Nollaig shona daoibh means Merry Christmas you all

Speak Irish: Scél Lemm Dúib

I’m not normally the type to gripe about the weather, the crazy lady (my darling wife) does that enough for both of us, but I do sympathize with those that don’t care for the winter months. After the beauty of the first snowfall wanes, we’re left with five or six months of ick!

My evening walks with the hounds are turned into Artic expeditions for me, but they are oblivious to the weather and have no regard for my comfort. It seems that even in the eighth or ninth century, some folks were complaining about the coming of winter.

A while back, I  shared what is arguably Ireland’s most famous poem, Pangur Bán. Written in Old Irish, it was found in the margin of a manuscript by an unknown Irish monk, who compared his work with that of his cat.

The following poem was also found in the margin of a book, it’s  author is also unknown, but, it is attributed to Finn MacCumhaill, leader of the Fianna and the main protaganist of the Finian cycle in Irish mythology. It was common practice to compose a poem and put it into the mouth of a literary character.

This poem is also in Old Irish, and as I previously stated, dates from the eighth or ninth century. It was translated by Kuno Meyer and Kenneth Jackson in Four Old Irish Songs of Summer and Winter and Studies in Early Celtic Nature Poetry respectively. Note the Latin used in the opening line, you will often find Latin mixed with Old Irish in older Irish writings.

Scél Lemm Dúib = I Have News for You

Ut dixit Find hu Baiscne                                     As Fionn descendant of Baiscne said

Scél lemm dúib                                                  I have news for you

Dordaid dam,                                                    The stag bells,

Snigid gaim,                                                     Winter snows,

Ro-fáith sam,                                                    Summer has gone,

Gáeth ard úar,                                                  Wind high and cold

Ísel grían,                                                        The sun low,

Gair a rith,                                                       Short its course,

Ruirthech rían,                                                 The sea running high,

Ro-rúad rath,                                                    Deep red the bracken,

Ro-cleth cruth,                                                  Its shape lost,

Ro-gab gnáth                                                    The wild goose has

Guigrann guth,                                                  Raised its accustomed cry,

Ro-gab úacht                                                     Cold has seized

Etti én                                                              The birds’ wings

Aigre re                                                            Season of ice

É mo scél.                                                         This is my news


Old Irish                                   Modern Irish                            English

Scél                                           scéal                                             story

Lem                                           liom                                              with (grammatical form of le)

Dúib                                          daoibh                                           you plural (y’all)

Doirdaid                                   dord                                                bellowing

Snigid                                        sní                                                 flows

Gaim                                         gheimhridh                                      winter

Sam                                           samhradh                                        summer

Gáeth                                        gaoth                                               wind

Árd                                            ard                                                 high

Úar                                            fuar                                                cold

Ísel                                             íseal                                              low

Gair                                            gairid                                           short

Rían                                            aígéan                                          ocean

Raith                                           raithneach                                   bracken

Giugrann                                   gé fhiáin                                        wild goose

Én                                               éan                                             birds

Aigre                                          leac oighear                                             

As you can see, Irish, like all languages, has changed over time. Modern dictionaries are not the best source when attempting to translate some of these older works. I enjoy coming across these older poems, but leave the translations to those who have studied old Irish.

Good or bad, we like to talk about the weather. It can be an easy conversation starter with someone we don’t know, and sometimes the only thing we say!

Aimsir Foclóir

An aimsir (un am-sheer) the weather

An lá (un law) the day

An oíche (un ee-ha) the night

An mahaidin (un woh-jin) the morning

Inniu (inn-yoo) today

Anocht (uh-nahkt) tonight

Scamall (skoh-mahl) cloud

Scamallach (skoh-mahl-ach) cloudy

Baísteach (bosh-tahk) rain

Gaofar (gwee-fer) windy

Fliuch (fluyhk) wet

Ceo (kyo) fog/mist

Ceomhar (kyo-wer) foggy/misty

Sioc (shuk) frost

Seaca (shah-ka) frosty

Sneachta (shnok-ta) snow

Fliuch  sneachta (fluyhk shnok-ta) sleet   descriptive term, lit. wet snow

Stoirm (stor-im) storm

Gealach (gahl-ach) moon

Oíche ghealaí (ee-ha yell-ee) moonlit night

We’ve talked before about basic Irish sentence structure, verb, noun or pronoun, followed by an adjective. The combinations below will aid us in constructing new sentences in present, past and future tense.

