Irish Language Blog

Sraothartach (Sneezing), Smaoisíl (Sniffling), and Srannadh (Snoring) Posted by on Mar 30, 2009 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

As promised, we’ll address sneezing and related phenomena in today’s blog. You might have already anticipated that some more beannachtaí (blessings) and wishes for good health will be involved, just as they are with English (bless you, Gesundheit).

Sraoth is a sneeze. In Irish, it’s not so customary to use a verb that actually means “to sneeze,” but rather someone “makes” or “releases” a sneeze.

If you’re fairly new to the language, remember that the “th” at the end of sraoth is basically silent, just a little puff of breath. The same thing applies to sraothartach, although the puff of breath in the middle of the word is more pronounced, like the “h” sound in “huh” – SREE-hur-tukh.

Examples could include:

Rinne sé sraoth. He sneezed.

Lig sé sraoth dhá uair. He sneezed two times.

Cad a deir tú má ligeann duine sraoth? What do you say (in Irish) when someone sneezes?

The most widely heard response for the first sneeze is “Dia linn” (God bless us, or literally, God with us). This would seem to ensure the good health of everyone in the vicinity! In Irish formulaic fashion, the response to a second sneeze, or a first sneeze if it is especially strong, is “Dia linn, is Muire” (God and Mary bless us).

A little more cryptically, one could wish the sneezer “capall bán fút” (a white horse beneath you). I’ve never found a real explanation for this unusual phrase and can’t say I’ve heard it used very often. ”Dia linn“ is far more widespread. But at least the white horse wish is intriguing (like many other traditional phrases in Irish)!

A few other choice terms pertaining to one’s srón (nose):

smaoisíl (sniffling, sniveling), as in Tá an leanbh ag smaoisíl (The child is sniffling).

srannadh (snoring), as in Tá an seanduine ag srannadh (The old man is snoring).

As far as I know, there are no traditional blessings for sniffling, sniveling, or snoring, although some srannairí (snorers) could probably use some. Or at least those in aice leo (near them) could!

Bhur mblagálaí – Róislín

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  1. Johann Terrance Hutchings:

    I have been doing a lot of Sraothartach today.

  2. Róislín:

    Tá súil agam go bhfuil biseach ag teacht ort agus nach bhfuil tú ag sraothartach
    chomh minic anois. I hope (hope is at me) that an improvement is coming on you
    and that you aren’t sneezing so much now.

    Capaill bhána fút! (White horses under you … one for each sneeze, perhaps)

    An bhfuil an aimsir go dona san áit ina bhfuil tú? Is the weather bad where you

    Nó an é an fiabhras léana atá i gceist? Or is hayfever involved?

    Le gach dea-ghuí – Róislín

  3. Seosamh:

    Years ago I had an Irish teacher who told us that after the second sneeze and “Dia linn, is Muire,” on the next sneeze you would say, “Dia linn, is Muire agus Pádraig,” and so on. But at some point when the person has sneezed too much you say, “Capall bán fút” meaning may you be taken to heaven on a white horse suggesting you have sneezed so much it is expected you will die from it. The white horse may be an allusion to Oisín being taken to Tír na nÓg by the otherworldly Niamh.

    • róislín:

      @Seosamh An-suimiúil, a Sheosaimh, go raibh maith agat. Just wondering if you remember where the teacher was from or where the class was being taught. I hope you’re enjoying the blog as a way to keep up with your Irish.

  4. Seosamh:

    Go raibh maith agatsa. a Róislín, he was an American scholar of Irish so he got his information second hand. I Googled it and did find one hit that echoed his claim that it meant death is imminent: He also tended to delight in information from 1 to several generations back so even if it had been said in Ireland at one time, it is possible that it is no longer.

  5. Fergal:

    Has anyone heard “deiseal” said to a sneezer in recent years? I think it means “may things be right with you”, deiseal being “clockwise”, “sunwise” thus “right”.

    • róislín:

      @Fergal Thanks for writing in, Fergal. Can’t say I’ve heard in actual use but I’ve read it here and there.

  6. Colleen Dollard:

    A Róislín a chara,
    Chuala mise ó Eddie Keenan (nach maireann, faraor) i mBéal Féirste go ndeirtear ‘Dia linn’ tar éis an chéad sraoth, ‘Dia leat’, tar éis an dara ceann agus ‘Capaill bán fút’ tar éis an triú más é go raibh trí cinn i ndiaidh a chéile mar gur stopann do chroí le gach ceann agus gur féidir leis na síoga tú a fhuadach nuair a stopann do chroí. So after three sneezes, surely, you’re away with the fairies …

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