Our blog serves as regular motivation for you to speak the Irish language. Find posts about culture, videos where you find how to say certain phrases, and member interviews to tell you about their experience of learning the language.

What do you call the language?

You’ve only got one language to learn here at Bitesize Irish Gaelic. Here’s a sample sentence of the language:

Dia duit. Eoin is ainm dom. Cad is ainm duitse?

If you’re a member of Bitesize Irish Gaelic you might already be able to answer that.

Share your answer below by replying

Anyway, what do you call this language? Leave a comment below letting us know where you’re from and what you call it.

What we call the Irish language

We call it “Irish Gaelic” for the sake of this international web site. It’s the Celtic language spoken in Ireland. Perhaps you call it “Gaelic”, but that term has ambiguities with the closely-related Scottish Gaelic language. Or, you might simply call it “Irish” if you are from Ireland. So, what do you call it? Leave a comment below.

You may also be interested in…

Watch Eoin’s video on Gaelic vs. Irish.

88 thoughts on “What do you call the language?”

  1. Dia is Muire dhiut. Michaela is ainm domsa.

    I am quite new to Irish. I have fallen in love with the language of my anchestors. Before I started to learn I called it Gaelic but now I think I know better and call it Irish or Gaeilge.

    Go raibh maith agat for teaching me!

    Le meas,

  2. I usually call it either Irish, Irish Gaelic, or Gaeilge. It all depends who I’m speaking with of course. Most people don’t really understand when I say Irish that I’m referring to an entirely different language, so I often have to specify Irish Gaelic to get the point across.

  3. I called the Irish language Gaelic, but after this Bitesize Irish language coarse, I now call it Irish. My Mom was from Mayo and my Dad from Galway. I know they come from families of Irish speakers but at that time it wasn’t encouraged. My Mom taught me some phrases but she spoke so fast in Irish, I could barely pick it up. Now I see exactly what they meant. Along the way I’ve also learned some phrases from my cousins in Ireland.

    I’ve been enjoying this course but even with help, I’ve got a long way to go. I don’t expect to write the language but I would like to speak a little the next time I travel to Ireland. Since the spoken and written version are so different, it’s great to have audio. After all children don’t find language difficult. They just speak. Thanks Eoin for the program.

    1. Hi Ellen, glad that we’re helping spread the cause of “Irish”!

      We grab people with “Irish Gaelic”, but then work to explain the better term of “Irish”.

      Keep at it Ellen. It takes patience and time.

  4. I’ve always called it “Erse” and still think of it that way in me head but I’m told that’s old hat now, passe. Sic transit..

  5. I wanted to add through stories my Mom related that my great uncle from Galway was a Gaelic teacher and had to escape through the underground to Australia to avoid persecution. I don’t know how true this story may be.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story.

      Nice to know that we’re helping with the “Irish” term, after you have called it Gaelic for a long time.

  6. All my life (which has been a pretty long time) I thought it was Gaelic, but in the last year & reading everything I can get my hands on about Ireland & the language I come to call it Irish or the Irish Language. I have had many an argument on the subject. People just insist calling it Gaelic.

  7. I actually tend to use both terms and call it whatever the people I’m talking to are calling it. The language wasn’t something I really thought much about until I saw Celtic Thunder on TV, particularly when I heard their song Heartland. Best song ever in my book <33333. It really wasn't something I was exposed to except for that I had a friend back in high school who was obsessed with all things Irish, and when she played music in the language, she told me it was Gaelic, so when I heard Heartland my brain went, "Oh groovy, they're speaking Gaelic."

    After listening to CT, I became obsessed with Irish music in general. I had just lost the closest person in my life and it was very healing for me. I was trying to figure out how to sing along with the music I was hearing, some of it in Irish or partly in Irish as Heartland is. Then, somehow I discovered Radio na Gaeltachta. I was looking up Irish radio stations, but you don't hear a lot of traditional Irish music, or sort of traditional anyway as CT. RnaG seems to play the coolest music most of the time, and I've always enjoyed hearing people speak different languages, so I absolutely fell in love when I heard the DJ's speaking. Don't laugh, but sometimes I'll be listening to RnaG, or even doing the Bitesize courses and I just think it's the coolest sound I've ever heard.

    As for what I call it, among friends or people who know me I use both terms. I'd say Gaelic is probably the default term I use mentally but I figured out pretty quickly on forums and the like, especially since the first forum I joined was called Talk Irish, that a lot of people prefer that term. Luckily I figured that out before I typed Gaelic. Hilariously enough, where I live, in a rural town close to Nashville, TN, if you say Gaelic you're likely to get a what the heck is that reaction until you say Irish. Sometimes I've had to explain that it's the original language that was spoken in Ireland before the English took over. Most people I know have no interest in languages and also have a bad habit of pronouncing Celtic with an s sound like the basketball team, basically when they see my CD's or when I post CT on Facebook *shudder*. Sorry for writing a novel.

    1. Oh, sorry to hear about the “Seltic” bug 😉

      But I’m sure that simply saying “Irish” in Nashville will also lead to confusion? Does “Irish Gaelic” help a little?

