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25 Useful Phrases and Vocabulary in Scottish Gaelic

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Poppy was born in Wick, Scotland and hopes her country's wonderful language will stay preserved.

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.

scots-gaelic-words-and-phrases

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.

Greetings

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).

scots-gaelic-words-and-phrases

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

Introducing Yourself

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."

Useful Words

Below is some useful vocabulary.

GaelicPronunciationMeaning in English

11. Alba

"albah"

Scotland

12. Uisge

"ishke"

Water

13. Uisge-beatha

"ishke behe"

Whisky (literally "water of life")

14. Pinnt de lager

"pinch de lager"

A pint of lager

15. Cofaidh

"coffee"

Coffee

16. Tì

"tee"

Tea

17. Agus

"agus"

And

18. Dubh

"do"

Black

19. Geal

"gyal"

White

20. Slàinte!

"slancha"

Cheers!

Saying "Please"

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.

Apologising

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.

GaelicPronunciationMeaning in English

Aon

"un"

One

Dhà

"ga"

Two

Trì

"trey"

Three

Ceithir

"cayhyer"

Four

Còig

"kooik"

Five

Sia

"shayer"

Six

Seachd

"shechk"

Seven

Ochd

"Ochk"

Eight

Naoi

"nigh"

Nine

Deich

"jeych"

Ten

Saying Goodbye

23. See You

Phrase: tìoraidh
Pronunciation: cheerie

24. Bye

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.

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

Question: How would you translate "Life is too short?" into Scottish Gaelic?

Answer: 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.”

Question: How would you say “Would you like a pint of lager?” in Scottish Gaelic?

Answer: It’s “am bu mhath leat peant de lager?”

© 2019 Poppy

Comments

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on July 17, 2019:

Hi, Linda! I heard that there are also people in Canada who know some Scottish Gaelic. I imagine Welsh is super difficult, too.

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on July 17, 2019:

Hi, Luke! Thank you so much for your comment! I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on July 17, 2019:

Hi, Liz! Especially as Gaelic isn't pronounced anything we'd expect! The pronunciation guide isn't perfect, but I got it as close to possible. Thank you for your comment.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 17, 2019:

Thank you very much for sharing the phrases. The pronunciation is especially useful. I'm trying to improve my knowledge of Welsh at the moment, but if I wasn't doing that I'd love to study Scottish Gaelic.

Luke St Clair from Irving, Tx on July 17, 2019:

This is so cool! Great article and very informative.

Liz Westwood from UK on July 17, 2019:

I am pleased you have included a pronunciation guide. I struggle to translate the written words to speech so this is helpful.

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