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Back to basics: What’s Gaelic? What’s Irish?

Difference between Irish and Gaelic

Sarah recently emailed us:

What’s the difference between Irish and Gaelic?? 🙂

Good question! It’s important to clear up what we means. Here, we’re always referring to the Celtic language of Ireland.

What does Irish mean?

In Ireland, people generally refer to the language of Ireland simply as “Irish”. For example, you can ask someone on the street “Do you speak Irish?”, they might answer “Yes, I speak Irish”.

As well as calling it Irish, you could be a bit more specific and call it the Irish language.

What does Gaelic mean?

Gaelic is a bit more ambiguous. A lot of the time, it’s used to refer to the related Celtic language spoken in parts of Scotland.

People in Ireland when talking with tourists about the language may also refer to Irish as Gaelic. They would do this to try to make the term less ambiguous. Still, if you simply say “Gaelic”, it’s not absolutely clear if you’re referring to the Irish of Scottish Gaelic.

In another post, we went into the differences between Irish and Gaelic.

What does Irish Gaelic mean?

Irish Gaelic is more specific than Gaelic. It refers specifically to the Irish language.

This term is not used within Ireland, but it’s a good compromise if you’re speaking with people who might not know that “Irish” is a language.

What does Gaeilge mean?

Gaeilge is the name for Irish in the Irish language. Béarla is the name for the English language in the Irish language.

Gaeilge is the word where the English language word “Gaelic” is derived from.

In summary

If you’re speaking with a group of people who are all aware of the Irish language, then you can probably just call it Irish. Also, call it Irish if you’re speaking with an Irish person in Ireland.

If you’re outside of Ireland, it’s safe enough to refer to the language as Irish Gaelic. If you you “Gaelic” when referring to the Irish language, this might lead to misunderstandings.

Watch Related Video

You should also enjoy our 10-minute video on Irish vs Gaelic.

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4 thoughts on “Back to basics: What’s Gaelic? What’s Irish?”

  1. ok so i am getting a heritage tatto and im an 8th irish and i want it to say irish in the irish language would i want to put na hÉireann or would i want to put Gaeilge