  8. Daniel Ricciardi

    When I was a boy at school in Buenos Aires a Professor on Geography told us about “gaelig” referring to the name of Dublin in Gaelig. I always had some fascination about language and folklore as ways of expressing the real “inside” of people and that stayed as a will of learning about it some day, as today. Thanks Eoin and friends.

  9. Coineach (Ken Pickles)

    Enjoying the course. Re Gaelic. As a small boy I lived in Scotland and learned a few snatches of Gaelic which was how we called in. My great grandparents from Mayo and Sligo would have called it differently but I was too young to know the difference. My study of history showed at the time of the 1745 rising the Whig government of the day (forerunners of the Liberal Party) referred to the highlanders as those speaking the ‘Irish’ tongue and wanted genocide against the ‘rebels’. I served in a highland regiment in the 50s and many of my friends were from the Western Isles being native Gaelic speakers. Always loved the language; felt it right for me being a piper, speaking the language through that instrument. I understand three hundred years ago the Scottish and Irish version would have been virtually the same. Many Irish fought with the highlanders at Culloden, the last battle fought on British soil. Apart from the Chiefs few would have had any English. The persecution of the language and culture is well documented and so similar to the Irish experience. Any language banned by any Government deserves to survive. Thank you for your help and encouragement. This is my way of honouring my ancestors by speaking a language they spoke perhaps for thousands of years.
    Le Meas

  10. Dia daoibh

    Keri is ainm dom. Is as an Nua Shealainn. (Please forgive the spelling mistakes, lack of grammar & absence of sineadh fada).

    I’ve been a member of BIG for about a week or two and am loving it! In reference to the question, “What do you call the language?”, well, personally I call it ‘Irish gaelic’ (to clarify the particular gaelic language I’m learning) or ‘Gaeilge’.

    When I tell my family, friends & work colleagues that I’m learning “Irish”, I either get a blank look or people think I’m learning to speak english with an Irish accent! Some even mistakenly think that English IS the native language of Ireland!

    I recently read somewhere that Ireland and the Irish people without the Irish language would be a land full of second-hand Englishmen! Learning Irish gaelic is something I’ve wished to do since I was a child – now that wish is coming true and I’m eternally grateful to Bitesize Irish Gaelic – doing BIG things internationally!!

    Sounds like a great catch-phrase – Go Irish! Go BIG!

    Le meas

    1. Keri, thanks for sharing some extra background, and interesting to hear the perspective from New Zealand.

      Plus thanks for the such kind words about the Bitesize Irish Gaelic online lessons program.

  11. I had always called it irish and scottish, then when I became interested and went to the library, they called it irish gaelic and scottish gaelic. So I had listen what you were explaining on u-tube and it went from there. I call it irish, to me it is less complicated. If I stated this to people I know I think gaelic is a term they wouldn’t understand as well as if I said irish.

    1. Hi Anne, I would agree – it always depends on the context of who you’re speaking with. We also just call it “Irish” whenever possible.

  12. I live in Texas, and to people who know me, especially now that I’m studying Irish, I always refer to it as simply “Irish.” Unfortunately, many Americans take this to mean “speaking with an Irish accent,” so to someone unfamiliar with the language, I use the term “Irish Gaelic.” Most people instantly identify with the word “Gaelic,” but are unaware it’s more of a blanket term. (I try to educate them—kindly, of course :))

    1. Interesting, thanks Brian.

      Let’s say you simply said “Gaelic”, what region would such people associate in their mind? (Scotland? Ireland? Both? Neither?)

    2. Coming from California, Brian, when I heard someone speaking Irish, I also related that to “speaking with an Irish accent”. In my family, we referred to the Irish language as either Gaelic or “The Celtic Language”. Scotts Gaelic was just referred to as Scottish. Now, of course, I call the language Irish or Gaeilge.

  13. Dia is muire duit, is mise Alex. Usually I just use the first word that comes to mind, usually Irish or gaelic because if you used the term Gaeilge in New Zealand most people would’nt really know what you were talking about.

    1. Yeah, I’m not too surprised that might confuse! But if you just say “Irish” for the language, would people understand what you mean? Or do you need to say “Gaelic”?

  14. I’m from the American Southwest and for most of my life I only knew it as Gaelic, or perhaps Irish Gaelic to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic. When I happened to make friends with a Dubliner a few years ago and asked him if that was the right terminology, he said he’d never heard it called Gaelic, and told me that within the language itself it was called Gaeilge, but he and everyone he knew usually just said Irish. These days I also say Irish, unless I’m speaking (or trying to speak 😛 ) the language itself, then I say Gaeilge.

    1. Kelly, thanks for sharing your background. It’s good to know, first what you called it growing up, and then what you called the Irish language when you got to know it a bit better. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Gaeilge is ‘Irish’ in the English language. ‘Gaelic’ is a family of languages – using it to describe Irish is like calling English ‘Germanic’. Irish = Gaeilge na hÉireann, Scottish = Gaeilge na hAlban, Manx = Gaeilge Mhanainn.
    No one who speaks the language or who knows Ireland calls it Gaelic.

