Irish Language Blog

Saying ‘The First of the Month’ in Irish and Other Special Names for ‘First Days’ (pt. 2: April, May, June) Posted by on Jan 18, 2020 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Cén lá a dtarlaíonn damhsa mar seo? Cén bhliain a ndearna na cailíní sa phictiúr an damhsa seo, i do bharúil: sna 1930í? sna 1940í? sna 1950í? sna 1960í? sna 1970í? sna 1980í? sna 1990í? Ar ndóigh, is féidir linn a bheith cinnte nach raibh sé san aois seo. Freagra thíos, bunoscionn. Grafaic: By Geoff Charles – Llanfyllin carnival and maypole, CC0, (public domain). Téacs Gaeilge le Róislín, 2020. Leid: Calan Mai, Cymru. (Freagra: sna 1940í, ar an gcéad lá de mhí na Bealtaine, 1941, le bheith cruinn, i rith an Dara Cogadh Domhanda, am gruama go leor ach daoine ag ceiliúradh, mar sin féin)

An chéad lá de mhí Aibreáin … de mhí na Bealtaine … de mhí an Mheithimh.  Continuing our series on how to say “the first day of the month of…”, today’s blog will cover April, May, and June.  The first three months (Eanáir, Feabhra, Márta) were covered in the previous blog, and the remaining six months will be covered in upcoming blogposts (Iúil, Lúnasa, Meán Fómhair, Deireadh Fómhair, Mí na Samhna, Mí na Nollag).

As before, we’ll look at actually saying “the first of …” and we’ll also look at the name of at least one holiday or special commemorative day that falls on the first day of the month.  We’ve previously done Lá Caille, Lá Fhéile Bríde, and Lá San Dáibhí, and dornán eile (nasc thíos).

So let’s get started:

1 Aibreán (an chéad lá de mhí Aibreáin): Lá na nAmadán (April Fool’s Day, All Fools’ Day, aka April Fools’ Day).  The basic word here is “amadán” (a fool, specifically a male fool; a female fool is an “óinseach“; for more on Irish words for fools, please see the links below.  We’ll look at the structure of the phrase “Lá na nAmadán” in the grammar section below. Meanwhile, here are a few “fools”-related phrases in Irish:

Rinne siad bob amadán Aibreáin ar Eoghan, They played an April fool’s prank on Eoghan.

Rinne siad amadán Aibreáin de Sheáin, ag caint leis faoina saoire ar Oileán San Seriffe. They made an April fool of Seán, talking with him about their vacation on the island of San Seriffe.  “San Seriffe”? Féach an nasc thíos.

1 Bealtaine (an chéad lá de mhí na Bealtaine).  This “first day” is famous on at least two counts, probably more.  Lá Bealtaine (May Day in the ancient Celtic calendar) is a traditional Irish festivity, with parallels in some other countries.  Typical features might be feasting, bonfires, dancing, and, in ancient times, driving cattle, one by one, between two specially lit May Day fires.  The latter custom, while no longer practiced today, gives us the widely used phrase, “a bheith idir dhá thine Bhealtaine” (to be between two May Day fires, roughly equivalent to English phrases such as to be “between a rock and a hard place,” “between the devil and the deep blue sea,” or “on the horns of a dilemma.”

On a more somber angle, on May 1 we also have Lá Idirnáisiúnta na nOibrithe, International Workers’ Day, commemorating the struggle for workers’ rights.  I’ve also seen it referred to as “Lá an Lucht Oibre,” as in the webpage cited below (thíos).  In the US, however, Labor Day is usually called “Lá an Lucht Oibre” by Irish speakers, to distinguish it from the international holiday.  In the US, “Labor Day” is celebrated on the first Monday of September (an chéad Luan de mhí Mheán Fómhair).

1 Meitheamh (an chéad lá de mhí an Mheithimh): There are two interesting observances for this day that we will cover here; others, of course, abound.  Internationally, we have  “International Children’s Day,” for which I have not been able to find an official Irish version.  A predictable translation would be ” *Lá Idirnáisiúnta na Leanaí (or possibly “… na bPáistí“); please remember, as with previous blogposts, that the asterisks indicate a tentative (cumtha agamsa) or unattested translation.  International Children’s Day was established in 1925 and is celebrated in 49 countries. In Ireland, however, Universal Children’s Day, on 20 November, is generally celebrated; the Irish for that is “Lá na Leanaí Uile.”  If it seems strange to have two such similar days, I agree, but have no particular explanation.  Universal Children’s Day was established in 1954 and is celebrated in 25 countries.  According to the Wikipedia article on the holiday (nasc thíos), the UK holiday in the UK is on the second sunday in June, to allow for better weather for outdoor activities; this year, however, I note that it is scheduled for May 17 (the 3rd, not the 2nd Sunday), and, by the way is called National Children’s Day (NCDUK 2020, etc.).

