Irish Language Blog

Téarmaí an tSéasúir: Nollaig agus Hanukkah, and Some Vowel Harmony, to Boot! Posted by on Dec 11, 2009 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Luí na gréine, an Aoine, 11 Mí na Nollag, tús Hanukkah.  In recognition of the beginning of Hanukkah at sunset on Friday, this blog will discuss the Irish word for “menorah.”  That will also give us the opportunity for a recap session to discuss vowel harmony (caol le caol agus leathan le leathan).  A few pronunciation notes are also given below.


“Menorah” is another word that I looked for for years when all we had was print resources.  Finally, I got a confirmation for the Irish version online, which is “meanóra.”  In addition to being a téarma úsáideach for this time of year, it also gives us a reminder about how vowel harmony works in Irish.  While some words may be borrowed as is from other languages, like “pâté” or “troika” (the carriage), others are adapted to the Irish spelling conventions.  Sometimes it’s primarily a matter of making the word follow Irish vowel harmony.  The gutaí Gaeilge (Irish vowels) are traditionally divided into dhá chatagóir, leathan (broad), which are a, o, and u, and caol (slender), e and i.  I’ve probably said this before, but as a reminder, in this principle, the gutaí (vowels) that flank a consan in the middle of an Irish word must come from just one of these categories.  Either both “broad” or both “slender.”  Typical examples are “tirim” and “Máire” (both slender vowels flanking the “r”) and “dána” and “Úna” (both broad vowels flanking the “n”).  Sometimes, when special endings are added, the vowels have to be adjusted for “harmony,” as in the boy’s name “Séamaisín.”   The original, Séamas, has a broad “s,” next to the broad vowel “a,” but when we add the suffix “-ín,” another “i” is inserted for vowel harmony. 


So, to create the Irish word for “menorah,” we couldn’t have the combination “-eno-” in the middle.  The letter “a” was added in the first syllable, to create vowel harmony, and a few other adjustments were made (the “o fada” and dropping the silent “h”). 


There are, of course, exceptions to vowel harmony, like the word “anseo” but this was originally two words and you sometimes still see the split spelling today (an seo). 


Just because the term “meanóra” exists in Irish doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily in wide usage.  I combed through the 112 Google hits for “meanóra” and only three were actually the Irish.  Apparently the spelling exists in some completely different languages and it’s also a popular misspelling, especially for Menara Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur Tower).  Two of these three Irish uses were simply additional glossary lists, and one was a Vicipéid article, which devoted one sentence to the topic.   


There is one little corner of activity on the Idirlíon for “Celtic menorahs,” mostly limited to the typical range of products found at, that is fáinní eochracha, hataí, agus léinte aclaíochta cochaill (key rings, hats, hooded sweatshirts), etc.  The design is a menorah made of Celtic knotwork set against a background of Celtic knotwork.  Ironically, it doesn’t seem that such a menorah is actually for sale, just the léirithe dháthoiseacha (2-dimensional representations) of it.  Interesting idea, though. 


Up next, the “dréadal” and whatever other Hanukkah terms I can find in Irish.  Then back to other seasonal terms, including, perhaps “Grianstad Sona” (Happy Solstice). SGF — Róislín


Nótaí: eochracha [OKH-rukh-uh] keys, pl. of eochair; aclaíochta [AHK-lee-ukh-tuh] of exercise; cochaill [KOKH-il] of a hood, hooded; dháthoiseach comes from the words “dhá” (two) and “toiseach” (dimensional, from “toise” dimension), note that the original “t” becomes “th” when you make this compound word and the “thoiseach” part is pronounced “HISH-ukh.”


Léinte aclaíochta cochaill: a rather long-winded way to say “hoodies.”  I’d like to propose “húidín” (based on “húda”, hood) for “hoodie.”  So far, I can’t find any examples of “húidín,” online or otherwise, even in treatises having to do with retailing, but maybe this blog will get the ball rolling.   Nuashonrúchán: as of 22 Mí na Nollag 2016, there are now two official online entries for “hoodie” (or “hoody”): húdaí and geansaí cochallach (lit. hooded gansey / jersey / sweater, usually a “pullover” sweater).  “Húdaí,” an ea?  Hmm, cad a shíleann na “hÉisc Bholgacha” eile faoi sin?  Na hÉisc Bholgacha?  Féach anseo le stair ainm an ghrúpa ceoil “Hootie and the Blowfish” a léamh:   Not that that really has anything to do with Irish, but it’s kind of fun to imagine Hootie agus húdaí air!  Pé ar bith duine a bhí sa “Hootie” sin — leasainm cara de chuid an ghrúpa is ea é ach ní deirtear cé hé go díreach é.  

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