Irish Gaelic Greetings

Irish Gaelic Greetings

The Irish language, An Ghaeilge, (sometimes called Irish Gaelic) is a rich and ancient one, and no where is that better demonstrated than in the many ways it has for greeting people!

Learning how to greet people in another language also offers real insight into how the people who speak that language think as well as a glimpse into their history and culture.

Hello! in Irish Gaelic

The most basic way to greet people in any language is by using its equivalent of “hello.”  And this is where we get our first look at how Irish history and culture have influenced the language.

The formal way to say “hello” in Irish, is literally to say “God to you“:

  • To one person: Dia dhuit JEE-uh Gwitch
  • To multiple people: Dia dhaoibh JEE-uh YEE-iv

The correct response to being greeted in this way is, literally, God and Mary to you”:

  • To one person: Dia is Muire dhuit JEE-uh iss MWIR-uh Gwitch
  • To multiple people: Dia is Muire dhaoibh JEE-uh iss MWIR-uh DEE-iv

The Catholic identity is so deeply ingrained in Gaelic history and culture that even non-religious people, or people of other faiths, use these greetings as a matter of course.

It’s a little like saying “Goodbye” in English (which was originally “God be with you”) or “Adios” (“to God”) in Spanish…people just use it, religious or not, without worrying about what it actually means.

How are you?

The Irish don’t stand much on formality, however, and a much more common way to greet someone is to ask how he or she is. There are several ways to do this, but among the more common are:

In Munster (the southern part of Ireland):

  • To one person: Conas ‘tá tú? KUN-uss TAW too?
  • To multiple people: Conas ‘tá sibh? KUN-uss TAW shiv?

This literally means “how are you?”

In Connacht (the western part of Ireland):

  • To one person: Cén chaoi a bhfuil tú? Kayn hee uh WILL too?
  • To multiple people: Cén chaoi a bhfuil sibh? Kayn hee uh WILL shiv?

This literally means “what is the way/manner that you are?”

In Ulster (the northern part of Ireland):

  • To one person: Cad é mar atá tú? Kuh-JAY mar uh-TAW too?
  • To multiple people: Cad é mar atá sibh? Kuh-JAY mar uh-TAW shiv?

This literally means “what/how is it like being you?”

Regardless of which greeting is used (and all three are understood all over Ireland), In the cities, or with someone you just know casually, this can be answered simply with:

  • go maith, go raibh maith agat guh mah, GUR-ev mah uh-GUT

Literally “I’m well, thank you”.

But be prepared! The Irish are generally both less hurried and more sociable than Americans, and if this is a friend who’s greeted you, he or she may well expect a chat rather than just “fine, thanks.”

In other words, when they say How are you? they often really want to know!

Wassup?

As you might expect, there’s also a short and sweet way of greeting a friend:

  • Aon scéal? Ayn shkayl?

This literally means “any news?”

If you have news to share, than you would, by all means, share it, but probably more often you’d be likely to answer:

  • Diabhal an scéal! JOW-ul un shkayl!

This literally means “devil the news!” (there’s a religious figure working its way in there again!). “Devil” is often used to mean “no/nothing at all,” in both Irish and Hiberno-English.

Good morning!

The classic Irish way to say “good morning” is:

  • To one person: Dia dhuit ar maidin: JEE-uh Gwitch air MA-jin
  • To multiple people: Dia dhaoibh ar maidin: JEE-uh DEE-iv air MA-jin

This literally means “God to you this morning.”

You will also hear:

  • Maidin mhaith MA-jin vah

This is literally “good morning,” but is considered by some to be “BéarlachasBAYR-luh-khuss — in other words: Anglicized.

One thing you won’t hear, though, in English or Irish, is “top of the morning.” That’s “stage Irish,” straight from Broadway and Hollywood, and not something actual Irish people say.

Want to take a free Irish language lesson with audio? Take our free Irish for Beginners mini-series.

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Comments

  1. red says:

    You wrote: “You will also hear:

    Maidin mhaith MA-jin vah
    This is literally “good morning,” but is considered by some to be “Béarlachas” BAYR-luh-khuss — in other words: Anglicized.”

    I don’t know why this would be considered Anglicised, as it’s actually lifted straight from the scottish Gaelic, which as I am sure you’re aware, is a different language! In Scottish Gaelic, it’s pronounced “may-thin mah”!

    Please consider amending your otherwise excellent page!

    • Lainey says:

      I think by “Anglicized”, it means an English phrase that when translated literally is not a phrase that would be used or heard said without English language influence.

      Whilst Scottish Gaelic is a separate language “maidin mhaith” is the Irish Gaelic too. There are similarities in the written languages, enough so I can understand the jist of either (and I’d only have my leftover school knowledge of the Irish Gaelic from 20 years ago!).

      Excellent page – found it as I’d recently been asked at an international evening to say good evening in Irish gaelic and I was at a complete loss as I thought it was a phrase that did not exist… thought I’d check out my thoughts and this page appears to confirm that.

  2. Charlie says:

    Absolutely loved the pronou ciation of good morning…I’m choosing a third language to learn… And I’ve just chosen it., thank you again

    • Ana bitesize says:

      Hi Charlie,

      That is so nice to hear that you are learning a third language.

      If you have any questions regarding Irish Gaelic, feel free to contact us at any time 🙂

      Le meas,
      Ana.

  3. Mae says:

    It would be nice if you could add some sound files so that people can get a true feeling for the language. Thank you very much

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