Gaelic Phrases:
Impress Your Friends, Confuse Your Neighbors


Is e blas na maraig a feuchainn

Taste and see!

For that special ocassion or for everyday use, from a traditional wedding toast to something rude to mutter, Gaelic has phrases that anyone can master. The following are divided by subject and situation, and were originally developed for use within an 18th century re-enactment camp. Still, some things never really change.

Introductions: Calling People Names

When a name is used in direct address (vocative case), it aspirates (unless it begins with a vowel or L R N) and gains the prefix a'. The name Eilidh (pron. Aylee) does not change, but Mairi (pron. Mahree) becomes A' Mhairi (pron. ah Vahree in Scots/ah Wahree in Irish), Séumas becomes A' Shéumais (pron. ah Hamish). And you will note that the masculine name gains an extra vowel in the last syllable. This is because the final consonant in a masculine name used in direct address must be a slender consonant and if it isn't, then an i or an e is inserted just before the last consonant.

Adjectives should, of course, agree with the name being modified. Feminine descriptions will aspirate in Scottish names, as in Màiri Mhor (Big Mary). Séumas Beag (Little James) does not aspirate. Gaelic adjectives usually follow the noun or name being modified, but some adjectives come first, on example being sean (old). Sean buachaill (old boy) is the Irish term for those ancient fellows one sees sitting with pints of stout in the corner of pubs. When a name follows a title, the title aspirates and the name does not, as in Bhràthair Pàdhraic (Brother Patrick).

Gaelic naming practices include a patrinomic system, in that instead of a surname, the father's name is used, as in MacDonald (son of Donald). The O' as in O'Connor means of. Often this was further distinguished by adding the man's or his father's occupation. The first name is usually that of a grandfather for a man, a grandmother for a woman. Subsequent children would carry the names of aunts, uncles, but rarely those of their own parents while still living. A woman kept her maiden name (ie. that of her father) even after marriage. This system remains in place today in the islands of Scotland and works very well in small, rural communities. One island has even produced a phone directory based on nicknames, another Gaelic naming tradition. In an area where every man might be named some variant of Donald MacDonald, many are given nicknames, often times in childhood, with which they are stuck for the rest of their lives.

For those of you who were looking for the rude stuff to call people, keep going. It is somewhere further down after phrases involving alcohol and the drinking thereof.

Saying Yes and No

Well, the short answer is that there is no way to say 'yes' and 'no' in Gaelic. The verb is repeated in either the positive or the negative, as appropriate. The Gaelic seadh (pron. shug) is sort of the general agreement (as in, un-huh).

In Gaelic, the definite article (ie, the) is an, am, or na depending the gender and number of the noun. There is no indefinite article, so for "a table" the word bórd means both "table" and "a table."

Gaelic Phonetics English
Co tha thu? ko ha oo? Who are you?
Mise (name) misha I am (name)
A bheil thu Mairi? avail oo mahree? Are you Mary?
Tha/Chan eil ha/han yell I am/I am not
Co as thu? co as oo? Where are you from?
As mise (name) as misha I am from (name)

Well, so far, so good. Now, where are things? And what do you want? Two great questions with lots of interchangable answers.

Gaelic Phonetics English
Caite bheil? cawcha vayl? Where is?
an seo ansho here
an sin anshin there
De tha thu ag iarraidh? jay ha oo gearrie? What do you want?
A bheil thu ag iarraidh...? avail oo gearrie Are you wanting...?
Tha mi ag iarraidh... ha me gearrie.. I want ...
seo show this
sinn shin that
bean ban a woman
fear feer a man
caora kuhrah a sheep

We can get into more nouns later. Let's move on to two great pastimes -- eating and drinking.

Gaelic Phonetics English
A bheil an t-acras ort? avail an tahcras orst? Are you hungry?
Tha an t-acras orm. ha an tahcras orum I am hungry
A bheil am pathadh ort? avail am pahhag orst? Are you thirsty?
Tha am pathadh orm. ha am pahhag orum I am thirsty.
De tha thu ag ol? jay ha oo gohl What are you drinking?
Tha mi ag ol ... ha me gohl ... I am drinking ...
uisge beatha ooshka baya whiskey
leann lyawn beer

And after enough of that we reach the point of asking things like...

Gaelic Phonetics English
De tha i ag radh? jay ha ee grah What is she saying?
Tha an deoch orm. ha an jock orum I'm drunk.
Feumaidh mi falbh. famee mee falv I must leave.
Bithidh samhach. beee savach Be quiet.
Tha i gle ard. ha ee glay ard She is very loud.
Tha i ag radh gu bheil sinn boin. ha ee grah gu vail shin boin She says we are cows.
galla dhur galla yuur stubborn bitch
galla bhaoghalta galla vuu-uhlta stupid bitch
Trobhad tro-wut Come
Greas ort grass orsht Hurry up (singular)
Stad/stadaibh stad/stad-eev Stop (sing/plu)
Thalla halla Go away
Ann mionaid awn meenutch In a minute
Ceart ma tha keyarst ma ha Alright then
Ceart gu leor keyarst goo lyor Right enough
De ghabhas sibh? jay yavas shiv What will you have?
Is cuma. iss kooma It doesn't matter.


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