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Bunús na Gaeilge - Basic Irish Language

There is no other way to revive Irish than for a crowd of people to spread it.
- Douglas Hyde

On these pages, we will make a valiant effort to provide you with useful words and phrases. One of our subscribers, Aideen, grew up speaking Irish at her mother's knee. She has generously agreed to help us with our lessons. We have put her comments and pronunciations in green.

Note: The spellings and pronunciations used by Aideen are based in her own natural use of Connemara Irish but they have been kept simple, so as to be readily understood in any part of Ireland where there are differences in the language.
For example, the word 'feicfidh' is used only in Connemara Irish; in Leinster, Ulster and Munster the word is 'cífidh'. There are two pronunciations; Leinster/Munster - kee-fee; Ulster - chee-fee.

The biggest problem for people whose native language is English is that the soft 't' and 'd' are in the Irish language, but not in the English language; it's difficult to 'reproduce' them in writing in English. Where I use 'th' and 'dh' here, they are best achieved by putting your tongue gently behind your front upper teeth."

Click here for our words & phrases Index.

So, it's late and dark. You are in a Gaeltacht in your rental car. The car has a flat tyre. You look in the boot and there is no spare. From out of the gloom comes a voice. Whatever you heard was in gaeilge and now he is asking you if you need help (but you don't know that's what he said). You studied well but you don't know many who speak Irish and you are now talking to the only non-English speaking Irishman for twenty miles. You will need the following phrases.
How we came to forget them, we can't say. To make amends we will leave them here; no matter what the latest offering may be.

Note: In case you think I am taking shortcuts with some of these, I am! These phrases would be used as very simple responses by a person who had little Irish, therefore, they would not generally use full sentences. So, 1, 3, 5 and 6 are pithy phrases which are easy to use, are 'conversationally correct' and would be immediately understood. Much better for a person to use these rather than struggling with a full grammatical sentence.

Phrase: I don't speak Irish
Irish: Níl Gaeilge agam
kneel gway-il-geh ah-gum (literally 'I don't have Irish')

Phrase: I only speak a little/very little Irish
Irish: Níl ach beagán/beagáinín Gaeilge agam
kneel okh bweeuh-gawn/bweeuh-gawn-een gway-il-geh ah-gum

Phrase: Please speak a little more slowly
Irish: Níos moille led thoil
kneess mwell-eh ledh hell (literally 'more slowly please')

Phrase: I don't understand you
Irish: Ní thuigim thú
knee hig-im hoo

Phrase: Could you say that in English please?
Irish: As Béarla led thoil?
oss bayr-lah ledh hell? (literally 'in English please?)

Phrase: Could you repeat that?
Irish: Arís?
ah-reesh? (literally 'again?')

Phrase: Did I say that right?
Irish: An raibh sin i gceart agam?
ah row (as in cow) shin ih gih-ah-rth ah-gum?

Autumn in Ireland
The aroma of fresh-baked apple pie, the crunchy sound of leaves underfoot; a bit of a chill in the air; trees and bushes turning from green to gold, red and russet. It’s Autumn in Ireland!

Phrase: Autumn in Ireland
Irish: An Fhomhar in Éireann
on oh-ahr inn ayr-unn

Word: Autumn
Irish: Fomhar 

Word: Colours 
Irish: dathanna 

Word: Brilliant 
Irish: aoibheann 

Word: Tree (s) 
Irish: Crann (crainnte) 
krahn (krahn-tcheh)

Word: Foliage/Leaves 
Irish: duilleogaí 
dhill-oh-g (hard g) ee

Word: Apple (s) 
Irish: úll (úill) 
ool (oo-ill)

Word: Season 
Irish: séisiúr 

Word: Harvest 
Irish: fomhar  

Word: Rake 
Irish: réce 

Word: Bag (for leaves) 
Irish: mála 

Word: Frost 
Irish: shíonn 

Hunt (or hunting)
Irish: Sceilp

Phrase: Autumn leaves 
Irish: duilleogaí Fomhair 
dhill-oh-g (hard g) ee foh-ahr

Phrase: Falling Leaves 
Irish: duilleogaí ar chasadh  
dhill-oh-g (hard g) ee err khahsah
Phrase: Burning leaves
Irish: duilleogaí ar lasa   
dhill-oh-g (hard g) ee err lah-sah
Phrase: Raking Leaves
Irish: duilleogaí á réceadh 
dhill-oh-g (hard g) ee aw ray-kah
Phrase: Blaze of colour 
Irish: glasadh daithiní 
gloss-ah dhah-in-ee
Phrase: First frost of the season 
Irish: céad shíonn an tséisúir 
kaydh sheen on thay-soo-ir

Phrase: Toffee Apples 
Irish: Úill Tafaí 
oo-ll tah-fee

Phrase: There’s a chill in the air.
Irish: Tá fuair beagáinín géar san aer.
thaw foo-ir bee-awgn-een gayr sahn air
Phrase: Winter is coming.
Irish: Tá teacht ar an Gheimridh 
thaw tshockt err on gheev-ree
Phrase: Apple Pie/Apple Tart 
Irish: ciste  (cake) úlla 
kish-theh ool-ah

