Irish Language Blog

The Irish Language Blog Top Ten for 2015: Grandparents, Greetings, and Grá (and more, cait, mar shampla)   Posted by on Dec 31, 2015 in Irish Language

seanathair agus garmhac [By The original uploader was KF at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons] [sic]

seanathair agus garpháiste [By The original uploader was KF at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons] [sic]

(le Róislín)

Over five years a-blogging and now it’s time to look back over the blianta (we started in 2009) and see what the most popular topics were.

And we start with … <tormáil drumaí> … grandparents.

  1. Mór? Críonna? or Sean? — Grandparents By Any Other Name!…y-any-other-name/, Posted on 09. Apr, 2009 byróislínin Irish Language

So what’s the more familiar way for young children to talk to their seanaithreacha and seanmháithreacha, since those words are rather tongue-bogglingly long?  And what to do if the in-law grandparents have already claimed “Grandma” (or Nana or Granny) and “Grandpa” (or Gramps or Granddad or Papa)?  Irish to the rescue!

Young children can easily grasp “Mamó” [MAH-moh] or “Móraí” [MOR-ee] for “grandmother,” and “Daideo [DADJ-yoh].”  And no, that’s not the Beatnik ‘Daddy-o,’ which has three syllables.  The Irish “Daideo” has two syllables (DADJ-yoh).

Irish Diaspora families will still have to decide whether to go the whole nine yards or not, by teaching their child to say “A Mhamó!” or “A Mhóraí!” for “Grandmother!” in direct address.  Or “A Dhaideo!” for “Grandfather!” in direct address.  The pronunciations for those are “uh WAH-moh,” “un WOR-ee,” and “uh ƔADJ-yoh!”  The symbol /Ɣ/ stands for a sound not found in English, similar to the “ch” of “chutzpah,” but lower down in the throat and gentler.  Irish-speaking children would naturally use the direct address form, just as they would with the names of their friends and family members (a Shinéad, a Shéamais, srl.).


Next, greetings!

  1. Deir Tusa ‘Slán,’ Deirimse ‘Haló’ (Saying ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’ in Irish, Cuid a hAon: Hello) Posted on 24. May, 2013 by róislín in Irish Language

A baker’s dozen of greetings in Irish, ranging from the traditional blessings to ‘Haigh!‘ (sounds like “Hi!”) and “Haló” or “Heileo.”  And some musings on whether we can get away with saying “*Bhádap?” Or would it be “*Mhádap?”  Or is there a way to “whaddupize” the Irish colloquial greeting, “Aon scéal?” (lit. any story, i.e. any news).

And part two introduces six ways to use the word “slán” to say “goodbye” and when to use it for actually talking about health (“sláinte“).  The continuation is Deir Tusa ‘Slán,’ Deirimse ‘Haló’ (Saying ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’ in Irish, Cuid a Dó: Goodbye), (Posted on 27. May, 2013 by róislín in Irish Language)


Christmas gives us an interesting way to practice the different ways to say “woman” in Irish:

8.  ‘Bean’ or ‘Ban’ or ‘Mná’ or “mBan’: How to Say ‘Woman’ (Women) in Irish (just in time for Nollaig na mBan on 6 January), Posted on 05. Jan, 2014 by róislín in Irish Language

How does talking about Christmas in Irish help us practice Irish grammar?  With the phrase “Nollaig na mBan” (lit. Christmas of the Women), we see how “bean” (woman) changes to “na mban” (“na” for “of the” and “ban” for “of women” and eclipsis, which means we add the “m” and stop pronouncing the “b.”  Huh?  Just think of Slievenamon (Sliabh na mBan) in Co. Tipperary.  Its name means “the Mountain of (the) Women,” referring back to a Fionn Mac Cumhaill legend.  We don’t say “Slieve-nam-bon” in English and we don’t pronounce the “b” of “mban” in Irish, which after all, is the source of the current anglicized place name.  As for “mná,” léigh leat!


Everyone loves to talk about the weather, so we have …

 7. Na Séasúir (The Seasons, in Irish)

Na Ceithre Shéasúr (

Na Ceithre Shéasúr ( Posted on 21. Sep, 2011 by róislín in Irish Language

The phrase “the four seasons” doesn’t just refer to the luxury hotel chain or the American pop/rock band.  The term also refers to the changing temperatures as we proceed through the calendar year.  Winter, spring, summer and fall (autumn) – na ceithre shéasúr.  The word for one of the seasons actually means “harvest,” logically enough.  An cuimhin leat é?  Or the other three?


Some day I’ll do a little survey — are Irish language learners or speakers more likely to have dogs or cats as peataí.  But meanwhile, I lot of people seemed to enjoy this:

 6. Cats Galore in Irish (Cait, Caitíní, Piscíní, Pisíní, srl.), Posted on 04. Dec, 2013 by róislín in Irish Language

Lots of different ways to say “cat” in Irish, plus several different types of cats (tabby, tom, etc.) and a very brief discussion of cait sa spás amuigh (cats in outer space).


