“Go north two blocks and then turn west.”
“He came from the south.”
“The wind is blowing from the east today.”
Last week I wrote a post about the different uses of “up” and “down” in Irish (“Up, Down…In Irish, It’s All Relative!”).
In that post, you learned that how you express these concepts is relative to your position, and depends on whether the thing you’re talking about is moving away from you, toward you, or is in a static position.
You’ll probably not be too surprised, then, to learn that there’s a similar system for the points of the compass: North, South, East, and West.
The points of the compass
Just as with “up” and “down,” how you say “North,” “South,” “East,” or “West” in Irish is a matter of perspective.
- Are you talking about the points of the compass, also known as “cardinal” and “ordinal” directions?
- Are you talking about where a particular place is oriented in relation to another? (for example “Donegal is north of Mayo”?)
- Or do you perhaps want to say that something is coming from, or going toward, a particular direction?
It probably won’t come as a terrible surprise that each of these is expressed differently in Irish!
If you’re talking about the north as a point on the compass, or as a location within a particular area, you use the word tuaisceart (TISH-kyart):
- An Tuaisceart: The North
- Tuaisceart Éireann: Northern Ireland
- Tuaisceart Shasana: Northern England
If you’re talking about north as in a direction you (or someone else) are traveling, however, you use ó thuaidh (Oh HOO-ee). You also use ó thuaidh if you’re talking about something that lies north of another place.
- Ó thuaidh de San Francisco atá San Rafael: San Rafael is north of San Francisco.
- Tá sé ag gluaiseacht ó thuaidh: He is going north.
You can also use thuaidh by itself, without the ó, as an adjective:
- Meiriceá Thuaidh: North America
When something is coming toward you FROM the north, however, you use aduaidh (uh-DOO-ee):
- Gaoth aduaidh: Northwind (literally “wind from the north”)
The south works similarly, with one small difference (the adjective form, which we’ll get to in a minute). The basic word for the point on the compass is Deisceart (JESH-kyart).
- Deisceart na hÉireann: The South of Ireland
When you want to say that something is going south, or that it lies south of something else, you use ó dheas (oh yass):
- Ó dheas de Dún na nGall atá Maigh Eo: Mayo is south of Donegal.
- Tá sí ag gluaiseacht ó dheas: She is going south.
The adjective form, however, is different. When you want an adjective, you use theas (hyass):
- An Aifric Theas: South Africa
- An Cósta Theas: The South Coast
And when you want to say that something is coming toward you from the south, you use aneas (uh-NYASS):
- Gaoth Aneas: Southwind (literally “wind from the south”)
You’ve got the basic pattern down now, yes? So here goes:
East as a compass point: Oirthear (ER-hur)
Going east: Soir (sir)
Located east: Thoir (hir)
As an adjective: Thoir (hir)
Coming from the east: anoir (uh-nir)
And, last but not least, the west
West as a compass point: Iarthar (EER-hur)
Going west: Siar (sheer)
Located west: Thiar (heer)
As an adjective: Thiar (heer)
Coming from the west: aniar (uh-NEER)
It’s all in the practice!
While all this may seem unnecessarily complicated at first, it’s a basic feature of the language, and one that will come easier with practice.