Elements of Gaelic Grammar

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Royal Celtic Society Edition.








For several years the Grammar of the Gaelic language by the Rev. Dr Stewart of Moulin has been out of print. This has been a source of regret to scholars and students of that tongue. Not but that there are other Grammars of real value, which it would be unjust either to ignore or to depreciate, and which have served, and are serving, an excellent purpose in connection with Celtic Literature. But the Grammar of Dr Stewart has peculiar features of its own which give it a permanent value. It is distinguished by its simplicity, conciseness, and philosophical accuracy. No Grammar of any language bears on its pages the marks of real and profound scholarship, in so far as it goes, more than does the Grammar of Dr Stewart. One cannot read a sentence of it without seeing how carefully he had collected his materials, and with what judgment, caution, and sagacity he has compared them and drawn his conclusions. His discussions upon the Article, the Noun, the Verb, and the Preposition, are ample evidence of this. It is no doubt true that a much fuller discussion is, with the more abundant resources of modern scholarship, {iv}competent and desirable, but, so far as he goes, Dr Stewart's treatment of the subject is of a masterly character.

That there are defects to be found in the work is very true. On the subject of Syntax his disquisitions are deficient in fulness, and there is a want of grammatical exercises throughout. It was at first thought desirable by the publishers and their advisers to remedy these defects by introducing fuller notices on the subject of Syntax, and a considerable number of grammatical exercises from other sources open to them. But it was finally deemed best in every view of it to give Stewart's work just as he had left it, and that is done here with the exception of a list of subscribers' names in the introduction. Messrs Maclachlan and Stewart are doing the literary community a service in republishing this volume, and thanks are specially due to the Royal Celtic Society of Edinburgh, a society which has done much to foster the interests of education in the Highlands, and which has given substantial aid towards the accomplishment of this undertaking.

Thos. McLauchlan.

Edinburgh, 1st August 1876.



Introduction. PAGE
Of Pronunciation and Orthography, 1
Chap. I.—Of the Article, 37
Chap. II.—Of Nouns, 37
Of Gender, 38
Of Declension, 43
Chap. III.—Of Adjectives, 55
Of Numeral Adjectives, 59
Chap. IV.—Of Pronouns, 61
Chap. V.—Of Verbs, 65
Formation of the Tenses, 76
Use and import of the Moods and Tenses,                     85
Irregular Verbs, 95
Defective Verbs, 99
Reciprocating state of Verbs, 102
Impersonal use of Verbs, 105
Auxiliary Verbs, 107
Chap. VI.—Of Adverbs, 109
Chap. VII.—Of Prepositions, 116
Idiomatic phrases, 125
Chap. VIII.—Of Conjunctions, 134
Chap. IX.—Of Interjections, 136
Chap. I.—Of Concord, 137
      Sect. 1. Of the agreement of the Article with a Noun, 137
      Sect. 2. Of the agreement of an Adjective with a Noun, 141
      Sect. 3. Of the agreement of a Pronoun with its Antecedent, 146
      Sect. 4. Of the agreement of a Verb with its Nominative, 149
      Sect. 5. Of the agreement of one Noun with another, 152
Chap. II.—Of Government, 154
      Sect. 1. Of the Government of Nouns, 154
      Sect. 2. Of the Government of Adjectives, 159
      Sect. 3. Of the Government of Verbs, 159
      Sect. 4. Of the Government of Adverbs, 160
      Sect. 5. Of the Government of Prepositions, 160
      Sect. 6. Of the Government of Conjunctions, 162
Chap. I.—Of Derivation, 164
Chap. II.—Of Composition, 168
Exercises in Reading, &c., 175



The utility of a Grammar of the Scottish Gaelic will be variously appreciated. Some will be disposed to deride the vain endeavour to restore vigour to a decaying superannuated language. Those who reckon the extirpation of the Gaelic a necessary step toward that general extension of the English which they deem essential to the political interest of the Highlands, will condemn every project which seems likely to retard its extinction. Those who consider that there are many parts of the Highlands, where the inhabitants can, at present, receive no useful knowledge whatever except through the channel of their native tongue, will probably be of opinion that the Gaelic ought at least to be tolerated. Yet these too may condemn as useless, if not ultimately detrimental, any attempt to cultivate its powers, or to prolong its existence. Others will entertain a different opinion. They will judge from experience, as well as from the nature of the case, that no measure merely of a literary kind will prevail to hinder the progress of the English language over the Highlands; while general convenience and emolument, not to mention private emulation and vanity, conspire to facilitate its introduction, and prompt the natives to its acquisition. They {viii}will perceive at the same time, that while the Gaelic continues to be the common speech of multitudes,—while the knowledge of many important facts, of many necessary arts, of morals, of religion, and of the laws of the land, can be conveyed to them only by means of this language,—it must be of material service to preserve it in such a state of cultivation and purity, as that it may be fully adequate to these valuable ends; in a word, that while it is a living language, it may answer the purpose of a living language.

To those who wish for an uniformity of speech over the whole kingdom, it may not be impertinent to suggest one remark. The more that the human mind is enlightened, the more desirous it becomes of farther acquisitions in knowledge. The only channel through which the rudiments of knowledge can be conveyed to the mind of a remote Highlander is the Gaelic language. By learning to read and to understand what he reads, in his native tongue, an appetite is generated for those stores of science which are accessible to him only through the medium of the English language. Hence an acquaintance with the English is found to be necessary for enabling him to gratify his desire after further attainments. The study of it becomes, of course, an object of importance; it is commenced, and prosecuted with increasing diligence. These premises seem to warrant a conclusion which might at first appear paradoxical, that, by cultivating the Gaelic, you effectually, though indirectly, promote the study and diffuse the knowledge of the English.

To public teachers it is of the highest moment that the medium through which their instructions are communicated be properly adapted to that use, and that they be enabled to avail themselves of it in the fittest manner. A language destitute of grammatical regularity can possess neither {ix}perspicuity nor precision, and must therefore be very inadequate to the purpose of conveying one's thoughts. The Gaelic is in manifest danger of falling into this discreditable condition, from the disuse of old idioms and distinctions, and the admission of modern corruptions, unless means be applied to prevent its degenerating. It is obvious that a speaker cannot express himself with precision without a correct knowledge of grammar. When he is conscious of his ignorance in this respect, he must deliver himself sometimes ambiguously or erroneously, always with diffidence and hesitation, whereas one who has an accurate knowledge of the structure and phraseology of the language he speaks, will seldom fail to utter his thoughts with superior confidence, energy, and effect.

A competent degree of this knowledge is requisite to the hearer also, to enable him to apprehend the full import and the precise force of the words of the speaker. Among the readers of Gaelic, who are every day becoming more numerous, those only who have studied it grammatically are qualified to understand accurately what they read, and to explain it distinctly to others. Yet it cannot be denied that comparatively few ever arrive at a correct, or even a tolerable knowledge of grammar, without the help of a treatise composed for the purpose. Whoever, therefore, allows that the Gaelic must be employed in communicating to a large body of people the knowledge of revealed Truth and the way of eternal Life, will readily admit the extensive utility of investigating and unfolding its grammatical principles. Impressed with this conviction, I have been induced to offer to the public the following attempt to develop the grammar of the Scottish Gaelic.

While I have endeavoured to render this treatise useful to those who wish to improve the knowledge of Gaelic which {x}they already possess, I have also kept in view the gratification of others, who do not understand the Gaelic, but yet may be desirous to examine the structure and properties of this ancient language. To serve both these purposes, I have occasionally introduced such observations on the analogy between the Gaelic idiom and that of some other tongues, particularly the Hebrew, as a moderate knowledge of these enabled me to collect. The Irish dialect of the Gaelic is the nearest cognate of the Scottish Gaelic. An intimate acquaintance with its vocables and structure, both ancient and modern, would have been of considerable use. This I cannot pretend to have acquired. I have not failed, however, to consult, and to derive some advantage from such Irish philologists as were accessible to me, particularly O'Molloy, O'Brien, Vallancey, and Lhuyd. To these very respectable names I have to add that of the Rev. Dr Neilson, author of "An Introduction to the Irish Language," Dublin, 1808, and E. O'C., author of "A Grammar of the Gaelic Language," Dublin, 1808; to the latter of whom I am indebted for some good-humoured strictures, and some flattering compliments, which, however unmerited, it were unhandsome not to acknowledge. I know but one publication professedly on the subject of Gaelic grammar written by a Scotsman[1]. I have consulted it also, but in this quarter I have no obligations to acknowledge.

With respect to my literary countrymen who are proficients in the Gaelic, and who may cast an eye on this volume, less with a view to learn than to criticise, while I profess a due deference to their judgment, and declare my anxiety to obtain their favourable suffrage, I must take the liberty to entreat their attention to the following considerations.


The subject of Universal Grammar has been examined in modern times with a truly philosophical spirit, and has been settled on rational and stable principles; yet, in applying these principles to explain the grammar of a particular language, the divisions, the arrangements, and the rules to be given are, in a good measure, mechanical and arbitrary. One set of rules may be equally just with another. For what is it that grammatical rules do? They bring into view the various parts, inflections, or, as they may be termed, the phenomena of a language, and class them together in a certain order. If these phenomena be all brought forward, and stated according as they actually appear in the language, the rules may be said to be both just and complete. Different sets of rules may exhibit the same things in a different order, and yet may all be equally just. The superiority seems, on a comparison, to belong to that system which follows most nearly the order of nature, or the process of the mind in forming the several inflections; or rather, perhaps, to that system which, from its simplicity, or clear and comprehensive arrangement, is most fitted to assist the memory in acquiring and retaining the parts of speech with their several inflections.

In distributing the various parts of language into their several classes, and imposing names on them, we ought always to be guided by the nature of that language, and to guard against adopting, with inconsiderate servility, the distributions and technical terms of another. This caution is the more necessary because, in our researches into the grammar of any particular tongue, we are apt to follow implicitly the order of the Latin grammar, on which we have been long accustomed to fix our attention, and which we are ever ready to erect into a model for the grammar of all languages. To force the several parts of speech into moulds formed for the {xii}idioms of the Latin tongue, and to frame them so as to suit a nomenclature adapted to the peculiarities of Latin grammar, must have the effect of disguising or concealing the peculiarities, and confounding the true distinctions, which belong to the language under discussion.

Although, in treating of Gaelic grammar, the caution here suggested ought never to be forgotten, yet it is needless to reject indiscriminately all the forms and terms introduced into the grammar of other languages. Where the same classifications which have been employed in the grammar of the Latin, or of any other well-known tongue, will suit the Gaelic also, it is but a convenient kind of courtesy to adopt these, and apply to them the same names which are already familiar to us.

In stating the result of my researches into Gaelic grammar, I have endeavoured to conform to these general views. The field of investigation was wide, and almost wholly untrodden. My task was not to fill up or improve the plan of any former writer, but to form a plan for myself. In the several departments of my subject that distribution was adopted which, after various trials, appeared the most eligible. When there were terms already in use in the grammars of other languages that suited tolerably well the divisions which it was found requisite to make, I chose to adopt these, rather than load the treatise with novel or uncommon terms. If their import was not sufficiently obvious already, it was explained, either by particular description, or by reference to the use of these terms in other grammars. In some instances it was found necessary to employ less common terms, but in the choice of these I endeavoured to avoid the affectation of technical nicety. I am far from being persuaded that I am so fortunate as to have hit on the best possible plan. I am certain that it must {xiii}be far from complete. To such charges a first essay must necessarily be found liable. Still there is room to hope that the work may not prove wholly useless or unacceptable. Imperfect as it is, I may be allowed to think I do a service of its kind to my countrymen by frankly offering the fruits of my labour to such as may choose to make use of them. It has been, if I mistake not, the misfortune of Gaelic grammar that its ablest friends have done nothing directly in its support, because they were apprehensive that they could not do everything.

I confess that my circumscribed knowledge of the varieties of dialect used in different parts of the Highlands, may have left me unacquainted with some genuine Gaelic idioms which ought to be noticed in a work of this kind. The same cause may have led me to assert some things in too general terms, not being sufficiently informed concerning the exceptions which may be found in use in some particular districts. I respectfully invite, and will thankfully receive, the correction of any person whose more accurate and extensive information enables him to supply my omissions, or to rectify my mistakes.

In a few particulars I have differed from some of the highest living authorities,—I mean those gentlemen whose superior abilities are so conspicuous in the masterly translation of the sacred Scriptures with which the Highlands of Scotland are now blessed.[2] Here I have been careful to {xiv}state the grounds on which my judgment was formed. In doing this, I would always be understood to advance my opinion and propose my reasons with the view of suggesting them to the consideration of my countrymen, rather than in the expectation of having my conclusions universally sustained and adopted.

Among my grammatical readers, it is probable that some may have formed to themselves arrangements on the subjects different from mine. Of these I have to request that they do not form a hasty judgment of the work from a partial inspection of it, nor condemn it merely because it may differ from their preconceived schemes. Let them indulge me with a patient perusal of the whole, and a candid comparison of the several parts of the system with each other. To a judicious critic, some faults and many defects may appear, and several improvements will occur. On this supposition, I have one request more to make: that he join his efforts with mine in serving a common cause, interesting to our country, and dear to every patriotic Highlander.





In preparing a Second Edition of the following treatise, the author has endeavoured to avail himself of every assistance in his power, from books, observation, and the communications of some literary friends, to whom he is indebted for several judicious remarks. In comparing the opinions of different critics, it was not to be expected that all should be found to agree together. It sometimes happened that one approved what another would have rejected. If the author has not adopted every hint that was offered him, but used the privilege of exercising his own judgment, the responsibility must rest with himself. He hopes those gentlemen who most obligingly favoured him with their remarks will forgive him for mentioning their names, for he is unwilling to withhold from the public the satisfaction of knowing that he has had the best assistance which his country could afford him in compiling and modelling his work. He thankfully acknowledges his obligations to the Rev. Dr Robertson, of Callander; Dr Graham, of Aberfoyle; Dr Stuart, of Luss; Dr Macleod, of Kilmarnock; and Mr Irvine, of Little Dunkeld.

From these sources of emendation, omissions have been {xvi}supplied, idiomatic phrases have been collected and inserted, some alterations have been made by simplifying or compressing particular parts, and new examples and illustrations have been introduced throughout, according as the advantages which the author enjoyed enabled him to extend his knowledge of the language, and served to correct, or to confirm, his former judgments. He thought it might be acceptable to Gaelic scholars to have a few lessons subjoined as exercises in translating and analysing. For this purpose he has selected some specimens of original prose composition, extracted from unpublished manuscripts, and from the oldest Gaelic books that are known to be extant. These specimens, short as they are, may suffice to exhibit something of the powers and elegances of the language in its native purity, unmixed with foreign words and idioms, as well as to show the manner in which it was written two or three centuries ago.

The present edition owes its existence to the generous patronage of Sir John Macgregor Murray of Lanrick, Bart., to whom the author is happy in avowing his obligations for the unsolicited and liberal encouragement given him in the execution and publication of his work. To the same gentleman he is indebted for the honour of being permitted here to record the names of those patriotic sons of Caledonia who, in concert with the honourable baronet, and at his suggestion, though residing in the remote provinces of India, yet mindful of their country's fame, contributed a liberal sum of money for promoting Celtic literature, more especially for publishing the poems of Ossian in their original language. It is owing, in a principal degree, to their munificent aid, that the anxious expectation of the public has been at last so richly gratified by Sir John Sinclair's elegant and elaborate edition of the poems of that tender and lofty bard.





The Gaelic alphabet consists of eighteen letters: a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, u. Of these, five are vowels, a, e, i, o, u; the rest consonants.

