Is irish a language?

Is Irish a Language?

Céad míle fáilte

Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge nah Eireann) is a Celtic language spoken by 138,000 people as a first language, and by another 1,000,000 people as a second language in Ireland with 276,000 first-language speakers worldwide (Ethnologue).The language is sometimes referred to as Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, or Erse, but in Ireland it is simply called Irish.

Republic of Ireland

Irish was the only language spoken in Ireland until the 17th century, but the dominance of English and the effects of 19th-century potato famines and emigration led to a sharp decline in the population. Today, Irish is spoken as a first language by a small minority of the population of Ireland.

The main concentrations of native Irish speakers are scattered along the west coast of Ireland. An Irish-speaking area is called Gaeltacht. When the Republic of Ireland was established in 1922, Irish was adopted as an official language, along with English. Since then it has been a compulsory subject in government-funded schools. A relatively recent development is the spread of gaelscoileanna, i.e., schools in which Irish is the medium of instruction. Irish is also used in radio broadcasting (Raidió na Gaeltachta), television (Teilifis na Gaeilge), in newspapers, magazines, literature, theater, and the arts. In spite of all these efforts, the future of the Irish language remains uncertain. Although the number of speakers of Irish is rising in urban areas due to Irish-medium instruction, young people in Gaeltacht tend to use the language less than their elders, preferring to communicate in English.

Northern Ireland

Irish is an officially recognized minority language in Northern Ireland. It received official recognition in Northern Ireland for the first time in 1998 under the Good Friday Agreement. There is a cross-border body that promotes the language in both the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland.

European Union

Irish became an official language of the European Union in 2005.


There are three major dialects with considerable variation among them (Ethnologue).

  • Munster-Leinster (Southern Irish)
  • Connacht (Western Irish)
  • Donegal (Ulster, Northern Irish)

There is also some evidence that the Irish spoken in urban areas and that spoken in Gaeltacht by an older population are becoming progressively more distinct.


The sound system of the Irish language varies from dialect to dialect; there is no standard pronunciation of the language.The description below is of a somewhat ‘idealized’ phonology of Irish.


Irish vowels can be long or short. Vowel length makes a difference in word meaning. In writing, long vowels are marked with an acute accent (known in Irish as síneadh fada or simply fada ‘long mark’), e.g., í, é, á, ú, ó. In the table below, vowel length is indicated by a macron over the vowel.

i, ī u, ū
e, ē ə o, ō
a, ā
  • /ə/ occurs only in unstressed syllables.
  • There are 5 diphthongs: /au, ai, ei, uə, iə/. Some dialects have additional diphthongs.


Below is an inventory of Irish consonant phonemes.

  • /?/ = sound between vowels in uh-oh
  • /z, ʒ/ occur only in borrowed words
  • /x, ɣ/ have no equivalents in English
  • /ʃ/ = sh in shop
  • /ʒ/ = s in vision
  • /ŋ/ = ng in song

All consonants except /h/ can be either velarized or palatalized. The velarized-palatalized distinction is commonly referred to as broad vs. slender.

During the articulation of the sound, broad consonants are pronounced with the back of the tongue pulled back and slightly up towards the soft palate. Slender (palatalized) consonants are pronounced with the tongue pushed up toward the hard palate.

The contrast between broad and slender consonants changes the meaning of a word. Broad-slender paired consonants are given below.

Broad p b v w f m t d n l r s z k g x ɣ ŋ
Slender p’ b’ v’ f’ f’ m’ t’ d’ n’ l’ r’ s’ z’ k’ g’ x’ ɣ’ ŋ’

How much Irish is spoken in Ireland?

The figures from Ireland’s Census 2016 show 73,803 people, of the total population of 4.75 million, speak Irish daily. This equates to 1.7 percent of the population.

  • This is a slight decrease from the last Census, in 2011, when the Central Statistics Office reported that, “there were 77,185 persons speaking Irish on a daily basis outside of the education system in April 2011.”
  • Of the daily Irish speakers from the 2016 Census, 20 percent live in Dublin and just over 8 percent live in Cork, Galway, and Limerick.
  • Read more: Learn Irish for free – How to speak Irish for beginners

Where is Gaelic spoken? 

Galway County recorded the highest percentages of persons able to speak Irish at 49.0 percent, followed by Clare (45.9 percent), Cork County (44.9 percent) and Mayo (43.9 percent).  In contrast, the lowest percentages were in Dublin City at 29.2 percent, followed by Louth and South Dublin (both 34.1 percent) and Cavan (34.6 percent). 

