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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

Note: The spellings and pronunciations used are based on Aideen's own natural use of Connemara Irish but they have been kept simple, so as to be understood 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 Irish, but not in English; it's difficult to 'reproduce' them in writing. 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.

Lesson 61: Personal Appearance

Before we were corrected by our native Irish speaker, we always thought the phrase "he has the map of Ireland on his face" meant that he was covered in freckles. Not so. This week's lesson is all about appearance and includes the phrase "you've lost weight" - something that many women would rather hear than "I love you"!

Word: Appearance
Irish: Gnéith

Word: Pretty
Irish: deas (or) gleoite
dee-ahs (or) glohi-tcheh

Word: Handsome/Good-looking
Irish: dathúil

Word: Attractive
Irish: tarraingteach

Word: Beautiful
Irish: Álainn

Word: Tall
Irish: Árd

Phrase: Average Height
Irish: meán-airde
mee-awn eer-djeh

Word: Short
Irish: gearr

Word: Petite
Irish: beag

Word: Thin
Irish: caol

Word: Heavy
Irish: trom

Word: Light
Irish: eadtrom

Word: Plain
Irish: soiléir

Word: Freckles
Irish: bricíní

Word: Complexion/skin
Irish: craiceann

Word: Smile
Irish: meangadh (or) miongáire
mi-ahn-gah (or) mi-un-goyr-eh

Word: Frown
Irish: grainc

Word: Awkward
Irish: anásta

Word: Face
Irish: aghaidh

Word: Teeth
Irish: fiacla

Word: Eyes
Irish: súile

Phrase: You've lost weight
Irish: Tá meáchan caillte agat
taw mi-awkh-ahn ah-guth

Phrase: He is very good-looking
Irish: Is saor-dathúil é
iss seer dhah-oo-il ay

Phrase: She is very pretty (Isn't she a pretty girl?)
Irish: Nach cailín gleoite í?
nahkh kah-leen glohi-tcheh ee

Phrase: He is growing (tall)
Irish: Tá sé ag fás
thaw she egg faws

Phrase: How tall are you?
Irish: Cén airde thú?
kayn eer-djeh hoo

Phrase: All the children in that family are good-looking
Irish: Tá cuma dathúil ar na páistí uilig sa chlann sin
thaw kumah dhah-oo-il err nah paw-ish-thee sa khlahn shin

Phrase: He has the map of Ireland on his face
Irish: Tá cuma créigeach ar a aghaidh
thaw kumah kray-gi-okh err ah eye
Note: Not a literal translation but 'He has a craggy face.' The colloquialism, "map of Ireland on his face", applies only to a man and implies that the person's face is like the geographic features of the country. Our native Irish speaker says she hasn't heard the phrase in years.

Phrase: He looks young for his age
Irish: Tá cuma na hóige air dá aois
thaw kumah nah hoh-igeh err dhaw eesh

Phrase: She looks her age
Irish: Tá a haois le haithint uirthi
thaw ah heesh leh hah-intj irr-hee

Phrase: She is very fair-skinned
Irish: Tá sí gealchraicneach
thaw she gi-ahl-khrack-nukh

Phrase: I don't tan easily
Irish: Ní thagann dath na gréine orm go héascúil
nee hah-gahn dhah na gray-neh urm go hays-kool

Phrase: You have beautiful eyes
Irish: Tá súile aoibheann agat
thaw sool-eh eev-en ah-guth

Phrase: Her teeth are perfect
Irish: Ta fiacla ar fheabhas aici
thaw feek-lah err yows ek-ee

Phrase: She is always smiling
Irish: Bíonn aoibh go dtí na cluasa uirthi
bee-un eev guh dtjee nah kloo-sah irr-hee

Phrase: I take after my mother
Irish: Tá rian mo mháthair orm
thaw reen muh waw-hirr urm

Phrase: Who does the baby look like?
Irish: Cén cosúlacht atá ar an leanbh?
kayn kuss-oo-lukhth ah-thaw err an liahn-v

Phrase: He's the image of his father
Irish: Tá dealramh a athair air
taw dhahl-ruv ah ah-thirr err

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.

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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