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Common Irish Phrases and Our Irish Culture

The author is a QUB Pol Sci Honours graduate and has written extensively on imperialism, national liberation struggles and class issues.

The Irish Brigade: Heroes of the American Civil War

The Irish Brigade: Heroes of the American Civil War

Fáilte gach duine!

Irish Republican slogans and phrases as Gaeilge have been popular for many years in Ireland, America and other parts of the world. Remarkably, they are even used by the British Loyalist supremacist minority living in the north eastern counties of Ireland, who would usually be seen as the cultural antithesis of anything vaguely Irish. On UDA murals on the Newtownards Road in East Belfast, there is even the image of the mythical Irish hero Cú Chulainn. Loyalist supremacists have taken to Cú Chulainn primarily because Cú Chulainn was a hero of the ancient Irish province of Ulster. But of course, the mythical exploits of Cú Chulainn occurred many centuries before the partition of Ireland, the Plantation of Ulster or indeed the Reformation.

Loyalists are as much entitled to adopt mythical Irish heroes as any other section of the Irish people, but it is sadly indicative of the philosophical poverty of Loyalist supremacism that they feel the need to use such blatantly crass revisionism to create an Ulster folk hero in the Partitionist sense. Another recent quirk of Ulster Loyalist supremacism manifested itself in the flags produced by Loyalist paramilitaries to welcome British regiments home on leave from their Imperialist campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. The flags had the phrase Faugh a Ballagh emblazoned on them. 'Faugh a Ballagh' is actually the Anglicised version of Fág an Bealach, meaning, 'Clear the Way'! Fág an Bealach was an ancient Irish war-cry, which was also popular with the Irish Brigades during the American Civil War, who were also known as the Fighting 69th or the Fighting Irish.

Irish in America by State

U.S. states by the percentage of their population self-identifying Irish ancestry according to the U.S. Census Bureau.[2] States where Irish ancestry is greater than the United States as a whole are in full green.

U.S. states by the percentage of their population self-identifying Irish ancestry according to the U.S. Census Bureau.[2] States where Irish ancestry is greater than the United States as a whole are in full green.

Irish ancestry in the USA (1980 census) and Canada (2016 census). Legend:   23-28%   21-23%   20-21%   19-20%   17-19%   14-17%   5-14%

Irish ancestry in the USA (1980 census) and Canada (2016 census). Legend: 23-28% 21-23% 20-21% 19-20% 17-19% 14-17% 5-14%

Óró 'sé do bheatha 'bhaile - LYRICS + Translation

English to Irish Translation of Common Words and short phrases.

  • Freedom = Saoirse
  • Justice = Ceart
  • Peace = Síocháin
  • Helping Poor People = Ag cabhrú le daoine bochta
  • Easter Rising 1916 = Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916
  • Death = Bás
  • Love = Grá
  • America = Meiriceá
  • Family = Clann
  • I don't know = Nil fhios agam
  • I don't understand = Ni thuigim
  • How are you? = Cad é mar atá tú?
  • I am well - Tá mé go maith
  • I am ok = Tá mé ceart go leoir
  • I am sick = Tá mé tinn
  • Where are you? = Cá bhfuil tú?
  • Where were you? = Cá raibh tú?
  • Book = Leabhar
  • Hell = Ifreann
  • Nurse (f) = Banaltra
  • Hospital = Ospidéal
  • Thank you (singular) = Go raibh maith agat
  • Thank you (plural) = Go raibh maith agaibh
  • Please = Le do thoil
  • Offspring = Teaghlach
  • Ancestor = Sinsear
  • Father = Athair
  • Mother = Máthair
  • Brother = Deartháir
  • Sister = Deirfiúr
  • Shop = Siopa
  • Whiskey = Uisce Beatha (Literally: water of Life)
  • Dublin = Baile Atha Cliatha
  • Ireland = Éire (or Éireann)
  • Priest = Sagart
  • Church = Eaglais
  • Christmas = Nollaig
  • Unfortunately = Is baolach
  • Luckily = Ar amhraí an tsaoil
  • Takes one to know one = Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile
  • It can not be denied = Ní féidir a shéanadh
  • The truth is = Is é fírinne an scéil
  • Near and far = I gcian is i gcóngar
  • In the future = Sa todhchaí
  • The gift of the gab = Bua na cainte
  • Pleasant memories = Cuimhní taitneamhacha
  • Practice makes perfect = Cleachtadh a dhéanann máistreacht
  • The lesser of two evils = Rogha an dá dhíogha
  • Working = Ag obair
  • Fight = Troid
  • Belfast = Béal Feirste
  • Derry = Doire
  • Kerry = Cearraí
  • Cork = Chorcaí
  • Ulster = Uladh
  • Leinster = Laighean
  • Munster = Mumhan
  • Connacht = Connacht
  • I.R.A = Óglaigh na hÉireann
  • I.N.L.A = Arm Saoirse Náisiúnta na hÉireann
  • I.R.S.P = Pairtí Poblachtach Sóisalach na h-Éireann
  • Republic = Poblacht
  • Partition = Críochdheighilt
  • Apartheid = Cinedheighilt
  • Friend = Cara
  • My Friend = Mo chara
  • My beautiful friend = Mo chara álainn
  • National Executive = Ard Comhairle
  • Soldiers of Ireland = Fianna Eireann (Name used by IRA youth wing)
  • Starry Plough = An Camcheachta
  • New York = Nua-Eabhrac
  • Saint Patrick's Battalion (El Batallón de los San Patricios) = Cathlán Naomh Pádraig
  • Brits out! = Sasanach amach!
  • London = Londain
  • Glasgow = Glaschú
  • Serbia = An tSeirbia
  • Russia = An Rúis
  • Communist = Cummanach
  • Socialist = Sóisialach
  • Peoples Republic of China = Poblacht Phoblacht na Síne

