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In Oíche Shamhna (Halloween) – Part 1, we shared with you some interesting information on the origins of Halloween (in Irish, Oíche Shamhna, pronounced roughly EE-hyeh HOW-nuh).
In this post, we’ll teach you a few words and phrases in Irish that you can use tonight, if you like, to celebrate the holiday’s Irish origins.
As you know if you have read Part 1, the name of the feast from which Halloween originated (and also the Irish word for the month of November) is Samhain. I see this word misphoneticized in so many fantasy books, I just have to clear the pronunciation up here and now.
Samhain is pronounced SOW-in, with the first syllable rhyming with “cow” (or, if you prefer, with “sow” as in a female pig). It isn’t “SAM-hayn” or “SAW-wayn” or any of the other phonetic renderings you may have encountered.
(The Scottish Gaelic form is pronounced “SAH-ven,” but it’s also spelled differently: Samhainn).
It literally means “Summer’s End,” and Irish speakers and learners will recognize that it has the same root as “Samhradh” (SOW-roo or SOW-ruh, depending on dialect) which means “Summer.”
Whew! Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s move on to…
The night we call “Halloween” in English is Oíche Shamhna (EE-hyeh HOW-nuh): literally “Samhain Eve” (“Samhna” is the genitive of “Samhain.” For more on the genitive case, see The Genitive in Irish Grammar). Bitesize subscribers may also want to check out our lessons on the genitive case, such as:
- Possession – Part 5: The Genitive Case
- Nouns: The Genitive Case – Part 1
- Nouns: The Genitive Case – Part 2
To wish someone a happy Halloween, you can say:
Oíche Shamhna Shona Duit (EE-hyeh HOW-nuh HUN-uh ditch*)
If you’re talking to more than one person, you would say:
Oíche Shamhna Shona Daoibh (EE-hyeh HOW-nuh HUN-uh DEE-iv)
* In some dialects, this is pronounced more like “gwitch.”
Oh, those costumes!
You never know what you’re going to see running around your neighborhood on Halloween night, but here are a few possibilities:
Taibhse (TIVE-sheh): A ghost
Cailleach (KAL-yukh): A witch*
Damhan Alla (DOW-on ALL-uh): A spider
Sciathán Leathar (SHKEE-uh-hahn LYA-hur): A bat
Creatlach (KRAT-lukh): A skeleton
Puimcín (PUM-keen): A pumpkin
* This is more the old hag type of witch. If your little goblin is more of a Hermione Granger type of witch, “asarlaí” (ASS-ur-lee), which means “wizard/sorceror” might be more appropriate.
Teach the kids how to say “I’m a ____” in Irish
When someone asks what your child’s costume is, wouldn’t it be fun if he or she could answer in Irish? It’s really easy:
Is ______ mé (iss ____ may)
So, for example, if you want to say “I’m a ghost,” you’d say:
Is taibhse mé (iss TIVE-sheh may)
And, of course, trick or treat!
As we mentioned in the previous part, originally “trick or treating” meant that the child would actually “do a trick” (sing a song, perhaps, or show a card trick) in order to get a treat. Nowadays, Irish children often do things the American way.
Tabhair féirín dom, nó buailfidh mé bob ort! (TOH-ir FAYR-een dum, noh BOOL-hee may bub ort!): Give me a gift, or I’ll play a prank on you!
Don’t forget the goodies!
Let’s not forget some of the holiday treats you may find in your children’s Halloween bags:
Milseáin (MIL-shyn): Candy/sweets
Or, if you’re lucky (but don’t count on it!):
Úlla (OO-luh): Apples
Oráistí (OR-ahss-chee): Oranges
Cnónna (KROH-nuh): Nuts
Regardless, they’re sure to come home full of:
Siúcra (SHOO-kruh): Sugar!
Regardless of how you’ll observe the holiday tonight, all of us here at Bitesize Irish Gaelic wish you all a safe and happy Halloween!
Oíche Shamhna shona daoibh go léir!
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Warning: avoid if you spook too easily.
11 thoughts on “Irish Language Phrases for Oíche Shamhna (Halloween)”
When I was a child we called to the houses and said Any apples or nuts. It was America that introduced the trick or treat.
Is “gwitch” the Connacht pronunciation for Duit?
Thank you for your message.
The word “gwitch” is the Connacht and Ulster pronunciation of “dhuit” though no transliteration can really convey the pronunciation properly. The Munster pronunciation is more on the lines of “gwit.” “Duit” is pronounced similar to “ditch” in Connacht and Ulster and “dit” in Munster. You can hear the many different ways it’s said in this example: https://forvo.com/phrase/dia_dhuit/
How strange! This Ulster girl was taught to say “ditch” and “sah-wain” in school. So many pronunciations!
Thank you for your comment.
That’s the wonder of Irish, so much variation! No matter the dialect, though, you’ll hear a difference between “duit” and “dhuit,” “samhain” and “shamhain.”
Thanks for that Siobhán! What does the “go léir” mean in Oíche shamhna shona daoibh go léir?
Go léir means ‘everyone’ or ‘you all’. So ‘oíche Shamhna shona daoibh go léir’ means happy Halloween to you all/everyone.
fantastic…wish I could say that in Gaelic….and I love you….to my kids and to my friends….this wes so informative..I loved it…see…how do I say that? You do a gr8 job making this understandable and learnable…go raibh maith agat! sla’n agat le meas, lottie
“The American Way” — hilarious. Trick or treating originates in Ireland.
Apparently you didn’t read the entire paragraph:
“As we mentioned in Saturday’s article, originally “trick or treating” meant that the child would actually “do a trick” (sing a song, perhaps, or show a card trick) in order to get a treat. Nowadays, Irish children often do things the American way.”
Here’s the referenced “Saturday’s article” which, among other things, describes how trick or treating changed when the practice came to America:
Love this post! 🙂