Phrase: It’s time to put the clocks back. 
Irish: Tá sé in am na cloigeanna a chur siar.
thaw shay in om nah klig- ahn-nah ah khur sheer
Phrase: The children love playing in the piles of leaves.
Irish: Is breá leis na páistí bheith ag gliondar sna duilleogaí.
iss brah lesh nah pawsh-thee veh egg glundahr snah dhill-oh-g (hard g) ee

Phrase: The days are getting shorter.
Irish: Tá na laethannta ag dul ar siar.
thaw nah lay-han-tha egg dhull err sheer

Phrase: It gets dark much earlier now.
Irish: Tá an ghrian ag dull faoi níos luaithe anois.
thaw on ghreen egg dhull fwee nees loo-yheh ah-nish

Phrase: It’s dark when I get up now.
Irish: Tá sé dorcha nuair a éirím chuile mhaidin anois.
thaw shay durr-khah noo-ir ah eye-reem khuileh wadj-in ah-nish.

Phrase: It’s always dreary this time of year.
Irish: Tá an t-aimsear chomh ghruama an t-am seo den bhliain.
thaw on thyme-sheh khoh groom-ah on tham shuh djen vleen

Phrase: Autumn is my favourite season.
Irish: Is fearr go mór liom séisiún an fhomhar.
iss fahr guh mohr li-um say-shoon on oh-war
Phrase: Are you going to the Harvest Festival? 
Irish: Bhfuil bail ort ar fhéile an Fhomair? 
will bahl urth err ay-leh an oh-ir
Phrase: Raking leaves is great exercise.
Irish: Cuireann réceáil duilleogaí spraoi id' chos (literally 'spring in your foot').
kwirr-en ray-kawl-il dhill-oh-g (hard g) ee spree idh khuss

Phrase: I love the aroma of a fresh-baked apple pie (tart).
Irish: Is breá liom ciste úlla nua-bhácáilte a bhlas teacht as an oighean.
Pronunciation: iss brah lih-um kisteh ool-ah ah vlas tih-okth oss on eyen

Phrase: I used to love playing conkers.
Irish: Ba mhian liom chluiche cnó chapaill a imirt.
bah veen lih-um cliff-eh croh khahp-il a im-irtch


Note: This caught our eye. Yes, we know it isn't gaeilge, but it is fascinating. If nothing else, it is certainly language (and Irish language as well.)
by Bernard Share
...for all 'decent skins', 'crawthumpers', horse-protestants', 'hard chaws' and 'strong farmers'...a dictionary of Irish slang that's as amusing as it is informative.
Click here for Slanguage

For More Basic Irish please click here: Irish Index

Image: Gaeilge Beo from
All Posters and Prints.


Thu, Jul 9, 2015
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Irish Grammar
by Noel Mogonagle

This book is excellent for beginners who are wanting a book that gives basic grammar without all the extra information that confuses beginners. The book is well laid out, with information very easy to find. Amazon Reviewer

Here is a good follow-on to our words and phrases.
Click for Irish Grammar.

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the Emerald Isle. You might want to try an Ireland Golf Tour and relax.

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Irish - English
English - Irish

Note: We have yet to see a dictionary with phonetic pronunciations for each word. We suspect this is partly due to the variations. Providing for all four 'green fields' (Connacht, Leinster, Ulster and Munster), would be cumbersome at best. Still, someone may do it some day. Until then, these are all very good and recommended. Serious students will have more than one; they are inexpensive.

These two (either or both) are the handy-references needed to go with a good grammar or 'teach yourself' course.
We would need both (and some other help) if found wandering in a Gaeltacht late at night.
Amazon has an offer of either one combined with a grammar for a reduced price.
Click for Collins Gem
Click for Oxford Pocket.

Children's Irish Dictionary
by Hippocrene Books

As a total beginner in Irish, this has taught me quite a few words. The illustrations are beautifully done, and best of all, each word is given a rough English spelling of its pronunciation. Edited from an amazon review.
Click here for Kid's Irish Dictionary.

Wicked Irish
by Howard Tomb

While I wouldn't recommend you use many of these phrases, this is a terribly funny book. I picked it up after leafing through it at the store and finding phrases about sheep and inns and the hazards of driving in Ireland without insurance. Each little section starts out innocuously enough, then quickly degenerates into truly funny comments. If you like Monty Python or BlackAdder, this will really make you laugh. If you liked the Father Ted tv show, this little book will make you keel over giggling. Ah, go on, ya eejit, buy it already! Amazon Reviewer
(We want this, you may see a few on these pages - watch out).
Click for Wicked Irish

Teach Yourself Irish Complete Course
by Diarmuid O'She & Joseph Sheils

An easy-to-use program for learning on your own, or can be used as supplemental material for your classes. These new editions have been thoroughly revised and updated to include the engaging dialogues and helpful exercises you have come to expect from the Teach Yourself series.
Click for Teach Yourself

Learning Irish
by Micheal O'Siadhail

The Best Irish Course Available! Three years ago I decided to learn Irish, and in the next two years I bought three different courses. The first two were simply useless, (that's the obvious reason for my buying new courses) you could learn some phrases, but not construct sentences yourself. Learning Irish, on the other hand, is an excellent book, which gives you a thorough vocabulary and grammatical knowledge. It consists of 36 lessons, all containing vocabularies, grammar instructions, texts and excercises. Amazon Reviewer.

Click for Learning irish


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