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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.

Written Communication
While the art of writing letters is sadly becoming a thing of the past, we still have occasions when it is necessary to actually correspond with someone other than verbally or by phone; and even an email should have a proper salutation and sign off. So, herewith a lesson on written personal communication, including related words and phrases. And please pay particular attention to the NOTES attached to several of the entries:

Word: Letter
Irish: litir
Pronunciation: lih-chir

Word: Card
Irish: cárta
Pronunciation: kawr-thah

Word: (to) Write
Irish: scríobh
Pronunciation: shkreev

Word: Stamp
Irish: stampa
Pronunciation: sthahmp

Word: Paper
Irish: páipéar
Pronunciation: paw-pay-ir

Word: Envelope
Irish: clúdach
Pronunciation: kloo-dhukh

Phrase: Post Office
Irish: Oifig an Phoist
Pronunciation: iff-ig on fwishth

Phrase: Post box
Irish: bosca phoist
Pronunciation: bus-kah fwishth

NOTE: Many people not familiar with writing letters in the Irish language seem to be under the impression that the ways to start and end a personal letter is with A Chara, and Mise, le Meas. Not so. Although they translate literally as (Dear) Friend and I am, with Respect, they are the forms used by public servants when writing impersonal, official letters and are the equivalent in English of writing Dear Sir or Madam and Yours faithfully. Unfortunately, anyone else using those forms, even unwittingly, tends to provoke giggles.
Where known, the person's name should always be used at the beginning of the letter, either by first name, or by title, if applicable, in conjunction with a Chara. On other words, never use a chara by itself in personal correspondence.

Salutation: Dear John
Seán, a chara, or A Sheán, a chara
Pronunciation: shawn, a khah-rah or ah hyawn, a khah-rah

Salutation: Dear Mr Brady
Irish: A Bhrádaigh, a Mhic Usail,
Pronunciation: ah vraw-dhee, ah vick oo-sil
NOTE: There is no actual word for 'Mr.' in Irish; a man is always an 'honourable son' in greetings.

Salutation: Dear Mrs/Miss/Ms Brady
Irish: A Bhean/A Iníon Ní Bhrádaigh ah vahn/
Pronunciation: ah inn-een ee vraw-dhee, oo-sil
NOTES: 'Mrs' and 'Miss/Ms' do have 'titles' which are taken from their husband's or father's name. 'Bean Uí' is a woman/wife of a man whose surmane in Irish is 'Ó' and 'Iníon Ní' denotes a daughter of her father's name. Where the man's surname is a 'Mac' those titles become 'Bean Mhic' and 'Iníon Nic'. When writing the name on an envelope or as a stand-alone name, the names can be written as Máire Uí Bhrádaigh or Máire Bean Uí Bhrádaigh and for single women as Máire Ní Bhrádaigh or Máire Iníon Ní Bhrádaigh and, as relevant for women who take their titles from men whose surname is 'Mac'.

Salutation: Dear Loyal Friends
Irish: A Cháirde or A Cháirde Dhílis
Pronunciation: ah khawr-djeh or ah khawr-djeh yee-lish
NOTE: When writing to a group of people, then the plural of Friends is appropriate and even nicer if the word approximating to Loyal is added.

Salutation: With(sending) Greetings/Blessings or Strength and Greetings/Blessings
Irish: Beir Beannacht or Beir Bua agus Beannacht
Pronunciation: ber bahn-ukth or ber boo-ah ah-gus bahn-ukth
NOTE: more formal, especially where it's not a personal friend.

Phrase: I would like to introduce myself to you
Irish: Ba maith liom mé féin a chur in aithne duit
Pronunciation: bah wye li-um may hayn ah khur inn ah-neh gwitch.

Phrase: I would like to announce/tell you that ....
Irish: Ba maith liom a chur in iúl duit go ....
Pronunciation: bah wye li-um ah khur inn oo-il dhitch guh ....

Phrase: A letter of condolence could begin with the sentence
I/We send condolence on your loss (the death) of....
Irish: Is comhbhrón liom/linn éagaoineadh ....
Pronunciation: iss koh-vrohn li-um/linn ay-gwee-ah

Word: Congratulations on ....
Irish: Comhgháirdeas leat/libh (plural) ar ....
Pronunciation: koh-gawr-djahs li-ath/liv err ....

Phrase: Thanks in advance for your help
Irish: Tugaim buíochas leat roimh ré as do chabhair
Pronunciation: thug-im bwee-khus li-ahth rev ray oss dhuh khow (as in cow)-ir

Phrase: Thank you for writing
Irish: Tá buíochas orm gur scríobh tú chugaim or Gabhaim buíochas leat as scríobh chugaim
Pronunciation: thaw bwee-khus urm gur shkreev thoo hug-im or gow(as in cow)-im bwee-khus li-ath oss shkreev hug-im

Phrase: We look forward to hearing from you...
Irish: Tá súil agam/againn cloisint uait....
Pronunciation: haw soo-il ah-gum/ah-ginn (hard 'g') klush-intch wetch ....

NOTE: finish with the word which best applies for the urgency/non-urgency/personal/impersonal nature of the word "soon".
Word: Soon
Irish: go lua
Pronunciation: guh loo-ah
Very soon (impersonal)
Irish: gan mhoill
Pronunciation: gahn well
Whenever/at your personal convenience
Irish: ar ball
Pronunciation: err bahl

Sign-off: With every good wish
Irish: Le gach deá ghuí or deá mhéin
Pronunciation: leh gahkh djah gwee or djah vayn

Sign-off: Bye or goodbye
Irish: Slán
Pronunciation: slawn

Sign-off: Goodbye or Bye for now
Irish: Slán go foill
Pronunciation: slawn guh foh-iLL

Sign-off: Goodbye and Blessings
Irish Slán agus beannacht
Pronunciation lawn ah-gus bahn-uckth

Sign-off: Best of Luck
Irish: Go n-éirí leat or Go n-éirí an t'ádh leat
Pronunciation: guh nye-ree lahth or guh nye-ree on thaw lahth

Sign-off : With respect
Irish: Le meas
Pronunciation: leh mahs
NOTE: used only in very formal or official correspondence

The Letter by Frederico Zandomeneghi
Art Print from Barewalls

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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Here is a good follow-on to our words and phrases.
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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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