The official first language of Ireland, sometimes referred to as Gaelic or Irish Gaelic. Can also be spelt Gaelige, IIRC. You are required by law to learn this in school in Ireland, but it is not spoken much outside the Gaeltacht, the name given to certain areas where it is still in everyday use.

Also the native language of Ireland. What is taught in schools in Ireland these days is a version of the various dialects of Gaeilge that existed around the country at the end of the nineteenth century. Closely related to Scots Gallic, but spoken by more people.

Actually, the version of Irish that is taught in schools today is not a "version" of Irish as spoken in the 19th century, it is the exact same.
There are still the four dialects according to the provinces, Ulster, Munster, Leinster, and Connaught.
Apart from the pronunciation, (IMHO people from rural Connaught are the most difficult to understand), the most obvious differences in the dialects is that certain words and phrases have different meanings.

True, they have been standardised somewhat, yet the language itself remains the same as the 19th century version.
The Irish language has been revised through the growing trends or postmodern shifts towards a nostalgic culture. The growth of the tourist industry brought 'Irishness' into fierce competition with other major European stereotypes and therefore holiday destinations. Cultural iconography or an image acts like an advertisement, like a television advert showing the best side/service available attractively, therefore everything is a commodity. The use of Gaelic in schools was always deemed as useless unless one wished a career in law or medicine within Ireland. With emmigration as much a part of the social norm, as any landscape, the embedded social conduct of leaving school then leaving Eire was the norm.

The history of Ireland is well documented and covered in myth. The language was controlled and ultimately banned due to the Protestantism of Christainity in Catholic Ireland. English became the spoken word and the cultural tradition of story telling, folk lore, songs and poetry along with the secret masses were conducted in the native speak.

Within the past decade nationalist tendancies and self definitions and re-definitions of national identity have been of upmost importance. The Welsh assembley, Scottish parliament and the Good Friday Agreement all saw new formations of identity.

Previous conventions and stereotypes had to be reviewed by not just academics but everyone! Language is a cultural tool and flows on the tides of change. The importance of what were considered 'dead' languages shows revivals are not just in fashion or music (although similarities can be drawn as these too are cultural texts). Although the Irish language is coming back it has to be noted that for the people living and working in Eire it has never gone away fully.

After the Republic was declared the importance of rebuilding hertiage and pride was raised from the trials of the past. Ireland is the fastest economic growing European country with immigration as the norm. Such shifts in the social structure have seen house and land prices soar. Universitites have more students than ever before attending as the importance and acceptance on the value of education has grown. The globalisation of language is a phenomena that ties in with technology,economics and communications industries. Gaelic is a historical language that has moved up a gear, Irish language television stations market the youth culture and this is a huge step.

Ireland will never speak its native fully as regression will not improve it, it will only separate and divisions are aplenty in parts of the nation. The 're-birth' of the Irish language is a sign that after oppression, depression, and with an ongoing war the future is optimistic. The mix of the old Gaelic hybrids the past and the new and reflects a nation on the up.

Irish language (standard: Gaeilge,Munster dialect: Gaoluinn, Ulster dialect: Gaeilic) is the indigenous language of Ireland, until the Irish Potato Famine (in Irish, an Drochshaol, "the Bad Life" or an Gorta Mór "the Great Hunger") of the 1830's spoken by a majority of the inhabitants of the island of Ireland. It is closely related to Scottish Gaelic and Manx (in the Isle of Man), which are, historically speaking, dialects of Irish. These two languages are even, to some extent, intelligible to an Irish speaker: as long as there were dialects of Irish spoken in what is now the statelet of Northern Ireland, these were actually in between today's Irish and Scots Gaelic. The last native speakers of this Irish lived in the Glens of Antrim, in Rathlin Island, and in South Armagh.

Living dialects of Irish are roughly divided into three main groups: Munster Irish, Connacht Irish, and Ulster Irish. In Connacht, there is a finer distinction between the main group (the dialects of Connemara, Aran Islands, and Tourmakeady in southern Mayo) and the Northern Mayo Irish, which shows some affinities with Ulster Irish, especially in vocabulary.

Among the dialects spoken today, those of Donegal (this northern county is in historical Ulster, but it does not belong to Northern Ireland, politically) and Connemara-Aran Islands are the most viable. However, Munster Irish (which means, above all, Kerry Irish, although there are smaller pockets of Irish speakers in County Cork, in Cape Clear, and in County Waterford) has strongly influenced the official standard (and even more the official practice) due to the prestige of Munster literature in school (above all the memoirs of Peig Sayers, Tomás Ó Criomhthain, and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin from Kerry, as well as the writings by the founder of modern Irish literature, Peadar Ua Laoghaire or Peter O'Leary, from County Cork, such as the folkloristic novel Séadna and the autobiography Mo Scéal Féin, "My Own Story"). Even the nationalist fighter Padraig Pearse or Pádraig Mac Piarais, although not a native speaker, contributed with well-written and linguistically superb stories and poems to the literary revival in Irish.

The official standard as used today came about in the end of the 1940's; the reform of the written language, until then based upon the classical orthography of the sixteenth century, was long overdue, but as there was no political will to impose a reformed orthography, the chief translator of the state simply issued guidelines of his own, which were widely adopted as a standard. However, this standard - in Irish, Caighdeán - was just a compromise anyway, and it has been severely criticised by native speakers and dialect enthusiasts. Especially the prolific rural prose writer Séamus "Máire" Ó Grianna (brother of Seosamh Mac Grianna) from Donegal was very critical of the new standard.

Irish might not yet be safe from extinction, but it is not going to die tomorrow, next week, or next year, and good Irish is still spoken and written in Ireland. While much of the literature written today is linguistically deficient, the writers having learnt Irish as a second language, modern Irish literature boasts of some truly distinguished writers and works, above all the great modern classics Máirtín Ó Cadhain and Seosamh Mac Grianna. Another important writer was Pádraic Ó Conaire, the first modern prose-writer in the language. Even today, there are native speakers writing in the language, such as the poet Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, the biographer and sports journalist Pádraig Ó Baoighill, the ex-emigrant to America Maidhc Dainín Ó Sé, or the ambitious, intellectual prose writer Pádraig Ó Cíobháin. The revolt of the Sixties was in many ways incarnated in Caitlín Maude, the gifted poet, playwright and orator, who died relatively young in 1981. Many important Irish writers have written in both languages, such as the journalist and political commentator Breandán Ó hEithir, a native speaker, his elder relative Liam O'Flaherty, the humorist Flann O'Brien (aka Myles na gCopaleen), and the playwright Brendan Behan (Breandán Ó Beacháin).

The student of Irish will probably be rather disconcerted by two grammatical features above all else: the word-initial mutations in Celtic languages and the use of two different verbs "to be", which are not interchangeable (although this latter feature is also found in Spanish). However, on the other hand, Irish was drawn into the orbit of Latin much nearer than many other European languages, because Christianity entered Ireland so early. This means that even the core vocabulary of the language is replete with early Latin loan-words. Of course, the language has been, and is, influenced by English; but, above all, Irish and English have been subject to similarforeign influences, which adds to the common ground. For example, both languages have, at the same time, assimilated quite a bit of Scandinavian and Norman French borrowings: anchor/ancaire, advantage/buntáiste, giúistís/justice and many other well-established cognates witness the shared history of the two languages.

The Development of the Irish Language

The Irish language belongs to the family of Celtic languages. By the 5th century C.E., the Celtic tribes occupied much of Europe. The word "Celt" is derived from the Greek name for these tribes, "Keltoi" (meaning "secret people"). The Celtic languages evolved from Indo-European, which is the common ancestor of many of the languages in Europe and southern Asia.

The development of the Celtic languages is illustrated below. Eventually the forms of the Celtic languages spoken on the continent died out, leaving only the insular forms. At some point, the insular Celtic language divided into "q-Celtic" or Goidelic (from Goidel 'Irishman'), which retained the original Indo-European q sound, and "p-Celtic" Brythonic (from Brython 'Briton'), which replaced the q sound with a p sound.

The modern Celtic languages are Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish, and Breton. The term "Gaelic" is only applied to Irish, Scottish Gaelic, or Manx.

                                    Common Celtic
                             |                      |
                        Insular Celtic      Continental Celtic     
               |                            |
           Goidelic              Brythonic (Brittonic)
	  "q-Celtic"                   "p-Celtic"
               |                            |
  ---------------------------      --------------------
  |            |            |      |        |         |   
Irish   Scottish Gaelic   Manx   Welsh   Cornish   Breton

The history of the Irish language may be divided into the following periods:

Resources for Learning Irish
  • Ceantar,, includes a large list of language tools and resources, including a list of classes world-wide.
  • Foras na Gaeilge,, is a cross-border organisation responsible for the promotion of the Irish language throughout the whole island of Ireland.
  • Irish Dictionary Online,, is an online Irish-English and English-Irish dictionary.
  • An Foclóir Beag,, is an online Irish dictionary.
  • Foinse,, is an Irish-language newspaper with a section for "foghlaimeoirí" (learners).
  • Beo,, is an online magazine. The articles include pop-up translations of the more difficult words and phrases.
  • Blas,, is provided by BBC Northern Ireland.
  • Lá,, is a daily Irish-language newspaper
  • TG4,, is an Irish-language TV station.
See also: Written Irish, Commonly confused Irish words, Irish regular verbs, Irish irregular verbs, Irish Language Letter Mutations, Irish prefixes, Fiche ceist, Irish place names, seanfhocal, The Lord's Prayer: Irish (Gaeilge), Irish Dictionary Online

I"rish (?), a. [AS. risc, fr. ras the Irish. Cf. Aryan, Erse.]

Of or pertaining to Ireland or to its inhabitants; produced in Ireland.

Irish elk. Zool. See under Elk. -- Irish moss. (a) Bot. Carrageen. (b) A preparation of the same made into a blanc mange. -- Irish poplin. See Poplin. -- Irish potato, the ordinary white potato, so called because it is a favorite article of food in Ireland. -- Irish reef, ∨ Irishman's reef Naut., the head of a sail tied up. -- Irish stew, meat, potatoes, and onions, cut in small pieces and stewed.


© Webster 1913.

I*rish", n. sing. & pl.

1. pl.

The natives or inhabitants of Ireland, esp. the Celtic natives or their descendants.


The language of the Irish; the Hiberno-Celtic.


An old game resembling backgammon.


© Webster 1913.

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