We’ve checked off our alliteration with “grandparents” and “greetings,” so how about “grá” now?  It’s actually used in Irish English, as well as in Irish itself.  One recent example was Lorna Siggins’ article “Humpback with grá for Irish waters may have found a mate / ‘Boomerang’ observed feeding off southern Irish coast over ten seasons since 2001′ (, Tue, Oct 27, 2015, 08:30).  But assuming we’re talking person to person, not whale to whale, we might use some phrases from the next blog:

5. Saying “I love you” in Irish and Minding Your Velar Fricatives, Posted on 09. Oct, 2011 by róislín in Irish Language

Irish rarely actually uses the verb “to love” in Irish but it has many ways of expressing love and affection, mostly with nouns, like saying, “You are my love” (Mo ghrá thú), based on the word “grá” (love).  Check this blog post out if you’re going to be doing wedding cakes, tattoos, or jewelry inscriptions anytime soon.  Or if you’ll simply be whispering baothbhriathra mealltacha into someone’s ear. 


From love to counting (Let me count the ways!), we segue to

  1. Irish Numbers 1-100 (with pronunciation),,

Posted on 30. Mar, 2010 by róislín in Irish Language

Numbers are always a popular topic and here we have them up to 100 with the pronunciation.  The forms given here can be used for telling time, giving phone numbers and addresses, reading lottery tickets, saying bus or train route numbers, or if you’re so inclined, reciting strings of mystery numbers, as in ABC’s Lost (4, 8, 15, 16, etc.).  Why is that such a big deal?  Well, for example, Irish has three different ways of saying “four” — a ceathair a chlog (for time), ceithre chlog (four clocks, using “ceithre” for counting things), and ceathrar castóirí cloig (four clockwinders, if anyone still has that occupation, using “ceathrar” for counting people.  As for clockwinders, they got a dubious, well downright lascivious, rap in the traditional folksong, “The German Clockwinder,” ach sin scéal eile.   Anyway, you can’t wind a digital clock!

Speaking of counting people, we could also add ceathrar clogairí (four bell-ringers) and ceathrar clogadán (four dunces) and ceathrar cloigeog (four silly people, when you’re not simply saying “ceathrar amadán,” four fools), but I think the applications for those are even more limited.  Come to think of it, we could also add “ceithre chloigín” (four little bells or clocks, note that we’re back to the “ceithre” form, because we’re back to counting things not people), and for good measure, we could also, in another context, count “ceithre chloigín” for “four clots of dung hanging from the hind quarters of a sheep.”

For more on numbers, please check the search box at for phrases like “uimhreacha pearsanta,” “maoluimhreacha,” “bunuimhreacha,” and “orduimhreacha.”


All those numbers probably mean that someone graduated this year, so let’s congratulate them in the next blog:

  1. How To Congratulate Someone in Irish: Comhghairdeas leat, a Katie, srl.,Posted on 09. Aug, 2012 by róislín in Irish Language

Meánscoil?  Ardscoil?  Ollscoil?  These days even naíscoileanna may have a searmanas bronnta céimeanna.

So what do you say to the céimíLéigh leat le fáil amach!  And then there’s the world of sports or other arenas in which one may receive an award, like Katie Taylor, the Irish Gold Medal Olympian, who was featured in this blog post.  Many congratulations to go around!


Often the person graduating is someone we love — a family member or do stócach nó do chailín.  So the next blog might be helpful:

  1. Deich nDóigh (10 Ways) le ‘I Love You’ a Rá i nGaeilge, Posted on 08. Feb, 2013 by róislín in Irish Language

Earlier in this top ten list, we already had love as a theme, but of course, it could inspire, dozens or hundreds of blogs even.  So this post gives us 10 ways to say “I love you.”  Probably the most widely used is “Mo ghrá thú,” which, as discussed in the blog, doesn’t use the verb “to love.”  How does that work?  Léigh leat le fáil amach!

seanmháthair agus garmhac, By Catherine Scott (Matti) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

seanmháthair agus garmhac, By Catherine Scott (Matti) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

So, if “love” showed up twice as a favorite blog theme, so did “grandparents,” with the following blog the most viewed of all:

  1. Pronunciation tips for Mamó, Móraí, and Daideo (Grandma/Granny and Grandpa), Posted on 05. Jun, 2009 byróislínin Irish Language

Pronunciations for the children’s terms for their grandparents, Mamó, Móraí, and Daideo, including the direct address forms (A Mhamó!, A Mhóraí!, and A Dhaideo!)

As promised then, grandparents, greetings, and grá, and many more other topics for learning or refreshing your Irish.  These were the top topics for 2015.  Let’s see what the bliain nua brings.  Bí linn!  — Slán go fóill agus Athbhliain faoi shéan agus faoi mhaise duit! – Róislín

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  1. Bryan S:

    I thought “A Dhaideo!” was pronounced “a yahd-OH”.