Is Irish a Language?2

CSO map showing location of daily Irish speakers.

How many people speak Irish in the Gaeltacht? 

A total of 20,586 daily speakers in Gaeltacht areas, three-quarters of whom live in counties Galway and Donegal. Within the Gaeltacht regions, 66 percent of the population said they could speak the language.

Out Gaeltacht regions, the towns with the largest percentage of Irish speakers are Letterkenny in County Donegal (2.9 percent), and Maynooth (2.3 percent) and Leixlip (2 percent), both in County Kildare.

Within the Gaeltachts, the three towns with the largest percentage of daily Irish speakers are Mín Lárach (73.3 percent) and Rann na Feirste (66.6 percent), both in County Donegal, and An Cheathrú Rua in County Galway (61.6 percent).

  1. Read more: Ever wonder if there’s an Irish language version of your name?
  2. This August, we're celebrating Gaeilge (the Irish language) and Irish music with a series highlighting those around the world speaking and learning Irish, and playing Irish music.
  3. Visit our dedicated music section here or our Irish language section here to read more.

What Is Irish | Department of Irish Language and Literature | University of Notre Dame

Is Irish a Language?

Irish is a Celtic language (as English is a Germanic language, French a Romance language, and so on). 

This means that it is a member of the Celtic family of languages. Its “sister” languages are Scottish Gaelic and Manx (Isle of Man); its more distant “cousins” are Welsh, Breton and Cornish. 

The word “Gaelic” in English derives from Gaeilge which is the word in Irish for the language itself. However, when English is being used, the Irish language is conventionally referred to as “Irish,” not “Gaelic.”

Origins in 6th Century

Irish has the earliest attested vernacular European literature outside the classical world of Greece and Rome; there is evidence for a literary tradition in Irish as early as the sixth century A.D. and evidence for literacy predates that.

  • The medieval literary tradition has excited the imaginations of scholars all over the world, incorporating as it does some of the most extensive saga literature to be found anywhere.
  • These sagas offer not just the delights of dramatic storytelling, they also shed considerable light on the social, cultural and political configurations of Early Ireland, in particular the engagement of Christianity with the pre- Christian culture that preceded it, and of a literate culture with its older oral inheritance.
  • Our understanding of the cultural richness of medieval Ireland is also immeasurably enhanced by an abundance of law texts, wisdom texts, annals, genealogies, poetry, saints’ lives and various other devotional texts.
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Lively Engagement with Mainland Europe

  1. Despite its position on the continent’s northwestern periphery, Ireland has always had a lively engagement with the European mainland.
  2. From the seventh century, Irish monks and scholars were to be found at the Carolingian court, while the oldest Irish manuscripts contemporary with the language in which they were written are to be found in Cambrai, France, Würzburg, Germany (both eighth century) and Milan, Italy (early ninth century).
  3. Characteristically, these are Irish glosses to Latin texts of a scriptural or more generally devotional nature.

Why is Irish not our spoken language?

by Caoimín De Barra (Currach Press, €14.99)

This is an interesting polemic which argues that Irish should and could be restored as the generally spoken language of most people in the Republic of Ireland.

In the introduction the author acknowledges that most people have already made up their minds on this issue. However, he forges ahead with his thesis.

He begins with his experience learning Irish. He rates the teaching of the subject at the schools he attended in Cork – Cloghroe National School and Christian Brothers College – as satisfactory.

Yet when he ended his secondary education his knowledge of Irish was unsatisfactory. However, it was the opposite with regard to other subjects, particularly English and History.

Significantly he notes that his father had frequently impressed upon him the importance of English and that he and his father shared a keen interest in Irish history.

De Barra sets out the main stages in the decline of Irish. The 17th Century saw the linguistic balance of power in Ireland shift sharply in favour of English as a result of political developments. The battle of Kinsale in 1601 marked the end of the independent Gaelic lordships and the Irish-speaking elite that had held sway over the island.

The Cromwellian campaign of the 1650s and the Williamite wars later in the century brought about a massive land transfer from the native Irish to settlers from England and Scotland.

The Irish who managed to keep their lands found it politic to speak English rather than Irish. But the Great Famine (1845-49) was arguably the primary reason for the decline of Irish. Within six years one third of the Irish-speaking world had vanished – these speakers had either died or fled overseas.

