Irish Language Blog

Some (60+) Irish Words and Phrases for Breeze, Wind, Gust, Squall, and Gale.  Oh, and Zephyr! Posted by on Oct 16, 2017 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Since we recently discussed wind, in general, and hurricanes, I thought it might be interesting to look at more words for wind.  The meteorological sort, that is.  So here’s a fairly comprehensive list, but eventually there will be more.  It’s a really rich vocabulary in Irish

Unlike my usual approach, of including plurals, possessives, etc., with vocabulary,  I’ve only added them here for the more unusual (IMHO) examples, to save space.  The more predictable ones I’ve left up to you (or for a future blog post).

Also, please note, I make no claims to the exclusivity of one term vs. another.  In fact, I’m amazed at the overlap.  But I offer these up as food for thought, and ultimately real-life usage by experienced speakers is the best guide for what’s the most practical approach.  There are five key concepts in the list below (breeze, wind, gust, squall, gale), but there are many combinations (particularly adding “gaoth,” “gaoithe,” or “ghaoithe” to one of the other terms).

As a preface to all of this, I should note that probably the most typical way to intensify the word “gaoth” is simply by adding “láidir” (gaoth láidir, a strong wind) or “mór,” lenited to “mhór” (gaoth mhór, a big wind, which essentially means “storm,” aka in Irish as, simply, “stoirm“).  But if we just settled for that, then why have all the distinctions that appear below!

A)) breeze

leoithne, breeze, light breeze, zephyr; grammatically feminine so usually followed by lenition).  There is a variation: lóithne (breeze, whiff, storm — see what I mean by overlap?)

leoithne bhog ghaoithe, a soft breeze (of wind), although NB, “leoithne ghaoithe” by itself (without “bhog”) can also mean “a soft breeze”.  I adapted this entry from the (presumably) plural form “leoithne bog’ gaoith” [sic, sic, sic, sic, sic for all you saineolaithe gramadaí] from the song “Bruacha glas’ áille na Laoi.”

leoithne chrua, fresh breeze (lit. “hard” breeze)

leoithne fhionnuar, cool breeze

leoithne fhuar ghaoithe, a cold breeze (of wind)

leoithne ghaoithe, soft breeze (but there’s no specific word for “soft” here)

leoithne farraige, sea-breeze

leoithne aniar, westerly breeze

leoithne siosarnach, leaf-rustling breeze

leoithne the, warm breeze

feothan, breeze, zephyr, but watch out for this one, because it can also mean “gust” especially if modified by “geimhridh” (of winter).  I’m inclined more to “breeze” than “gust,” though, since “feothan” can also mean a “puff” or “a sip”.

feothan farraige, sea-breeze (as with leoithne farraige, above)

siorradh, breeze, draught, blast, zephyr.  OK, so this one can be defined as “breeze,” but when we look further at some samples, it doesn’t seem like an easy-peasy-light-and-breezy breeze, but, rather, an unwanted one, as in a “draught.”  May be doubled with “gaoth” as in “siorradh mór gaoithe.”

And a few less widely-used (in my experience) examples or some even more specific types:

briota (gaoithe), a breeze, sometimes spelled “friota“; “briota” can also mean a “broken wave.”

siolla beag gaoithe, a breeze, also not very widely used, in my experience, perhaps emphasizing more the “sound” of the breeze

siansán, a breeze, a humming sound

sméamh gaoithe or sméamhghaoth, a breath of wind

adhl, an adhl, na haidhle, breeze, plural not found in my search

leoithne de ghaoth ghlas fhuar, a breeze of cold harsh (lit. green) wind

ruagán, a cold sharp dry breeze

fannghaoth, a languid breeze

fuasadh, a cooling breeze

feoithne or feochna, a breeze in traditional Connaught Irish, where “leoithne” is even more gentle, more like a puff (cf. feothan)

aithleá, an t-aithleá, no plural found; a gentle breeze, a zephyr, or a little bit of anything.  Like many other phrases, can be doubled up with “gaoth” as in “aithleá beag gaoithe” (a little breeze of wind)

lóithnín, a slight gentle breeze OR a breath (cf. leoithne)

doigheas, breeze, but also “fire” or “dart,” etc.

lóithne bhreá gaoithe, a fine breeze of wind, also “success”

NB:  There’s another choice for “zephyr,” much closer to the original Greco-Latin roots: steifir (an steifir; of the zephyr: na steifire; plural not found, but then, can there be more than one “west wind”?), but again, its popularity is underwhelming, at least in my experience.

B)) Probably the most basic, “wind.” But there are many special usages:

gaoth, wind (Remember: an ghaoth, na gaoithe, na gaotha, na ngaoth)

gaoth challánach, a blustery wind

gaotalach, an ghaotalach, na gaotalaí, blustery wind (no plural found)

gaoth éadrom, a soft breeze

gaoth chineálta, a soft breeze

gaoth anoir, easterly wind; gaoth aduaidh, northerly wind; gaoth aneas, southerly wind; gaoth aniar, westerly wind

rois gaoithe, a blast of wind

stamhladh gaoithe, blustery wind

C)) gust (re: wind, not for other contexts, like gusts of anger or laughter, which would use “racht“)

feothan, as noted above, especially in phrases like “feothan geimhridh” (a winter or wintry gust)

fleá gaoithe, gust, a “flaw”, also “a squall (in the meteorological sense, not the “crying baby” sense); more on this word below, under “squall”

gusta, a gust

gustaí treallacha, fitful gusts, but a caveat, the most recent example I’ve found on the Internet for the English phrase “fitful gust(s)” is 1842!  The line is:

“And ever the fitful gusts between / A sound came from the land;
It was the sound of the trampling surf / On the rocks and the hard sea-sand”

Where’s that from?  It’s in the same text that gives use the word “flaw” regarding wind, shown below!

