Do you have any Irish?
10 Irish language words and phrases to know this St. Patrick's Day
Many people may not realize that Ireland has a native language, Irish Gaelic. Before you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (or should we say St. Padraig), here are a few words and phrases to become more acquainted with the culture and language. It’s not all drinking and church, you know (but a lot of it is).
Céad míle fáilte (said mil fal-cha) literally means “100,000 welcomes.” This is a pretty common one you can usually see on the doors to Irish bars anywhere in the world, or, on your elderly neighbor's front porch.
Tóg go bog é (toe-g go bawg ay) translates to “take it easy.” I recommend using this as a personal mantra during St. Patrick’s Day.
Dia Duit and Dia is Muire a dhuit (dee-ah gwit and dee-ah es mwir-eh gwit) are “hello,” and the response to hello. Their literal translations, like many other greetings, mean “God to you,” and “God and Mary to you,” respectively.
Go n'éirí an t-ádh leat (go nye-rhi ahwn-TAW let) is “good luck,” but is also translated more poetically as “may the road rise to meet you.” This is also fairly well-known.
Is fearr Gaeilge bhriste, ná Béarla cliste (ish fare gah-leage brish-te, nah bear-la clish-te), or “Broken Irish is better than clever English.” This one made me laugh and I didn’t know it before researching this piece. It rhymes and it teases the English so it’s okay in my book. The resource I found it at did say it was a bit chauvinistic, but generally acceptable. So far, I can’t figure out why that would be except that “fearr,” (best) is close in sound and spelling to “fear,” (man).
Craic (crack) means fun. I wasn’t sure if I should include this or not because it has an English origin and was given an Irish spelling, but it’s still a popular phrase in Ireland. You can also see it written on Dublin Square.
Seanachaidh (shawn-ah-key) translates to “storyteller.” Seanachaidh was a name given to those who held on to oral histories and passed them in their communities, like a bard. Nowadays it can be used informally when referring to someone telling any kind of story. Right now, I’m the seanachaidh. It’s also super fun to say.
Uisce Beatha (ish-ka bah) means whiskey but is literally translated to “water of life.” This could be because before methods of water purification, most of Europe survived off of alcohol when drinking plain water could kill you. Now you know why the Irish (and most of Europe) are so attached to their liquor.
Sochraid (so-hk raj) are your group of close friends. In the book “Motherfoclóir: Dispatches from a Not-so-dead Language,” by Darach O'Séaghdha, he says it can also mean “funeral” or “funeral procession,” so context matters. But basically, it’s your squad.
Sláinte (slan-cha). “Cheers!” It’s fun to say before a drink, but not! too! many! times!
Irish is really fun to figure out. I personally have enjoyed learning a bit here and there to get more acquainted with my heritage. I joined the Irish American Society at the Gaelic League (where I used to Irish dance and learn the language as a kid) in Detroit for my 21st birthday, and have been making more of an effort since then.
I think my sister, Siobhán, appreciates this. I even learned the translation of our surname, McGlone. Mac Giolla Eoin means son of the devotee of St. John. A lot of Mc + G’s translate to variations on this, fun fact.
But more than celebrating any holiday or heritage, I think learning a few words in Irish helps to normalize it and keep it alive. The number of native speakers has plummeted for more than a century due to colonization and its aftereffects, but thankfully, is now starting to go up again.
Éire go Brách.
Stay safe and have a wonderful St. Patrick’s day!