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Irish Names

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    Irish pronunciation makes some sense once you understand a few rules. It’s less freestyle than English anyway. I'm no expert but some notes......

    S at the start of a word is generally pronounced SH, so Sean, Sinead and Seamus start with SH… sounds. But not always. (I'm wondering if this is when followed by a narrow vowel, I'm not sure.)

    In a two-consonant digraph the following H softens the other consonant, so BH is pronounced V (in Siobhan), MH is a W sound, SH is a H sound, DH is close to a G sound, etc

    Now, there are some constructs where vowel-consonant combinations make vowel sounds (a bit like OUGH is English, I guess.) ADH is pronounced like the English word EYE, so Tadhg sound like the first syllable of Tiger (and inevitably leads to young Tadhg earning the nickname Tiger). SADHBH combines the ADH "eye" sound with the BH V sound, but in this case the initial S is not pronounced SH, leaving you with SADHBH pronounced Sive.... and not SAD HUBUHUH as a friend was called in America. GH is basically not pronounced so Clodagh is Cloda and EOGHAN is effectively one syllable OWN, i.e. Owen. (Also commonly spelled Eoin).

    Some confusion comes from fadas not being used in English versions of names. Technically I suppose Sean would be pronounced Shan, but Seán would be Shawn. Seamus Coleman needs the fada on his E, to make it Séamus, ie. Shay-muss. Grainne needs the fada on her A for Gráinne, i.e. Graw-nyeh. Gráinne, incidentally is very close to the Irish for ugly- gránna (grawnah), specially if you pronounce Gráinne, as Graw-nyah rather than Graw-nye

    Broad vowels generally take precedence over narrow vowel, I think, anyway! Oisín takes the UH or OH sound of the OI part, and the fada on the i in the second syllable makes it an EE sound so it's Usheen or Ohsheen, rather than rhyming with Hoisin sauce.

    There's some additional confusion to be caused by a rule I can barely remember which states that a mid-word consonant should be surrounded with either board or narrow vowels, not both, which leads to the insertion of additional vowels into words. See here


      You almost never heard Irish being spoken down at the Cultural Centre, other than in the Irish language group that met once a month. My nana, who was from a Gaeltacht in Donegal and spoke Irish as a first language, spoke it almost as a party trick. She never spoke it to her husband, who was from Sligo.

      anglicised Irish names used to be very common, especially for girls. There’s about nine Eileens in my family, my aunts are Maureen and Kathleen. A lot of the men are called Emmet, originally after Robert.

      There were several kids with Irish language names in my school, but only the Séans were actually from American families. Oh, and Seamus for some reason. But pronounciation was poor, Aisling was A-sling, Caitlín was Kate-lynn. Neither seemed to mind. Caitlín left in fifth grade and went back to Cork, in retrospect it was pretty clear her mum and her didn’t have papers...


        Porn as Gaeilge.
        Last edited by Diable Rouge; 30-01-2019, 15:24.


          Can I get a little help please? I;m just about to start work in Cambridge for a month and on Sunday evening i have to introduce my team (who I won't yet have met) to a group of students. One of them is called Eadaoin - how am I pronouncing that? Ta.


            Ay- deen is the usual way.


              Thanks. That's Ay as in Way?


                A-deen will get you close.

                You can hear it being said in the first seven seconds of this clip.

                A good tip for pronouncing Irish names is to type it into Youtube. There will be someone with that name making videos, and they are going to say their name.


                  Ta both