Irish Language Blog

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

(le Róislín)

dearadh & téacs Gaeilge, 2019, le Róislín; calendar graphic:, edited, public domain

From New Year’s Day (1 Eanáir) to World AIDS Day (1 Mí na Nollag), there are significant events on the first day of each month of the year.  Some, like Lá Domhanda SEIF, are of profound importance in recognizing the issues of 21st-century life.  Others, like *Lá Náisiúnta Brioscaí Baile (1 Deireadh Fómhair), are basically for fun (le haghaidh an chraic), and, perhaps marketing (margaíocht).

Notice the asterisk (réiltín) in the line above?  A few of the events listed below are taken from American holiday/special day websites, so I’ve basically translated them into Irish here and when using my own translation, I indicate it with an asterisk.  These are mostly le haghaidh an chraic but also for vocabulary practice for all.  And not just vocab in and of itself, but also related issues, like an tuiseal ginideach, an uimhir iolra, séimhiú and urú, any or all of which maybe involved in creating phrases in Irish.  And what do those four terms mean?  Some learners of Irish will recognize these features of the language, but they are in the gluais below, if needed.

Before we plunge into our list, let’s review how to say “the first day of” and “the first day of the month of”.  “The first” is “an chéad.”  The full phrase will be “an chéad lá de …” for “the first day of …” and “an chéad lá de mhí …” for “the first day of (the) month of … .”  After “de mhí,” the name of the month will have “séimhiú,” where possible; “de mhí Feabhra” is an exception (as is mí Feabhra on its own).

1 Eanáir (an chéad lá de mhí Eanáir):  The traditional names for this day in Irish are as follows: Lá Caille, Lá na Bliana Úire, Lá na Bliana Nua, Lá na nIarsmaí, and Lá Nollag Beag; the last one, Lá Nollag Beag, is easily confused with another Lá Nollag Beag, celebrated on January 6 (aka Nollaig na mBan and, more theologically, Eipeafáine), so generally I avoid using it for January 1.  Just to note for fun, January 1st is also recognized as *Lá Náisiúnta na Póite (i SAM, which means, “in the USA”).  Probably the term could be applied in many countries, but afaik, it’s only a “National Day” in America.  Ciall an fhocail “Póit” é féin?  Féach an ghluais thíos.

1 Feabhra (an chéad lá de mhí Feabhra): Lá Fhéile Bríde and in the pre-Christian calendar, Imbolc.  For fun, we could also acknowledge *Lá Náisiúnta Alasca Bhácáilte, celebrating the hot and cold dessert.  There are various accounts of the origin of this ice cream and meringue dessert, some dating it as early as 1867, when Alaska became a US territory, and others say it wasn’t until several decades later.  Príomhchócairí agus miotais chruthúcháin i gcomhrac aonair, an ea?  Is iad Chef Charles Ranhofer agus Chef Antoine Alciatoire na hiomaitheoirí, ach is scéal do bhlag éigin eile é a scéalsan.

1 Márta (an chéad lá de mhí an Mhárta): Lá San Dáibhí, as celebrated in Wales (An Bhreatain Bheag) and in diasporic Welsh communities around the world.  “David” is an interesting name in Irish, with three versions: Dáiví for the Old Testament figure, and “Dáithí” and “Dáibhí” in modern usage.  In my experience, most contemporary Davids are “Dáithí” and “Dáibhí” is used for the patron saint of Wales (éarlamh na Breataine Bige).  Other possible variations of the name of this saint’s feast-day that I have seen are “Lá Fhéile Dáibhí” and “Lá ‘le Dáibhí,” the same patterns that are used for St. Patrick’s Day: Lá Fhéile Pádraig, Lá ‘le Pádraig.  I’ve also seen St. David referred to as both “San Dáibhí” (using “San,” which is the standard pattern for non-Irish saints) and as “Naomh Dáibhí,” using the same word (naomh) used for Irish saints, perhaps because he was a fellow Celt.  St. David is even said to have met St. Patrick, but like the story of the dueling chefs alluded to above, sin scéal do bhlag éigin eile.

Bhuel, sin Eanáir go Márta.  It looks like, once again, this topic will take several blogposts to be covered completely.  So we’ll wrap up today’s post with the first three months, after noting a few pointí gramadaí.

no lenition (gan séimhiú): Dáibhí, although part of a possessive phrase, “Dáibhí” isn’t lenited after “San.”  In the phrases “Lá Fhéile Dáibhí” and “Lá ‘le Dáibhí,” it isn’t lenited because saints’ names typically are not, even in possessive forms (Mac Muire, Pota Pádraig).  But if we were talking about an regular mortal guy named David, his hata would be “hata Dháithí” or “hata Dháibhí,” with séimhiú.

lenition (séimhiú): the word “féile” is lenited in the phrase “Lá Fhéile Bríde” because the phrase means “the day of the feast-day of Bridget,” so “féile” is a possessive form, triggering lenition.

the genitive case (an tuiseal ginideach): “Caille” is the irregular genitive of “Caileann” (calends); “Lá na Bliana Úire” (“bliana” genitive of “bliain” and “úire” genitive of “úr“) and “Lá na Bliana Nua” (again, “bliain” becomes “bliana“; no change to “nua“).

the genitive case without the definite article (an tuiseal ginideach gan an alt): Lá Nollag Beag (“Nollaig” changes to “Nollag,” and “beag” is no longer lenited, as it would be in the phrase “Nollaig Bheag“).

genitive plural (ginideach iolra): Lá na nIarsmaí (na – genitive plural of the definite article; prefixed n and plural ending “-Í” for “iarsma“)

eclipsis (urú): Lá na nIarsmaí (prefixed “n” before “iarsma,” remainder, handsel, little gift, and plural ending “-í”).  And that will be a nice lead-in the the next blogpost, since it will start with Lá na nAmadán, lit. the Day of the Fools, April 1)

Hope this was of interest: beagán faoin orduimhir “1”, beagán faoi struchtúr frásaí, agus beagán faoi laethanta saoire, féilte, agus laethanta speisialta.  The rest of the months will be discussed in upcoming blogposts.  SGF — Róislín

Gluais: póit, hangover; séimhiú, lenition; tuiseal ginideach, genitive case; uimhir iolra, plural number; urú, eclipse

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