25 Useful Phrases and Vocabulary in Scottish Gaelic
Scottish Gaelic is a language that was spoken in Scotland as a native language until its replacement of English. Though the language declined in use in the mainland in the past several hundred years, it has survived in the islands and efforts are being made to preserve it. In 2005, the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act was established.
Though almost everyone in Scotland can speak English, Gaelic is taught as a subject in some schools and remains spoken by around 50,000 people today.
You can easily get by in Scotland with English, but locals are very happy when you try to speak this wonderful language, which is commonly believed to have been around in Scotland since the 4th century!
If you'd like to learn some Gaelic phrases, you've come to the right place. Here are twenty-five useful Gaelic phrases, some vocabulary, and how to count to ten. There are some online resources at the bottom of this article for if you'd like to learn more.
The first thing you should learn in a new language is how to say hello! Here's how to say "good morning" and "good afternoon/evening" in Gaelic.
1. Good Morning
Phrase: madainn mhath
Pronunciation: matin va
Mhath means "good." "Mh" is often pronounced like the English "v" sound.
2. Good Afternoon/Evening
Phrase: feasgar math
Pronunciation: fesker ma
How Are You?
3. How Are You?
Phrase: Ciamar a tha sibh?
Pronunciation: Kimmer a ha shiv?
Ciamar a tha sibh ("sibh" meaning "you") is a typical way to greet someone in Gaelic. After a madainn mhath or feasgar math, this phrase is used to ask how someone is doing. To reply:
4. I'm Well
Phrase: That gu math
Pronunciation: ha gu ma
5. I'm Great
Phrase: Glè mhath
Pronunciation: gle va
If you'd like to ask "how are you" back, say "ciamar a tha sibh fèin?" (pronunciation: feyn).
Saying Thank You and You're Welcome
6. Thank You (Formal)
Phrase: Tapadh leibh
Pronunciation: ta'pa liev
"Dh" in Gaelic is usually silent. Tapadh leibh is a polite way of saying thank you. This phrase can be used when speaking to strangers.
7. Thank You (Informal)
Phrase: Tapadh leit
Pronunciation: ta'pa let
A less formal way of thanking someone is by saying tapadh leit. This can be used when speaking to friends or to children.
8. You're Welcome
Phrase: 's e ur beatha
Pronunciation: share behe
9. What's Your Name?
Phrase: de an t-ainm a tha' oirbh?
Pronunciation: je un tenem a herev?
Ainm means "name."
10. My Name Is...
Phrase: is mise (your name)
Pronunciation: is misha
Is mise means "I am" and can be used when describing yourself using an adjective. For example, is mise fuar (is misha fooer) means "I am cold."
Below is some useful vocabulary.
Meaning in English
Whisky (literally "water of life")
14. Pinnt de lager
"pinch de lager"
A pint of lager
21. ______, Please
Phrase: mas e ur toil e
Pronunciation: masser u toll e
Adding mas e ur toil e after a noun allows you to ask for it. This is very useful in a cafe or restaurant in Scotland. You can also say mas e ur toil e by itself to say "yes, please" when offered something.
22. I'm Sorry
Phrase: tha mi duilich
Pronunciation: ha mi doolich
You can say this when you've bumped into someone or when you apologise for having to leave a conversation.
Counting to Ten
Here are the numbers one to ten in Scots Gaelic. You can also watch the simple video below for a demonstration of how to pronounce them.
Meaning in English
23. See You
Phrase: mar sin leibh
Pronunciation: mar shun leev
25. I Have To Go
Phrase: feumaidh mi falbh
Pronunciation: feymi mi falav
These can be coupled with tha mi duilich to apologise for having to leave. This is especially useful over the phone.
Would You Like To Learn More?
If you are interested in studying Scottish Gaelic further, here are some useful resources.
- Speaking Our Language video series on YouTube. Though fairly dated, this useful learning course is available for free on YouTube to learn common phrases with entertaining real-life situations.
- Learn Gaelic website. This site is dedicated to teaching Gaelic to those who are interested.
- Beag air Bheag on BBC ALBA. Though now an archived site, BBC Scotland's Gaelic corner has some useful resources for beginners.
- Like the LearnGaelic page on Facebook. LearnGaelic posts daily words and phrases with accompanying audio.
Scottish Gaelic is a wonderful language that will hopefully withstand the test of time and be taught properly in Scotland. If you ever visit the Scottish Isles, particularly the Isle of Skye, Uist, Harris, or Oban, be sure to try out some of these phrases!
Questions & Answers
How would you translate "Life is too short?" into Scottish Gaelic?
Life is too short is “ tha beatha ro ghoirid.” “Beatha” is “life” and “ghoirid” is “short.” “Ro” is “too,” so for example “ha e ro fhuar” is “it’s too cold.”Helpful 9
How would you say “Would you like a pint of lager?” in Scottish Gaelic?
It’s “am bu mhath leat peant de lager?”Helpful 6
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