Efforts were made by the independent Irish State to promote the language. In 1919 the first Dáil Éireann made it clear that the revival of Irish was one of its priorities.

It declared Irish to be the ‘first official language’ and it was made compulsory in primary and secondary schools. Also, in most schools other subjects were taught through the medium of Irish.

Arrangements were made whereby all government business could be conducted in the vernacular.


There were many other incentives, including a wide range of scholarships, to promote the language. The results are not encouraging.

According to the 2016 census just under 40% of Irish people claimed to be able to speak the language. But experts question the level of fluency with which they are able to do so.

A more realistic figure about the health of the language is that just 1.7% of the population are daily speakers of Irish.

De Barra discusses the challenges faced by other minority languages. He describes the travails of these promoting Welsh in Wales, Scots-Gaelic in Scotland, French in Canada and Spanish in the US.

Yet Israel made Hebrew – a dead language- the State’s official and generally spoken language.

And Bahasa was successfully established as the official language across the hundreds of islands that constitute Indonesia (though this is not such a good example as it is an example of Javanese internal colonialism over minority groups).

The author rightly says that the main reason why Irish people do not speak Irish is because they have no need to do so. Thus to have Irish spoken more generally a situation has to be created where it is necessary to speak it.

To this end he suggests a radical transformation of the government bureaucracy, whereby all its business would be conducted in Irish with only exceptional arrangements for those who wish to access its services in English.

8 Fun Facts About the Irish Language

You may hear an “Erin go bragh” and a “sláinte” or two this St.

Patrick's Day, but even on the most Irish of holidays, we don't hear much of the Irish language—which is a shame! Irish is so different from English or any of the languages we usually study in school, and so much about it is rather interesting and cool. As we head towards St. Patrick's Day, here are a few fun facts about Irish.

1. The name of the language is “Irish.”

Gaeilge is the name of the language in Irish, and Irish is the name of the language in English. Sometimes people will call it Irish Gaelic in order to make sure they aren't misunderstood to mean “Irish English” for Irish. They may also say Irish Gaelic to distinguish it from Gaelic, which means Scottish Gaelic, a related but different language.

2. There's no “yes” or “no” in Irish

There are no words for “yes” or “no” in Irish, but that doesn't mean there's no way to answer a question. You communicate “yes” and “no” with a verb form. The answer to “did they sell the house?” would be “(they) sold ” or “(they) didn't sell.” In Irish:

Ar dhíol sian an teach?

Níor dhíol.

3. Its word order is Verb Subject Object

Sentences have Verb Subject Object order. So “I saw a bird” would be “Saw I a bird.” “I always speak Irish” would be “Speak I Irish always.” This word order is relatively rare—only 9 percent of the world's languages use it.

4. The words for numbers depend on whether you're counting humans or non-humans

In addition to one set of numbers for doing arithmetic or referring to dates and times, Irish has a second set for counting humans and a third set for counting non-humans. Five children is “cúigear páiste,” but five horses is “cúig chapall.”

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5. The beginning of the word changes depending on the grammatical environment

What's the word for “woman”? Either “bean” (byan), “bhean” (vyan), or “mbean” (myan), depending whether it comes after certain possessive pronouns (my, your, his), or certain prepositions (under, before, on), or certain numbers, or a whole range of other conditions that determine which form of the word is correct. Most languages people study require them to learn different word endings, not beginnings. Irish requires…both. It's a bit of a challenge!

6. It only has 11 irregular verbs, though

English has a lot more. More than 80, and that's just counting the commonly used ones…

7. It's left an imprint on the English spoken in Ireland

English phrases in many parts of Ireland show a parallel structure with their counterparts in Irish. “I'm after eating my breakfast ” (I just ate my breakfast), “I gave out about the terrible service” (I complained/told them off about the terrible service), and in some places, “He does be working every day.”

8. It's possible (but not easy) to travel around Ireland only speaking Irish

Filmmaker and native Irish speaker Manchán Magan made a documentary No Béarla (No English) in which he traveled through Ireland only speaking Irish, even when people demanded he switch to English.

Shopkeepers told him to get lost, officials refused to help him, people on the street ignored him, but he kept at it and found willing speakers here and there. In any case, he survived the trip. Watch it here.

This post originally appeared in 2013.


Due to its long history as a written language and its status as an official language of Ireland, Irish has been fairly well documented and studied.

Literature in Irish is extensive, though most modern Irish writers have written in English.