Many of the words and phrases above as Gaeilge are increasingly popular in tattoos in both Ireland and within the Irish diaspora, often incorporated into Celtic designs or political ink work.

common-irish-phrases-used-in-tattoos-translated

Belfast's Gaeltacht Quarter

common-irish-phrases-used-in-tattoos-translated
  • Tiocfaidh ár lá, meaning 'Our Day will come' (pronounced 'chucky are la'), is perhaps the best known Irish Republican slogan as Gaeilge and it has become commonly used in places far away from Ireland. Tiocfaidh ár lá as a slogan is popular with revolutionaries who have links in solidarity with the struggle for Irish liberation, for instance, E.T.A. and the Basque peoples.
  • Saoirse go deo, meaning 'Freedom Forever'. It is a slogan closely associated with the Irish Republican Socialist Movement.
  • Beidh an lá linn, meaning literally 'Our day will be with us' (pronounced: bay are la lyn), is also a popular Republican slogan and is inscribed in many wall murals in Ireland.
  • Beir Bua, meaning 'Victory!' or: 'Onwards to Victory!' (pronounced: bear bew-ah), has increasingly become popular as an Irish Republican slogan and several publications have taken it as their title or as a subtext. It is also popular as a username on Irish forums and a folk band are currently using it as their stage name.
  • Tóg go bog é, meaning "take it easy" (pronounced: 'tug go bogue ay), is also a popular slogan with Irish Republicans, but is not overtly political as such.
  • Bi cúramach, meaning literally, 'Be careful!' (pronounced: bee cure im ack), is equally popular as a parting phrase, but again, it is not overtly political.
  • An Phoblacht Abú!, commonly meaning 'Up the Republic!' (pronounced: Anne fob-lackt ab-you)
  • Ná bí ag caint anois!, meaning literally, 'Don't be talking now!' (pronounced: nah bee egg cansh ann-ish|)
  • Ciúnas anois, meaning literally, 'silence now'. (pronounced: kew-ness ann-ish)
  • Is abhainn muid ag sileadh, commonly meaning, 'We're a river flowing'. (Pronounced: Iss avain midge egg sile-ay)
  • Is fearr Gaeilge briste, ná Béarla clíste, meaning 'Better broken Irish than clever English (Pronounced: Iss far gael-iga brish-ta nah ber-la nah cliss-ta)

'Is fearr Gaeilge briste, ná Béarla clíste' mural

common-irish-phrases-used-in-tattoos-translated
common-irish-phrases-used-in-tattoos-translated
common-irish-phrases-used-in-tattoos-translated

The Gaelic Revival: Irish Words Used in English

With so many people visiting Ireland these days and Gaeltachts (Irish-speaking areas) being established even in cities, the aim of this article was to provide some basic translations of significant words from English into Irish. My intention is to add popular words and phrases to the list above, as requested by emails sent to me from readers. The small list of words at the beginning of this article have nearly all been requested by readers of my articles.

Many of us use Irish words without even knowing it, for instance, the type of footwear known as Brogues comes from the literal Irish translation for shoes, which is Bróg. The well-known phrase 'it's smashing', to describe something that is great or fabulous, allegedly derives from the Irish phrase for 'that's great' which as Gaeilge is: is maith sin! For those unfamiliar with Irish, it is pronounced phonetically as "iss moy shin" and when pronouncing it, one can see the English phrase's origins.

Some other basics to remember are that the little tic above some vowels is not called an accent like in the French language, it is called a fada. It is used to lengthen or soften vowel sounds; logically enough fada is also the Irish word for long. Another example of the fada is in the popular Irish forename Seán where the fada on the 'A' lengthens the sound, making the pronunciation sound like 'shone'.