A few early 19th-century examples of the phrase “fitful(l) gust(s) are: John Keats, 1817 (“Keen, fitful gusts”); John Clare, 1821, (“Autumn,” with the phrase  “fitfull gusts”), and James Fenimore Cooper, 1826, (the Last of the Mohicans), But at least we can say that Clare’s poem, and therefore the phrase, enjoyed a brief resurgence of interest in Carol Rumens’ Poem of the Week in The Guardian (29 October 2012).  I can’t say I’ve heard “gustaí treallacha” in Irish with any regularity.

But wow!  The Chinese for “fitful gusts of wind” jumped to the forefront of my Google search!  Apparently it’s 阵阵的狂风 per, which Google transliterated for me as ” Zhèn zhèn de kuángfēng” and which I attempted to further break down, character by character, getting “burst-burst-of mad-wind.”  Ceart, a chainteoirí Sínise ar an liosta seo?  Anyway, back to Irish, if only in “fits and starts.”

séideán, gust, lit. a blowing

siorradh, gust, draught

siorradh fuar, cold gust/draught

siorradh géar gaoithe, a sharp blast or gust of wind (love that alliteration!)

siota, a gust, as in the phrase “siota fuar gaoithe” (a cold gust of wind) in this line from Colm Ó Ceallacháin’s I dTír mhilis na mbeo (2017, lch. 58): “Amuigh faoin aer, shéid siota fuar gaoithe an tsráid anuas ….”.  NB: Often “siota” means “sheet” in the nautical sense.

soinneán OR sinneán, gust, in phrases like “soinneán fuar gaoithe,” “soinneán gaoth aduaidh,” or “soinneán gaoithe Márta” or its variant “soinneán gaoth Mhárta

D)) squall

cóch, an cóch, an chóich, na cócha, na gcóch: squall.  So, whence cometh this gem, which I must confess to never having heard in a real conversation?  It also means “onset,” in a literary context, but frankly, that doesn’t help much.  Barúlacha ag duine ar bith? 

cuaifeach, squall, also: eddying wind, whirlwind, blast, swirl, and spout (of water)

feothan gaoithe, a squall

soinneán OR sinneán: gust, also: blast; can be doubled with “gaoithe” (soinneán gaoithe, etc.)  

And very intriguingly:

fleá gaoithe, a light squall, also called a “flaw.”  “Flaw?”  So which way did the borrowing go?  Seems Hiberno-English, but then, what would Longfellow be doing with Hiberno-English vocabulary?  Especially pre-Gorta Mór Irishness in Boston?  Was it Irish influencing English or English influencing Irish?  A coincidence?  Can we even tell?  Recognize Longfellow’s 1842 usage?  If not, does this quote jog your memory?

The skipper he stood beside the helm, / His pipe was in his mouth,
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow / The smoke now West, now South.” 

Can you name the poem, i mBéarla, ar ndóigh?

Leid: The ________ of the _________.

Freagra iomlán thíos. 

E)) And can we safely designate this one as the most intense?

gála, a gale

gála gaoithe, a gale of wind

siansán gaoithe, a gale of wind (but cf. siansán, a breeze or humming sound)

glasghála, a fresh gale

neasghála, near-gale

And then there’s “gailbh,” which can mean “gale” or “storm” or “windy shower.”  Its forms are: an ghailbh, na gailbhe, na gailbheacha, and na ngailbheacha.   A good one for “muintir na Gaillimhe“!  Not to wish anybody a real storm, of course, just to enjoy the sounds of “gailbhe” and “Gaillimhe“!

Well, like I said above, that’s “measartha cuimsitheach” (fairly comprehensive).  But watch out for the “nathanna cainte.”  For example, the Irish for “shooting the breeze” (in the sense of “chewing the fat”) has nothing to do with leoithní, feothain, gaotha, or siorraí.  The equivalent phrase is “ag déanamh dreas comhrá” (lit. “doing a spell of talking,” colloquial, perhaps, but not metaphorical the way the “breeze” and “fat” expressions are). And that is one of those Irish phrases using a super-flexible Irish word, “dreas“.  “Dreas” has at least seven basic meanings, each of which has at least one other Irish word with the same meaning: turn (gal, seal, spailp), spell (seal, spailp), while (tamall, seal), bout (babhta, gal, rabhait, spailp), and in sports contexts: round (dreas, babhta, seal), heat (réamhbhabhta, lit. “pre-bout”), and, usually paired with “istigh,” innings (deis istigh).

And a final afterthought  —  why do set phrases like “summery breeze” and “wintry gust” come readily to mind, but not their opposites (wintry breeze, summery gust).  Ceist do na heolaithe aimsire, is dócha.  Níl an freagra agamsa.

Anyway, I hope I’ve stopped just short of being a “gaothaire,” and that you’ve enjoyed seeing the wide array of “wind” terms in Irish.  The variety of terms in situations like this never ceases to amaze me.  SGF  — Róislín

Freagra don cheist faoin dán: ‘The Wreck of the Hesperus,’ le Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1842.

*Gluaisínette [OK, I just made that up, but it seemed like a fun way to indicate a really small glossary, instead of just saying “gluais bheag,” which means “a small glossary”]: gaothaire (or gaotaire), a windbag, a wordy talker; nathanna cainte, figures of speech

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