In explaining the powers of the letters, and of their several combinations, such obstacles lie in the way that complete success is not to be expected. In order to explain, in writing, the sounds of a particular language, the only obvious method is to represent them by the letters commonly employed to exhibit similar sounds in some well-known living language. But there are sounds in the Gaelic to which there are none perfectly similar in English, nor perhaps in any modern European tongue. Besides, the same combination of letters does not invariably represent the same sound in one age that it did in a former, or that it may do in the next. And this may be equally true of the letters of the Gaelic alphabet, whose powers are to be taught; and of the letters of any other language, by whose sounds the powers of the former are to be explained. A diversity of pronunciation is very distinguishable also in different districts of the Highlands of Scotland, even in uttering the same words written in the same manner. Though the powers of the letters, then, may be explained to a certain degree of accuracy, yet much will still remain to be learned by the information of the ear alone. {2}

Although the chief use of the vowels be to represent the vocal sounds of speech, and that of the consonants to represent its articulations, yet, as in many languages, so in Gaelic, the consonants sometimes serve to modify the sound of the vowels with which they are combined; while, on the other hand, the vowels often qualify the sound of the consonants by which they are preceded or followed.

It may not appear obvious at first sight how a vowel should be employed, not to represent a vocal sound, but to modify an articulation. Yet examples are to be found in modern languages. Thus, in the English words, George, sergeant, the e has no other effect than to give g its soft sound; and in guest, guide, the u only serves to give g its hard sound. So in the Italian words giorno, giusto, and many others, the i only qualifies the sound of the preceding consonant. The same use of the vowels will be seen to take place frequently in Gaelic orthography.

Besides the common division of the letters into Vowels and Consonants, it is found convenient to adopt some further subdivisions.

The Vowels are divided into broad and small: a, o, u, are called broad vowels; e, i, small vowels.

The Consonants are divided into Mutes and Liquids: Mutes, b, c, d, f, g, m, p, t; Liquids, l, n, r, s[3]. They are also divided into Labials, Palatals, and Linguals, so named from the organs employed in pronouncing them: Labials, b, f, m, p; Palatals, c, g; Linguals, d, l, n, r, s, t.

The aspirate h is not included in any of these divisions[4].




All the vowels are sometimes long, sometimes short. A long vowel is often marked with an accent, especially when the quantity of the vowel determines the meaning of the word; as, bàs death, sàil the heel, càraid a pair, rìs again, mò more, lòn a marsh; which are distinguished by the accent alone from bas the palm of the hand, sail a beam, caraid a friend, ris to, lon the elk.

All the vowels, but especially the broad ones, have somewhat of a nasal sound when preceded or followed by m, mh, n, nn. No vowels are doubled in the same syllable like ee, oo, in English.

In almost all polysyllables, excepting some words compounded with a preposition, the accent falls on the first syllable[6]. The other syllables are short and unaccented, and the vowels in that situation have in general the same short obscure sound. Hence it happens that the broad vowels in these syllables are often used indiscriminately.

There are no quiescent final vowels.


A has three sounds.

1. The first is both long and short; long, like a in the English words far, star; as, àr slaughter, àth a ford, gràdh, {4}love, sàruich oppress; short, like a in that; as, cath a battle, alt a joint; abuich ripe.

2. Both long and short, before dh and gh. This sound has none like it in English. Long, as, adhbhar a cause, adhradh worship; short, as, lagh a law, magh a field, adharc a horn.

3. Short and obscure, like e in mother; as, an, a the, ar our, ma if, and in the plural termination a or an.


E has three sounds.

1. Both long and short: long, like e in where, there; as, è, sè he, rè during. This e is generally marked with a grave accent. Short, like e in met; as, le with, leth half.

2. Long, as, ré the moon, cé the earth, and dé yesterday. This e is commonly marked with an acute accent.

3. Short, like e in mother; as, duine a man, ceannuichte bought.


I has two sounds.

1. Both long and short, like ee in seem: long, as, mìn smooth, righ a king; short, as, min meal, crith trembling.

2. Short and obscure, like i in this; as, is am, art, &c.


O has three sounds.

1. Both long and short: long, somewhat like o in more; as, mòr great, òr gold, dòchas expectation; short, like o in hot; as, mo my, do thy, dochann harm.

2. Both long and short: long, nearly like o in old; as, lom bare, toll a hole; short, as, lomadh making bare, tolladh boring.

3. Both long and short, like (2) a[7]: long, as, foghlum to learn; short, as, roghuinn choice, logh to forgive.



U has one sound, both long and short, like oo in fool: long, as, ùr fresh, ùraich to renew; short, as, ubh an egg, urras a surety.



There are thirteen Diphthongs reckoned in Gaelic; ae, ai, ao, ea, ei, eo, eu; ia, io, iu; oi; ua, ui. Of these, ao, eu, ia, ua, are always long; the others are sometimes long, sometimes short.


The sound of ae is made up of (1) a long, and (1) e short. This diphthong hardly occurs, except in Gael a Gaul or Highlander, and Gaelic the Gaelic language[8].


The sound of ai is either made up of the sounds of both the vowels, or like that of the former.

1. Made up of (1) a and (1) i: the a long, the i short; as, fàidh a prophet; the a short, the i short; as, claidheamh a sword.

2. Made up of (2) a and (1) i: the a long, the i short; as, saighde arrows.

Before a Lingual or a Palatal, not quiescent, the i often loses its sound, and only serves to qualify the sound of the following consonant[9]; hence,

3. Like (1) a alone: long, as, fàisg squeeze, fàilte salutation; short, as, glaic a hollow, tais soft.

4. Like (2) a alone: short, as, airm arms, gairm a call.


1. The sound of ao is like (2) a, long: as, caora a sheep, faobhar the edge of a tool, saothair labour.



The sound of ea is either made up of the sounds of both the vowels, or like that of one of them.

1. Made up of (2) e and (1) a: e very short, a long, as, beann a summit, pinnacle, feall deceit; a short, as, meal to enjoy, speal a scythe.

Before a Lingual or a Palatal, not quiescent, the a frequently loses its sound, and only qualifies that of the following consonant; hence,

2. Like (1) e, long: as, dean do; short, as, fear a man, bean a woman.

3. Like (2) e, long: as, easlan sick; short, as, fead whistle.

After a Lingual or a Palatal, not quiescent, the e loses its sound, and only qualifies that of the preceding consonant; hence,

4. Like (1) a, long: as, cèard an artificer; short, as, geal white.

5. Like (3) a, short: as, itheadh eating, coireach faulty.


The sound of ei is either made up of the sounds of both the vowels, or like that of e alone.

1. Made up of (1) e and (1) i: e long, i short, as, sgeimh beauty; e short, as, meidh a balance.

2. Made up of (2) e and (1) i: e long, i short, as, feidh deer; e short, as, greigh a herd, stud.

Before a Lingual or a Palatal, not quiescent, the i loses its sound, and only qualifies that of the following consonant; hence,

3. Like (1) e alone: long, as, mèise of a plate.

4. Like (2) e alone: long, as, éigin necessity; short, as, eich horses.


The sound of eo is either made up of the sounds of both vowels, or like that of o alone. {7}

1. Made up of (2) e and (1) o: e very short, o long, as, beo alive, eolas knowledge; o short, as, beothail lively.

After a Lingual or a Palatal, not quiescent, the e loses its sound, and only qualifies that of the preceding consonant; hence,

2. Like (1) o: long, as, leomhann a lion; short, as, deoch drink.


The sound of eu is like (2) e alone: long, as, teum to bite, gleus trim, entertainment.

One of the most marked variations of dialect occurs in the pronunciation of the diphthong eu, which, instead of being pronounced like long e, is over all the North Highlands commonly pronounced like ia; as, nial, ian, fiar, for neul, eun, feur.


The sound of ia is made up of the sounds of both the vowels.

1. Made up of (1) i and (1) a: both of equal length, as, fial liberal, iar west.

2. Made up of (1) i and (2) a: of equal length, as, fiadh a deer, ciall common sense.

In cia which? iad they, ia is often found like (1) è.


The sound of io is either made up of the sounds of both the vowels, or like one of them alone.

1. Made up of (1) i and (3) o: i long, o short, as, diol to pay, fior true; i short, as, iolach a shout, ionnsuidh an attack.

Before a Lingual or Palatal, not quiescent, the o sometimes loses its sound, and only qualifies that of the following consonant; hence,

2. Like (1) i: long, as, iodhol an idol; short, as, crios a girdle, biorach pointed.

After a Lingual or a Palatal, not quiescent, the i {8}sometimes loses its sound, and only qualifies that of the preceding consonant; hence,

3. Like u in fun, short and obscure: as, cionta guilt, tiondadh to turn.


The sound of iu is either made up of the sound of both the vowels, or like u alone.

1. Made up of (1) i and (1) u: i short, u long, as, fiù worthy; u short, as, iuchair a key.

After a Lingual or a Palatal, not quiescent, the i loses its sound, and only qualifies that of the preceding consonant; hence,

2. Like (1) u: long, as, diù worst part, refuse; short, as, tiugh thick, giuthas fir.


The sound of oi is either made up of the sounds of both the vowels, or like that of o alone.

1. Made up of (1) o and (1) i: o long, i short, as, òigh a virgin; o short, as, troidh a foot.

2. Made up of (3) o and (1) i: o long, i short, as, oidhche night.

Before a Lingual or a Palatal, not quiescent, the i loses its sound, and only qualifies that of the following consonant; hence,

3. Like (1) o long: as, mòid more; short, as, toic wealth.

4. Like (2) o long: as, fòid a turf; short, as, fois rest.

5. Like (3) o short; as, coileach a cock, doire a wood.


The sound of ua is made up of the sounds of both the vowels.

1. Made up of (1) u and (1) a, equally long; as, cuan the sea, fuar cold.

2. Made up of (1) u and (2) a; as, tuadh a hatchet, sluagh people. {9}


The sound of ui is either made up of the sounds of both the vowels, or like that of u alone.

1. Made up of (1) u and (1) i: u long, i short, as, suigheag a rasp-berry; u short, as, buidheann a company.

Before a Lingual or a Palatal, not quiescent, the i loses its sound, and only qualifies that of the following consonant; hence,

2. Like (1) u long: as, dùil expectation, cùig five; short, as, fuil blood, muir the sea.



There are five Triphthongs, in each of which i is the last letter: aoi, eoi, iai, iui, uai. In these the two first vowels have the same sounds and powers as when they form a diphthong. The final i is sounded short; but before a Palatal or a Lingual, not quiescent, it loses its sound, and only qualifies that of the following consonant.


1. Made up of ao and (1) i; as, caoidh lamentation, aoibhneas joy, laoigh calves.

2. Like ao; as, caoineadh wailing, maoile baldness.


1. Made up of (2) eo and (1) i; as, geoigh geese.

2. Like (1) eo; as, meoir fingers.

3. Like (2) eo; as, deoir tears, treoir ability.


1. Like (1) ia; as, fiaire more awry.


1. Like (2) iu; as, ciùil of music, fliuiche more wet. {10}


1. Made up of (1) ua and (1) i; as, luaithe quicker.

2. Made up of (2) ua and (1) i; as, cruaidh hard, fuaim sound.

3. Like (1) ua; as, uair time, an hour, cluaise of an ear.



The simple powers of the consonants differ not much from their powers in English. Those called mediae by the writers on Greek grammar, viz., b, d, g, approach nearer in force to the corresponding tenues p, t, c, than they do in English.

In accented syllables, where, if the vocal sound be short, the voice necessarily rests on the subsequent articulation, the consonants, though written single, are pronounced with the same degree of force as when written double in English; as, bradan a salmon, cos a foot; pronounced braddan, coss. No consonants are written double except l, n, r.

A propensity to aspiration is a conspicuous feature in the Gaelic tongue[10]. The aspirating of a consonant has been {11}usually marked, in the Irish dialect, by a dot over the letter aspirated; in the Scottish dialect by writing h after it. All the consonants have their sounds changed by being aspirated, and the effect is different on different consonants. In some cases the articulation is changed, but still formed by the same organ. In others the articulation is formed by a different organ. In others the h alone retains its power. And sometimes both the h and the consonant to which it is subjoined become entirely quiescent.


In treating of the consonants separately, it will be convenient to depart a little from the alphabetical order of the letters, and to consider first the Labials, next the Palatals, and lastly the Linguals.




1. Plain. Like p in English; as, poll a pool, pill return.

2. Aspirated. Like ph or f in English; as, a' phuill of the pool, phill returned[11].


1. Plain. Like b in English; as, baile a town, beo alive.

2. Aspirated. Like v in English, as, bhuail struck. In the end of a syllable the articulation is sometimes feeble, and often passes into the vocal sound of u[12]; as in marbh[13] dead, garbh rough, dabhach a vat.


1. Plain. Like m in English; as, mac a son, cam crooked.

2. Aspirated. Somewhat like v in English, but more feeble and nasal; as, mhathair O mother, lamh the hand. The sound mh has the same relation to that of bh, as the sound of m has to that of b. Sometimes, like bh, it becomes a vocal sound like a nasal u; as, in damh an ox, samhradh summer: and sometimes the articulation becomes so feeble as not to be perceived; as, comhradh speech, domhainn deep.



1. Plain. Like f in English, as, faigh to get, fòid a turf.

2. Aspirated. Quiescent; as, fheara O men. In fhuair found, the aspiration is retained, and the word is pronounced as if written huair. It is probable that it was originally written and pronounced fuair[14]; that huair is but a provincial pronunciation[15]; and that to adapt the spelling in some shape to this pronunciation, the word came to be written fhuair.



In treating of the Diphthongs (ai, ea, ei, &c.) notice has been often taken of the powers of certain vowels in modifying the sound of the adjoining consonants. This refers to a twofold mode of pronouncing the Palatal and Lingual consonants, whether plain or aspirated. The difference between these two modes of pronunciation is, in some consonants, abundantly striking; in others it is minute, but sufficiently discernible to an ear accustomed to the Gaelic. The one of these modes of articulation belongs to Palatals and Linguals, chiefly when connected with a broad vowel; the other belongs to them when connected with a small vowel. Hence, the former may be called the broad sound, the latter the small sound of a Palatal or a Lingual.

These sounds are not distinguished in writing, but may be known, for the most part, by the relative situation of the letters.


1. Plain. Broad: like c in come, curb; as, cùl the back, cridhe the heart.


2. Small: like c in care, cure; as, taic support, circe of a hen[16].

3. Aspirated. Broad: like the Greek χ, as pronounced in Scotland, in χωρα; as, croch to hang, chaidh went.

4. Small: like χ in χιων; as, chi shall see, eich horses.


1. Plain. Broad: like g in go, rogue; as, gabh to take, glor speech, bog soft.

2. Small: like g in give, fatigue; as, gin to produce, thig shall come, tilg to throw.

3. Aspirated. Broad: has no sound like it in English; ghabh took, ghleidh kept.

4. Small: nearly like y in young; as, ghin produced.

5. Gh in the end of a syllable is often quiescent; as, righ a king, tiugh thick, fuigheall remainder.


1. Plain. Broad: nearly like t in tone, bottom; as, tog to raise, trom heavy, brat a covering.


2. Small: like ch in cheek, choose; as, tinn sick, caillte lost.

3. Aspirated. Like h in house; as, thig shall come, throisg fasted, maith good.

4. Quiescent: in the middle of a polysyllable, in the end of a long syllable, and in certain tenses of a few irregular verbs when preceded by d'; as, snitheach[17] watery, sìth peace, an d' thug e? did he give? also in the pronoun thusa thou.


1. Plain. Broad: nearly like d in done; as, dol going, dlù near, close, ciod what.

2. Small: like j in June, jewel; as, diù refuse, maide a stick, airde height.

D, after ch, is commonly sounded like c; as, bochd poor, pronounced as if written bochc[18].


