Speak Irish: Bean an Leanna

Speak Irish: “Bean an Leanna”
by Bob Carney


“Chuir mé mó lámh isteach i mo phóca,                             “I put my hand in my pocket,

A’s d’iarr mé briseadh leathchorón’ uirthi,                          An’ asked her for the change of a

Is é dúirt sí liom ‘Suigh síos ag bord,                                   Said she to me ‘Sit down at the board,

A’s bí ag ól anseo go maidin’”                                              An’ be drinking here till morning’


“Níl ina lá, níl ‘na lá,                                                             “It’s  not day yet, it’s not day yet,                                                                                                                                                Níl’ na lá, ná ina mhaidin,                                                      It’s not day yet or even morning,

Níl ‘ná lá, a mhíle grá,                                                             It’s not day yet, oh dearest love,                                                                                       Solas ard atá sa ghealach.”                                                     There a high kight on the moon”

An excerpt from the popular pub song, “Bean an Leanna,”  (the woman of the beer-translates in English as landlady).  The song tells the story of a man who drinks well, but not wisely. If you sing it loudly enough, you’ll show your awareness of the dangers of too much drink, and it won’t happen to you, or so the claim goes!

One question that tends to pop up in every new session of Speak Irish Cleveland classes, Is, “How would I order a beer in Irish?” Many people sign up for a one-time ten week session because they have a trip planned in the near future to Ireland.
I must agree that an interaction in the pubs or shops there is a great way to use the language. Almost all Irish speakers are happy to help a learner in their pursuit of speaking the language.
Our vocabulary and phrases this month will focus on that end.

Speak Irish in the Pub
Leann (lawhn) ale/beer

Leann dubh (lawhn duv) porter or stout , dubh is the color black

Teach leanna (chawk lawhna) tavern, lit. ale house

Beoir / an bheoir (byore/ahn vyore)* beer/the beer – *There are two types of vowel groupings, broad and slender. A, o, and u, are broad and i and e are slender. A broad vowel would cause the lenited bh combination to be pronounced as a w, a slender vowel would make it be pronounced as a v.

Pionta beorach (pyunta byor-ach) a pint of beer

Fíon / an fíon (fee-un/ ahn fee-un) wine/the wine

Buidéal fíona (boo-dale fee-un-ah) bottle of wine

Gloine fíona (glawn-ya fee-un-ah) glass of wine

Fíon dearg (fee-un jer-ug) red wine

Uisce beatha (ish-ka bah-ha) water of life- whiskey

Uisce (ish-ka) water

Cupán tae (kup-an tay) cup of tea

Caife (ka-fay) coffee

Bainne (bahn-ya) milk

Tá tart orm. (taw tart or-um) I’m thirsty.

Tá ocras orm. (taw oh-kruss or-um) I’m hungry.

Cad ba mhaith leat? (kad buh wah layt) What would you like?

Ar mhaith leat rud égin a ól? (ar wah layt rud a-ginn ah ole) Would you like something to drink?

Ar mhaith leat rud égin a ithe? (ar wah layt rud a-ginn ah ih-ha) Would you like something to eat?

Ba mhaith (buh wah) I would

Níor mhaith (neer wah) I would not

Ba mhaith liom (buh wah lum) I would like

Is maith liom (iss mah lum) I like

Is maith liom Guinness. (iss mah lum Guinness) I like Guinness.

An maith leat Guinness? (ahn mahlyat Guinness) Do you like Guinness?

Ba mhaith liom pionta Guinness le do thoil. (buh wah lum pyun-ta guinness lay duh hoil) I would like a pint of Guinness please

Go raith maith agat. (go rah mah ah-gut) thank you

Ar mhaith leat ithe? (ar wah lyat ih-ha) Would you like to eat?

Cén áit ar mhaith leat a ithe? (kayn aht ar wah lyat ah ih-ha) Where would you like to eat?

Cathain ar mhaith leat a ithe? (kah-hinn ar wah lyat ah ih-ha) When would you like to eat?

Cinnte (kin-ta) certainly

Freastalaí (frosh-ta-lee) waiter

Anois (ah-nesh) now

Ní anois (nee ah-nesh) not now

Níos déanai (neesh dee-uh-nee) later

An ólfá deoch? (ahn ol-fa jawhk) Will you have a drink?

Students of any language can sometimes find it frustrating not being able to express themselves as well as they would like. It is best to say things as simply as possible in Irish, using what you know, as opposed to trying to translate your thoughts from English to Irish. As your vocabulary and understanding increases, so will the complexity of your conversation.


Micheál: Gabh mo leithscéal. (gah mo lesh kale) excuse me

Freastalaí: Haigh, cad ba mhaith libh? (hi kahd ba wah liv) Hi, what would you like? (plural)

Micheál: Pionta Guinness, le do thoil. (pyun-ta Guinness lay duh hoil) A pint of Guinness, please.

Freastalaí: Agus cad a bheidh agatsa? (ah-gus kad a vay ah-gut-sa) And what will you have?

Conor: Beidh pionta agamsa freisin, le do thoil. (bay pyun-ta ah-gum-sa fresh-in le duh hoil) I’ll have a pint as well, please.

These phrases might be used if someone drinks more than they should!

Bhí sé ag tabhairt dhá thaobh an bhóthair leis. (vee shay ag tohw-ert gaa hahv ahn wo-her lesh)

He was taking both sides of the road with him. (he was unable to walk in a straight line)

Bhí a inchinn sa leathcheann aige. (vee ah ina-kin sa layh-kyown ehg-uh)

His brain was tilted to one side of his head. (he was drunk out of his skull!)

TÁ, AN T-AM ISTIGH! (taw ahn tam ish-tuh) TIME-TIME UP!


*Bob Carney is a student of Irish history and language and teaches  the Speak Irish Cleveland class held every Tuesday @ PJ McIntyre’s. He is also active in the Irish Wolfhounds and Irish dogs orginizations in and around Cleveland. Wife Mary, hound Morrighán and terrier Doolin keep the house jumping. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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