    • róislín:

      @Bryan S A Bhriain, a chara,
      Thank you for writing in. The key thing in pronunciation for “A Dhaideo” is that the “dh” is nothing like the “dh” we see very occasionally in English, mostly in words borrowed from Hindi or Sanskrit (dharma, dhobi, dhoti, etc.). That said, there are two ways that “dh” can be pronounced in Irish (and sometimes, of course, it is essentially silent, as in “ag casadh amhráin” or it may serve mainly to influence vowel pronunciation, as in “Tadhg”). Irish has a “broad dh” (leathan) and a “slender dh” (caol). I hope I’m not repeating too much stuff you already know. If so, I just thought I’d clarify why I gave the transcription that I did. I used the “gamma” sign /Ɣ/ which is the IPA symbol for the voiced velar fricative sound of the Irish broad “dh.” It’s a tricky sound to represent in a rough transcription because it isn’t in English, and it’s not in the “standard” form of a lot of the other European languages that most learners I know speak (French, Spanish, Italian, German, Welsh, etc.). It is in some dialect pronunciations, like some pronunciations of “agua” (Spanish) or “sagen” (German), but not in the standard forms of these languages, at least not in the classes I took in them or as typically taught. I usually describe it as similar to the “broad ch” in Irish, like “a Cháit” or “ocht,” but it’s lower in the throat, and, I feel, gentler. This broad “dh” is in sharp contrast to the slender “dh” in phrases like “a Dheaide” or “a Dhiarmaid.” This slender “dh” is much like a “y” in English, so I usually transcribe those two phrases as “uh YADJ-uh” and “uh YEER-mwidj.” There is a variation of “Daideo,” which is “Deaideo,” starting with a slender “d.” I haven’t seen it that often, but in direct address I would transcribe it as “A Dheaideo” [uh YADJ-yoh], more like the initial y-sound you suggest.

      I transcribed the middle “d” as “dj” because it’s slender and the “j” is typically used to represent that difference from a broad “d” (like the difference between “dúil” and “diúil).” Some people use a lower-case superscript “y” to indicate the difference and the Irish-modified IPA system uses the slanted tic mark (´). I transcribed the second syllable with an initial “y” because I hear some carryover of the slenderness of the middle “d” onto the “eo” vowel sound.

      At any rate. that’s why I used the transcription that I did. I don’t use the IPA symbols that much in my rough transcriptions, because it includes a number of new symbols for people to learn, and sometimes I think it’s overkill for a learner who just wants a hands-on relatively transparent pronunciation guide. For example, in the Irish-modified IPA the “w” sound (of “bhfuil,” for example) would be transcribed /v/ and the “v” sound (as in “bheo”) would be transcribed as /v´/. It seems a little cumbersome. Sometimes, though, for sounds not in English or other major European languages, there’s no other choice but to use IPA. Or suggest that the learner listen to a native or fluent speaker. And then you’d have to make sure that that speaker knows that you want the “dh” of “a Dhaideo,” not the “dh” of “a Dheaideo” or “Tadhg” or “a Thaidhg” or “casadh” or “todhchaí.” Obviously, though, listening to native speakers is a wonderful way to learn pronunciation for any language.

      Well, I hope this clarified why I transcribed the phrase the way I did. Thanks again for reading the blog. Róislín

  2. Bryan S:

    Wow, GRMMA for the detailed answer and indeed the blogs which I read avidly. You may laugh when you learn my source, but I’m used to hearing this phrase frequently in the cartoon Ben 10 which is shown on TG4/Cula4 in Ireland but I think not shown on their online player due to rights restrictions. The voice actor is I believe from Dublin, so not native but certainly fluent as he is in many Gaeilge programs. So, dála an scéil, there are no fotheidil and I assumed I was hearing the first form (‘a Dhaideo’) but was likely in fact the other form you mention (‘a Dheaideo’).

    • róislín:

      @Bryan S Glad to hear that the answer was useful. Like many many Irish words, there are many variations (madra/madadh, etc.) aside from frequently having two or more words that mean basically the same thing (báisteach/fearthainne). It’s part of what makes the language endlessly interesting, but I think it can be challenging to beginners because it may seem like every other person you talk to may use a different word for something than what you originally learned. Other pairs of words are interesting because they show the changing times (banaltra/altra). I’m also glad to read that you enjoy reading the blog. I’m looking forward to another year of writing tuilleadh blaganna.

  3. Seosamh O Corrain:

    Is brea liom a bheith ag leamh iad seo. Ta me ag foghlaim Gaeilge ag an am seo. Go raibh maith agat.

    • róislín:

      @Seosamh O Corrain A Sheosaimh, a chara,
      Tá áthas orm gur breá leat na blaganna agus go bhfuil tú ag foghlaim Gaeilge. Go raibh maith agat as scríobh isteach agus scríobh arís má tá ceist ar bith agat faoi ábhar na mblaganna.

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