There has also been a considerable amount of work done on the influence of Irish on the varieties of English spoken in Ireland (sometimes termed “Hiberno-English”).

Borsley, R., Roberts, I. “The Syntax of the Celtic Languages: A Comparative Perspective”. Cambridge. 2005.

de Bhaldraithe, Tomás. “English-Irish Dictionary”. 1959. (also available online at

Flippula, Markku. “The Grammar of Irish English: Language in Hibernian Style”. Routledge. 2002.

Filppula, Markku. “Irish English: morphology and syntax.” A handbook of varieties of English 2 (2004): 73-101.

Hindley, Reg. “The Death of the Irish Language”. 2012. Routledge.

Huallacháin, Colmán Ó., and Mícheál Ó. Murchú. Irish grammar. Irish Studies, New University of Ulster, 1981.

Hyde, Douglas. Beside the fire: a collection of Irish Gaelic folk stories. Vol. 1. Library of Alexandria, 1890.

Kessler, Brett. “Computational dialectology in Irish Gaelic.” Proceedings of the seventh conference on European chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc., 1995.

MacBain, Alexander. An etymological dictionary of the Gaelic language. E. Mackay, 1911.

Mac an Ghoill, M.H. “Graiméar Gaeilge na mBráithre Críostaí”. 1999 (orig. 1960, one of the most standard grammars of the language, albeit not in English, translations might be available, available online as a PDF)

O’Donovan, John. “A Grammar of the Irish Language”. 1845.

O’Donaill, Eamon. “Essential Irish Grammar: A Teach Yourself Guide”. 2010.

Ó Domhnalláin, Tomas. “Buntús Cainte”. 2002. (orig. 1967)

Ó Dónaill, Niall. “Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla”. 1977. (definitive Irish-English dictionary, also available online at

See the Glottolog entry on Irish

Stair na Gaeilge | An Ghaeilge & An Ghaeltacht | Údarás na Gaeltachta

I rith thréimhse na Meán-Ghaeilge (900-1200 AD) fuarthas roinnt iasachtaí ón Lochlainnis, focail nua ar nós ‘pingin’ agus ‘margadh’, ach is beag tionchar a bhí ag an Lochlainnis ar chomhréir na Gaeilge. Treimhse cheannairce agus choimhlinte a bhí ann ach, in ainneoin sin, níor theip ar chultúr liteartha na nGael agus tá scríbhínní iomadúla a mhair ó ré na Meán-Ghaeilge.

Thosaigh na hAngla-Normannaigh ag lonnú in Albain i ndeireadh an aonú céad déag, agus in Éirinn sa trian deiridh den dara céad déag.

Chuir gabháltas na nAngla-Normannach tús le tréimhse ilteangachais in Éirinn, ach d’fhan an Ghaeilge in uachtar agus, de réir a chéile, thosaigh na Normannaigh ag labhairt Gaeilge. Faoi thús an tséú céad déag, ba chainteoirí Gaeilge formhór phobal na hÉireann arís.

Ar chuid de na focail a thug na hAngla-Normannaigh isteach sa Ghaeilge tá ‘giúistís’, ‘bardas’, ‘cúirt’, ‘garsún’, agus a lán lán eile.

1200-1600 dátaí threimhse na Nua-Ghaeilge Clasaicí. Ní gnáthchaint na linne a bhí ann ach teanga shaothraithe chaighdeánach a forbraíodh sna scoileanna oidhreachtúla do scoláirí agus d’fhilí ar fud na hÉireann agus na hAlban. Tugtar an Nua-Ghaeilge Mhoch ar theanga labhartha na treimhse céanna, ach tháinig a lán athruithe ar chaint na ndaoine ó thús deireadh na tréimhse seo.

In ainneoin go raibh Gaeilge ag formhór na ndaoine, bhí, áfach, Béarla ag teastáil le haghaidh gnóthaí riaracháin agus dlí. Tharla, mar sin, nach ndearnadh teanga riaracháin riamh den Ghaeilge, agus nár bhain pobal na Gaeilge neamhspleáchas polaitiúil amach choíche arís.

Bualadh buillí troma ar an nGaeilge le linn an tséú agus an tseachtú haois déag.

De thoradh ar choncas agus ar phlandáil na dTiúdóireach agus na Stiobhardach (1534–1610), plandáil Chromail (1654), Cogadh an Dá Rí (1689-91) agus achtú na bPéindlíthe (1695) a lean sin, bhí aicmí ceannais phobal na Gaeilge go hiomlán ar lár agus bhí a gcuid institiúidí cultúrtha scriosta.

