Irish Language Blog

Trí Bhratach (Éire, Meiriceá, An Bhreatain Bheag) agus a nDathanna (Flag Colors, Cuid 1) Posted by on Jul 4, 2012 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Once again, we’re at that time of year, i Meiriceá ar a laghad, when we seem to have flagmania.  So it seems to be tráthúil to discuss the Irish and American flags, as we have touched on before (naisc thíos), and this time I’ll also add beagán tráchtaireachta ar bhratach na Breataine Bige.  [NB: Iarsmaoineamh, the Welsh flag will have to be the next blog, since this has become “i bhfad níos faide” than I thought it would be!]

So let’s discuss the colors again:

A. Bratach na hÉireann:

Bratach na hÉireann

1. There are two main words for “green” in Irish but the official one for the flag is “uaine” (according to Bunreacht na hÉireann and also Roinn an Taoisigh).  What’s the other?  Tá an freagra (A1) thíos.


Curiously though, the website of Roinn an Taoisigh, in describing the flag, uses the phrase “glasuaithne.”  This is both an example of the old spelling (the silent -th- of “uaithne” is normally no longer written) and an interesting example of a compound word where both elements essentially mean “green” but the combined meaning is “vivid green.”    “Old spelling” here refers to the Irish orthography system until the 1950s, when the “spelling reform” was implemented, eliminating many (but not all!) silent letters.

The actual publication by Roinn an Taoisigh, called “An Bhratach Náisiúnta,” however, uses the term as it appears in the modern spelling in Bunreacht na hÉireann, namely “uaine” (not “uaithne” and not “glasuaithne“).

By the way, if the Irish flag is draped over a coffin, the green panel is the one that is ag ceann na cónra.

2. The white panel of the Irish flag is described as “bán,” straightforwardly enough, but it is worth noting that there are at least two other words for “white” in Irish.  Cad iad?  Freagra (A2) thíos.

3. The outer panel is officially designated as “flannbhuí” ( a compound word consisting of flann, red, blood-red + buí, yellow).   In Irish, the word “oráiste” is primarily used for the fruit itself, or as an explicit political reference (except when an Orangeman, “Oráisteach,” is referred to as a “Fear Buí,”  the word “buí” being literally “yellow”),” ach sin scéal eile.  Ar ndóigh, tá cineál eile de “Yellow Man” (Yallaman) ann freisin ach sin rud eile ar fad, taifí déanta le síoróip órga.  Fiosrach faoin milseán sin?  Seo  nasc

By the way (a dó!), I hunted high and low for the official Irish for the “fly end” of a flag but found nothing, not even in the Taoiseach‘s website.  I assume it would be “ceann eitilte,” but if there’s any Irish-speaking brateolaí or meirgire out there who might know for sure, bí i dteagmháil linn, le do thoil!  [13 Iúil 2012 nuashonrúchán: “ciumhais eitilte” (flying edge), moladh ó Áine (an bhean a scríobhann Mise Áine, agus “ciumhais iochtair” (lower edge) má tá an  bhratach ingearach in ionad a bheith cothrománach — someday we’ll deal with the leathdhosaen or so other meanings of “ciumhais” – lá éigin – R]

B. Bratach Mheiriceá

Bratach na Stát Aontaithe

1.  Which of the various words for “red” in Irish do you think applies best: rua [ROO-uh], dearg [DJAR-ug], flanndearg [FLAHN-DJAR-ug], or corcardhearg [KOR-kur-YAR-ug, note the softening of the ‘-dh-‘ sound].  Freagra B1 thíos.

2. For “white,” the same choice will apply as for Bratach na hÉireann, which was …  (Freagra B2)  An cuimhin leat é?)

3. The word for “blue” is fairly straightforward here, “gorm.”  Anyone remember the name of the specific shade of blue designated for flag manufacturers or printers of official American flag memorabilia (Freagra B3)?  Leid: the structure of the phrase is similar to another color mentioned in this blog.  And no, it’s not “gorm ríoga.”  I don’t think that would have gone over too well with the tírghráthóirí in am na Réabhlóide i Meiriceá.

By the way (a trí!), what happened to those country names when we said, “the flag of Ireland,” “the flag of America,” and “the flag of Wales.”  All three switch to ár seanchara, an tuiseal ginideach, to show possession.   But for na mionrudaí, we’ll have to wait for an blag i ndiaidh an bhlag seo chugainn.  Hmm, could I coin a phrase for that, “an t-arú bhlag“?  B’fhéidir, since words are being coined a mile a minute these days, what with the nominalization of briathra and the verbification (or verbing) of ainmfhocail.  Sometimes that yields strange effects, as you might recall from Calvin and Hobbes, “Verbing weirds language,” which I will further “weirdify” by translating it into Irish as, let’s see, “Diamhraíonn briathrú teanga.”  Doubt you’ll find “Diamhraíonn” as a verb or “briathrú” as a gerund in most Irish dictionaries, but hopefully the drift is catchable.   Anyway,  SGF, Róislín


A. 1. “uaine” is used for the flag; “glas” is used for most living or natural things, like duilleoga or féar

A.2. The two other Irish words for “white” are “geal,” and “fionn,” but these usually mean “bright” and “fair/blond” respectively.

B.1. The most basic word, “dearg,” is the best choice and appears with reasonable frequency when Bratach Mheiriceá is being discussed in Irish (not all that often, i mo thaithí féin).  “Rua” is coppery-red and is used for pingneacha and for gruaig and fionnadh, as well as for actual coppery hues.  “Flanndearg” is “fiery red.” and “corcardhearg” is “crimson” (lit. purple-red).  Technically, the red of the American flag is called “Old Glory Red,” a specific hue, and in a previous blog (2 Iúil 2011) I dubbed it “dearg na Seanghlóire,” based on leasainm na brataí náisiúnta i Meiriceá.  Gluaisín: fionnadh, fur; gruaig, hair; leasainm, nickname

B.2. bán

B.3. gorm na Seanghlóire

Gluaisín don athfhriotal ó Calvin and Hobbes: briathar, (the noun meaning…) “a verb,” here with an improvised gerund (-ing type) ending , so becoming “briathrú“; diamhair, mysterious, weird, (here with an improvised verbal ending, present tense)

Naisc do bhlaganna eile ar an ábhar seo (Bratacha, Dathanna, srl.): (2 Iúil 2009) (26 Meitheamh 2011) (30 Meitheamh 2011) (2 Iúil 2011)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Keep learning Irish with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Mise Áine:

    ‘Ciumhais eitilte’ nó ‘Ciumhais íochtair’ b’fhéidir?

    • róislín:

      @Mise Áine Go raibh maith agat, a Áine. Sin smaoineamh maith. Níos mó mar “edge” ná mar “end.”

Leave a comment: