Whether you’re learning Irish Gaelic or just want to learn a few phrases, greetings are a good place to start.
In this article we’ll teach you some basic greetings in Irish that you can use to impress your Irish friends (and perhaps inspire you to learn more!).
If you’re already a Bitesize subscriber, you can access our full lessons on greetings, complete with audio (Greetings and Introductions 1 and Greetings and Introductions 2), as well as practice using these greetings in our many conversation lessons.
The formal way to say “hello” to a person in Irish is:
Dia Duit (JEE-uh ggwitch)
That “gg” represents a gargling sound that we don’t have in English. Start by pronouncing a hard “g” as in “gate,” then open your throat a bit so some air escapes and “softens” the sound. If you sound a bit like you’re gargling, you’ve got it right!
If you’re speaking to more than one person, you have to change this greeting just a little:
Dia Daoibh (JEE-uh DEE-iv)
Both these greetings literally mean “God to you.”
Wait…what if I’m not religious?
Dia duit and Dia daoibh are used by everyone, regardless of whether they’re religious or not. It’s a little like “goodbye” in English, or “adios” in Spanish…both originally religious expressions that are now so widely used no one really thinks of them as religious.
If you REALLY don’t like using them, though, hang on…we’ll give you a few more in just a little bit.
Saying “hello” back
When you want to say “hello” back to someone who has greeted you in Irish, you can’t get by with just saying “Dia duit.” You have to engage in a bit of one-up-manship:
Dia is Muire duit (JEE-uh iss MWIR-eh ggwitch)
You guessed it…this means “God and Mary to you.”
Once again, if you’re talking to more than one person, you have to change the “duit” to “daoibh”:
Dia is Muire daoibh (JEE-uh iss MWIR-eh DEE-iv)
Sometimes Gaeltacht speakers can get quite caught up in the religious contest, and begin adding Irish saints’ names to the mix (and there are a lot of Irish saints!):
Dia, Muire, agus Pádraig duit (JEE-uh, MWIR-eh AH-guss PAH-rig ggwitch)
Dia, Muire, Pádraig, agus Bríd duit (JEE-uh, MWIR-eh, PAH-rig AH-guss breej ggwitch)
Less formal (and less religious!) greetings
Like Americans, Irish people are as likely to greet someone by saying “how are you?” as “hello.” And like Americans (who might express this in several different ways, from “how are things?” to “howgozit?”) the Irish have several different ways to ask this:
Conas ‘tá tú? (KUN-uss tah too): Heard primarily in Munster.
Cén chaoi a bhfuil tú? (Kayn khee uh WILL too): Heard primarily in Connacht.
Cad é mar atá tú? (ka-JAY mar uh-TAH too): Heard primarily in Ulster.
Though there are regional preferences, any of these would be understood as “How are you?” anywhere in Ireland.
As before, there’s a slightly different version required if you’re speaking to multiple people: Simply replace “tú” (“you,” singular) with “sibh” (“you,” plural)…pronounced “shiv.”
For a really casual greeting, there’s the Irish version of “Wassup?” or “Que Pasa?”:
Aon scéal? (Ayn skhayl)
This literally means “Any news?”
The usual response (if you don’t have any news to share) is:
Diabhal an scéal! (Jowel un shkayl)
Which literally means “Devil the news!”
There’s only one problem with learning things like this…the Irish language is so beautiful and fascinating, you may find yourself getting hooked!
If you found this interesting, why not give our free introductory mini-course a try?
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