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!
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.
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 “Béarlachas” BAYR-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.
Was this post helpful to you?
Before you read this, did you have a different idea as to how Irish people might greet one another, in English or in Irish Gaelic? Post your thoughts below!