3. Aspirated[19]. Broad: like broad gh, as, dhruid did shut, gradh love.

4. Small: like small gh; as, dhearc looked.

5. Quiescent; as, fàidh a prophet, cridhe a heart, radh saying, bualadh striking.

RULE.—The consonants c, g, t, d, have their SMALL sound, when, in the same syllable, they are preceded, or immediately followed, by a SMALL VOWEL; in all other situations they have their BROAD sound.


1. Plain. Broad: like s in sun, this; as, speal a scythe, cas a foot, sùil an eye, scian a knife.

2. Small: like sh in show, rash; as, bris to break, sèimh quiet, sniomh to twine, stéidh foundation.

3. Aspirated: like h in him; as, shuidh sat, shrann snorted. Before l and n, it is almost, if not altogether, quiescent; as, shlanuich healed, shniomh twisted. S followed by a mute consonant is never aspirated.

RULE.—S has its SMALL sound, when, in the same syllable, it is preceded or followed by a SMALL VOWEL, with or without an intervening Lingual. In all other situations it has its BROAD sound. Except. S is broad in is am. It is small in so this, sud yon. It is customary to give s its broad sound in the beginning of a word, when the former word ends with r, in which case the r also has its broad sound; as, chuir sinn we put, air son on account.



Of L, N, R.

A distinction between a consonant when plain, and the same consonant when aspirated, has been easily traced thus far. This distinction readily discovers itself, not only in the pronunciation and orthography, but also (as will be seen in its proper place) throughout the system of inflection. It takes place uniformly in those consonants which have been already considered. With respect to the remaining linguals, l, n, r, a corresponding distinction will be found to take place in their pronunciation, and likewise in the changes they suffer by inflection. This close correspondence between the changes incident to l, n, r, and the changes which the other consonants undergo, seems to be a sufficient reason for still using the same discriminative terms in treating of their powers, though these terms may not appear to be so strictly applicable to these three consonants as to the rest. The powers of l, n, r, shall accordingly be explained under the divisions plain and aspirated, broad and small.


1. Plain. Broad: has no sound like it in English; lom bare, labhair speak, mall slow, alt a joint, ald a brook, slat a rod, dlù near.

2. Small: like ll in million; as, linn an age, lion fill, pill to return, slighe a way.

3. Aspirated. Broad: like l in loom, fool; as, labhair spoke, lom feminine of lom bare, mol to praise, dhlù feminine of dlù near.

4. Small: nearly like l in limb, fill; as, a linn his age, lion filled, mil honey, dligheach due, lawful.


1. Plain. Broad: has no sound like it in English; nuadh new, naisg bind, lann a blade, carn a heap of stones.

2. Small: like n in the second syllable of opinion; as, nigh wash, binn melodious, cuirn heaps of stones. {18}

3. Aspirated. Broad: like n in no, on; as, nuadh feminine of nuadh new, naisg bound, shnamh swam, sean old[20], chon of dogs, dàn a poem.

4. Small: like n in keen, near; as, nigh washed, shniomh twisted, coin dogs, dàin poems.

In an when followed by a Palatal, the n is pronounced like ng in English; as, an gille the lad, an comhnuidh always.

N, after a mute, is in a few instances pronounced like r[21]; as in mnathan women, cnatan a cold, an t-snàth of the yarn; pronounced mrathan, cratan, &c.


1. Plain. Nearly like r in roar; as, ruadh reddish, righ a king, ruith run, torr a heap, ceartas justice.

2. Aspirated. Broad: nearly like r in rear; as, car a turn, ruith ran, mòr great.

3. Small: has no sound like it in English; a righ O king, seirbhe satiety, mòir gen. of mòr great.

The plain, aspirated, broad, and small sounds of these Linguals are not distinguished in writing; but they may, for the most part, be known from the relative position of the letters.

RULE.—L, N, R, have their PLAIN sound when, in the same syllable, they are immediately preceded by a plain Liquid, or immediately followed by a plain Lingual; also in the beginning of certain cases and tenses; in all other situations, they have their ASPIRATED sound. They have their SMALL sound when, in the same syllable, they are preceded or followed by a small vowel, with or without an intervening Liquid; in other situations, they have their BROAD sound.



H is never used as an independent radical letter. When prefixed to a word beginning with a vowel, it is pronounced like h in how; as, na h-òighean the virgins, na h-oidhche of the night.


The following scheme exhibits a succinct view of the letters, both singly and in their several combinations. The first column contains the letters whose sound is to be exhibited; the prefixed figures marking the number of different sounds denoted by the same letter. The second column explains the sounds by examples or by references. The third column contains Gaelic words, with their translation, in which the several sounds are exemplified.


1 a brace long far star àr slaughter, àth a ford.
short that ar to plow, abuich ripe.
2 a brace long adhradh worship, adhbhar reason.
short adharc a horn, adhart a bolster.
3 a short similar ma if, an the, a his, her.
1 e brace long there è sè he, gnè sort, kind.
short met le with, leth half.
2 e long an dé yesterday, cé the earth.
3 e short mother duine a man, briste broken.
1 i see brace mìn smooth, righ a king.
min meal, crith a shaking.
2 i short this is am, art, is.
1 o brace long more mòr great, lòn food.
short hot mo my, do thy, lon the ouzle.
2 o brace long brace old lom bare, toll a hole.
short lomadh making bare.
3 o brace long brace (2) a roghnuich to choose.
short roghuinn choice.
{20} 1 u brace long brace fool brace ùr fresh, sùgh juice.
short ubh an egg, tur quite.


1 ae (1) a (2) e laeth days.
1 ai (1) a (1) i fàidh a prophet, claidheamh a sword.
2 ai (2) a (1) i saidhbhir, rich.
3 ai (1) a fàisg squeeze, tais soft.
4 ai (2) a airm arms, gairm to call.
1 ao (2) a faobhar edge of an instrument.
1 ea (2) e (1) a beann a pinnacle, meal enjoy.
2 ea (1) e dean to do, make, bean a woman.
3 ea (2) e easlan sick, fead whistle.
4 ea (1) a ceard an artificer, geal white.
5 ea (3) a coireach faulty.
1 ei (1) e (1) i sgèimh beauty, meidh a balance.
2 ei (2) e (1) i feidh deer, greigh a herd.
3 ei (1) e mèise of a plate.
4 ei (2) e éigin necessity, eich horses.
1 eo (2) e (1) o beo alive, beothail lively.
2 eo (1) o leomhann a lion, deoch a drink.
1 eu (2) e teum to bite, gleus trim.
1 ia (1) i (1) a fial liberal, fiar oblique.
2 ia (1) i (2) a fiadh a deer, biadh food.
1 io (1) i (3) o diol to pay, iolach a spout.
2 io (1) i iodhol an idol, crios a girdle.
3 io fun cionta guilt.
1 iu (1) i u fiù worth, iuchair a key.
2 iu u diù refuse, tiugh thick.
1 oi (1) o (1) i òigh a virgin, troidh a foot.
2 oi (3) o (1) i oidhche night.
3 oi (1) o mòid more, toic wealth.
4 oi (2) o fòid a turf, fois rest.
5 oi (3) o coileach a cock, goirid short.
1 ua u (1) a cuan the sea, fuath hatred.
2 ua u (2) a tuadh a hatchet, sluagh people.
{21} 1 ui u (1) i sùigheah a raspberry, buidheann a company.
2 ui u dùil expectation, fuil blood.


1 aoi (1) ao (1) i caoidh lamentation.
2 aoi (1) ao caoin mild, saoil to think.
1 eoi (2) eo (1) i geoigh geese.
2 eoi (1) eo meoir fingers.
3 eoi (2) eo deoir tears.
1 iai (1) ia fiaire more oblique.
1 iui (2) iu ciùil of music.
1 uai (1) ua (1) i luaithe quicker.
2 uai (2) ua (1) i cruaidh hard, fuaim sound.
3 uai (1) ua gluais to move, uair time.


1 p part poll a pool, streap to climb.
2 ph Philip phill returned.
1 b boil baile a town, breab to kick.
2 bh vile bhuail struck, gabh to take.
1 m my mòr great, anam life, soul.
2 mh mhothuich perceived, damh an ox.
1 f feel fill to fold.
2 fh quiescent fheara O men.
1 c cock can to say, sing, creid to believe.
2 c kick ceann end, head, reic to sell.
3 ch χωρα chaidh went, rach go.
4 ch χειμων chi shall see, crìche of a boundary.
1 g go gabh to take, rag stiff.
{22} 2 g give geinne a wedge, ruig to reach.
3 gh ghabh took, ghleidh kept.
4 gh you gheibh will get.
5 quiescent righ a king, sluagh people.
1 t tone tog to raise, slat a rod.
2 t chin tinn sick, àite a place.
3 th have thainig came.
4 th quiescent maith good, fàth occasion.
1 d done dol going, dragh trouble.
2 d join diom resentment, maide a stick.
3 dh (3) gh dhall blind.
4 dh (4) gh dhearc looked.
5 dh quiescent radh saying, bualadh threshing.
1 s so sannt desire, sloc a pit.
2 s show sèimh gentle, so this.
3 sh how shuidh sat, shaoil thought.
1 l lom bare, slat a rod, moll chaff.
2 l million lìnn an age, caillte lost.
3 l look blàth blossom, shlanuich healed.
4 l believe leum leaped, shleamhnuich slipped.
1 n crann a tree, naomh holy, naisg bind.
2 n opinion seinn to sing, nigh wash.
3 n no fan to stay, naisg bound.
4 n near coin dogs, nigh washed.
1 r roar fearr better, righ a king, ruith run.
2 r rear fear a man, ruith ran.
3 r fir men, a righ O king, treoir strength.


There is no doubt that the Gaelic has been for many ages a written language. It is equally certain that its orthography, since it was first committed to writing, has undergone {23}considerable changes. In this respect it has shared the common fate of all written languages.

In the first exhibition of the sounds of a living language, by alphabetical characters, it is probable that the principle which regulated the system of orthography was, that every elementary sound should be represented by a corresponding character, either simple or compounded, and that the same sound should be represented by the same character. If different sounds were represented by the same letter; if the same sound were represented by different letters; if more letters were employed then were necessary to exhibit the sound; or if any sound were not represented by a corresponding character; then the written language would not be an adequate representation of the spoken. It is hardly to be supposed that, in the first rude attempts at alphabetical writing, the principle above laid down could be strictly and uniformly followed. And though it had, yet, in the course of a few generations, many causes would occur to bring about considerable departures from it. A gradual refinement of ear, and increasing attention to euphonia; contractions and elisions brought into vogue by the carelessness or the rapidity of colloquial speech, or by the practice of popular speakers; above all, the mixture of the speech of different nations would introduce numberless varieties into the pronunciation. Still, those who wrote the language might choose to adhere to the original orthography for the sake of retaining the radical parts, and preserving the etymon of vocables undisguised, and for maintaining an uniformity in the mechanism of the inflections. Hence the pronunciation and the orthography would disagree in many instances, till at length it would be found expedient to alter the orthography, and to adapt it to such changes in the speech or spoken language as long use had established, in order to maintain what was most necessary of all, a due correspondence between the mode of speaking and the mode of writing the same language.

It will probably be found on inquiry that in all languages when the speech has undergone material and striking changes, {24}the written language also has varied in a considerable degree in conformity to these changes, but that it has not scrupulously kept pace with the spoken language in every smaller variation. The written language of the Greeks suffered many changes between the time that the old Pelasgic was spoken and the days of Demosthenes. The various modes of pronunciation used in the different districts of Greece are marked by a diversity in the orthography of the written language. The writing of the Latin underwent considerable alterations between the era of the Decemviri and the Augustan age, corresponding, no doubt, to the changes which had taken place during that interval in speaking the Latin. English and French books printed within the last century exhibit a mode of orthography very different from what is found in books printed two or three hundred years ago. These instances show the tendency which the written language has to follow the lead of the spoken language, and to maintain a certain degree of conformity to those modes of pronunciation which are from time to time adopted by those who speak it.

On the other hand, numberless examples might be adduced from any living language to prove that the written language does not adapt itself, on all occasions and with strict uniformity, to the sounds of speech. Words are written differently which are pronounced alike. The same combinations of letters, in different situations, represent different sounds. Letters are retained in writing, serving to point out the derivations of words, after they have been entirely dropped in speaking.

From such facts as these, it appears a just conclusion that written language generally follows the spoken language through its various revolutions, but still at a certain distance,—not dropping so far behind as to lose sight of its precursor, nor following so close as to be led through all its fantastic deviations.

Here a question occurs of importance in settling the orthography of any particular tongue: How near ought the written language to correspond to the spoken, and where may a disagreement between them be allowed with {25}propriety? The following observations may serve to throw some light on the subject of this question, though by no means sufficient to furnish a complete answer.

It is obvious that in speech the articulations (which are represented by consonants in writing) are the least liable to variation. Vowel sounds are continually varying. In this variety chiefly consists that diversity of tone and dialect which is found in the speech of different districts of the same country, where the same words are spoken. The changes, too, which are introduced by time fall with greater effect on the vowel sounds than on the articulations. This circumstance will strike an observer who steps into any deliberative assembly, where the speakers are of different ages. St Jerome makes a remark on the reading of Hebrew, which is applicable, in some measure, to the pronunciation of all languages: "Nec refert utrum Salem aut Salim nominetur; cum vocalibus in medio literis perraro utantur Hebraei; et pro voluntate lectorum, ac varietate regionum, eadem verba diversis sonis atque accentibus proferantur." It may be observed that the superior stability of the articulations above the vowel sounds is the natural consequence of the position of the organs of speech in uttering them. The different modifications of the vowel sounds are effected by minute changes in the conformation of the organs; those of the articulations are made by more distinct and operose inflections of the organs.

It seems, then, a warrantable conclusion that, of the elementary constituents of speech, viz., articulations and vowel sounds, the articulations are, in their own nature, ESSENTIAL, PERMANENT, and PREDOMINANT; the vowel sounds, comparatively considered, are ADJUNCTIVE, FLUCTUATING, and SERVILE.

Further, all the vowel sounds that usually occur in speech seem to be uttered with equal ease, in whatever situation they occur, as the same organs are employed for all. In forming the common articulations of speech, as different organs are employed, a degree of difficulty is sometimes felt in making a transition from one articulation to another. {26}Thus a difficulty will occasionally occur in pronouncing certain words, where the general analogy of inflection or of collocation has brought together articulations which do not easily coalesce. Hence a necessity arises of departing in such a case from the general analogy, and altering or displacing some of those discrepant articulations, for the sake of ease and convenience in pronunciation, and to relieve the ear from an offensive discordant sound. Departures are made from the general rules of speech in the case of the vowel sounds also, of which the Greek tongue abounds with examples. These departures, however, seem to have been made from a desire to indulge the ear in certain national predilections or aversions which it had conceived with regard to particular sounds. In examining the anomalies of speech, or those peculiarities which have been reckoned anomalous, it will be found that such of them as affect the articulations have, for the most part, been adopted for the purpose of ease and convenience in pronunciation; while those which affect the vowel sounds have proceeded from the peculiar taste of the speakers. Thus the former spring from a cause urgent and constant in its nature, and uniform in its operation; the latter, from a cause local and temporary in its nature, and variable in its operation.

If this theory be just, it ought to follow that, in all polished tongues, an agreement will be found among those irregularities which affect the articulations, that is not so observable in those which affect the vowel sounds. There is reason to believe that, if a full comparison were made between different languages, this would accordingly be found to be the case. Let it be observed, then, that in speech a deference has been usually paid to the articulations which has not been paid to the vowel sounds, inasmuch as the latter have been changed from the state in which the structure of each tongue had at first placed them, frequently and from peculiar taste or humour; the former more rarely, and for the most part from necessity. If this observation be found to be well supported, we shall have the sanction of general practice in favour of the conclusion that was formerly {27}drawn from the nature of articulate sounds, viz., that the articulations are ESSENTIAL, PERMANENT, and PREDOMINANT; the vowel sounds ADJUNCTIVE, FLUCTUATING, and SERVILE.

If it appear, then, that the vowel sounds in speech are perpetually varying in the mouths of different speakers, from causes which either elude our search, or, when discovered, are seen to be of small importance, may we not judge that it would be equally vain and improper to attempt to make Writing follow all these minute variations; and that, however it may happen that the same vowel sound may be represented in many instances by different letters, and different vowel sounds by the same letters, yet this disagreement between Speech and Writing must be connived at, for the sake of preserving some degree of uniformity, where alone it can be preserved, in the written language? If it appear, again, that the variations from the established analogy which are made on the articulations are less frequent, and proceed from causes obvious and cogent, ought not these variations to be exhibited in writing, for preserving that general correspondence between the written and the spoken language which ought to be preserved, as far as the limited powers of letters will permit, and without which the words I speak and those I write do not belong to the same language?

One exception from this principle seems allowable in the case of quiescent consonants. It may be inferred, from the practice of all living languages, that consonants whereof the corresponding articulations have been suppressed in speaking may yet be retained with propriety in writing, when they are requisite to point out the derivation of vocables, or the radical part of declinable words. But this exception ought to be allowed only to a moderate extent, for the reasons already assigned; to which it may be added, that the far greater part of the suppressed articulations can be easily discovered and retraced to their roots, without any index in the written any more than in the spoken language to point them out. {28}

These observations being premised, I shall proceed to explain the present state of Gaelic Orthography, and shall endeavour to assist the reader in forming a judgment of its merit, and how far it may admit of improvement.

I. It may be laid down as one settled principle in orthography, that each letter or combination of letters in the written language ought always to denote one and the same sound. From the explanation that has been given of the powers of the letters, it may be seen how far this principle has been regarded in the Gaelic. Though almost every one of the letters represents more than one sound, yet there is an evident affinity between the several sounds of the same letter. And it may be readily allowed that less confusion and inconvenience follow from exhibiting a few kindred sounds by the same letter, than would have taken place had the characters been multiplied to such a degree as that a separate one could have been appropriated to each minute variety of sound.

It is obvious to remark, as a departure from this principle, that in the case of the consonants l, n, r, the distinction between their plain and their aspirated state is not marked in writing, but that in both states the consonant is written in one way. In the middle and end of words, as has been shown, this distinction may be known from the relative situation of the letters. In the beginning of certain cases and tenses of declinable words, it may often be known from their grammatical connection, but is not marked by any graphical index whatever. The proper reading is to be determined by the sense of the passage, instead of the sense being understood by the proper reading. It is not easy to discover how those who first committed the Gaelic to writing neglected to mark such a material distinction. Inconveniencies and ambiguities not unfrequently arise from this cause, which have been long felt and regretted. Is there room to hope that it is not yet too late to recommend a method of remedying this defect? The method I would suggest is the most simple and obvious of any. It is to annex to the initial l, n, and r, in their aspirated state, the letter h, just as has been {29}done to all the other consonants. The analogy of orthography would thus be maintained, the system of inflection would be more justly exhibited, and carried on by an uniform process in Writing as it is in Speech, and errors in reading and ambiguities in syntax would be avoided[22].

II. Another principle of authority in regulating orthography is, that each sound ought always to be represented by one and the same letter, or combination of letters. The deviations from this rule in Gaelic are extremely few. The sound of ao is represented sometimes by a alone, sometimes by o alone. The sound of gh is represented also by dh; and final c often, though corruptly, represents the same sound with chd.

III. A third principle in orthography is, that no more letters ought to be employed than are necessary to represent the sound. There are probably few polished languages in which departures from this rule are not found in abundance. Reasons have been already mentioned which render it expedient to retain letters in writing many words, after the corresponding sounds have been dropped in pronouncing the same words. Quiescent letters, both vowels and consonants, are not unfrequent in Gaelic. Though these quiescent letters have no sound themselves, they are not always without effect in pronunciation, as they often determine the sound of other letters. Most, if not all, the quiescent vowels seem to have been introduced for this purpose. They ascertain the broad or the small sound of the adjoining {30}consonants. This has been made sufficiently clear in treating of the vowels and diphthongs separately. A consonant, as has been shown, has its broad sound, both when preceded and when followed by a broad vowel; and in like manner has its small sound, both when preceded and when followed by a small vowel. If a consonant were preceded by a vowel of one quality, and followed by one of a different quality, the reader, it has been thought, might be doubtful whether that consonant ought to be pronounced with its broad or with its small sound. Hence this rule has long obtained in Gaelic orthography, that in polysyllables the last vowel of one syllable and the first vowel of the subsequent syllable must be both of the same quality[23]. To the extensive application and the rigid observance of this rule it is owing that so many diphthongs appear where one vowel is sufficient to express the vocal sound, and that the homogeneous vowels, when used in their quiescent capacity, are often exchanged for each other, or written indiscriminately[24]. From the former of these circumstances, most of the words in the language appear loaded with superfluous vowels; from the latter, the orthography of many words appears, in some respects, arbitrary and unsettled. Even a partial correction of these blemishes must be desirable. It may therefore be worth while to examine this long established canon of Gaelic orthography, with a view to discover whether it has not been extended farther than is necessary, and whether it ought not in many cases to be set aside.

We have seen that the Labials b, m, f, p, whether aspirated or not, have no distinction of broad and small sound.


It cannot, then, be necessary to employ vowels, either prefixed or postfixed, to indicate the sound of these. Thus, abuich ripe, gabhaidh will take, chromainn I would bow, ciomaich captives, have been written with a broad vowel in the second syllable, corresponding to the broad vowel in the first syllable; yet the letters abich, gabhidh, chrominn, ciomich, fully exhibit the sound. The prepositive syllable im, when followed by a small vowel, is written im, as in imlich to lick, imcheist perplexity. But when the first vowel of the following syllable is broad, it has been the practice to insert an o before the m, as in iomlan complete, iomghaoth a whirlwind, iomluasg agitation. Yet the inserted o serves no purpose, either in respect of derivation, of inflection, or of pronunciation. The unnecessary application of the rule in question appears most unequivocally in words derived from other languages. From the Latin words imago, templum, liber, are formed in Gaelic iomhaigh, teampull, leabhar. Nothing but a servile regard to the rule under consideration could have suggested the insertion of a broad vowel in the first syllable of these words, where it serves neither to guide the pronunciation, nor to point out the derivation.

Another case, in which the observation of this rule seems to be wholly unnecessary, is when two syllables of a word are separated by a quiescent consonant. Thus in gleidheadh keeping, itheadh eating, buidheann a company, dligheach lawful, the aspirated consonants in the middle are altogether quiescent. The vocal sound of the second syllable is sufficiently expressed by the last vowel. No good reason, then, appears for writing a small vowel in the second syllable.

Thus far it is evident that the rule respecting the correspondence of vowels is wholly impertinent in the case of syllables divided by Labials, or by quiescent consonants. If we examine further into the application of this rule, we shall find more cases in which it may be safely set aside.

Many of the inflections of nouns and verbs are formed by adding one or more syllables to the root. The final {32}consonant of the root must always be considered as belonging to the radical part, not to the adjected termination. The sound of that consonant, whether broad or small, falls to be determined by the quality of the vowel which precedes it in the same syllable, not by the quality of that which follows it in the next syllable. It seems, therefore, unnecessary to employ any more vowels in the adjected syllable than what are sufficient to represent its own vocal sound. The rule under consideration has, notwithstanding, been extended to the orthography of the oblique cases and tenses, and a supernumerary vowel has been thrown into the termination, whenever that was requisite to preserve the supposed necessary correspondence with the foregoing syllable. Thus, in forming the nominative and dative plural of many nouns, the syllables an and ibh are added to the singular, which letters fully express the true sound of these terminations. If the last vowel of the nominative singular is broad, an alone is added for the nominative plural; as, lamh-an hands, cluas-an ears. But if the last vowel be small, an e is thrown into the termination; as, sùil-ean eyes, sròin-ean noses. Now if it be observed that, in the two last examples, the small sound of the l and n in the root is determined by the preceding small vowel i, with which they are necessarily connected in one syllable, and that the letters an fully represent the sound of the termination, it must be evident that the e in the final syllable is altogether superfluous. So in forming the dative plural: if the last vowel of the root be small, ibh is added; as, sùil-ibh, sroin-ibh. But if the last vowel of the root is broad, the termination is written aibh; as, lamh-aibh, cluas-aibh, where the a, for the reason already assigned, is totally useless.

These observations apply with equal justness to the tenses of verbs, as will be seen by comparing the following examples: creid-idh will believe, stad-aidh will stop; chreid-inn I would believe, stad-ainn I would stop; creid-eam let me believe, stad-am let me stop; creid-ibh believe ye, stad-aibh stop ye.

The same observations may be further applied to derivative words, formed by adding to their primitives the syllables {33}ach, achd, ag, an, ail, as; in all which e has been unnecessarily introduced, when the last vowel of the preceding syllable was small; as, sannt-ach covetous, toil-each willing; naomh-achd holiness, doimhn-eachd depth; sruth-an a rivulet, cuil-ean a whelp; cauch-ag a little cup, cail-eag a girl; fear-ail manly, caird-eil friendly[25]; ceart-as justice, caird-eas friendship.

The foregoing observations appear sufficient to establish this general conclusion, that in all cases in which a vowel serves neither to exhibit the vocal sound, nor to modify the articulations of the syllable to which it belongs, it may be reckoned nothing better than an useless incumbrance. There seems, therefore, much room for simplifying the present system of Gaelic Orthography, by the rejection of a considerable number of quiescent vowels[26].


Almost the only quiescent consonants which occur in Gaelic are d, f, g, s, t, in their aspirated state. When these occur in the inflections of declinable words, serving to indicate the Root, or in derivatives, serving to point out the primitive word, the omission of them might, on the whole, be unadvisable. Even when such letters appear in their absolute form, though they have been laid aside in pronunciation, yet it would be rash to discard them in writing, as they often serve to show the affinity of the words in which they are found to others in different languages, or in different dialects of the Celtic. The aspirated form of the consonant in writing sufficiently shows that, in speaking, its articulation is either attenuated or wholly suppressed.

The writers of Gaelic seem to have carefully avoided bringing into apposition two vowels which belong to different syllables. For this purpose they have sometimes introduced a quiescent consonant into the middle of compound or of inflected words; as, gneidheil, or rather gnethail kindly, made up of gnè and ail; beothail lively, made up of beo and ail; diathan gods, from the singular dia; lathaibh days, from the singular là, &c. It may at least bear a question, whether it would not be better to allow the vowels to denote the sound of the word by their own powers, without the intervention of quiescent consonants, as has been done in {35}mnaibh women, déibh gods, rather than insert consonants which have nothing to do with either the radical or the superadded articulations of the word.

From the want of an established standard in orthography, the writers of Gaelic, in spelling words wherein quiescent consonants occurred, must have been often doubtful which of two or three consonants was the proper one, and may therefore have differed in their manner of spelling the same word. Accordingly we find, in many instances, the same words written by different writers, and even at different times by the same writer, with different quiescent consonants. This variation affects not indeed the pronunciation, or does it in a very slight degree. Hence, however, some who judge of the language only from its appearance in writing, have taken occasion to vilify it, as unfixed and nonsensical[27]. A proper attention to the affinity which the Scottish Gaelic bears to some other languages, particularly to other dialects of the Celtic, might contribute to fix the orthography in some cases where it appears doubtful, or has become variable[28].

IV. The last principle to be mentioned, which ought to regulate orthography, is that every sound ought to be represented by a corresponding character. From this rule there is hardly a single deviation in Gaelic, as there is no sound in the spoken language which is not, in some measure, {36}exhibited in the written language. The fault of the Gaelic orthography is sometimes a redundancy, but never a deficiency of letters.

A few observations on the mode of writing some particular words, or particular parts of speech, remain to be brought forward in the sequel of this work, which it would be premature to introduce here.

The Scottish writers of Gaelic in general followed the Irish orthography, till after the middle of the last century. However that system may suit the dialect of Ireland, it certainly is not adapted to the Gaelic of this country. In the Gaelic translation of the New Testament, printed in 1767, not only were most of the Irish idioms and inflections which had been admitted into the Scottish Gaelic writings rejected, and the language adapted to the dialect of the Scottish Highlands, but the orthography also was adapted to the language. In later publications, the manner of writing the language was gradually assimilated to that pattern. The Gaelic version of the sacred Scriptures lately published has exhibited a model, both of style and orthography, still more agreeable to the purest Scottish idiom, and has a just title to be acknowledged as the standard in both. Little seems to be now wanting to confer on the orthography of the Scottish Gaelic such a degree of uniformity as may redeem its credit and ensure its stability. This, it is to be hoped, may be attained by a judicious regard to the separate, and especially the relative powers of the letters, to the most common and approved modes of pronunciation, to the affinity of the Scottish Gaelic with other branches of the Celtic tongue, to the analogy of inflection and derivation, and, above all, to the authority of some generally received standard, to which pre-eminence the late Gaelic version of the Scriptures has the only indisputable claim.




The parts of speech in Gaelic may be conveniently divided and arranged as follows:—Article, Noun, Adjective, Pronoun, Verb, Adverb, Preposition, Conjunction, Interjection. Of these, the first five are declinable; the other four are indeclinable.




The Gaelic article an corresponds to the English definite article the. There is in Gaelic no indefinite article corresponding to the English a or an. The inflections of the article are but few. They depend on the gender, the number, and the case, of the noun to which it is prefixed. Hence the article is declined by gender, number, and case, as follows:

Singular. Plural.
Masc. Fem. Masc. & Fem.
Nom. an, am an, a' na
Gen. an, a' na nan, nam
Dat. an, a', n' an, a', n' na

In the singular, final n of the article is sometimes cut off, and its absence marked by an apostrophe. The same happens to the initial a of the dative singular.




A Noun is the Name of any person, object, or thing whatsoever, that we have occasion to mention. In treating of {38}this Part of Speech, we have to consider the Gender and the Declension of Nouns.

Of Gender.

In imposing names on sensible objects, the great and obvious distinction of Sex in the animal world suggested the expediency of inventing names, not only for the particular species of animals, but also for distinguishing their Sex. Such are vir, femina; bull, cow; coileach, cearc, &c. To mark at once identity of species, and diversity of Sex, the same word, with a slight change on its form, was applied to both sexes: as equus, equa; lion, lioness; oglach, banoglach. In most languages, distinction of Sex has been marked, not only thus by the form of the noun, but further by the form of the adjective connected with the noun. Most adjectives were furnished with two forms, the one of which indicated its connection with the name of a male, the other its connection with the name of a female. The one was called by grammarians the masculine gender, the other the feminine gender of the adjective. Adjectives possessing thus a two-fold form, must necessarily have appeared under one or other of these forms, with whatever noun they happened to be conjoined. Even nouns significant of inanimate objects came thus to possess one mark of nouns discriminative of Sex, as they happened to be accompanied by an adjective of the masculine or by one of the feminine gender. If any noun was observed to be usually coupled with an adjective of the masculine gender, it was termed by grammarians a masculine noun; if it was found usually coupled with an adjective of the feminine gender, it was termed a feminine noun. Thus a distinction of nouns into masculine and feminine came to be noted, and this also was called gender.