  • Murphy - Ó Murchadha - Sea-battler
  • Kelly - Ó Ceallaigh - Bright-headed
  • O'Sullivan - Ó Súilleabháin - Dark-eyed
  • Walsh - Breathnach - Welshman
  • Smith - Mac Gabhann - Son of the smith
  • O'Brien - Ó Briain - High, noble
  • Byrne - Ó Broin - A raven
  • Ryan - Ó Maoilriain - King
  • O'Connor - Ó Conchobhair - Patron of warriors
  • McGuigan - MagÚiginn - Son of a Viking
  • O'Neill - Ó Néill - From Niall of the Nine Hostages
  • O'Reilly - Ó Raghallaigh
  • Doyle - Ó Dubhghaill - Dark foreigner
  • Barry - Ó Beargha - Sharp, spear like, descendant of the Beargha
  • McCarthy - Mac Carthaigh - Loving person
  • Gallagher - Ó Gallchobhair - Lover of foreigners
  • O'Doherty - Ó Dochartaigh - Hurtful
  • Kennedy - Ó Cinnéide - Helmet headed
  • Lynch - Ó Loinsigh - Seafarer, exile
  • Murray - Ó Muireadhaigh - Lord, master
  • Quinn - Ó Cuinn - Wisdom, chief
  • Moore - Ó Mordha - Majestic
  • McLoughlin - Mac Lochlainn - Viking
  • O'Carroll - Ó Cearbhaill - Valorous in battle
  • Connolly - Ó Conghaile - Fierce as a hound
  • Daly - Ó Dálaigh - Assembles frequently
  • O'Connell - Ó Conaill - Strong as a wolf
  • Wilson - Mac Liam - Son of William
  • Dunne - Ó Duinn- Brown
  • Brennan - Ó Braonáin - Sorrow
  • Burke - de Búrca - from Richard de Burgh
  • Collins - Ó Coileáin - Young warrior
  • Campbell - Crooked mouth
  • Clarke - Ó Cléirigh - Clergyman
  • Johnston - Mac Seáin - Son of John
  • Hughes - Ó hAodha - Fire
  • O'Farrell - Ó Fearghail - Man of valour
  • Fitzgerald - Mac Gearailt - Spear rule
  • Brown - Mac an Bhreithiún - Son of the Brehon (judge)
  • Martin - Mac Giolla Mháirtín - Devotee of Saint Martin
  • Maguire - Mag Uidhir - Dun-coloured
  • Nolan - Ó Nualláin - Famous
  • Flynn - Ó Floinn - Bright red
  • Thompson - Mac Tomáis - Son of Thom
  • O'Callaghan - Ó Ceallacháin - Bright headed
  • O'Donnell - Ó Domhnaill - World-mighty
  • Duffy - Ó Dufaigh - Dark, black
  • O'Mahony - Ó Mathúna - Bear-calf
  • Boyle - Ó Baoill - Vain pledge
  • Healy - Ó hÉalaighthe - Artistic, scientific
  • O'Shea - Ó Séaghdha - Fine, stately
  • White - Mac Giolla Bháin - Of fair complexion
  • Sweeney - Mac Suibhne - Pleasant
  • Hayes - Ó hAodha - Fire
  • Kavanagh - Caomhánach - Comely, mild
  • Power - de Paor - The poor man
  • McGrath - Mac Craith- Son of grace
  • Moran - Ó Móráin - Great
  • Brady - Mac Brádaigh - Spirited
  • Stewart - Stiobhard - One who superintends
  • Casey - Ó Cathasaigh - Vigilant in war, watchful
  • Foley - Ó Foghladh - A plunderer
  • Fitzpatrick - Mac Giolla Phádraig - Devotee of Saint Patrick
  • O'Leary - Ó Laoghaire - Calf-herder
  • McDonnell - Mac Domhnaill - World-mighty
  • MacMahon - Mac Mathúna - Bear-calf
  • Donnelly - Ó Donnghaile - Brown valour
  • Regan - Ó Riagáin - Little king
  • Donovan - Ó Donnabháin - Brown, black
  • Burns from Scottish Burness
  • Flanagan - Ó Flannagáin - Red, ruddy

Irish-English English-Irish Dictionary & Phrasebook

Resources for translation

The stylized swan imagery in this video originates from the Irish legend, The Children of Lir (As Gaeilge: Oidheadh chloinne Lir)

The Children Of Lir: 1 (Irish Myths & Legends In A Nutshell) Paperback – Illustrated

Cad é sin don té sin - LYRICS + Translation - Caladh Nua (Video posted by M. Máire Ní Shúilleabháin)

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Liam A Ryan

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