Irish Language Blog

Ten Ways to Say ‘Rainbow’ in Irish, with pronunciation tips Posted by on Mar 13, 2016 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)



So, I wonder how many other languages have more than one word for “rainbow.”  Irish does, at any rate, as you probably figured from the title of this blog.  And here they are, just in time for “Lá Fhéile Pádraig.”  You might remember at least one of these from last year’s special St. Patrick’s Day blog, with recorded texts in Irish and in English (The Best Way to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? In Irish! [Interactive Lesson] Posted on 17. Mar, 2015 by Transparent Language in Language LearningProduct Recommendations,Reference/Usage Tips,

By the way, we’ll resume the “25 Ways to Say ‘Family’ in Irish’ series soon  — just can’t pass up a St. Patrick’s Day theme!

We’ll take the two key phrases for “rainbow” (bogha báistí, tuar ceatha) in alphabetical order, each with variations:

bogha báistí [BOW-uh BAWSH-shtee, with the ‘-uh’ very minimal; the “gh” is basically silent, but it does affect the vowel sounds; the “ow” is as in “cow” or “flower,” not as in ” show” or “to tie a bow”]

Its forms are:

an bogha báistí, the rainbow

an bhogha bháistí, of the rainbow

na boghanna báistí, the rainbows

na mboghanna báistí [nuh MOW-uh-nuh BAWSH-shtee], of the rainbows

This phrase is based on “bogha” (a bow, as in archery, music, etc.) and “báisteach” (rain).  “Báisteach” changes to “báistí” because we’re literally saying “bow of rain.”  Not that the rainbow is actually composed of rain as such, afaik, but it indicates rain.

There are five more variations for “rainbow” starting with “bogha,” none of which are very common, in my experience; I’ve noted two as being even less common today:

an bogha ceatha, lit. the bow of a shower

an bogha frais (quite uncommon today, IMO), lit. the bow of shower

an bogha leatha, lit.  the bow of dissolving

an bogha síne, lit. the bow of rain or of bad weather

an bogha uisce (quite uncommon today, IMO), the bow of water

The second set starts with either “tuar,” “tua” or “stua;” I find myself wondering if these have gotten entangled with each other because they sound so similar.  At any rate, here they are:

tuar ceatha (the most widely used of this set, IMO).  Its forms are

an tuar ceatha [un TOO-ur KYA-huh, with the “t” of “ceatha” silent], the rainbow, lit. the sign/omen/portent of rain/of a shower

an tuair cheatha, of the rainbow

na tuartha ceatha, the rainbows

na dtuartha ceatha, of the rainbows

We also have:

tuar báistí, an tuar báistí, an tuair bháistí, na tuartha báistí, na dtuartha báistí

And then, intriguingly similar to the sound of “tuar,” we have “tua cheatha” (lit. arch of shower), with “tua” here being a variation of “stua,” not the completely different word “tua,” meaning “an axe.”  At least some things make sense in this world!  And we also have “stua ceatha” (also “arch of shower”).  But of course the genders are different, so we have “tua cheatha” (feminine) but “stua ceatha” (masculine) even though “tua” and “stua” are variations of each other.  For that, I can just say, “Go figure!”

tua cheatha, an tua cheatha, na tua ceatha, na tuanna ceatha, na dtuanna ceatha

stua ceatha, an stua ceatha, an stua cheatha, na stuanna ceatha, na stuanna ceatha

But wait, that’s not all!  “Stua” can sometimes be feminine, in which case we should have an additional set of forms, as follows, but I can’t say I have observed this particular set in any natural context:

stua cheatha, an stua cheatha, na stua ceatha, na stuanna ceatha, na stuanna ceatha

Bhuel, that should give you plenty of choice.  Of course, I guess the real “ceist” is “Cad atá ag bun an tuair cheatha? (or whichever other term you want for ‘an tuiseal ginideach‘ following “bun,” meaning “end”).

So sin deich dtéarma, ar a laghad.  Ceann ar bith eile ag duine ar bith eile?  And are there really none based on “fearthainne,” yet another Irish word for “rain”?  SGF — Róislín

P.S. Still hankering for more St. Patrick’s Day vocabulary?   Here are some other previous Transparent Irish blogs with “Lá Fhéile Pádraig” as the “téama

1. Seamróga ag Seinm — Google’s Musical Shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day (Posted on 17. Mar, 2015 by róislín in Irish Language,(

2. Ten St. Patrick’s Day Items and How to Lenite and Eclipse Them, (Posted on 19. Mar, 2014 by róislín in Irish Language,

3. Seamra vs. Seamróga: Which Plant Goes with St. Patrick’s Day?, Posted on 17. Mar, 2014 by róislín in Irish Language (

4. How Magonus Succetus Became ‘Naomh Pádraig’ (St. Patrick) — Or Is It ‘Pádraig Naofa’?, Posted on 17. Mar, 2013 by róislín in Irish Language (

5. Beoir: Uaine nó Glas nó Ceachtar? (Beer: Green/Uaine or Green/Glas or Neither?, Posted on 22. Mar, 2013 by róislín in Irish Language (

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  1. Kevin Traynor:

    Nice blog. Grew up in Ireland. Now living in Kansas. Thanks


    • róislín:

      @Kevin Traynor Go raibh maith agat, a Chaoimhín. Tá áthas orm gur bhain tú sult as an mblag.

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