It is observable, then, that gender, in grammar, is taken in two different acceptations. When applied to an adjective, {39}it signifies a certain form, by which bonus is distinguished from bona. When applied to a noun, it signifies a certain relation of the word to the attributives connected with it, by which amor is distinguished from cupido. As Sex is a natural characteristic pertaining to living objects, so gender is a grammatical characteristic pertaining to nouns, the names of objects whether animate or inanimate. The gender of nouns is not, properly speaking, indicated; it is constituted by that of the attributives conjoined with them. If there were no distinction of gender in adjectives, participles, &c. there could be none in nouns. When we say that amor is a noun of the masculine gender, and cupido a noun of the feminine gender, we do not mean to intimate any distinction between the things signified by these nouns; we mean nothing more than to state a grammatical fact, viz., that an adjective connected with amor is always of the same form as when joined to a noun denoting a male, and that an adjective connected with cupido is always of the same form as when joined to a noun denoting a female[29].


When an adjective was to be connected with a noun that denoted an object devoid of Sex, it is not always easy to guess what views might have determined the speaker to use the adjective in one gender rather than in the other. Perhaps Sex was attributed to the object signified by the noun. Perhaps its properties were conceived to bear some resemblance to the qualities characteristic of Sex in living creatures. In many instances, the form of the noun seems to have decided the point. It must be confessed that in this mental process, the judgment has been often swayed by trivial circumstances, and guided by fanciful analogies. At least it cannot be denied that in the Gaelic, where all nouns whatever are ranked under the class of masculines or of feminines, the gender of each has been fixed by a procedure whereof the grounds cannot now be fully investigated or ascertained. Neither the natural nor artificial qualities or uses of the things named, nor the form of the names given them, furnish any invariable rule by which the gender of nouns may be known. It ought to be remembered, however, that the Gaelic is far from being singular in this respect. The oldest language with which we are acquainted, as well as some of the most polished modern tongues, stand in the same predicament.

The following observations may serve to give some idea of the analogy of gender in Gaelic nouns; though they do not furnish a complete set of rules sufficient to ascertain the gender of every noun:—


Masculines. Nouns signifying males are masculines; as, fear a man, righ a king, sagart a priest, tarbh a bull, cu a dog.

Many nouns, signifying the young of animals of either Sex, are masculine, even when the individual objects they denote are mentioned as being of the female Sex; as, laogh a calf, isean a gosling, uan a lamb, &c.[30].

Diminutives in an; as, rothan a little wheel, dealgan a little pin, &c.

Derivatives in as, which are, for the most part, abstract nouns; as, cairdeas friendship, naimhdeas enmity, ciuineas calmness, breitheamhnas judgment, ceartas justice, maitheas goodness, &c.

Derivatives in air, ach, iche, which are, for the most part, agents; as, cealgair a deceiver, sealgair a huntsman, dorsair a door-keeper, marcach a rider, maraiche a sailor, coisiche a foot traveller, &c.

Names of such kinds of trees as are natives of Scotland; as, darach oak, giuthas fir, uimhseann ash.

Most polysyllables whereof the last vowel is broad, are masculine.

Feminines. Nouns signifying females are feminine; as, bean a woman, mathair a mother, bo a cow, &c. Except bainionnach or boirionnach a female, mart a cow, capull a horse or mare, but commonly a mare, which are masculine, and caileann or cailinn a damsel, masculine or feminine.[31] Mark, vi. 28.


Some nouns denoting a species are feminine, even when the individual spoken of is characterised as a male; as, gabhar fhirionn, a he-goat. Psal. l. 9.

Names of countries; as, Albainn Scotland, Eirinn Ireland.

Names of musical instruments; as, clarsach a harp, piob, a pipe.

Names of the heavenly bodies; as, Grian sun, Gealach moon.

Names of diseases; as, teasach a fever, a' ghriuthach the measles, a' bhreac the small-pox, a' bhuidheach the jaundice, a' bhuinneach, a diarrhœa, &c.

Collective names of trees or shrubs are feminine; as, giuthasach a fir wood, iugharach a yew copse, seileach a willow copse, droighneach a thorny brake.

Diminutives in ag or og; as, caileag a girl, cuachag a little cup.

Derivatives in achd; as, iomlanachd fulness, doillearachd duskiness, doimhneachd depth, rioghachd kingdom, sinnsireachd ancestry, &c.

Abstract nouns formed from the genitive of adjectives; as, doille blindness, gile whiteness, leisge laziness, buidhre deafness, &c.

Many monosyllables in ua followed by one or more consonants are feminine; as, bruach a bank, cruach a heap, cuach a cup, cluas an ear, gruag the hair of the head, sguab a sheaf, tuadh a hatchet, tuath peasantry.

Almost all polysyllables, whereof the last vowel is small, except those in air and iche, already noticed, are feminine.

A few nouns are of either gender; Salm a Psalm, creidimh belief, are used as masculine nouns in some places, and feminine in others. Cruinne the globe, talamb the earth, land, are masculine in the nominative; as, an cruinne-cé the globe of the earth. Psal. lxxxix. 11., xc. 2.—D. Buchan. 1767. p. 12. 15; an talamh tioram the dry land. Psal. xcv. {43}5. The same nouns are generally feminine in the genitive; as, gu crìch na cruinne to the extremity of the world. Psal. xix. 4.; aghaidh na talmhainn the face of the earth. Gen. i. 29. Acts xvii. 24.

Of Declension.

Nouns undergo certain changes significant of Number and of Relation.

The forms significant of Number are two: the Singular, which denotes one; and the Plural, which denotes any number greater than one.

The changes expressive of Relation are made on nouns in two ways: 1. On the beginning of the noun; 2. On its termination. The relations denoted by changes on the termination are different from those denoted by changes on the beginning; they have no necessary connection together; the one may take place in absence of the other. It seems proper, therefore, to class the changes on the termination by themselves in one division, and give it a name, and to class the changes on the beginning also by themselves in another division, and give it a different name. As the changes on the termination denote, in general, the same relations which are denoted by the Greek and Latin cases, that seems a sufficient reason for adopting the term case into the Gaelic Grammar, and applying it, as in the Greek and Latin, to signify "the changes made on the termination of nouns or adjectives to mark relation".[32] According to this description of them, there are four cases in Gaelic. These may be {44}named, like the corresponding cases in Latin, the Nominative, the Genitive, the Dative, and the Vocative.[33] The Nominative is used when any person or thing is mentioned as the subject of a proposition or question, or as the object of an action or affection. The Genitive corresponds to an English noun preceded by of. The Dative is used only after a preposition. The Vocative is employed when a person or thing is addressed.

The changes on the beginning of nouns are made by aspirating an initial consonant; that is, writing h after it. This may be called the Aspirated form of the noun. The aspirated form extends to all the cases and numbers. A noun, whereof the initial form is not changed by aspiration, is in the Primary form.

The accidents of nouns may be briefly stated thus. A noun is declined by Number, Case, and Initial form. The Numbers are two: Singular and Plural. The Cases are four: Nominative, Genitive, Dative, and Vocative. The Initial form is twofold: the Primary form, and the Aspirated form peculiar to nouns beginning with a consonant.

In declining nouns, the formation of the cases is observed to depend more on the last vowel of the nominative than on {45}the final letter. Hence the last vowel of the nominative, or in general of any declinable word, may be called the characteristic vowel. The division of the vowels into broad and small suggests the distribution of nouns into two Declensions, distinguished by the quality of the characteristic vowel. The first Declension comprehends those nouns whereof the characteristic vowel is broad; the second Declension comprehends those nouns whereof the characteristic vowel is small.

The following examples are given of the inflection of nouns of the


Bard, mas. a Poet.
    Singular. Plural.
Nom. Bard Baird
Gen. Baird Bard
Dat. Bard Bardaibh
Voc. Bhaird Bharda
Cluas, fem. an Ear.
    Singular. Plural.
Nom. Cluas Cluasan
Gen. Cluaise           Cluas
Dat. Cluais Cluasaibh
Voc. Chluas Chluasa

Formation of the Cases of Nouns of the First Declension.

Singular Number.

General Rule for forming the Genitive.—The Genitive is formed from the Nominative, by inserting i after the characteristic vowel, as, bàs mas. death, Gen. sing. bàis; fuaran m. a fountain, g. s. fuarain; clarsach f. a harp, g. s. clarsaich. Feminine monosyllables likewise add a short e to the Nominative; as, cluas f. an ear, g. s. cluaise; làmh a hand, g. s. làimhe[34].


Particular Rules for the Genitive.—1. If the nominative ends in a vowel, the genitive is like the nominative; as, trà m. a time or season, g. s. trà; so also beatha f. life, cro m. a sheepfold, cliu m. fame, duine a man, Donncha Duncan, a man's name, and many others. Except bo f. a cow, g. s. boin; cu m. a dog, g. s. coin; bru f. the belly, g. s. broinn or bronn.

2. Nouns ending in chd or rr have the genitive like the nominative; as, uchd m. the breast, sliochd m. offspring, feachd m. a host, reachd m. statute, cleachd m. habit, beachd m. vision, smachd m. authority, fuachd m. cold, sprochd m. gloom, beannachd m. a blessing, naomhachd f. holiness, earr m. the tail, torr m. a heap. Except slochd g. s. sluichd m. a pit, unless this word should rather be written sloc, like boc, cnoc, soc.

3. Monosyllables ending in gh or th add a for the genitive; as, lagh m. law, g. s. lagha; roth m. a wheel, g. s. rotha; sruth m. a stream, g. s. srutha. Except àgh m. felicity, grace, or charm, g. s. aigh[35].

4. Monosyllables characterised by io either drop the o or add a for the genitive; as, siol m. seed, g. s. sìl; lion m. a net, g. s. lìn; crioch f. a boundary, g. s. crìch; cioch f. the pap, g. s. cìche; fion m. wine, g. s. fiona; crios m. a girdle, g. s. criosa; fiodh m. timber, g. s. fiodha. Except Criost or Criosd m. Christ, which has the gen. like the nominative.

5. Many monosyllables, whose characteristic vowel is a or o, change it into u and insert i after it; as, gob m. the bill of a bird, g. s. guib; crodh m. kine, g. s. cruidh; bolg or balg m. a bag, g. s. builg; clog or clag m. a bell, g. s. cluig; lorg f. a staff, g. s. luirge; long f. a ship, g. s. luinge; alt m. a {47}joint, g. s. uilt; alld m. a rivulet, g. s. uilld; car m. a turn, g. s. cuir; carn m. a heap of stones, g. s. cuirn. So also ceol m. music, g. s. ciuil; seol m. a sail, g. s. siuil. Except nouns in on and a few feminines, which follow the general rule; as, bròn m. sorrow, g. s. bròin; lòn m. food, g. s. lòin; cloch or clach f. a stone, g. s. cloiche; cos or cas f. the foot, g. s. coise; bròg f. a shoe, g. s. bròige. So also clann f. children, g. s. cloinne; crann m. a tree, g. s. croinn. Mac m. a son, has its g. s. mic.

6. Polysyllables characterised by ea change ea into i; as, fitheach m. a raven, g. s. fithich; cailleach f. an old woman, g. s. caillich[36]. These two suffer a syncope, and add e; buidheann f. a company, g. s. buidhne; sitheann f. venison, g. s. sithne.

Of monosyllables characterised by ea, some throw away a and insert i; as, each m. a horse, g. s. eich; beann f. a peak, g. s. beinne; fearg f. anger, g. s. feirge. Some change ea into i; as, breac m. a trout, g. s. bric; fear m. a man, g. s. fir; ceann m. a head, end, g. s. cinn; preas m. a bush, g. s. pris; breac f. the small-pox, g. s. brice; cearc f. a hen, g. s. circe; leac f. a flag, g. s. lice. Gleann m. a valley, adds e, g. s. glinne. Some add a to the nominative; as, speal m. a scythe, g. s. speala. Dream f. people, race, gean m. humour, have their genitive like the nominative. Feall f. deceit, g. s. foill or feill. Geagh m. a goose, makes g. s. geoigh.


7. Nouns in eu followed by a liquid, change u into o and insert i after it; as, neul m. a cloud, g. s. neoil, eun m. a bird, g. s. eoin; feur m. grass, g. s. feoir; meur m. a finger, g. s. meoir; leus m. a torch, g. s. leois. Beul m. the mouth, g. s. beil or beoil; sgeul. m. a tale, g. s. sgeil or sgeoil. Other nouns characterised by eu add a for the gen., as, treud m. a flock, g. s. treuda; feum m. use, need, g. s. feuma; beum m. a stroke, g. s. beuma. Meud m. bulk, beuc m. a roar, freumh f. a fibre, root, hardly admit of a, but have their gen. rather like the nom.

8. Monosyllables characterised by ia change ia into ei; as, sliabh m. a moor, g. s. sleibh; fiadh m. a deer, g. s. feidh; biadh m. food, g. s. beidh or bidh; iasg m. fish, g. s. eisg; grian f. the sun, g. s. greine; sgiath f. a wing, g. s. sgeithe. Except Dia m. God, g. s. De; sgian f. a knife, g. s. sgine.

Piuthar f. a sister, has g. s. peathar; leanabh m. a child, g. s. leinibh; ceathramh m. a fourth part, g. s. ceithrimh, leabaidh or leaba f. a bed, g. s. leapa; talamh m. earth, g. s. talmhainn.

The Dative singular of masculine nouns is like the nominative; of feminine nouns, is like the genitive; as, tobar m. a well, d. s. tobar; clarsach f. a harp, g. s. and d. s. clarsaich; misneach f. courage, g. s. and d. s. misnich.


Particular Rules for the Dative of Feminine Nouns.—1. If e was added to the nominative in forming the genitive, it is thrown away in the dative; as, slat f. a rod, g. s. slaite—d. s. slait; grian f. the sun, g. s. greine, d. s. grein.

2. If the nominative suffered a syncope in forming the genitive, or if the last vowel of the genitive is broad, the dative is like the nominative; as, buidheann f. a company, g. s. buidhne, d. s. buidheann; piuthar f. a sister, g. s. peathar, d. s. piuthar.

The Vocative of masc. nouns is like the genitive; of feminine nouns is like the nominative; as, bàs m. death, g. s. bàis, v. s. bhais; cu m. a dog, g. s. coin, v. s. choin; grian f. the sun, v. s. ghaoth. {49}

Plural Number.

Nominative. Masculine nouns which insert i in the gen. sing. have their nom. plur. like the gen. sing.; as, oglach m. a servant, g. s. oglaich, n. p. oglaich; fear m. a man, g. s. and n. p. fir. Many of these form their nom. plur. also by adding a short a to the nominative singular. Other masculine nouns, and all feminine nouns, have their nom. plural in a, to which n is added, euphoniæ causa, before an initial vowel[37].


Particular Rules for forming the Nom. Plur. in a or an.

1. By adding a to the nom. singular; as, dubhar m. a shadow, n. p. dubhara; rioghachd f. a kingdom, n. p. rioghachdan. Under this Rule, some nouns suffer a syncope; as, dorus m. a door, n. p. dorsa for dorusa.

2. Nouns ending in l or nn, often insert t before a; as, reul m. a star, n. p. reulta; beann f. a pinnacle, n. p. beannta. So lòn m. a marsh, n. p. lòintean.

3. Some nouns in ar drop the a, and add to the nom. sing. the syllable aich; and then the final a becomes e, to correspond to the preceding small vowel; as, leabhar m. a book, n. p. leabhraiche; tobar m. a well, n. p. tobraiche; lann. f. an enclosure, inserts d, n. p. lanndaiche. Piuthar f. a sister, from the g. s. peathar, has n. p. peathraiche; so leaba f. a bed, g. s. leapa, n. p. leapaiche. Bata m. a staff, n. p. batacha; la or latha a day, n. p. lathachan or laithean.

