Irish Language Blog

Téarmaí Turcaí (Turkey Terms in Irish):  Wattles, Caruncles and Snoods — Oh My! Posted by on Nov 16, 2017 in Irish Language

(le Róislín), License: CC0 Public Domain , Turkey Bird Head Close-up; Téacs Gaeilge le Róislín 2017

Well, the picture above may look like an Ood from Doctor Who, but this actually is a well-wattled turkey, so it will contribute to our seasonal “téama Lá an Altaithe.”  “Lá an Altaithe” is “Thanksgiving.”  We’ve looked at basic turkey terminology in various previous posts, so this one will look at three specific terms to describe a turkey’s head (wattle, caruncle, snood) and see how they work in phrases like “the color of the wattle,” etc.  In other words, we’ll look at na tuisil (the different case forms of Irish nouns).  If “case forms” doesn’t sound familiar for English speakers, it’s because it’s almost a moot point in English, where we simply tack on apostrophe-s (‘s) to show possession, and we’re done.  Oh, and “her, him, us, and them” vs. “she, he, we, they,” the so-called “inflected” forms of our pronouns.

But unlike English, Irish has a comprehensive “case system,” like Latin, although it’s not necessary to study Latin to understand the Irish system.  If you study Latin, however (ceithre bliana déanta agamsa, just scratchng the surface, really), you quickly learn forms like “filius, filium, filii, filio, and filiorum,” to give just part of the paradigm of the word for “son.”   The Latin “case system” also accounts for why we address Caesar’s frenemy, Brutus, as “Brute” (pronounced with 2 syllables), not as “Brutus,” if we’re speaking to him in direct address, like, um, as he’s stabbing us.  So, “Et tu, Brute?” not “Et tu” followed by “Brutus.”  The case system also applies to various other languages, like Russian and German, but not to many other languages like English or French (except for pronouns and the apostrophe-s option for English possession).

So today we’ll do three turkey terms with their various case forms.   As noted previously, we’ll bypass the more basic words for a turkey’s body (cosa, sciatháin, cleití, eireaball/ruball, ceann, and gob).  Our three less typical words are wattle, caruncle, and snood.

  1. . sprochaille, wattle. Additional meanings include: barb, dewlap, gill, and, for people, a bag or pouch under the eyes. It doesn’t mean “wattle” as used in building, which is either “caolach” (as in claí caolaigh) or “cliath” (as in Baile Átha Cliath). Here are the forms of “sprochaille” — it’s relatively easy because the “spr-” beginning cancels out any lenition and there’s no separate genitive case ending because it’s an “f4” category noun (more on that in another blogpost, if it’s rusty)

an sprochaille, the wattle

na sprochaille, of the wattle (dath na sprochaille, the color of the wattle)

na sprochaillí, the wattles

na sprochaillí, of the wattles (dath na sprochaillí, the color of the wattles, assuming all turkey wattles are the same color — I’m not really sure!):

If you were talking to the sprochaillí, for whatever strange reason, there’s actually … [drum roll] … no change.  You’d just start out, “A sprochaille!” for one wattle and “A sprochaillí!” for two or more. That’s the vocative case (for “direct address”, as when Caesar addressed Brutus as “Brute”).  For Irish words, the vocative case usually does involve more change (like “a Sheáin” for “Seán” or “a Bhríd” for “Bríd“).  But for “sprochaille,” the initial “spr” and the final vowels do not change.  Yay!

  1. . carancail, caruncle, which is a fleshy outgrowth around the head, on animals such as turkeys and turtles; it’s a diminutive of the Latin, “caro” (flesh, which also gives us “carnal,” “carnival,” “chili con carne,” etc.; the “n” creeps in because the Latin genitive case is “carnis” and most other forms of the Latin word have the “n” as well)

an charancail, the caruncle

dath na carancaile, the color of the caruncle (that’s the genitive case form)

na carancailí, the caruncles

dath na gcarancailí, the color of the caruncles (as above, assumimg we’re talking about several turkeys, and assuming the caruncles are all the same reddish-pink colors; if there was a variety of colors, we’d say, “dathanna na gcarancailí); that’s the plural of the genitive case

If, for the same strange reason you might be talking to the sprochaillí, you were talking to the caruncles, you’d say “A charancail!” (singular) or “A charancailí!” (plural).  The only change is at the beginning of the word.

The word “sprochaille” can also be used for “caruncle,” but, as noted above, it also means “wattle.”  For our purposes (talking turkey), it seems useful to establish some distinction between them, so I’m reserving “sprochaille” for wattle, as seen above.

A caruncle, by the way, seems to be quite different from a “carbuncle,” (a boil, in the sense of a sore on the skin) which in Irish has four possibilities (!): carrmhogal (perhaps an approximation of the sound, or based on “mogall,” a globular mass) or carbuncal (a gaelicization of the English) or meall gorm (lit. blue lump)  or bun ribe (the word “ribe” meaning “a strand of hair”).

  1. .snúda, snood, which also means a sort of net covering for a woman’s hair.  Maybe men’s hair these days, too.  On a turkey, it’s a fleshy covering on the bird’s forehead, which may at times hang down over and below the beak. Here are the forms of the word:

an snúda, the snood

an tsnúda, of the snood (in pronunciation, the “s” drops out so you’re really saying “tnooduh”); ex. dath an tsnúda, the color of the snood

na snúdaí, the snoods

na snúdaí, of the snoods (dath na snúdaí, or if we’re talking about various colors of hair-net snoods for people, dathanna na snúdaí)

If addressing a snood (again, I know, pretty unusual), you could say, “A shnúda!” for singular, with the “s” dropping out of the sound, leaving you saying something like “uh hnooduh”.  The plural would be “A shnúdaí!” (uh hnood-ee).  Please let me know if you find a context for that vocative-case use!

So that’s three turkey terms, and a good review of the genitive and vocative cases.  If it seems complex, just remember that Latin had ablative and accusative as well, some languages also have locative, and in Irish we only have to deal with the remnants of the dative case (like “ag an mnaoi“), not the whole dative shebang.  Minor blessings!  Hope you found this fun, informative and helpful – Róislín

BTW, while Latin “filius” is a far cry from Irish “mac” for “son,” it does give us the French word “fils” (son), which in turn gives us the “Fitz” of names like “Fitzgerald” or “Fitzmaurice.”  And it also gives us the English word “filial” as in “filial piety.”  The Irish for “filial,” though, takes us right back to “mac,” with the word “macúil” (filial, like a son).  So was Finn McCool macúil?  And, wow, “filial leave” in Irish doesn’t even use the word “macúil”  — it’s “saoire le haghaidh cúraim do thuismitheoirí” (lit. leave for care to parents).   And another interesting, related phrase is “macleabhar folaíochta,” which literally, in my interpretation, means “son-book of breeding”  but is understood to mean “filial breeding book” or “daughter studbook.”  About horses, of course.

BTW2: And what does an Ood look like?  Check out this link: ( or just Google the term.  My preliminary search got 37,200,000 hits (not sure if they all pertain to Doctor Who).  Searching for ood+who got 36,900,000 hits, so there definitely must be a following.  Couldn’t resist adding, “An bhfeiceann tú an Ood úd?” (if Ood is understood (!) um, interpreted as grammatically feminine).  If it’s understood as grammatically masculine, we’d have to say “an t-Ood úd.”  As for biologically male or female, regarding Oodkind, I, um, don’t think I want to go there!

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  1. Ciarán:

    Obair iontach. Fíor suimiúil. Go raibh maith agat

    • róislín:

      @Ciarán Agus go raibh maith agatsa, a Chiaráin!

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