Irish Language Blog

Some Irish Words Starting with the Letter ‘Y’ (yóyó ina measc) Posted by on Sep 21, 2015 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

In the past few blagmhíreanna (naisc thíos), we’ve looked at some Irish words that start with letters not traditionally in the Irish alphabet (v, w, x).  Today’s blog will deal with the letter “y” and soon we’ll do “z.”  Someday we’ll get to the other three non-traditional letters (j, k, q), but for now let’s continue with our end-of-alphabet selection.

While the sound of “y” (as in English “year” or “yet”) occurs widely in Irish, as in “an ghealach” [un YAL-ukh] or “gheobhaidh” [YOH-wee] or “a Dhiarmaid” [uh YEER-mwidj], the letter itself does not.  There are very very few Irish words that begin with “y,” but there are some examples.  Among them we have the following:

yaincín, a “yankee” or working foresail

yóyó, plural: yóyónna.  And the gender is masculine, in case you were wondering.

Then we get the “y-prefix,” fairly scientific or technical:

y-ais, y-axis

y-chrómasóm, y-chromosome (occasionally spelled y-chrómosóm, but medial “-a-” seems to be the norm)

y-chruthach, y-shaped (from “cruth” [kruh], shape)

y-nasc, y-connection

What happens to some other loan-words that begin with “y” in English or other languages if they don’t keep the initial “y”?  Some of them end up with an initial “i,” as in iógart, ióga, itriam, and An Iúgslaiv (the former Yugoslavia).  Some get an initial “g” as in “geoidil” (yodel), “Giúdais” (Yiddish), and “geac” (the animal, yes, that’s the Irish for ‘yak’).  “Yucca” can be either “yucca” or “gioca.”  Sometimes we go right to a vowel, as for the English interjection “yuk” (or “yuck”) which is “uch” in Irish.  “Yemen” is “Éimin.”   The County Cork place name “Youghal,” of course, didn’t originally have a “y” in it; the actual Irish spelling is “Eochaill.”

Of course, many English words that start with ‘y’ have traditional Irish equivalents, starting with whatever letter happens to apply to that particular Irish word.  These aren’t our main concern here, but a few examples won’t hurt:

yacht: luamh

Yankee: Poncán OR Poncánach

year: bliain

yet: fós OR go fóill

young: óg

yahoo (also “curmudgeon” or “churl”): bodach OR brúisc (and yes, “yahoo” way predates, as we know from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726).  Hmm, is Yahoo planning a big celebration of the word’s 300th birthday in 2026?  It wasn’t exactly flattering in Swift, but then he was pretty much an equal opportunity satirist.  Something to look out for, anyway, sa todhchaí.

Needless to say, those in the last batch weren’t loan-words.  They’re simply the original Irish words for the English.

Additionally, there are foreign words, which are not gaelicized in any way, and which retain their original spelling.  They include the following: yang, yen (money), yeti, yin, yuan, yuko, yurt, Yggdrasil, and as noted above, sometimes “yucca.”

Bhuel, now, I guess all I need to do is to determine the Irish for “yadda-yadda-yadda” or “yakkety-yakking” in general or maybe the Lieber/Stoller song, “Yakety Yak.”  And maybe even the Irish for Spider Rich and Boots Randolph’s “Yakety Sax” and then I guess we’ll be all set.  Or sorted.  SGF–Róislín


From ‘vacsaín’ to ‘vuinsciú’ and some other Irish words that start with ‘v’ Posted on 05. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language

Irish Words Starting with ‘w’ (dornán beag ach dornán acu ann!) Posted on 09. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language

Some Irish Words Starting with the Letter ‘X’ (Part 1 of 2) Posted on 14. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language

Some Irish Words Starting with the Letter ‘X’ (Part 2 of 2): xileafón agus xifisteirneam Posted on 18. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Keep learning Irish with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Jon Moran:

    Conas a dearfa “Yogi” as Gaeilge, a Rhoislin?

    • róislín:

      @Jon Moran “iógaí.” “The yogi” is “an t-iógaí. For the plural, “iógaithe,” with “na hiógaithe” for “the yogis.” An iógaí thú, a Sheáin?
      GRMA as scríobh isteach!

Leave a comment: