Picture the following: You’re cruising along a scenic road in Ireland. You’ve finally got the whole driving on the left thing handled, you’ve figured out how to navigate a roundabout, and you think that, on the whole, you’ve become a fairly competent Irish driver.
Suddenly you pass an unfamiliar road sign proclaiming:
Huh? What the…?
Surprise! Welcome to the Gaeltacht!
What’s a Gaeltacht?
If you’re reading this, there’s a fair chance you already know what the Gaeltacht is, but just in case you’re new to the term, “Gaeltacht” refers to a region in Ireland where Irish is still the day-to-day language.
(And if the concept of Irish as a language has you scratching your head, you may want to check out some of our earlier articles, including The Name of the Irish Language and How to Speak Celtic.)
Actually, as you’ve been driving around the country, you’ve probably noticed that most road signs are in two languages. But because one of those languages is English (and because the English is larger and more prominent on the signs), you probably haven’t paid much attention to that other, unfamiliar, language.
Amazingly, I’ve even had people come back from a visit to Ireland and claim that they never saw a single word of Irish. I always shake my head and ask “Seriously? Did you not see a single road sign the entire time?” But I digress….
Suffice it to say that, although the signs may be bilingual in the rest of the country, in the Gaeltacht they’re often in Irish only.
The good news is, most of the more vital road signs, such “stop” and “yield” have the same familiar, international, shape you’re used to, so you’re not likely to mistake them, even if you haven’t been paying attention to the Irish words on signs before this.
To make things even easier, the Irish word for “stop” is…er…”stop.” You’ll sometimes see or hear a different word — “stad” — but “stop” is more common. So you’re one up on the game already!
For the other signs, however, perhaps a bit of a primer is in order. Below are some of the more useful ones, along with their meanings.
(By the way, if you’re a Bitesize subscriber, you can access a fully-featured, more extensive lesson on this, complete with audio. If you’re not a subscriber, why not give our free introductory lessons a try? Pay us a visit at www.bitesizeirishgaelic.com.)
Common Road Signs
Let’s start with the one you saw at the beginning of this article:
Ná Scoitear (naw SKITCH-ur): Don’t overtake (for my fellow Americans, that means “don’t pass”).
Here are some others:
Stop (stup) or Stad (stahd): Stop
Géill Slí (gayl shlee): Yield
Aire! (AR-eh): Caution!
Go Mall (guh mahl): Go Slow (sorry girls…not “go to the mall”!)
Tiomáin Go Cúramach (CHUM-on guh KOOR-um-ukh): Drive Carefully
Bóthar Cúng (BOH-hur koong): Narrow Road
Rampa Romhat (RAMP-uh ROH-ut): Ramp Ahead
Trasrian Coisithe (TRASS-ree-un KUSH-ih-heh): Pedestrian Crossing
Bealach Timpill (BYAL-ukh CHIM-pil): Detour
Baol Tuilte (bweel TIL-cheh): Road Subject to Flooding (this is Ireland, after all!)
Bóthar Faoi Uisce (BOH-hur fwee ISH-keh): Road Flooded (see what I mean?)
Bóthar Dúnta (BOH-hur DOON-tuh): Road Closed
Carrchlós (KAR-khlohss): Car Park/Parking Lot
Cosc ar Pháirceáil (kusk air FAHR-kyahl): No Parking
Three For Free
These aren’t road signs, but there are three other very important signs you are likely to encounter in Ireland, two of which often aren’t translated into English, even outside of the Gaeltacht! I’ll give you those two first…they’re important!:
Fir (fir): Men
Mná (mrah or m’nah): Women
You don’t want to get those two mixed up!
The third, which you will see in an increasing number of places in Ireland is:
Ná Caitear Tobac (nah KATCH-ur tuh-BAK): No Smoking.
Go n-éirí an bóthar leat! Bain sult as an turas! Bon Voyage! Enjoy the Journey!
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3 thoughts on “Road Signs in Irish Gaelic”
Fab. Post. I love yr language and clarity. What I don’t understand is why there is so little general signage in rural Ireland. Even schools and churches in villages don’t have signs on the fence saying what they are. And hard to find a shop. The locals know where they are, I guess. Where are you? I’m in South Australia, my min are from Tipperary.ta! /
G’ruv ma hoget
Hi Tony, Thanks for your comment!
I’m in Connemara.
I don’t know why there aren’t many signs in rural Ireland, unfortunately! There are lots out where I am but I think this is because it’s a well-known tourist trail!
Yes, this is very helpful information. I did feel a bit anxious a few years ago when I was driving through Connemara and the road signs swithced from being bilingual to only in Irish. I was afraid that one of them might mean “Do Not Enter” or “One Way” and my ignorance would get me in trouble!