Irish Language Blog

Vocabulary and Pronunciation Guide for the Recent Blog: Cé mhéad “Shades of Gray” (Grey … Liath … Léith … de Grae, srl.)? Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

In the last blog, we zoomed (zúmáil muid!) through a fair amount of vocabulary to take some steps towards translating the general phrase “shades of gray” and the title of the recent book and upcoming movie, Fifty Shades of Grey.  So this blog will take a closer look at some of those words and their pronunciation.  Specifically, we’ll look at the following: imeartas, sloinne, imir, doimhneacht, liath (léith), dearg (deirg), gorm (goirm), Ó Liatháin (Uí Liatháin), Mac Giolla Riabhaigh (Mhic Ghiolla Riabhaigh), and Mac Cathail Riabhaigh (Mhic Chathail Riabhaigh).

imeartas: based on the verb “imir” (play), but note that the “r” is now broad.  “Imir” ends in a slender “r,” a sound I’ve been representing in this blog with “rzh” as in “IM-irzh“).  This is also the “r” of “Éire,” “Máire,” and “fir” (men).  The broad “r” of “imeartas” is “flapped” (like the beginning of a trill), but, admittedly, the trill sound is a little reduced since it’s right next to another consonant (“t”).

Imeartas” can mean “playfulness” and “trickery,” as well as “play.”  Followed by “focal” (of words), it means “word play” or “pun.”

sloinne: surname.  The “-oi-” in Irish is usually pronounced “ih,” as in “it” or “in,” not like the “oi” of English “oil” or “foil.”  So “sloinne” can be represented as “SLIN-yuh.”  You may well have seen the plural of this word if you’ve ever delved into Irish genealogy; it’s “sloinnte” (SLIN-tchuh).

imir: this can either be the verb “play” or a noun meaning “tint,” “shade,” or “tinge.”  Either way, it’s pronounced the same: IM-irzh, with the “-rzh” representing the Irish slender “r,” a sound not typically found in English.  The Czech “r” in the first name “Jiří,” as in  “Jiří Trnka,” is about the same, and can be heard at  As for the near vowellessness of the Czech surname “Trnka,” I’ll leave that to the Slavic language specialists to explain.  Who was Jiří Trnka (1912-1969) anyway?  Puipéadóir an-chlúiteach agus stiúrthóir scannán ab ea é.  He was sometimes known as “the Walt Disney of Eastern Europe.”

doimhneacht: shade, depth, deep place. Pronounced “DIV-nyukht,” this word is related to “domhain” (“deep” as an adjective, in “poll domhain,” mar shampla) and to “domhain” (as a noun: depth, abyss, inmost part, etc.).  Both as a noun and as an adjective, “domhain,” has additional forms that switch to the same slender “-mh” that we see in “doimhneacht.”  These include “i ndoimhneacha an tsléibhe” (in the innermost part of the mountain) and “leicne doimhne” (sunken, hollow, or “deep” cheeks).  Note the slender pronunciation: i ndoimhneacha [in-IV-nyukh-uh] and doimhne [DIV-nyuh].

The last blog referred to several colors besides gray, each with an additional form in the genitive case:

liath [LEE-uh], gray color; léith [lyay], of the color gray.

dearg [DJAR-ug, note that it’s 2 syllables], red color; deirg [DJERzh-ig, also 2 syllables], of red color

gorm [GOR-um, another 2-syllable word], blue color; goirm [GIRzh-im], of blue color

Of course, liath, dearg, and gorm, can also be used as adjectives, but that would have to be ábhar blag eile!

We saw “liath” in the surname “’Ó Liatháin” [oh LEE-uh-haw-in], and its genitive form: Uí Liatháin (of Ó Liatháin).  “” is pronounced “ee” and is routinely used as the genitive case of “Ó,” as in “Áras Mháirtín Uí Chadhain” (from the surname “Ó Cadhain“) and “Corn Uí Dhubhthaigh” (The O’Duffy Cup, for camogie, from the surname “Ó Dubhthaigh,” sometimes now spelled “Ó Dufaigh“).

And that leaves us with the two of longest surnames in Irish, long because they each are made of three separate words, instead of the more typical two words.

Mac Giolla Riabhaigh [mahk GyIL-uh REE-uh-vee] and its genitive case Mhic Ghiolla Riabhaigh [VIK YIL-uh REE-uh-vee]

Mac Cathail Riabhaigh [mahk KAH-hil REE-uh-vee] and its genitive case Mhic Chathail Riabhaigh [VIK KHAH-hil REE-uh-vee]

There always seems to be questions about pronunciation where learning Irish is concerned, so I hope this helped as a “blag coimhdeachta” (or maybe I should just say, “comhbhlag“) to the last one (nasc thíos).

Sonas na hurlabhraíochta ort!  SGF — Róislín 

Nasc don bhlag eile faoi Fifty Shades of Grey sa tsraith seo: (22 Iuil 2014)

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