Bhí stádas na Gaeilge mar mhórtheanga caillte. Ach ba í an Ghaeilge teanga fhormhór phobal na tuaithe i gcónaí agus, go ceann tréimhse, ag an lucht oibre sna bailte.

Ó lár an ochtú céad déag, de réir mar a bhí maolú ag teacht ar na péindlíthe, agus méadú ar dheiseanna sóisialta agus eacnamaíochta ag an seanphobal Gaelach, thosaigh an chuid ba rafaire orthu ag tiontú ar ghnás na meánaicme gallda agus an Béarla a tharraingt chucu féin. Chuaigh an nós seo i dtreise le linn agus i ndiaidh an Ghorta Mhóir (1846-1848). Bhí an teanga i mbéal an bháis.

I dtús an ochtú haois déag, thosaigh an lucht léinn ag cur spéise sa teanga agus ina litríocht. Thuig go leor daoine go raibh an Ghaeilge labhartha ag meath. Bhí Tomás Dáibhís, sa bhliain 1843, ar dhuine de na daoine a dhearbhaigh go poiblí gur ‘teanga náisiúnta’ í an Ghaeilge.

Baineadh leas as an téarmaíocht seo arís i mBunreachtaí 1922 agus 1937. D’éirigh le Cumann Buan-Choimeádta na Gaeilge, a bunaíodh sa bhliain 1876, aitheantas a ghnóthú don Ghaeilge ar gach leibhéal den chóras oideachais ón mbunscolaíocht go dtí an ollscolaíocht.

Sa bhliain 1893, bhunaigh Dubhghlas de hÍde, Eoin Mac Néill, an tAthair Eoghan Ó Gramhnaigh, agus daoine eile, Conradh na Gaeilge. Laistigh de chúpla bliain d’éirigh leo mórghluaiseacht tacaíochta ar son na Gaeilge a chruthú.

Tosaíodh ar litriú agus ar ghramadach na teanga scríofa a thabhairt chun réitigh leis an nuatheanga labhartha. Bhí de thoradh ar na hiarrachtaí sin an Caighdeán Oifigiúil a d’fhoilsigh Rialtas na hÉireann sa bhliain 1958.

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Tá athrú suntasasch tagtha ar íomhá na Gaeilge le blianta beaga anuas. Tá sé seo le sonrú i líon na ndaoine atá á labhairt agus á foghlaim ní hamháin in Éirinn ach ar fud na cruinne. Labhraítear an Ghaeilge mar theanga an phobail i gceantair Ghaeltachta in Éirinn agus tá an Ghaeilge ag bailiú nirt lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht chomh maith. De réir Dhaonáireamh 2006, tá sé ar a gcumas ag 1.

66 milliún duine i bPoblacht na hÉireann an Ghaeilge a labhairt i gcomparáid le 1.57 milliún i 2002 agus léirigh 10.4% go raibh eolas éigin acu ar an nGaeilge i dTuaisceart Éireann de réir fhigiúirí Dhaonáireamh 2001.

Léiríonn suirbhéanna le tamall fada go bhfuil an-bhá i measc an phobail i dtaobh na teanga ar fud an oileáin agus nach bhfuil an bhá sin teoranta do lucht labhartha na teanga amháin.

Irish (Gaeilge)

Irish is a Celtic language spoken in mainly Ireland (Éire). There are also Irish speakers in the UK (Ríocht Aontaithe), the USA (Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá), Canada (Ceanada) and Australia (an Astráil).

According to the 2016 census, 1.76 million people in Ireland claim to speak Irish; 73,803 speak it daily; 111,473 speak it weekly; 586,535 speak less frequently, and the rest rarely speak it.

The main concentrations of Irish speakers are in the Gaeltachtaí, which are scattered mainly along the west coast of Ireland and have a total population of 96,090.

On average 66% of Gaeltacht residents can speak Irish.

In 2011 the UK census found that 184,898 people in Northern Ireland (10.65% of the population) have some knowledge of Irish, and that 104,943 of them can speak the language to some degree.

Irish is the main home language for about 4,130 people in Northern Ireland [source]. According to another source, there are about 9,000 fluent speakers of Irish in Britain.

Whether this includes Northern Ireland is not clear.

According to the 2005 US census, about 18,815 people spoke Irish at home in the USA, especially in the northeastern states. There are Irish language courses at some universities and colleges in the USA and Canada [source].