Tá sé (taw shay) it is                                                     Bhí sé  (vee shay) it was

Níl sé (neel shay) it is not                                            Ní raibh sé (nee rev shay) it was not

An bhfuil sé (un will shay) is it?                                  An raibh sé (un rev shay) was it?

Nach bhfuil sé (nock will shay) isn’t it                       Nach raibh sé (nock rev shay) wasn’t it?

Beidh sé (bay shay) it will be

Ní bheidh sé (nee vay shay) it won’t be

An mbeidh sé (un may shay) will it be?

Nach mbeidh sé (nock may shay) won’t it be

We can ask about the weather using the three regional dialects we’ve learned to ask how someone is by changing the pronoun to whichever noun we wish to inquire about.

Conas atá an aimsir? (kun-uss ah-taw un am-sheer)  How is the weather?

Cád é mar atá an láw? (kahj ay mar ah-taw un law) How is the day?

Cén chaoi a bhfuil an oíche? (kay hee will un ee-ha) How is the night?


Tá se gaofar. (taw shay gwee-fer) It is windy.

Tá sé ag cur sneachta. (taw shay eg kur shnok-ta) It is snowing.

Tá sé ag cur báistí. (taw shay eg kur bawsh-tee) It is raining.

Tá sé ag stealladh báistí. (taw shay eg shtell-ah bawsh-tee) It is pouring rain.

Tá sé ag cur sceana gréasaí. (taw shay eg kur shkawna grey-see) It’s raining cobbler’s knives.

Thit an tóin as an spéir! (hit un tone as an speer) The arse fell out of the sky! (a heavy rain indeed)

Cén aimsir a bheidh í ndán duinn? (ken am-sheer a vayd ee nahn doo-in) What is the weather forecast?

Tá sé gealta fuar anocht. (taw shay gell-ta foo-er ah-nocht) It is promised to be cold tonight.

Tá sé go hálainn anois. (taw shay guh hawl-inn ah-nesh) It’s beautiful now.

Nollaig Shona Daoibh

Nollaig shona duit/ daoibh (null-ug hoe-na gwit/yeev) Merry Christmas to you/you all

Beannachtaí an tSéasúir. (bahn-uhk-tee un tay-soor) Seasons Greetings

Nollaig faoi shean agus faoi mhaise duit/daoibh (null-ug fwee hayn ah-gus fwee voosh-ah gwit/yeev)

Christmas happiness and goodness to you/you all.

Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit. (ah-vleen fwee voosh-ah gwit) Happy New Year to you.

A chara (ah kar-ah) my friend, or a chairde (ah kar-juh) my  friends can be substituted for duit or daoibh when addressing those close to you.

These last few phrases can be used if you’re entertaining at your home this holiday season.

Cead Míle fáilte (kayd mee-la fawl-cha) One hundred thousand welcomes

Go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo arís. (guh mare-ih-midj be-yo ar un am sho ah-reesh) May we live to see this time of year again.

Slán agus beannacht (slawn ah-gus bahn-ocht) Goodbye and bless you.

Slán abhaile (slawn ah-wahl-ya) Safe home

See this and all of Bob’s columns HERE

Picture of Bob Carney

Bob Carney

*Bob Carney is a student of Irish language and history and teaches the Speak Irish Cleveland class held every Tuesday at PJ McIntyre’s. He is also active in the Irish Wolfhound and Irish dogs organizations in and around Cleveland. Wife Mary, hounds Rían, Aisling and Draoi and terrier Doolin keep the house jumping. He can be reached at [email protected]

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