4. Some polysyllables in ach add e or ean to the genitive singular; as, mullach m. summit, g. s. mullaich, n. p. mullaichean; otrach m. a dunghill, n. p. otraichean; clarsach f. a harp, n. p. clarsaichean; deudach f. the jaw, n. p. deudaichean. So sliabh m. a moor, g. s. sleibh, with t {50}inserted, n. p. sleibhte. Sabhul m. a barn, g. s. sabhuil, n. p. saibhlean, contracted for sabhuilean.

The following Nouns form their Nominative Plural irregularly: Dia m. God, n. p. dée or diathan; scian f. a knife, n. p. sceana or scinichean; sluagh m. people, n. p. sloigh; bo. f. a cow, n. p. ba.


Genitive. 1. Monosyllables, and nouns which form their nominative plural like the genitive singular, have the genitive plural like the nominative singular; as, geug f. a branch, g. p. geug; coimhearsnach m. a neighbour, g. s. and n. p. coimhearsnach.

2. Polysyllables which have their nominative plural in a or an, form the genitive like the nominative; leabhar m. a book, n. p. and g. p. 'leabraichean'—When the nominative plural is twofold, the genitive is so too; as 'fear' n. a man, n. p. fir, or sometimes feara, g. p. fear or feara.

Cu m. a dog has its g. p. con; caora f. a sheep, g. p. caorach; sluagh m. people, g. p. sluagh or slogh.


Dative. The dative plural is formed either from the nominative singular or from the nominative plural. If the nominative plural ends in a consonant, the dative plural is formed by adding ibh to the nominative singular; as, crann m. a tree, n. p. croinn, d. p. crannaibh; mac m. a son, n. p. mic, d. p. macaibh. If the nominative plural ends in a vowel, the final vowel is changed into ibh; as, tobar a well, n. p. tobraiche, d. p. tobraichibh.

2. Monosyllables ending in an aspirated consonant, which have their nominative plural like the genitive singular, form their dative plural like the nominative plural; as, damh an ox, g. s. and n. p. daimh, d. p. daimh, not damhaibh; fiadh m. a deer, g. s. and n. p. and d. p. feidh. So sluagh m. people, host, g. s. sluaigh, n. p. and d. p. sloigh. Nouns ending in ch, of three or more syllables, form their dative plural like the nominative plural, rather than in ibh; as, coimhearsnach m. a neighbour, d. p. coimhearsnaich rather than coimhearsnachaibh; phairiseach m. a Pharisee, d. p. phairisich rather than phairiseachaibh. {51}

Vocative. The vocative plural is like the nominative plural, terminating in a, but seldom in an; as, fear m. a man, n. p. fir or feara, v. p. fheara; oglach m. a servant, n. p. oglaich, v. p. oglacha. Except perhaps monosyllables which never form their nominative plural in a, nor their dative plural in ibh; as, damh m. an ox, n. p. daimh, v. p. dhaimh; a shloigh, Rom. xv. 11.

The irregular noun Bean f. a woman, is declined thus:

    Singular. Plural.
Nom. Bean Mnai, mnathan
Gen. Mna Ban
Dat. Mnaoi Mnathaibh
Voc. Bhean.           Mhnathan.



Cealgair, mas. a deceiver.
    Singular. Plural.
Nom. Cealgair Cealgaire
Gen. Cealgair Cealgair
Dat. Cealgair Cealgairibh
Voc. Chealgair.           Chealgaire.
Clais, fem. a gully.
Nom. Clais Claisean
Gen. Claise Clais
Dat. Clais Claisibh
Voc. Chlais. Chlaise.

Formation of the cases of nouns of the second Declension.

Singular Number.

General Rule for the Genitive. The genitive of polysyllables is like the nominative; of monosyllables is made by adding e to the nominative; as, caraid m. a friend, g. s. caraid; aimsir f. time, g. s. aimsir; tigh m. a house, g. s. tighe; ainm m. a name, g. s. ainme; im m. butter, g. s. ime; craig f. a rock, g. s. craige. {52}

Particular Rules for the Genitive. 1. Feminine nouns in ail and air drop the i and add ach; if the nominative be a polysyllable, ai is thrown away; as, sail f. a beam, g. s. salach; dail f. a plain, g. s. dalach; lair f. a mare, g. s. làrach; cathair f. a seat, g. s. cathrach; nathair f. a serpent, g. s. nathrach; lasair f. a flame, g. s. lasrach. To these add còir f. right, g. s. còrach or còire.

2. Monosyllables characterised by oi drop i and add a; as, feoil f. flesh, g. s. feola; tòin f. bottom, g. s. tòna; sròin f. the nose, g. s. sròine or sròna.

3. Monosyllables characterised by ui change ui into a or o, and add a; as, muir f. the sea, g. s. mara; fuil f. blood, g. s. fola or fala; druim f. a ridge, g. s. droma. Except sùil f. the eye, g. s. sùla; cuid f. a part, g. s. codach or cuid.

4. A few feminine polysyllables in eir form their genitive like monosyllables; as, inneir f. dung, g. s. inneire; suipeir f. supper, g. s. suipeire.

5. The following dissyllables seem to have formed their genitive like monosyllables, and then suffered a contraction. Sometimes the characteristic vowel is retained, and sometimes it is thrown away, the final e of the genitive being converted into a, when requisite to suit an antecedent broad vowel.

Amhainn, f. a river, g. s. aimhne, contracted for  amhainne
Aghainn, Aghann f. a pan, g. s. aighne, aghainne
Banais f. a wedding, g. s. bainse, banaise
Coluinn f. the body, g. s. colna, colla coluinne
Duthaich f. a country, g. s. duthcha, duthaiche
Fiacail f. a tooth, g. s. fiacla, fiacaile
Gamhuinn m. a steer, g. s. gamhna, gamhuinne
Gualainn f. the shoulder, g. s. guaille, gualainne
Madainn f. morning, g. s. maidne, madainne
Obair f. work, g. s. oibre, obaire
Uilinn f. the elbow, g. s. uillne, uilinne


6. The following nouns form their genitive by dropping the characteristic small vowel; athair m. a father, g. s. athar; mathair f. a mother, g. s. mathar; brathair m. a brother, g. s. brathar; namhaid m. an enemy, g. s. namhad. Cnaimh m. a bone, g. s. cnamha; uaimh f. a cave, g. s. uamha. Mil f. honey, has g. s. meala.

7. A few monosyllables ending in a vowel have their genitive like the nominative; as, ni m. a thing, ti m. a person, ré m. the moon; to which add righ m. a king.

Dative. The dative singular is like the nominative; as, duine m. a man, d. s. duine; madainn f. morning, d. s. madainn.

Vocative. The vocative singular is like the nominative, as, caraid m. friend, v. s. charaid; mathair f. mother, v. s. mhathair.

Plural Number.

Nominative.—General Rule. The nominative plural is formed by adding to the nominative singular a or an, written e or ean to correspond to a preceding small vowel; as, piobair m. a piper, n. p. piobairean; aimsir f. time, season, n. p. aimsirean. Some nouns suffer a contraction in the nominative plural; as, caraid m. a friend, n. p. càirdean; naimhaid m. an enemy, n. p. naimhdean; fiacail f. a tooth, n. p. fiaclan.

Particular Rules. 1. Some nouns, whose last consonant is l or n, insert t in the nominative plural; as, tuil f. a flood, n. p. tuilte; smuain f. thought, n. p. smuaintean; coille f. a wood, n. p. coilltean; àithne f. a command, n. p. àithnte. The t is aspirated in dail f. a plain, n. p. dailthean; sail f. a beam, n. p. sailthean.

2. Some nouns in air, chiefly such as form their genitive singular in ach, retain the same syllable in the nominative plural, and insert i after a; as,

Cathair, f. a seat, g. s. cathrach, n. p. cathraichean.
Lasair, f. a flame, g. s. lasrach, n. p. lasraichean.
Nathair, f. a serpent, g. s. nathrach, n. p. nathraichean.


So also cuid f. a part, from the g. s. codach, has the n. p. codaichean; athair m. a father, n. p. aithrichean; mathair f. a mother, n. p. maithrichean. To which add amhainn f. a river, n. p. aimhnichean; uisge m. water, n. p. uisgeachan; cridhe m. the heart, n. p. cridheachan.

The following nouns form their nominative plural irregularly; duine m. a man, n. p. daoine; righ m. a king, n. p. righre; ni m. a thing, n. p. nithe; cliamhuinn m. a son-in-law, or brother-in-law, n. p. cleamhna.

Genitive. The genitive plural of monosyllables and masculine polysyllables is twofold, like the nominative singular, and like the nominative plural; as, righ m. a king, g. p. righ or righre. The genitive plural of feminine polysyllables is like the nominative plural only; as, amhainn f. a river, g. p. aimhnichean. Suil f. the eye, has its g. p. sùl.

Dative. The dative plural is formed from the nominative plural by changing the final vowel into ibh; as, coluinn f. the body, n. p. coluinne, d. p. coluinnibh; cridhe m. the heart, n. p. cridheacha, d. p. cridheachaibh.

Vocative. The vocative plural is like the nominative plural; as, duine m. a man, n. p. daoine, v. p. dhaoine.

Final a or e in all the singular cases of polysyllables is occasionally cut off, especially in verse; as, leab bed, teang tongue, coill wood, cridh heart.

Of the Initial form of Nouns.

In nouns beginning with a consonant, all the cases admit of the aspirated form. In the vocative singular and plural the aspirated form alone is used, except in nouns beginning with a lingual, which are generally in the primary form, when preceded by a lingual; as, a sheann duine old man. Nouns beginning with s followed by a mute consonant have no aspirated form, because s in that situation does not admit of the aspirate. In nouns beginning with l, n, r, a distinction is uniformly observed in pronouncing the initial consonant, corresponding precisely to the distinction of primary and {55}aspirated forms in nouns beginning with other consonants. This distinction has already been fully stated in treating of pronunciation.

The general use of the singular and plural numbers has been already mentioned. A remarkable exception occurs in the Gaelic. When the numerals fichead twenty, ceud a hundred, mile a thousand, are prefixed to a noun, the noun is not put in the plural, but in the singular number, and admits no variation of case. The termination of a noun preceded by da two, is the same with that of the dative singular, except when the noun is governed in the genitive case, and then it is put in the genitive plural[38]; when preceded by fichead, ceud, &c., the termination is that of the nominative singular; thus da laimh two hands, da chluais two ears, dà fhear two men, fichead làmh twenty hands, ceud fear a hundred men, mìle caora a thousand sheep, deich mìle bliadhna ten thousand years[39].




An adjective is a word used along with a noun, to express some quality of the person or thing signified by the noun.

Adjectives undergo changes which mark their relation to other words. These changes are made, like those on nouns, partly on the beginning, and partly on the termination, and may be fitly denominated by the same names. The changes on the beginning are made by aspirating an initial consonant. The numbers and cases, like those of nouns, are distinguished by changes on the termination. The gender is marked partly by the initial form, partly by the termination.

Adjectives whereof the characteristic vowel is broad, follow, {56}in most of their inflections, the form of nouns of the first declension, and may be termed Adjectives of the first declension. Those adjectives whereof the characteristic vowel is small, may be called Adjectives of the second declension.

Example of Adjectives of the First Declension.

Mòr, great.
Singular. Plural
Mas. Fem. Com. Gend.
Nom. Mor, Mhor, Mora.
Gen. Mhoir, Moire, Mora.
Dat. Mor, Mhoir, Mora.
Voc. Mhoir, Mhor, Mora.

Formation of the Cases of Adjectives of the First Declension.


Nominative. The feminine gender is, in termination, like the masculine.

The other cases, both mas. and fem., are formed from the nominative, according to the rules already given for forming the cases of nouns of the first declension. Take the following examples in adjectives:—

Genitive.General rule. Marbh dead, g. s. m. mhairbh, f. mairbhe; dubh black, g. s. m. dhuibh, f. duibhe; fadalach tedious, g. s. m. fhadalaich, f. fadalaich.

Particular rules. 1. Sona happy, g. s. m. shona, f. sona; aosda aged, g. s. m. and f. aosda; beo alive, g. s. m. bheo, f. beo.

2. Bochd poor, g. s. m. bhochd, f. bochd; gearr short, g. s. m. ghearr, f. gearr.

3. Breagh fine, g. s. m. bhreagha, f. breagha.

4. Crion little, diminutive, g. s. m. chrìn, f. crìne.

5. Donn brown, g. s. m. dhuinn, f. duinne; gorm blue, g. s. m. ghuirm, f. guirme; lom bare, g. s. m. luim, f. luime. {57}But dall blind, g. s. m. dhoill, f. doille; mall slow, g. s. m. mhoill, f. moille; like the nouns crann, clann.

6. Cinnteach certain, g. s. m. chinntich, f. cinntich; maiseach beautiful, g. s. m. mhaisich, f. maisich. Tearc rare, g. s. m, theirc, f. teirce; dearg red, g. s. m. dheirg, f. deirge; deas ready, g. s. m. dheis, f. deise. Breac speckled, g. s. m, bhric, f. brice; geal white, g. s. m. ghil, f. gile.

7. Geur sharp, g. s. m. ghéir, f. géire; like the nouns breug, geug.

8. Liath hoary, g. s. m. leith, f. léithe; dian keen, g. s. m. dhéin, f. déine.

Irregulars. Odhar pale, g. s. m. and f. uidhir; bodhar deaf, g. s. m. bhuidhir, f. buidhir.

Dative.General rule. Uasal noble, d. s. m. uasal f. uasail; bodhar deaf, d. s. m. bodhar, f. bhuidhir.

Particular rule. 1. Trom heavy, d. s. m. trom, f. thruim.

Vocative. Beag small, v. s. m. bhig, f. bheag.


In Monosyllables the plural, through all its cases, is formed by adding a to the nom. sing.; in Polysyllables, it is like the nom. sing.; as, crom crooked, pl. croma; tuirseach melancholy, pl. tuirseach.

A few Dissyllables form their Plural like Monosyllables, and suffer a contraction; as, reamhar fat, pl. reamhra, contracted for reamhara. Gen. xli. 20.

Adjectives of the Second Declension.

All the Cases of Adjectives of the Second Declension are formed according to the general rules for nouns of the second declension; that is, Monosyllables add e for the gen. sing. fem. and for the plural cases; Polysyllables are like the nom. sing. throughout.

In the Second Declension, as in the First, Dissyllables sometimes suffer a contraction in the plural; as, milis sweet, pl. milse contracted for milise. {58}

Of the Initial Form of Adjectives.

Adjectives admit the aspirated form through all the Numbers and Cases. In Adjectives beginning with a Labial or a Palatal, the aspirated form alone is used in the gen. and voc. sing. masc. the nom. dat. and voc. sing. feminine.

Comparison of Adjectives.

There are in Gaelic two forms of Comparison, which may be called the First and the Second Comparative.

The First Comparative is formed from the gen. sing. mas. by adding e; as, geal white, g. s. m. gil, comp. gile, ghile; ciontach guilty, g. s. m. ciontaich, comp. ciontaiche. Some Adjectives suffer a contraction in the Comparative; as, bodhar deaf, comp. buidhre for buidhire; boidheach pretty, comp. boidhche for boidhiche.

If the last letter of the gen. be a, it is changed into e, and i inserted before the last consonant; as, fada long, g. s. m. fada, comp. faide; tana thin, g. s. m. tana, comp. taine.

The Second Comparative is formed from the first, by changing final e into id; as, trom heavy, 1. comp. truime, 2. comp. truimid; tiugh thick, 1. comp. tiuighe, 2. comp. tiuighid. Many Adjectives, especially Polysyllables, do not admit of the Second Comparative.

Both these forms of Comparison have an aspirated as well as a primary form, but are otherwise indeclinable.

