR,


Dervla Murphy (cnuasach nasc:, cuid acu seo ina measc)

1) (an-ghairid, nil ann ach 00:02:26, ach is fiú éisteacht leis)

2) píosa níos faide (00:06:50):

3) agallamh lánfhada: (00:38:23)

4) alt scríofa:

5) naisc do 11 leabhar dá cuid:

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