    1. Thanks for the comment, but I can’t say I agree with “No one who knows Ireland calls it Gaelic”. It’s not that I’m saying that it’s correct or incorrect. Rather, I mean that different people use different phrases to refer to different things. Different people have different frames of reference, different experiences. If they know of a Celtic language in Ireland and call it “Gaelic”, I wouldn’t say to them they’re wrong. Rather, I see it as a chance to let them better know how they might refer to the different related langauges.

      1. You know Eoin, this is somewhat a touchy subject for some, as I believe that some Irish natives are very staunch and somewhat jealous of that heritage. I have seen many Irish Americans, like myself, called names, berated, and mocked for having any pride in our heritage. It’s almost as if being born in America automatically erases any blood-line. I think the above comment is evidence of such a bias. I used to call it Gaelic. I was uneducated on the subject, but that’s what my grandmother called it, and she spoke the language, so I missed the distinction. I now simply call it Irish. I believe that when I become more proficient with the language, I’ll use the term “Gaeilge” when speaking the language, but I will probably still use the term “Irish” while speaking English.

        I was wondering though, since I am new to the study, are there any native Irish who ONLY speak Irish? Could there be any people in the rural areas that don’t speak English??? I have always wondered this, but since I’m exposing my ignorance here, I thought I’d go ahead and ask the dumbest question I’ve had on the subject. hahaha

        1. > Are there any native Irish who ONLY speak Irish?

          The basic answer is: no. It gets more complex than that, from what I’ve seen, though. Old people in the far west Gaeltacht areas, for example, might never had much need to speak English. They probably speak English with what you might perceive as basic fluency. But even that, I think, would be extreme cases.

          That was different even only a generation ago. I was watching a modern-day interview with an older lady, on TG4 television. She said that when they left from Donegal in the 50’s to London, they were taking English classes.

          1. Thanks Eoin, that clears things up for me. I have friends from the Ukrain, and they teach me Russian words every now and then. I taught them a few phrases in Irish that I learned. We had a discussion about the native language of Ireland. They told me that they didn’t know that Ireland had a language apart from English. Like many, they thought it was funny when I said I was studying Irish, because they had assumed I was practicing my Irish “brogue”. I can’t really do an Irish accent, but I can do a right dandy Scottish accent. LOL My great uncle prided himself on his Irish accents. He could do “Catholic AND protestant”. LOL He and my Grandmother were first generation Americans, so it was easy for them to imitate their parents.

  16. Used to live in Canada and was asked several times to translate stuff in Gaelic on signposts in Nova Scotia (Scots Gaelic seemed to be on road signs in Cape Breton). Had to explain I speak Irish and not Scots Gaelic and that Manx is also Gaelic and there are about three other Celtic languages (Cornish, Welsh and Breton) but could very roughly read or guess what was on the signs. My other half is from Scotland so I have a Scots Gaelic phrasebook I do intend on getting through someday.

    Same happened when people bought ‘How to speak Gaelic’ books and box sets in a bookshop I worked in. Some staff asked me if they were any good. I used to ask them where they intended on going, as they might get a Scots Gaelic book or CD thing and be heading to Galway to try out their Gaelic skills. And vice versa your Munster Irish may not get you very far in the Outer Hebrides or Oban. Publishers (UK based and USA/Canada based) tend to mean Scots Gaelic when they talk about Gaelic in general terms.

    So I usually go Irish or Gaeilge for you know this thing we do here. However when talking to people outside Ireland I tend to call it Irish Gaelic. We have stressed that on our digital edition of Rírá 3 that it is in Irish Gaelic for international Irish language interested parties as they may not understand the distinction at first. For me there is no real wrong answer and having a few different ways of terming it welcomes people to it. All in all it’s great though that people are discussing it.

    And apologies for the long long long comment. Got a bit carried away.

    1. Indeed. I had an email just the past few weeks from someone who was delighted to find a “Learn Gaelic” package in their local bookstore in the US. It was only after a day or two that they realized it wasn’t the language they were trying to learn.

      I would use the same terminology as yourself.

  17. I call it Gaeilge or Gaelic. In doing so I am swimming against the tide. The Gaelic language of Scotland came originally from Ireland. It seems to me to be silly to call it something different. Irish or Irysshe is an English word.

    No doubt I will be told I don’t understand the history of the language, but I understand it better than most.


    1. Sorry for repeating what I had said to Tomás but…

      You said “Irish or Irysshe is an English word.”, which is obviously correct, but when using it in an English sentence then why not use “Irish”? I would never say “I speak Deutsch”, it would either be “I speak German” or “Ich spreche Deutsch” depending on which language I was speaking. Why should Irish be different from every other language?

  18. Maolra de Bhaldraithe

    Ba mhaith liom a thabhairt le fios duit agus do na léitheoirí go bhfuil an ceart ar fad ag Tomás Ó Corráin.Gaeilge atá ar “Irish”. Tugtar ” Gaelic” freisin ar an nGaeilge i mBéarla. Sin bun agus barr an scéil.Teideal ar bith eile tá sé mí-chruinn agus bréagach de réir na saineolaithe agus de réir an leagan oifigiúl.

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