Another day recognized globally is World Milk Day, established in 2001.  Again, I haven’t found an official Irish version but assume it would be ” *Lá Domhanda an Bhainne,” or something to that effect.

Pointí gramadaí:

Aibreán: Lá na nAmadán: an tuiseal ginideach, iolra; when including the “alt” (“the”), we prefix an “n” to “amadán” (fool), and the “n” remains lower case, in proper nouns or titles.  I suppose we could also use “na nAmadán” in a title like Plato’s Ship of Fools, although so far the only recent usage I’ve found for “long na n-amadán” (ship of the fools) is not actually as a title, but as a reference in a haiku (nasc thíos).

Bealtaine: Lá Bealtaine: although the word is the reverse of English (lit. “Day of May”), there are no major grammatical features here.  Nó séimhiú up front, no changes due to the definite article, and no change to the ending of Bealtaine, because it ends with a vowel, and wouldn’t have any change to the ending.  As straightforward as it gets.

Lá Idirnáisiúnta na nOibrithe, International Workers’ Day, which is literally “day international (of) the workers,” with “oibrí” (worker) changing to “oibrithe” (plural) and then to “n-oibrithe” for “of the workers”

Lá an Lucht Oibre, Labo(u)r Day, lit. Day (of) the Workers, or very literally “Day of the Folk/Group of Work), with “obair” (work) changing to “oibre” since we’re saying “of work”

Meitheamh:  *Lá Idirnáisiúnta na Leanaí, International Children’s Day, lit. International Day of the Children

Lá na Leanaí Uile, for Universal Children’s Day.  The “universal” idea is conveyed by using the word “uile” (all)

*Lá Domhanda an Bhainne, for “World Milk Day,” a straightforward Irish structure, literally “Day Global/World of the Milk,” with “bainne” (milk) changing to “bhainne” since we’re saying “of the” milk.

Bhuel, tá súil agam gur bhain tú sult as seo.  SGF — Róislín

Nótaí agus Naisc:

Iarbhlag sa mhionsraith seo: Saying ‘The First of the Month’ in Irish and Other Special Names for ‘First Days’ Posted by  on Dec 31, 2019 in Irish Language


Words for “fool” in Irish: Lá na nAmadán…na nGamal?…na nÓinseach?…na bPleidhcí?…na bPleotaí? Posted by róislín on Mar 30, 2012 in Irish Language

Fools on Hills, and Otherwise, with Irish Pronunciation Tips Posted by róislín on Apr 1, 2012 in Irish Language

an t-oileán San Seriffe (mar dhea):

long na n-amadán: (Irish and Greek) (English and Greek)

Bealtaine: (faoi phreastaispeáint scannáin a bhí ar “Lá Idirnáisiúnta na nOibrithe” i Londain sa bhliain 2009) (1 Bealtaine 2019) “… In Celtic tradition, May Day (Lá Bealtaine) marks the beginning of Summer, and 1 May is also Labour Day (Lá an Lucht Oibre), a day to celebrate workers’ rights.  …”

Meitheamh: (a very admirable event but so far I don’t see any links for versions of their webpage in any language other than English.  It always seems to me that if an event or organization calls itself “world” or “international” anything, it should at least offer translations in the world’s major languages, and preferably all the official national languages of the countries involved.  And, of course, I’d love to see Irish!  Last year, the day was celebrated with 426 events in 68 countries and I’m sure that languages other than English were used. … [ag cuardach ar líne]   … Well, OK, I just found and but surely it would be nice to have a complete list of the names of the event in all relevant languages.  … [searching a bit further] … Now that I guessed what they would be, I see that the French and Spanish names are available at but no other languages are listed.  The only reason I found those two is that I guessed what they might be and then Googled them to confirm. So, Welsh: Dydd Llaeth y Byd?  Or would it be Dydd Llefrith y Byd?  Or a different structure altogether (Diwrnod or Dydd, y Byd or Bydol …)?  No hits for any of my attempts, ar an drochuair.  And Gaelic: Latha Bainne an Chruinne, it seems.  No hits.

For Irish, Google Translate offers up “Lá bainne domhanda” [sic, regarding the lower-case letters].  I think my translation, offered above, is a more traditional structure, but if Google Translate actually found this as an official version, I would defer to an official translation.  Most “world” or “international” or “national” days I’ve found in Irish, though, have the structure DAY + WORLD/INTL./NATL. ± the + TOPIC (milk, etc.), not DAY + TOPIC + WORLD, etc..  Well, anyway, maybe a topic to revisit in a future blog.  An bhfuil leagan oifigiúil ann? … creeping back to this topic, which I, nerdishly perhaps, find fascinating, and venturing outside the Celtic and some Romance languages, with which I’m moderately familiar, I do find (Afrikaans) and “Usuku lobisi lomhlaba” (Zulu, that’s per Google translate, appears to be “the day + milk + of the earth” — can anyone confirm?).  But there must be a master list somewhere, right?   OK, sin é.  Blag éigin eile sa todhchaí.

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