The following Adjectives are compared irregularly.

Positive. 1. Comp. 2. Comp.
Math, maith, good, fearr, feaird.
Olc, bad, evil, miosa, misd.
Mòr, great, mò, mòid.
Beag, small, lugha, lughaid.
Goirid, gearr, short, giorra, giorraid.
Duilich, difficult, dorra.
Teath, hot, teoithe, teoithid.
Leathan, broad, leatha, lèithne.
{59} Fogus, near, foisge.
Càirdeach, akin, càra.
Furas, easy, fhusa,
Toigh, dear, docha.
Ionmhuinn, beloved, annsa, ionnsa.

To these may be added the nouns—

Moran a great number or quantity, and Tuilleadh more.

The Superlative, which is but a particular mode of expressing comparison, is the same in form with the First Comparative.

An eminent degree of any quality is expressed by putting one of the particles ro, glé, before the Positive; as, ro ghlic very wise, glé gheal very white. The same effect is produced by prefixing fior true, sàr exceeding, &c., which words are, in that case, used adverbially; as, fior mhaiseach truly beautiful, sàr mhaith exceedingly good.

Cardinal Numbers.

1 Aon, a h-aon, one. 40 Dà fhichead.
2 Dà, a dhà 50 Deich is dà fhichead.
3 Tri. 60 Tri fichead.
4 Ceithir. 100 Ceud.
5 Cuig. 200 Dà cheud.
6 Sè, sia. 300 Tri ceud.
7 Seachd. 400 Ceithir cheud.
8 Ochd. 500 Cuig ceud.
9 Naoi. 1,000 Mìle.
10 Deich. 2,000 Dà mhìle.
11 Aon deug. 3,000 Tri mìle.
12 A dhà dheug. 10,000 Deich mìle.
13 Tri deug. 20,000 Fichead mìle.
20 Fichead. 100,000 Ceud mìle.
21 Aon thar fhichead. 200,000 Dà cheud mìle.
22 Dha 'ar fhichead. 1,000,000 Deich ceud mìle,
23 Tri 'ar fhichead. Mìle de mhìltibh.
30 Deich 'ar fhichead. &c. &c.
31 Aon deug thar fhichead.


Cardinal Numbers joined to a Noun.

Of the mas. gender. Of the fem. gender.
1 Aon fhear, one man. Aon chlach, one stone.
2 Dà fhear. Dà chloich.
3 Tri fir. Tri clachan.
10 Deich fir. Deich clachan.
11 Aon fhear deug. Aon chlach dheug.
12 Dà fhear dheug. Dà chloich dheug.
13 Tri fir dheug. Tri clachan deug.
20 Fichead fear. Fichead clach.
21 Aon fhear thar fhichead. Aon chlach thar fhichead.
22 Dà fhear thar fhichead. Dà chloich thar fhichead.
23 Tri fir fhichead. Tri clacha fichead.
30 Deich fir fhichead. Deich clacha fichead.
31 Aon fhear deug 'ar fhichead. Aon chlach dheug thar fhichead.
40 Dà fhichead fear. Dà fhichead clach.
41 Fear is dà fhichead. Clach is dà fhichead.
42 Dà fhear is dà fhichead. Dà chloich is da fhichead.
50 Deich is dà fhichead fear. Deich is da fhichead clach.
60 Tri fichead fear. Tri fichead clach.
70 Tri fichead fear agus deich. Tri fichead clach agus deich.
100 Ceud fear. Ceud clach.
101 Ceud fear agus a h-aon. Ceud clach agus a h-aon.
300 Tri cheud fear. Tri cheud clach.
1,000 Mìle fear. Mìle clach.
10,000 Deich mìle fear, &c. Deich mìle clach, &c.

Ordinal Numbers.

1 An ceud fhear, the first man; a' cheud chlach, the first stone.
2 An dara fear.
3 An treas fear, an tri-amh fear.
4 An ceathramh fear.
5 An cuigeamh fear.
6 An seathamh fear.
7 An seachdamh fear.
{61} 8 An t-ochdamh fear.
9 An naothamh fear.
10 An deicheamh fear.
11 An t-aon fear deug.
12 An dara fear deug.
20 Am ficheadamh fear.
21 An t-aon fhear fichead.
22 An dara fear fichead.
31 An t-aon fhear deug thar fhichead.
40 An dà fhicheadamh fear.
60 An tri ficheadamh fear.
100 An ceudamh fear.
101 An t-aon fhear thar cheud.
120 Am ficheadamh fear thar cheud.
200 An da cheudamh fear.
1000 Am mìleamh fear, &c.

The following numeral Nouns are applied only to persons:—

2. Dithis, two persons.   7. Seachdnar.
3. Triuir.   8. Ochdnar.
4. Ceathrar.   9. Naoinar.
5. Cuignear. 10. Deichnar.
6. Sèanar.




The Pronouns are, for the most part, words used instead of nouns. They may be arranged under the following divisions: Personal, Possessive, Relative, Demonstrative, Interrogative, Indefinite, Compound.

The Personal Pronouns are those of the 1st, 2d, and 3d persons. They have a Singular and a Plural Number, a Simple and an Emphatic Form. They are declined thus:— {62}

Simple Form.Emphat. F.Simple F.Emphat.
1. Mi, mhi, I, me, Mise, mhise.     Sinn, we, us, Sinne.
2.brace Th, thu, thou, brace Tusa, thusa. Sibh, ye, you Sibhse.
Thu, thee,
3.brace E, se, he, brace Esan.
E, him,
I, si, she, brace Ise. brace Iad, siad, they brace Iadsan[40]
I, her, Iad, them,

The Pronoun 'sibh' you, of the plural number is used almost universally in addressing a single person of superior rank or of greater age; while 'tu' thou, of the singular number is used in addressing an inferior or an equal. But the degree of seniority or of superiority, which is understood to entitle a person to this token of respect, varies in different parts of the Highlands[41]. The Supreme Being is always addressed by the pronoun 'tu' thou, of the singular number.

The Possessive Pronouns correspond to the Personal Pronouns, and, like them, may be called those of the 1st, 2d, and 3d persons singular, and 1st, 2d, and 3d persons plural. They have an Emphatic Form, which is made by connecting the syllable sa with the possessive pronoun of the 1st, 2d, {63}and 3d persons singular, and 2d person plural; ne with that of the 1st person plural, and san with that of the 3d person plural. These syllables are placed immediately after the nouns to which the possessive pronouns are prefixed, and connected by a hyphen.

These Pronouns are as follow:—

1. Mo, my,   mo mhac-sa 1. Ar, our, ar mac-ne
2. Do, thy, do ——sa 2. Bhur, 'ur, your,   bhur ——sa
3.brace A, his, a mhac-sa, san brace       3. An, am, their, an, am ——sa, san
A, her, a mac-sa, san

If the noun be followed by an adjective, the emphatic syllable is affixed to the adjective; as, do làmh gheal-sa thy white hand.

The possessive pronouns mo, do, when followed by a vowel, commonly lose the o, whose absence is marked by an apostrophe; as, m' aimn my name; d' athair[42] thy father. The same pronouns when preceded by the preposition ann in, suffer a transposition of their letters, and are written am, ad, one broad vowel being substituted for another, as, ann ad chridhe in thy heart, 1 Sam. xiv. 7, ann am aire in my thoughts.

The possessive pronoun a his, is often suppressed altogether after a vowel; as, na sanntaich bean do choimhearsnaich, no oglach, no bhanoglach, no dhamh, no asal, covet not thy neighbour's wife, or his man-servant, or his maid-servant, &c., Exod. xx. 17. In these and similar instances, as the tense is but imperfectly expressed (especially when the noun begins with a vowel), and cannot be gathered with certainty from any other part of the sentence, perhaps it might {64}be an improvement to retain the pronoun, even at the expense of cutting off the final vowel of the preceding word; as, n' a oglach, n' a bhanoglaich, &c. In many cases, however, this appears hardly practicable; as, cha bheo athair his father is not alive, which could not with any propriety be written cha bheo a athair[43].

The word fein corresponding to the English words self, own, is subjoined occasionally both to the personal and possessive pronouns: thus mi fein myself, mise fein I myself, thu fein thyself, thusa fein thou thyself, or thy own self, mo shluagh fein my own people.

The other Pronouns are as follow:—

N. A, who, which, that. So, this, these. Co? who?
G.&D. An. Sin, that, those. Cia? which?
Nach, who not, which not, Sud[44], ud, yon. Ciod, creud? what?
Na, that which, what[45].


Eigin, some. E so, this one, m. E sud, yon one, m.
Ge b'e, Cia b'e whoever[46]. I so, this one, f. I sud, yon one, f.
{65} Eile, other. Iad so, these. Iad sud, yon, pl.
Gach, Cach, each, every[47]. E sin, that one, m.       Cach eile, the rest.
Cach, others, the rest.       Iad sin, those. Cach a chéile, each other[48].
Cuid, some.




A word that signifies to be, to do, or to suffer anything, is called a Verb.

The Verb in Gaelic, as in other languages, is declined by Voices, Moods, Tenses, Numbers, and Persons.

The Voices are two: Active and Passive.

The Moods are five: the Affirmative or Indicative, the Negative or Interrogative, the Subjunctive, the Imperative, and the Infinitive. Many, but not all, Transitive Verbs have a Passive Participle.

The Tenses are three: the Present, the Preterite, and the Future.

The Numbers are two: Singular and Plural.

The Persons are three: First, Second, and Third. The {66}distinction of number and person takes place only in a few tenses.

The inflections of Verbs, like those of nouns, are made by changes at the beginning, and on the termination.

The changes on the termination are made according to one model, and by the same rules. But for the sake of stating some diversity in the initial changes, it may be convenient to arrange the verbs in two conjugations, whereof the first comprehends those verbs which begin with a consonant, the second, those verbs which begin with a vowel. Verbs beginning with f, followed by a vowel, are ranged under the second conjugation, along with verbs beginning with a vowel.

The verb Bi be, which is used as an auxiliary to other verbs, is declined as follows:—

Bi, be.

Affirmative or Indicative Mood.

Present. Preterite. Future.
Sing. Sing. Sing.
1. Ta mi, I am, Bha mi, I was, Bithidh mi, I will be,
2. Ta thu, Bha thu, Bithidh tu,
3. Ta e; Bha e; Bithidh se;
Plur. Plur. Plur.
1. Ta sinn, Bha sinn, Bithidh sinn,
2. Ta sibh, Bha sibh, Bithidh sibh,
3. Ta iad. Bha iad. Bithidh siad.

Negative or Interrogative Mood.

Present. Preterite. Future.
Sing. Sing. Sing.
brace 1 Bheil mi, I am not, Robh mi, I was not, Bi mi, I shall not be,
2 Bheil thu, Robh thu, Bi thu,
3 Bheil e; Robh e; Bi se;
Plur. Plur. Plur.
1 Bheil sinn, Robh sinn, Bi sinn,
2 Bheil sibh, Robh sibh, Bi sibh,
3 Bheil iad. Robh iad. Bi siad.


Subjunctive Mood.

Preterite or Imperfect. Future.
Sing. Sing.
1 Bhithinn, I would be, Ma bhitheas mi, If I shall be,
2 Bhitheadh tu, Bhitheas tu,
3 Bhitheadh e; Bhitheas e;
Plur. Plur.
1 Bhitheadheamaid, Bhitheas sinn,
   Bhitheadh sinn,
2 Bhitheadh sibh, Bhitheas sibh,
3 Bhitheadh iad. Bhitheas iad.
Imperative Mood.
Infinitive Mood.
Sing. Bith, being,
1 Bitheam, let me be,       do bhith, brace to be,
2 Bi, bi thusa, a bhith,
3 Bitheadh e; gu bhith, brace to be,
Plur. gu bith,
1 Bitheamaid, iar bhith, brace after being, been,
2 Bithibh, iar bith,
3 Bitheadh iad. o bhith, from being, &c.

Compound Tenses.

Present. Preterite. Future.
Affirmative Mood.
Sing. Sing. Sing.
Ta mi iar bith, Bha mi iar bith, Bithidh mi iar bith,
I have been, &c.       I had been, &c.       I shall have been, &c.
Negative Mood.
Sing. Sing. Sing.
brace Bheil mi iar bith, Robh mi iar bith, Bi mi air bith,
I have not been. I had not been. I shall not have been.
Subjunctive Mood.
Preterite or Pluperfect. Future.
Sing. Sing.
1 Bhithinn iar bith, Ma bhitheas mi iar bith,
   I should have been, &c.       If I shall have been, &c.

The present affirmative ta is often written tha. This is one of many instances where there appears reason to complain of the propensity remarked in Part I. in those who speak the Gaelic, to attenuate its articulations by aspiration. Another corrupt way of writing ta which has become common, is ata. This has probably taken its rise from uniting the relative to the verb; as, an uair ata mi; instead of an uair a ta, &c., mar a ta, &c. Or perhaps it may have proceeded from a too compliant regard to a provincial pronunciation.

The pret. neg. robh appears to be made up of the verbal participle ro, the same with do, and bha, throwing away the last vowel; ro bha, robh.

The verb and pronoun of the 1st per. sing. and 3d per. plur. are frequently incorporated into one word, and written taim I am, taid they are.

The pres. neg. loses the initial bh after the participle cha not, mur if not, nach that not; n is inserted, euphoniae causa, betwixt the participle cha and the verb; as, cha n 'eil, mur 'eil, nach 'eil. This Tense is often pronounced beil after the participle am; as, am beil e? is it?

In the North Highlands, the pret. neg. often takes the common verbal participle do before it; as, cha do robh mi, or cha d'robh mi, I was not.

Initial b of the fut. neg. is aspirated after the participle cha not; as, cha bhi.

Initial bh of the pret. subj. loses the aspiration after the {69}participles ni not, mur if not, nach that not, gu that, nam if; as, mur bithinn, nam bitheadh tu.

The subjunct. and imper. often suffer a contraction, by changing ithea into io; as, biodh, biom, bios, &c.

Some of the compound tenses of Bi are rarely if ever used. They are here given complete, because they correspond to the analogy of other verbs; and show how accurately the various modifications of time may be expressed by the substantive verb itself.

Example of a verb of the First Conjugation. Buail to strike.


Simple Tenses.

Affirmative or Indicative Moods.

Preterite. Future.
Sing. Sing.
1 Do bhuail mi, I struck,       Buailidh mi, I will strike,
   Bhuail mi,
2 Bhuail thu, Buailidh tu,
3 Bhuail e; Buailidh se;
Plur. Plur.
1 Bhuail sinn, Buailidh sinn,
2 Bhuail sibh, Buailidh sibh,
3 Bhuail iad. Buailidh siad.

Negative or Interrogative Mood.

Preterite. Future.
Sing. Sing.
brace 1 Do bhuail mi, I struck not Buail mi, I will not strike,
2 Do bhuail thu, Buail thu,
3 Do bhuail e; Buail e;
Plur. Plur.
1 Do bhuail sinn, Buail sinn,
2 Do bhuail sibh, Buail sibh,
3 Do bhuail iad. Buail iad.


Subjunctive Mood.

Preterite. Future.
Sing. Sing.
1 Bhuailinn, I would strike,       Ma bhuaileas mi, If I shall strike,
2 Bhuaileadh tu, Bhuaileas tu,
3 Bhuaileadh e; Bhuaileas e;
Plur. Plur.
1 Bhuaileamaid, Bhuaileas sinn,
   Bhuaileadh sinn,
2 Bhuaileadh sibh, Bhuaileas sinn,
3 Bhuaileadh iad. Bhuaileas iad.
Imperative Mood.
Infinitive Mood.
Sing. Bualadh, striking,
1 Buaileam, let me strike, ag bualadh, a-striking, striking,
2 Buail, iar bualadh, struck,
3 Buaileadh e; do bhualadh, brace to strike,         
Plur. a bhualadh,
1 Buaileamaid, ri bualadh, at striking,
2 Buailibh, le bualadh, with striking,
3 Buaileadh iad. o bhualadh, from striking, &c.

