Irish Language Blog

The Ins and Outs of Immigration and Emigration Terminology – Inimirce agus Eisimirce i nGaeilge Posted by on Jul 5, 2009 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

We recently had a ceist (question) about some terms having to do with inimirce (immigration).  Seo samplóir téarmaí: 


port eisimirce, emigration port, mar shampla, An Cóbh, Co. Chiaraí


port inimirce, immigration port, mar shampla, Filideilfia, Pennsylvania


A similar term is “longphort iontrála,” lit. ship-port of entry


That last term introduces “long,” the word for “ship.”  A few samples with “long” or its possessive form “loinge”:


lastliosta loinge, ship’s manifest (lit. “cargo-list of ship”)


Can you figure out what types of ships these are?  See clues below.


long chogaidh, long fhada, long Lochlannach, long sholais, cathlong, and lastlong


Getting back to the word “port,” it’s quite well established in Irish.  It shows up clearly in a variety of place names, such as Port an Dúnáin (Portadown), Port Láirge (Waterford), and Port Stíobhaird (Portstewart), to name just a few. 


Slightly disguised, it also appears in words and phrases like:

calafort, harbor, based on “caladh” (landing place, port) and “phort” (lenited form of “port”). Yes, the phrase is almost an athluaiteachas rófhoclach (redundant tautology) but no more so than “salsa sauce” (“salsa” meaning sauce) or “chicken pollo” (“pollo” meaning chicken).

Tollán Chalafort Bhaile Átha Cliath, Dublin Port Tunnel,

aerfort, airport, based on “aer” (air) and “phort” (lenited form of “port”),

Aerfort na Sionainne, Shannon Airport, and,

Aerfort Iarthar Éireann, Cnoc Mhuire, Ireland West Airport Knock, in County Mayo. 


And, by the way, if you’re talking about birds, that’s “imirce” (migration).  A migratory laborer, in the Irish context, is a spailpín, as immortalized in the folksong, “An Spailpín Fánach.”  That song, in turn, has lent its name to a gift shop specializing in Irish-language t-shirts, toys, and gifts,, located in the heart of the Conamara Gaeltacht, an Spidéal.  More formally, a migratory laborer would be called an “oibrí imirceach.” 


Leideanna (clues):

cogadh, war; fada, long; Lochlannach, Viking; solas, light; cath, battle; lasta, cargo


Leideanna fuaimnithe:

ceist [kesht], Cnoc Mhuire [knuk WIR-eh], eisimirce [ESH-IM-irk-yeh], long chogaidh [lung KHUG-ee], long sholais [lung HOL-ish], mar shampla [mahr HAHMP-luh].  A final note, to pronounce the word for ship, “long,” it may look just like the English word “long” (in length), but isn’t pronounced quite the same.  It’s closer to English “lung,” and probably best described as halfway between English “lung” and “long.” 

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  1. kathleen:

    interested to learn the word for Viking — I spend a lot of time in the Cooley peninsula, land of CuChulainn, but a lot of Viking history there as well.

    thanks for the information on cooking, music, and emigration/immigration as well. in regard to emigration, I’m wondering if there is an equivalent in Irish for the idea of ‘American wake’?

  2. Róislín:

    A Chaitlín,

    Glad you’re continuing to find the blog of interest. I’ve always assumed that Lochlannach means “of the lake-country,” (from Loch), although I’ve never actually seen it formally described as such. Will check into “American wake.” Come to think of it, I don’t recall the term in Irish but see no reason why it couldn’t exist.

    Go raibh maith agat as scríobh / Thanks for writing! – R

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