Clan Mackay WA - Clan Mackay Society - Western Australia - Gaelic Language

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Gaelic :

Our ancestors' language :

Talking to a child or a friend :

There are two words for 'you' in Gaelic:  Sibh [shiv]and thu [oo]. Thu is used when speaking to a close friend or a child while sibh is more formal or polite. It is used when talking to someone who is older or in authority. Sibh is also used when talking to more than one person. If there is any doubt about which to use, stick to sibh.

English Gaelic
thank you [formal or plural]
thank you

chan eil
I like
I don't like
tapadh leibh
tapadh leat

is or are [ha]
is not or are not
is toigh leam
cha toigh leam
math [mah]
dona [dawhnuh]
grod [grawht]

Gaelic does not have a single equivalent to Yes and No in the English language. Depending on the question being asked they are several ways of expressing negative and positive in Gaelic. Something is or is not, you like or you don't like or it is good or bad.

Pronunciation :

The Gaelic alphabet consists of only 18 letters; 13 consonants are b, c, d, f, g, h, l, m, n, p, r, s, t; there is no J K Q V W X Y or Z. There are sounds in Gaelic quite different from English, which are made up of combinations of letters. Once these are mastered, Gaelic spelling and pronunciation is fairly consistent.

As in English, there are five vowels, A E I O U. The E and I are caol = slender vowels, while A O U are leathann = broad vowels. If there is a accent over a vowel, it makes the sound longer eg; bta [baahtuh] = a boat and bata [bahtuh] = a walking stick, the vowel is short. Cr [kaahr] a car, and car [kahr]  a twist or turn. Some groups of letters can be silent eg; cilidh [kaylee] - a ceilidh.

The first syllable of the word in Gaelic is generally stressed but as in English short words are unstressed.

A consonant is pronounced differently when it is preceded or followed by a caol = slender vowel than when is it with a leathann = broad vowel. Also some consonants are pronounced differently depending on where they are situated in a word.

The letter h can be used at the start of a word as in English like hall or it can be used to 'aspirate' a word when it is usually silent. Also called lenition this changes the sound of the letter bh is like an English v, as in van, ch is pronounced like the ch in loch, dh or gh is either pronounced like a gargled g, or like the y of yellow, fh is silent, mh is like the v in van, ph is an f sound, as in phone, sh or th is either an h sound, as in house, or like the h in house and the y in yellow together. All consonants can be followed by h except l, n, r; they are the only letters that can be written double.

Lenition :

This is a term used to describe how the start of a word is altered when affected by some other words. In writing it means that an 'h' is added after the first letter of the word eg; mr [more]: big but brg mhr [brawk vore]: big shoe.

Masculines and Feminines :

The nouns in Gaelic are all either masculine or feminine but they need to be learnt as not all things female are 'feminine' and male 'masculine'. When a word is 'feminine' , the following adjective is lenited, if the word is 'masculine' the following adjective is unchanged.

Word Order :

In Gaelic, the verb usually comes at the beginning of the sentence; Tha mi Inbhir Nis: I am from Inverness; Whereas in questions the question word comes before the verb: Ciamar a tha thu? :How are you?

Verb "to be" :

The most common verb in the positive present tense is tha : to be. It is used to mean yes to answer a question and in statements depending on the subject can mean is or there is or there are or am, as shown above.

Some useful words and phrases for meeting friends :

One of the most common topics of conversation, as in many languages, is the weather.  Tha i bragha an-diugh. [ha ee breea-uh uhn jooh] :It's lovely today.

English Gaelic

 Good morning
 Good afternoon/evening 
 Good day  
 Good night
 How are you?
 Very well/good
 Not bad


 madainn mhath [mahteen vah]
 feasgar math [fayskuhr mah]
 Latha math [lahuh mah]
 Hall [hallo]   
 Oidhche mhath [uhychuh vah]

 Ciamar a tha sibh
 [kaymuhr uh ha shiv]
 Tha gu math
 [ha guh mah]
 Gl mhath  
 [glay vah]
 Chan eil dona
 [cha nyehl dawhnuh]

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English Gaelic

Yes you may.
No you may not.
No Im too busy.
May I see the teacher?
I would like to speak to your mother.
I would like to see your father.
When will you be in?
Ill meet you at the station.

Are you hungry?
Yes I am thirsty.
What will you have?
What do you want to drink?

Faodaidh tu.
Chan fhaod thu.
Chan fhaod, tha mi ro thrang.
Am faod mi an tidsear fhaicinn?
Tha mi airson bruidhinn ri do mhthair.
Tha mi airson dathair fhaicinn.
Cuin a bhios thu a-staigh?
Coinnichidh mi ruit aig an stisean.
A bheil an t-acras oirbh?
Tha, tha am pathadh orm.
D ghabhas sibh?
De tha sibh ag iarraidh ri l?



English / Gaelic Terms :


Clan Chief 
Lord Reay 
Clan Mackay 
Supreme Council (Scotland)  
Mackay's White Banner 
Mackay Country 
Local Patron 
Ordinary Councillor 
Welfare Officer 
Executive Council 
General Meeting 
Celtic Scotland 
Western Australia 
Standard Bearer 


 Morair maghrath
 Chlann Mhic Aoidh
 Bratach Bhan MhicAoidh
 Duthaich Mhic Aoidh
 Ionadach fear-comaraich
 Gnàthach Comhairliche
 Gniomharrach comhairle
 Coitchenn coinneamh
 Gailheil Na H-Albann
 Astrailia Siar
 Fear-giulan meirghe

Unofficial National Anthem :

The following are the English and Gaelic versions of Scotland’s unofficial National Anthem which were provided by Shirley F R Oliver of the Clan Donnachaidh WA and published in a past issue of the Scottish Heritage Centre’s Journal.

English Gaelic

 Written by Roy Williamson of the Corries

 O flower of Scotland
 When will we see your likes again ?
 That fought and died for
 You’re wee bit hill and glen
 And stood against him
 Proud Edward’s army
 And sent him homeward
 Tae think again
 The hills are bare now
 And autumn leaves lie thick and still
 O’er land that is lost now
 Which was so dearly held
 That stood against him
 Proud Edward’s army
 And sent him homeward
 Tae think again

 Those days are past now
 And in the past they must remain
 But we can still rise now
 And be a nation again
 That stood against him
 Proud Edward’s army
 And sent him homeward
 Tae think again


 Gaelic Words by John Angus Macleod
 O fhluir na h-Albann,
 Cuin a chi sinn an seorsa laoich
 A sheas gu bas ‘son
 Am bileag feo ir fraoich
 A sheas an aghaidh
 Feachd uailleil Iomhair
 ‘S a ruaig e dhachaigh
 air chaochladh smaoin
 na cnuic tha Iomnochd
 ‘S tha duilleach foghair mar bhrat air lar
 am fearann caillte
 dan tug na seoid ud gradh,
 A sheas an aghaidh
 Feachd uailleil Iomhair
 ‘S a ruaig e dhachaigh
 air chaochladh smaoin
 tha ‘n eachdraidh dunite
 ach air diochuimhne chan fheum I bhith
 is faodaidh sinn eirigh
 gu bhith nar Rioghachd a-ris
 A sheas an aghaidh
 Feachd uailleil Iomhair
 ‘S a ruaig e dhachaigh
 air chaochladh smaoin

Links to Gaelic Language Sources and Information :


Gaelic-BBC Bitsize listening


Clan Contact : Brian E McGee Davis Rank, 11/56 Sulman Road, Wembley Downs 6019, WA, Australia.
Telephone : +61 8 9341 3885 - or - Email :
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