Notes on Irish Words and Usages

This work is a compilation, published in 1926, of comments by PUL in the Cork Weekly Examiner 1910-15 on readers queries about sentences in his works. Sg. refers to his Scéalaíochta as an mBíobla Naofa, which many of the examples relate to.


Abair, has two senses. It means “say,” i.e., “speak these words.” It also means “bid.” Abair leis teacht, bid him come, or tell him to come. There is a very common expression, Abair é! which means “You may say that!” “Not a doubt about it!”

Tá abartha agam (Sg. II. 2). I have made an assertion. Whereas tá ráite agam means merely that I have said what I wished to say.

Adhal, a large three-pronged fork, used for the purposes of lifting pieces of meat out of a boiler.

Adhart, a bolster.

Ámharach, advantageous, profitable, beneficial.

Adhlacaim, bury. Áit adhlactha, a burial-place.

Aerach. Not at all the same as the English “airy.” It means unstable of character; prone to the pursuit of vain enjoyments.

Ag, with the verbal is quite commonly used to express a purpose, especially after verbs of motion. Chun teacht ag ceannach tuilleadh arbhair (Sg. I. 100). Thánadar dhá iarraidh orainn dul, for the purpose of asking us to go.

Aghaidh. Tímpall na bliana 830, nuair a bhí aghaidh na Lochlannach ar Cíll Dara, etc. The “attention” of the Danes.

Agairt, revenge. Gur dhá agairt sin uirthi a bhí an Tiarna (Sg. III. 315), visiting that upon her, punishing her for that. Nár agraidh Dia air é! May God forgive him!

Agam. Tá grá thar bárr ageam mhac Sicem don inín seo agaibhse (Sg. I. 69). This is pronounced as if written ageam bac. The aspirated m is sounded like a b.

Agus. Seacht ndiasa agus iad go breá agus go lán. Seven ears which were very fine and very full. Note how simply the English relative construction may be turned into Irish by means of agus. Bhí fear ann agus I. ab ainm do, whose name was I. The English words “notwithstanding the fact that” may frequently be expressed in Irish by the single word agus; e.g., Sg. IV. 393-4: Níl aon trua ag éinne agaibh dom agus me ’na leithéid de chás.

Aibidh, ripe. Applied to the eyes means “wide awake.”

Aicíd, a disease.

Aiceanta, natural. Namhaid aiceanta, a natural enemy; such for example, as the wolf-dog was to the wolf.

Aicme, a class of people. The word is often, not always, used in a disparaging sense. Plu. aicmeacha.

Aidhm, an object in view, a pursuit, a purpose.

Aigne, drochaigne, malice, evilmindedness.

Adhsáideach, “handy”.

Áil. Ní háil leis (Sg. II. 9), he does not like to; he will not; he is determined not to. It is stronger than ní maith leis and than ní toil leis. It is like the English “It is against his grain.” Dá mb’áil leat, if you will; in the sense, “I wish you would.” Cad ab áil leat díomsa? What do you want of me? i.e. What business have you of me? (cf. Cad tá uait ormsa? What do you want from me?) B’áil le gach fear acu gur aige féin ba cheart an tiarnas a bheith. Each man of them insisted. B’áil leis gur mise chaithfead é ’ dhéanamh. The force is … Nothing would satisfy him but that I should do it.

Ailteóireacht, any sort of rough play (“horse-play”), especially if it involves a degree of ingenuity.

Aimhréidh, disordered, entangled. One trying to unravel a tangled skein of thread might say Tá sé in aimhréidh orm.

Aimsím. D’aimsigh sí tarainne, she got a nail (Sg. III. 267). The idea of “procuring” is in both the Irish and English words. Do fuair would not express the meaning here. Aimsím means the procuring of something by design.

Ainbhfiosach, ignorant. The word is used in the sense of being deficient in the knowledge of social duties or in common politeness. Fear th’ainbhiosa, a man of your ignorance.

Aincheart, injustice. Is cuma nú aincheart lomcheart. But, ana-cheart, very just. This ana is a separate word, not a prefix. Ana-shlí le faid, a great way for length, i.e. a very long way.

Ainm. Asot ainm na cathrach. The omission of the verb in such sentences as this is quite common. It is a great convenience.

Airchinneach, the manager of a piece of church property.

Áird, a point of the compass. As gach áird, from all quarters.

Airfideacht, a musical performance. It seems to have been something like “opera.”

Airím, hear. An airíonn tú? is the usual mode of asking for a person’s attention. Or, a leithéid seo, when one wishes to tell another that he has some communication to make to him.

Airiú. This expression indicates that the statement which it introduces is spoken with great energy and with intense conviction.

Áirnéis, chattels; a person’s belongings.

Aisce, a free gift; a present. Plu. aisceacha. Rud do leogaint in aisce, to let a thing go unpunished.

Ait, curious, comical, absurd.

Áit. Ní raibh an áit … ní raibh sé (Sg. I. 68). Here, although áit is a fem. noun, the pronoun which represents it is masculine, because it refers, not to the noun “place”, but to the thing, that is, to the place itself. Is maith an áit ’na rabhais (Sg. III. 345). This is the equivalent of the English “Well done!” or, “Bravo!” The phrase is applied not only to a well-timed remark, but also to a well-timed action of any description, an adroit move in a game, for example. Sometimes, maith an áit i rabhais, or go rabhais. The expression is used in a bitterly satirical way when a person attempts to be clever and only succeeds in making a blunder.

Aiteas, intense delight. Áthas is merely pleasure.

Aithis, a disgrace; a deformity, moral or physical.

Aithne. (1) Knowledge—Chuir sí aithne orthu, she came to know them. (2) A commandment. Úll na haithne, “the forbidden fruit.” The form aithin is also in use; Dob aithin dom duine, etc. Aithin is a substantive; it means “a known person”. Níl d’eólas ná d’aithne agam air. Eólas, knowledge about him, i.e., concerning him. Aithne, knowledge of him, the knowledge which a personal acquaintance with him would give.

Aithreachas. Regret plus self-reproach. Remorse.

Aithrí, repentance. Aithrí ’ dhéanamh sa choir. Note preposition. Ré aithrí, a time for repentance. The phrase has come to mean “respite” in a general sense.

Aithris, narrate, tell. It does not mean “recite”. When followed by ar it means “imitate.”

Ál, a brood; a litter; a number of young brought forth at a birth.

Amach. Note the strength of as an dtír amach as compared with amach as an dtír.

Amanarthar, the day after tomorrow. Amainniris, the day after that.

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About dj1969

at the conservative end of the libertarian spectrum
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