Irish Language Blog

Saying Where You’re From “i nGaeilge” Posted by on Jun 2, 2009 in Irish Language

The terms “Gael-Mheiriceánaigh,” “Gael-Cheanadaigh,” and “Gael-Astrálach,” discussed on May 28 and earlier, account for a large percentage of the Irish diaspora, outside the U.S.  Now to get more specific.


Two North American groups who could have many members wishing to identify themselves in Irish are the Nova Scotians and the Newfoundlanders. In each case, there is no one-word eitneainm (ethnonym) in Irish for the group the way there is in English (a Nova Scotian, a Newfoundlander). Nor is there a hyphenated version. A Nova Scotian is “duine as Albain Nua” and a Newfoundlander is “duine as Talamh an Éisc”


For these two groups, the following structures would be likely—and note that we’re no longer saying, “I am an X,” but “I am from X,” as in “Is as Albain Nua mé” (I am from Nova Scotia) or “Is as Talamh an Éisc mé” (I am from Newfoundland). This construction, “I am from X,” can be used whether or not the relevant place name has an Irish equivalent. Can you figure these out?  Answers are below, to build up the dúshlán (challenge). 


a)     An as Haváí thú?  Ní hea, is as Alasca mé.  Tá mé i mo chadhc.   

b)     An as Alasca thú?  Ní hea, is as Haváí mé.  Tá sciorta húla orm.

c)     An as Washington thú?  Sea, is as Washington mé. 

d)     An as Washington ó dhúchas thú?  Ní hea, is as Virginia Thuaidh ó dhúchas mé.

e)     An as Nua-Gheirsí é Bruce Springsteen?  Sea, is as Nua-Gheirsí é . 

f)       An as an mbaile “Saorsheilbh” é Bruce Springsteen?  Sea, is as “Saorsheilbh” é.

g)     An as Aachen í?  Sea, is as Aachen í.

h)     An as Zelienople í?  Sea, is as Zelienople í. 

i)        An as Siceagó é Harrison Ford?  Sea, is as Siceagó é.

j)        An as Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch thú? Ní hea, ní as Llanfair PG mé. Ní as an mBreatain Bheag mé. Is as an bPatagóin mé. Tá Breatnais agam mar sin. 


From these, you can see that some non-Irish places have traditional Irish names (Alasca, Haváí, Nua-Gheirsí).  Most do not (Aachen, Zelienople, etc.), except for country names, almost all of which do have an Irish version and which will be Á.B.E.  But regarding city names, states, provinces, etc., whether or not there is an Irish version depends on history, tradition, perhaps inherent translatability and perhaps the interest of a translator or local Irish-language group. I still don’t see Siceagó listed in the normal Irish reference sources, but have seen it used fairly widely since around 1990 by Irish speakers from the area. “Washington” stays the same in Irish, seemingly a logical choice, since it comes from a surname. But, at least a few languages have adapted it to their own spelling systems (Waszyngton i bPolainnis; Vaŝingtono i Sprantais). It’s a little hard to predict. I must confess to adapting “Saorsheilbh,” which means “freehold,” for the town. And I imagine that if there are enough Irish speakers there, they’re doing the same thing. As for Llanfair PG in Irish, I could translate it sometime, whirlpool, red cave, and all, but it would just be for the challenge, and maybe some practice with an tuiseal ginideach (the genitive case). It’s more or less a foregone conclusion that there’s no viable Irish equivalent.   


a)     Are you from Hawaii?  No, I’m from Alaska.  I’m in my kayak.

b)     Are you from Alaska?  No, I’m from Hawaii.  I’m wearing a hula skirt. 

c)      Are you from Washington?  Yes, I am from Washington.

d)     Are you from Washington originally?  No, I’m from Northern Virginia originally. 

e)     Is Bruce Springsteen from New Jersey?  Yes, he is  from New Jersey.

f)        Is Bruce Springsteen from the town of Freehold?  Yes, he is from Freehold. 

g)     Is she from Aachen?  Yes, she is from Aachen.

h)      Is she from Zelienople?  Yes, she is from Zelienople.

i)        Is Harrison Ford from Chicago?  Yes, he is from Chicago.

j)        Are you from Llanfair PG?  No, I’m not from Llanfair PG  I’m not from Wales.  I’m from Patagonia. Therefore I know Welsh. 



And by the way, a tidbit overlooked in many books, but very useful and widely used: srl. = agus araile = etc.


Pronunciation tips:

Talamh an Éisc: TAHL-uv (TAHL-oo) un ayshk (lit. the land of the fish)

Nua-Gheirsí: NOO-uh-YER-shee (note the softened “gh”).  This is just one of three possible versions. Á.B.E.

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  1. Nick Geraghty:

    Thank you for this, I always thought there was the case, so it’s good to have it explained so well.
    We’re at present trying to arange another family re-union in Ireland and desparately trying to trace family members in Chicago before it’s too late,
    some of us are getting on in years!!
    Any ideas?

  2. Róislín:

    A Nick, a chara,

    Go raibh maith agat as do nóta. Thanks for your note. As you probably know, there are lots of sites for taighde ginealeolaíoch (genealogical research). The main thing that I would add is to keep in mind the history of the surname Geraghty and to include research into Mag Oireachtaigh (“son of the assembly-man”), which is anglicized as MacGerty as well as Geraghty, and probably in other ways as well. In the Irish version of the name, “mac” is softened to “mag” before a following vowel. Same thing happens with Mag Uidhir (Maguire) and other “sloinnte” (surnames). Le gach dea-ghuí – Róislín

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