Irish Story

Urban and rural scenes of Ireland

 Irish harp



The destruction of the native Irish-speaking aristocracy in the 17th Century had a disastrous long-term effect on people's attitudes to the Irish language. English became the language of legal, political and administrative life, and overwhelmingly the language of commerce. English was the language of literacy, and in the course of time became the language of liturgy also. Marginalised from all the vital areas of public life, the Irish language became associated with defeat, poverty and ignorance.

It was not until the 20th Century that a strong revival began. Road signs in the Republic were required to have the Gaelic as well as English, and in an area around Galway, known as the Gaeltacht, English was not always included. A recent ruling by the Irish Government seems designed to frustrate tourists – Only Irish will now appear on many of the signs. With a strong presence on TV, Radio and in the print media, with more favourable public and official attitudes and with a booming education sector, Irish is probably in a stronger position now than at any time in the past 100 years.

The Irish version of Gaelic is incomprehensible to the eyes of native English speakers. To many new arrivals on the ferry the sign “ Dun Laoghaire ” looks as though it should be pronounced “Dun Lay-o-gare”, but the correct way to say it is “Dun Lee-uh-ry”. In the hotel register, the name ahead of theirs may be “Naimh” – this is pronounced “Neev” or “Nay-eev”, not the expected “Name”. Most of us are used to the “sh” pronunciation of the “s” in Sean but find it puzzling that the “Sea” is “Shaw” in Sean but “Shay” in “Seamus”. An excellent site which explains how Irish pronunciation works is Standing Stones.

To get started, here are a few Irish phrases and words, with pronunciation guide and translation for each.


PHRASE: Eireann go Brach!
PRONOUNCED: air-inn go braw
MEANING: Ireland forever!


PHRASE: Cead mile failte romhat!
PRONOUNCED: kade meela fall-cheh row-itt
MEANING: A hundred thousand welcomes!


PHRASE: Nollaig Shona duit
PRONOUNCED: nullig hunna dwit
MEANING: Happy Christmas to you


PHRASE: Dia duit ar maidin
PRONOUNCED: dee/ah dwit air mod/ging
MEANING: Good morning


PHRASE: Beannachtai na Feile Padraig
PRONOUNCED: bann/ockt/tee nih fail/eh pawd/rig
MEANING: Happy Saint Patrick's Day


PHRASE: Siochan leat
PRONOUNCED: shee/oh/con lat
MEANING: Peace be with you


PHRASE: Slán agus beannacht leat
PRONOUNCED: slawn og/us ban/ockt lat
MEANING: Goodbye and blessings on you


PHRASE: Oiche mhaith, codladh samh
PRONOUNCED: eehah wot, culla sovh
MEANING: Good night, sleep well


PHRASE: Faol saol agat agus bas in Eirinn
PRONOUNCED: fweel sail ah/gut ag/us boss in air/in
MEANING: Long life to you and death in Ireland.


PHRASE: Oíche mhaith
PRONOUNCED: e-ha whawt
MEANING: Good night


PHRASE: Go n-éirí on bóthar leat
PRONOUNCED: go nigh-ree on boat-or lat ('nigh' as in 'the end is nigh')
MEANING: May the road rise with you


PHRASE: Fear/Bean ar do mhian agat
PRONOUNCED: far/ban air duh vian ah/gut
MEANING: A husband/wife of your choice to you


PHRASE: bean mo chroi
PRONOUNCED: bann muh kree
MEANING: Woman of my heart


PHRASE: Ta tu go halainn
PRONOUNCED: taw two guh haul-inn
MEANING: You are beautiful






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