In 2011 1,895 people in Australia said that they use Irish as their home language, and it is possible to study Modern and Old Irish at the University of Sydney [source].

Names of the language

Irish is known as Irish, Gaelic or Irish Gaelic in English. The official standard name in Irish is Gaeilge /ˈɡeːlʲɟə/. Before the 1948 spelling reform, this was spelled Gaedhilge. In Middle Irish the name was spelled Gaoidhealg, in Classical Irish it was Gaoidhealg [ˈɡeːʝəlˠɡ], and it was Goídelc in Old Irish.

In Ulster and northern Connacht, Irish is known as Gaedhilic/Gaeilic/Gaeilig [ˈɡeːlʲɪc] or Gaedhlag [ˈɡeːl̪ˠəɡ], In Munster it is known as Gaedhealaing/Gaoluinn/Gaelainn [ˈɡeːl̪ˠɪŋʲ/ˈɡeːl̪ˠɪnʲ].

When a distinction needs to be made between Irish (Gaeilge), Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) and/or Manx (Gaelg), Irish is referred to as Gaeilge na hÉireann (Irish Gaelic).

Irish at a glance

  • Native name: Gaeilge [ˈɡeːlʲɟə]
  • Linguistic affliation: Indo-European, Celtic, Insular Celtic, Goidelic
  • Number of speakers: c. 1.77 million
  • Spoken in: Irish, and also in the UK, USA, Canada, and Australia
  • First written: c. 4th century
  • Writing systems: Ogham, Gaelic script, Latin alphabet
  • Status: an offical language in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland

Irish is a member of the Goidelic branch of Celtic languages, also known as Q-Celtic.

It is closely related to Manx (Gaelg/Gailck) and Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig), the other Goidelic languages. There is some degree of mutual intelligibility between them, particular between the Scottish Gaelic of Islay and Argyll, Ulster Irish, and Manx. The grammar and vocabulary of these languages are quite similar, but the spelling and pronunciation are different, especially Manx spelling.

Irish is distantly related to Welsh (Cymraeg), Cornish (Kernewek) and Breton (Brezhoneg), which form the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages, also known as P-Celtic. The Celtic languages all have a similar grammatical structure, but have relatively little vocabulary in common.


There are three main dialects of Irish: Munster (An Mhumhain), Connacht (Connachta) and Ulster (Ulaidh). The Munster dialect is spoken mainly in Kerry (Ciarraí) and Muskerry (Múscraí) in the western part of County Cork (Contae Chorcaí).

The Connacht dialect is spoken mainly in Connemara (Conamara), the Aran Islands (Oileáin Árann) and Tourmakeady (Tuar Mhic Éadaigh) in County Mayo (Maigh Eo). The main area where the Ulster dialect is spoken is the Rosses (na Rosa).

The dialect of Gweedore (Gaoth Dobhair) is essentially the same as the Ulster dialect.

The Official Standard (An Caighdeán Oifigiúil)

Gaelic vs Irish Gaelic vs Irish Language

There’s all these different terms that can relate to the Celtic language of Ireland (and Scotland!).

So what is the difference between Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Gaeilge, Irish and the Irish Language? Watch my video about it:

The short answer to what’s the difference: not much!

What does Gaelic mean?

“Gaelic” can refer to either the Scottish Gaelic language, or the Irish Gaelic language.

Both languages are very similar. Both are of Celtic origin.

So if you say “How do you speak Gaelic?“, a person might reply “Decide if it’s Scottish or Irish Gaelic you want to learn.”

What does Irish Gaelic mean?

  • Irish Gaelic is more specific than “Gaelic”.
  • It refers specifically to the Irish language.
  • This term is not used within Ireland, but it’s a good compromise if you’re speaking with people who might not know that “Irish” is a language.

What’s the Irish Language?

The Irish language is the Celtic language of Ireland (the same one as “Irish Gaelic”).

Irish people generally refer to the language of Ireland simply as “Irish“.

Gaeilge” is the name for Irish in the Irish language. “Béarla” is the name for the English language in the Irish language.

Gaeilge is the word where the English language word “Gaelic” is derived from.

You might also be interested in:

How learning Irish means more now than it did 5 years agoIt’s a good-news story for the Irish language these days.

What do you call the Irish language?Your chance to share what you have been calling the language.

What language do the Irish speak?An explanation of the state of the English and Irish languages in Ireland.

Do You Want to Learn Irish?

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