Irish Language Blog

Saying “Thank You,” “Thanks” and “Thanksgiving” in Irish Posted by on Nov 25, 2012 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Some of you might remember previous discussions of Irish terms for “thanking” and “giving thanks” (URLanna thíos).  As we’ve discussed before, Googling the term “Thanksgiving Day” in Irish is not likely to bring up a huge number of hits, since it’s not an Irish holiday.  Nevertheless, it’s widely celebrated in the United States by Gaeil-Mheiriceánaigh and by Éireannaigh atá ina gcónaí i Meiriceá, so it’s worth a gander at the terminology as Gaeilge.  I hope this will also be suimiúil to the Ceanadaigh who celebrate the holiday i mí Dheireadh Fómhair, and I also hope it will be of general interest to all readers, since some very basic Irish vocabulary words are involved: thank, thanks, day, holiday, etc.

Before we continue, though, let’s look at the ordinary phrase for saying “thank you” to someone.  It’s “go raibh maith agat” (said to one person) and “go raibh maith agaibh” (said to more than one person).  The pronunciations are “guh ruh mah UG-ut ” (shortened to “guh-ruh-mahd” in some dialects) and “guh ruh mah UG-iv,” for the singular and plural respectively.  That’s a “short u” sound, as in “uh, I dunno” or as in “fun” or “putt” (not like the German “uh” in “Huhn“).  Broken down literally, the phrase means “may there be good at you.”  Of those four basic vocabulary words (go, raibh, maith, and agat/agaibh), none will appear in the phrase for “Thanksgiving.”  Just thought I’d give you a heads-up on that point.

So how do we say “Thanksgiving” in Irish?  Here are the results of what I found by browsing, mostly through Google in 2010 and 2009, with updates for 2012:

Lá an Altaithe – 515 hits (2012); 99 hits (2010); 44 hits (2009)

Lá Altaithe – 278 hits (2012); 115 hits (2010); 45 hits (2009)

Lá Buíochais – 16 hits (2012); 9 hits (2010); 5 hits (2009); NB: some of these are general references and not specifically about the Thanksgiving Day holiday

Lá Gabhála Buíochais – 7 hits (2012, five without the definite article “an” and two with “an”); 4 hits (2010, by general Google searching) as opposed to 1 hit (2009, found by “guided browsing,” not by “Google” as such)

Féile an Altaithe — 11 hits (2012); 5 hits (2010, dating as far back as 2004), not searched in 2009 since I hadn’t seen the term, as such, previously

In all cases, some of the increase is due to my original Thanksgiving terminology blogs, from 2009 and 2010, being quoted online, with the discussion of all of the terms.

While these figures are certainly not “bun agus barr an scéil” regarding the possibilities for saying “Thanksgiving Day” in Irish, they do show a general trend as to which phrases are most popular.  They also indicate that discussion of Thanksgiving in Irish is growing, even though it isn’t an Irish holiday.

As for “thanks” in general, the usual noun is “buíochas,” with the related adjective “buíoch” (thankful, grateful).  We see this in two of the Thanksgiving phrases (Lá Buíochais and Lá Gabhála Buíochais).  Some typical examples not related to the holiday would be “Buíochas le Dia” (Thank God) and “Míle buíochas” (a thousand thanks, sort of like saying “thanks a million” — what’s a few náideanna here and there when we’re speaking go teibí?).

Have any of you seen any other ways to say “Thanksgiving” in Irish?  If so, please write in and let us know.  Slán go fóill, Róislín

URLanna: (18 Mí na Samhna 2009)

Lá (an) Altaithe: Cén Téarma i nGaeilge?

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