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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

Note: The spellings and pronunciations used are based on Aideen's own natural use of Connemara Irish but they have been kept simple, so as to be understood 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 Irish, but not in English; it's difficult to 'reproduce' them in writing. 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.

Lesson 1 Starters
Unless you can arrange to spend a year or so living in the Gaeltacht - an Irish speaking part of the country - learning the language will probably be nigh on impossible for most people. That said, in our basic Irish section, we have attempted to share with you simple words and phrases we think you will find both fun and useful.
Photo credit: Cluiche

Phrase: Thank you
Irish: Go raibh maith agat
Pronunciation: Guh row mah aguth (row as in cow)

Phrase: You're welcome
Irish: Tá fáilte romhat
Pronunciation: Thaw foil-cheh roath

Phrase: Hello
Irish: Dia dhuit
Pronunciation: Djee-ah gwitch

Phrase: What is your name?
Irish: Cad is ainm duit?
Pronunciation: Codh is anam gwitch

Phrase: My name is Judith Flynn
Irish: Judith Flynn is ainm dom
Pronunciation: Judith Flynn is aman dhum

Phrase: How are you?
Irish: Conas tá tú?
Pronunciation: Kunas thaw thoo
Phrase: I am fine
Irish: Tá me go maith
Prounciation: Thaw may guh mah

Phrase: How old are you?
Irish: Cad is aois duit?*
Pronunciation: Codh is eesh gwitch
*Not a colloquially correct expression. Much better to use Cén aois thú? Kayn eesh hoo

Phrase: What time is it?
Irish: Cén t-am é?
Pronunciation: Kayn thom ay

Phrase: It's three o'clock
Irish: Tá sé a tri a chlog
Pronunciation: Thaw shay three a (c)hlug - not 'ch' as in 'chew', the 'c' is almost silent

Phrase: Today is Sunday
Irish: Inniu an* Dé Domhnaigh
Pronunciation: Djay dhough-knee * Omit 'an' - equivalent to saying Today is the Sunday

Word: Monday
Irish: Dé Luain
Pronunciation: Djay loo-in

Word: Tuesday
Irish: Dé Máirt
Pronunciation: Djay moyrch

Word: Wednesday
Irish: Dé Chéadaoin
Pronunciation: Djay Kay-dheen

Word: Thursday
Irish: Dé Déardaoin
Pronunciation: Djay Djayr-dheen

Word: Friday
Irish: Dé hAoine
Pronunciation: Djay-heenah

Word: Saturday
Irish: Dé Sathairn
Pronunciation: Djay Sah-harn

Phrase: Goodnight, see you tomorrow
Irish: Oiche mhaith, feicfidh mé ar ball tú*. Pronunciation: Ee-heh wah,. feck-hee may er boll hoo *This is singular. To make it plural, replace tú with sibh'- shiv.
The problem here is that 'feicfidh' is used only in Connemara Irish (which is what I speak) but in Leinster, Ulster and Munster the word is 'cífidh', which has two different pronunciations. Leinster/Munster - kee-fee; Ulster - chee-fee.

Note: To keep things as simple as possible, we are going to use Aideen's Connemara Irish.

Lesson 2
Phrase: Good morning/Good afternoon/Good evening
We don't really use specific phrases for greetings on meeting at any particular part of the day. So, for simplification, best not to split them and just use Hello at any time of the day - quite acceptable and widely used.
Irish: Dia duit (singular)
Pronunciation: djee-ah gwitch
Phrase: Dhia dhibh (plural) Pronunciation: djee-ah yeeve
Phrase: What will you have?
Irish: Céard a bhéas agat?
Pronunciation: kay-rdh a vays aguth
Phrase: I'd like a Guinness (please)
Irish: Piont (leath-phiont) Guinness/Murphy's/Harp led' thoil
Pronunciation: Pionth Guinness/Murphy's/Harp ledh hell
Note: 'bar-speak' is a little more specific and people would tend to ask for "a pint" or "half-pint" without always mentioning the brand (means Guinness unless otherwise specified!), so I'm changing this slightly to suit more usually used idioms. We don't usually use the phrase "I'd like" as such (directly translated) but rather simply, give the item and add a shortish "please"
Phrase: I'd like an Irish Coffee (please)
Irish: Caifé Gaelach led' thoil
Pronunciation: Cah- fay gwael-och ledh hell
Phrase: I'd like a glass of water (please)
Irish: Gloinne uisce led' thoil
Pronunciation: Glinn-eh ish-geh ledh hell

Lesson 3
Phrase: Where is the nearest ________? (list of locations follows)
Irish: Cá bhfuil an _______ is cóngaraí (or is giorra) is a direct translation.
Pronunciation: Caw will on_______ is coan-gar-ee (or is girra)
NOTE: I would use 'I'm looking for a ________ " It's less stilted in Irish and probably easier for a beginner.
Phrase: I am looking for _______
Irish: Táim ag lorg _______
Pronunciation: Thaw-im a' lurg ___ (The 'g' is usually silent here)
Men's Room
Irish: Seomra na bhfear
Pronunciation: Shome-reh na varr
Ladies' Room
Irish: Seomra na mban
Pronunciation: Shome-reh na mon (as in 'gone')
Irish: Oispidéil
Pronunciation: Us -pi-djayl
Police Station
Irish: Stáisiún na nGárdaí
Pronunciation: Sthaw-shoon nah ngaw -dhee
Post Office
Irish: Ofig an phoist
Pronunciation: If-ig an fwisht
Irish: Poiticéir
Pronunciation: Puth-i-kayr
Grocery Store
Irish: Siopa gróiséar

Pronunciation: Shup-eh gross-ayr Pub
Irish: óstlann
Pronunciation: oasth-lunn Hotel
Irish: óstán
Pronunciation: oasth-awn
Hair Salon/barber
Irish: Gruaigeadóir
Pronunciation: Grew-ig-a-dhoor (as in door)

Lesson 4
This was overlooked - The months of the year! As we feel these words would be used sooner rather than later we squeezed them in here. For those who are early visitors, we moved the words of love up to the next Lesson (5).

Months of the Year

Irish: Eanáir

Irish: Feabhra

Irish: Márta

Irish: Aibreán

Irish: Bealtaine

Irish: Meitheamh

Irish: Iúil

Irish: Lúnasa

Irish: Meán Fomhair
mahn foh-ir

Irish: Deireadh Fomhair
djeh-reh foh-ir

Irish: Samhain
sow (as in cow) -in

Irish: Nollaig

For More Irish words & phrases please click here: Irish Index

Image: Gaeilge Beo from All Posters and Prints.


Wed, Apr 6, 2016
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This book is excellent for beginners who are wanting a book that gives basic grammar without all the extra information that confuses beginners. The book is well laid out, with information very easy to find. Amazon Reviewer

Here is a good follow-on to our words and phrases.
Click for Irish Grammar.

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.

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).
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Teach Yourself Irish Complete Course
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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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