Compound Tenses.

Affirmative Mood.

Present. Preterite. Future.
1. Comp. 1. Comp. 1. Comp.
Ta mi ag bualadh, Bha mi ag bualadh, Bithidh mi ag bualadh,
I am striking, &c. I was striking, &c. I will be striking, &c.
Present. Preterite. Future.
2. Comp. 2. Comp. 2. Comp.
Ta mi iar bualadh, Bha mi iar bualadh, Bithidh mi iar bualadh,
I have struck, &c. I had struck, &c. I will have struck, &c.

Negative Mood

brace Present. Preterite. Future.
1. Comp. 1. Comp. 1. Comp.
Bheil mi ag bualadh, Robh mi ag bualadh, Bi mi ag bualadh,
I am not striking, &c. I was not striking, &c. I will not be striking, &c.
Present. Preterite. Future.
2. Comp. 2. Comp. 2. Comp.
Bheil mi iar bualadh, Robh mi iar bualadh, Bi mi iar bualadh,
I have not struck,&c. I had not struck, &c. I will not have struck, &c.

Subjunctive Mood.

Preterite. Future.
1. Comp. 1. Comp.
Bhithinn ag bualadh, Ma bhitheas mi ag bualadh,
I would be striking, &c. If I shall be striking, &c.
2. Comp. 2. Comp.
Bhithinn iar bualadh, Ma bhitheas mi iar bualadh,
I would have struck, &c. If I shall have struck, &c.
Imperative Mood. Infinitive Mood.
1. Comp. 1. Comp.
Bitheam ag bualadh, Do bhith ag bualadh,
Let me be striking, &c. To be striking, &c.
Iar bith ag bualadh,
Been striking, &c.
2. Comp. 2. Comp.
Bitheam iar bualadh, Do bhith iar bualadh,
Let me have struck, &c. To have been striking, &c.


Affirmative Mood.

Simple Tenses.

Preterite. Future.
Sing. Sing.
1 Do bhuaileadh mi, I was struck. Buailear mi, I shall be struck.
   Bhuaileadh mi,
2 Bhuaileadh thu, Buailear thu,
3 Bhuaileadh e; Buailear e;
Plur. Plur.
1 Bhuaileadh sinn, Buailear sinn,
2 Bhuaileadh sibh, Buailear sibh,
   Bhuaileadh iad. Buailear iad.

Negative Mood.

Preterite. Future.
Sing. Sing.
brace 1 Do bhuaileadh mi, I was not struck, Buailear mi, I shall not be struck,
2 Do bhuaileadh thu, Buailear thu,
3 Do bhuaileadh e; Buailear e;
Plur. Plur.
1 Do bhuaileadh sinn, Buailear sinn,
2 Do bhuaileadh sibh, Buailear sibh,
3 Do bhuaileadh iad, Buailear iad.


Subjunctive Mood.

Preterite. Future.
Sing. Sing.
1 Bhuailteadh mi, I would be struck, Ma bhuailear mi, If I shall be struck.
2 Bhuailteadh thu, Bhuailear thu,
3 Bhuailteadh e; Bhuailear e;
Plur. Plur.
1 Bhuailteadh sinn, Bhuailear sinn,
2 Bhuailteadh sibh, Bhuailear sibh,
3 Bhuailteadh iad. Bhuailear iad.
Imperative Mood.
Sing. Plur.
1 Buailtear mi, Let me be struck, 1 Buailtear sinn,
2 Buailtear thu, 2 Buailtear sibh,
3 Buailtear e. 3 Buailtear iad.
Buailte, struck.

Compound Tenses

Affirmative Mood.

Present. Preterite. Future.
1. Comp. 1. Comp. 1. Comp.
Ta mi buailte, I am struck, &c. Bha mi buailte, I was struck, &c. Bithidh mi buailte, I shall be struck, &c.
Present. Preterite. Future.
2. Comp. 2. Comp. 2. Comp.
Sing. Sing. Sing.
1 Ta mi iar mo bhualadh, Bha mi iar mo bhualadh, Bithidh mi iar mo bhualadh,
          I have been struck,       I had been struck,       I shall have been struck.
2 Ta thu iar do bhualadh, Bha thu iar do bhualadh, Bithidh tu iar do bhualadh,
3 Ta se iar a bhualadh; Bha se iar a bhualadh; Bithidh se iar a bhualadh;
Plur. Plur. Plur.
1 Ta sinn iar ar bualadh, Bha sinn iar ar bualadh, Bithidh sinn iar ar bualadh,
2 Ta sibh iar 'ur bualadh, Bha sibh iar 'ur bualadh, Bithidh sibh iar 'ur bualadh,
3 Ta siad iar am bualadh. Bha siad iar am bualadh. Bithidh siad iar am bualadh.

Negative Mood.

Present. Preterite. Future.
1. Comp. 1. Comp. 1. Comp.
Ni bheil mi buailte, Ni'n robh mi buailte, Ni'm bi mi buailte,
      I am not struck, &c.       I was not struck, &c.       I shall not be struck, &c.
Present. Preterite. Future.
2. Comp. 2. Comp. 2. Comp.
{75} Ni 'm bheil mi iar mo bhualadh, Ni'n robh mi iar mo bhualadh, Ni'm bi mi iar mo bhualadh,
      I have not been struck, &c.       I had not been struck, &c.       I shall not have been struck, &c.

Subjunctive Mood.

Preterite. Future.
1. Comp. 1. Comp.
Bhithinn buailte, Ma bhitheas mi buailte,
      I would be struck, &c.       If I shall be struck, &c.
2. Comp. 2. Comp.
Bhithinn iar mo bhualadh, Ma bhitheas mi iar mo bhualadh,
      I would have been struck, &c.       If I shall have been struck, &c.
Imperative Mood. Infinitive Mood.
1. Comp. 1. Comp.
Bitheam buailte, Do bhith buailte,
      Let me be struck, &c.       To be struck, &c.
2. Comp. 2. Comp.
Bitheam iar mo bhualadh, Do bhith iar mo bhualadh,
      Let me have been struck, &c.       To have been struck, &c.


Examples of Verbs of the Second Conjugation.

Orduich, to appoint.


Simple Tenses

Preterite. Future.
Affirmat. Dh'orduich, Orduichidh,
Negat. D'orduich, Orduich,
Subjunct. Dh'orduichinn. Dh'orduicheas.
Imperat.   Orduicheam.          Infinit.   Orduchadh.
Affirmat. Dh'orduicheadh, Orduichear,
Negat. D'orduicheadh, Orduichear,
Subjunct. Dh'orduichteadh. Dh'orduicheas.
Imperat.   Orduichear.          Particip.   Orduichte.



Folaich, to hide.


Preterite. Future.
Affirmat. Dh'fholaich, Folaichidh,
Negat. D'fholaich, Folaich,
Subjunct. Dh'fholaichinn. Dh'fholaicheas.
Imperat.   Folaicheam.          Infinit.   Folachadh.
Affirmat. Dh'fholaicheadh, Folaichear,
Negat. D'fholaicheadh, Folaichear,
Subjunct. Dh'fholaichteadh . Dh'fholaichear.
Imperat.   Folaichtear.          Particip.   Folaichte.

The Compound tenses may be easily learned from those of the Verb Buail in the first Conjugation, being formed exactly in the same manner.


Formation of the Tenses.

Of the Initial Form.

An Initial Consonant is aspirated in the Preterite Tense, through all the Moods and Voices, except in the Preterite Subjunctive after the Particles ni, mur, nach, gu, an, am. An initial Consonant is occasionally aspirated in the Future Tense, and in the Infinitive and Participle, indicating their connection with the preceding word.

In the first Conjugation, do is prefixed to the Pret. Aff. and Neg. Active and Passive. However, it often is, and always may be, omitted before the Pret. Aff. It is sometimes omitted in the Pret. Neg. in verse, and in common conversation. In the second Conjugation, the same Particle do is prefixed to the Preterite through all the Moods and Voices, and to the Fut. Subj. excepting only the Subjunctive Tenses after ni, mur, nach, gu, an, am. In this {77}Conjugation, do always loses the o to avoid a hiatus, and the d is aspirated in the Affirm. and Subjunct. Moods[49].

Of the Termination.

In all regular Verbs, the Terminations adjected to the Root are, strictly speaking, the same in Verbs characterised by a small vowel. But where the first vowel of the Termination does not correspond in quality to the last vowel of the Root, it has become the constant practice to insert in the Termination a vowel of the requisite quality, in order to produce this correspondence. Thus a variety has been introduced into the Terminations even of regular Verbs, prejudicial to the uniformity of inflection, and of no use to ascertain either the sense or the pronunciation[50]. In the foregoing examples of regular Verbs, the common mode of Orthography has been followed, but in the following rules the simple Terminations only are specified.


Simple Tenses.

The Theme or Root of the Verb is always found in the second Per. sing. of the imperative.

The Preterite Affirm. and Negat. is like the Root, and has no distinction of Number or Person. In most of the editions of the Gaelic Psalms, some inflections of the {78}Preterite have been admitted, with good effect, from the Irish Verb; such as, bhuaileas I struck, bhuailis thou didst strike, bhuaileamar we struck, bhuaileadar they struck. The Pret. Subj. is formed by adding to the Root inn for the first pers. sing., and adh for the other persons. The first pers. plur. also terminates in amaid.

The Future Affirm. adds idh to the Root; in the Negat. it is like the Root; and in the Subjunct. it adds as. A poetic Future Tense terminating in ann or onn, is frequent in the Gaelic Psalms; as, gairionn will call, seasfann will stand, do bheirionn, will give, &c. The Future has no distinction of Number or Person. The Termination of the Future Affirm. and Negat. in many Verbs was formerly fidh, like the Irish; of which many examples occur in the earlier editions of the Gaelic Psalms. In later Gaelic publications, the f has been uniformly set aside[51]. The Termination of the first pers. and third pers. plur. is often incorporated with the corresponding Pronoun; as, seinnam cliu I will sing praise, Psal. lxi. 8., Ni fuigham bàs, ach mairfam beo, I shall not die, but shall remain alive, Ps. cxviii. 17., Ithfid, geillfid, innsid, they will eat, they will submit, they will tell, Ps. xxii, 26, 29, 31. [52].


In the Imperative Mood, the second pers. sing. is the Root of the Verb. The other persons are distinguished by these Terminations; 1st pers. sing. am, 3d pers. sing. adh, 1st pers. plur. amaid, 2d pers. plur. ibh, 3d pers. plur. adh.

The Terminations peculiar to the 1st pers. sing. and plur. of the Pret. Subj. and of the Imperat. supply the place of the Personal Pronouns; as does also the Termination of the 2d pers. plur. of the Imperative.

The Infinitive is variously formed.

General Rule. The Infinitive is formed by adding adh to the Root; as, aom bow, incline, Infin. aomadh; ith eat, Infin. itheadh.

1. Some Verbs suffer a syncope in the penult syllable, and are commonly used in their contracted form; as,

Imper. Infin.
Caomhain, spare, Caomhnadh.
Coisin, win, Coisneadh, Cosnadh.
Diobair, deprive, Diobradh.
Fògair, remove, Fògradh.
Foghain, suffice, Foghnadh.
Fosgail, open, Fosgladh.
Innis, tell, Innseadh.
Iobair, sacrifice, Iobradh.
Mosgail, awake, Mosgladh.
Seachain, avoid, Seachnadh.
Tionsgain, begin, Tionsgnadh.
Togair, desire, Togradh.

Observe that Verbs which thus suffer a syncope in forming {80}the Infinitive, suffer a like syncope in the Preterite Subjunctive, and in the Imperative Mood; as, innis tell, Infin. innseadh, Pret. Subj. innsinn, innseadh, innseamaid, Imperat. innseam, innseamaid, innsibh.

2. A considerable number of Verbs have their Infinitive like the Root; as,

Caoidh, lament. Ol, drink.
Dearmad, neglect. Ruith, run.
Fàs, grow. Snamh, swim.
Gairm, call. Sniomh, twine.
Meas, estimate.

3. Polysyllables in ch, whose characteristic Vowel is small, either throw it away, or convert it into a broad Vowel and add adh; as,

Ceannaich, buy, Ceannachadh.
Smuainich, think, Smuaineachadh.

Most Monosyllables in sg, and a few others, follow the same Rule; as,

Imper. Infin. Imper. Infin.
Coisg, check, Cosgadh. Naisg, bind, Nasgadh.
Fàisg, wring, Fàsgadh. Paisg, wrap, Pasgadh.
Loisg, burn, Losgadh. Blais, taste, Blasadh.
Luaisg, rock, Luasgadh. Buail, strike, Bualadh.

4. Many Verbs, whose characteristic Vowel is small, either throw it away, or convert it into a broad Vowel, without adding adh; as,

Imper. Infin. Imper. Infin.
Amhairc, look, Amharc. Iomain, drive, Ioman.
Amais, reach, Amas. Leighis, cure, Leigheas.
Caill, lose, Call. Sguir, cease, Sgur.
Ceangail, bind, Ceangal. Siubhail, travel, Siubhal.
Cuir, put, Cur. Tachrais, wind, Tachras.
Coimhid, keep, Coimhead. Tiondaidh, turn, Tiondadh.
Fulaing, suffer, Fulang. Toirmisg, forbid, Toirmeasg.
Fuirich, stay, Fuireach. Toinail, gather, Toinal.
Guil, weep, Gul. Tionsgail, contrive, Tionsgal.


5. The following Verbs in air add t to the Root:—

Imper. Infin.
Agair, claim, Agairt.
Bagair, threaten, Bagairt.
Casgair, slaughter,          Casgairt.
Freagair, answer, Freagairt.
Iomair, use, Iomairt.
Labhair, speak, Labhairt.
Lomair, shear, Lomairt.
Saltair, trample, Saltairt.
Tabhair, give, Tabhairt.
Tachair, meet, Tachairt.

6. These Monosyllables add sinn to the Root:—

Beir, bear, Beirsinn.
Creid, believe, Creidsinn.
Faic, see, Faicsinn.
Goir, crow, Goirsinn.
Mair, continue, Mairsinn.
Saoil, think, Saoilsinn.
Tréig, forsake, Tréigsinn.
Tuig, understand, Tuigsinn, or Tuigeil.
Ruig, reach, Ruigsinn, or Ruigheachd. 

7. These Monosyllables add tuinn or tinn to the Root:—

Bean, touch, Beantuinn.
Buin, take away, Buntuinn.
Can, say, sing, Cantuinn.
Cinn, grow, Cinntinn.
Cluinn, hear, Cluinntinn.
Fan, stay, Fantuinn.
Gin, produce, Giontuinn, or Gionmhuin.
Lean, follow, Leantuinn, or Leanmhuin.
Meal, enjoy, Mealtuinn.
Pill, return, Pilltinn.
Seall, look, Sealltuinn.


8. The following Monosyllables add ail to the Root:—

Imper. Infin. Imper. Infin.
Cum, hold, Cumail. Leag, cast down, Leagail.
Gabh, take, Gabhail. Tog, raise, Togail.
Fàg, leave, Fàgail. Tuig, understand, Tuigeil.

9. These Monosyllables add amh to the Root:—

Imper. Infin.
Caith, spend, Caitheamh.
Dean, do, make, Deanamh.
Feith, wait, Feitheamh.
Seas, stand, Seasamh.

10. The following Verbs form the Infinitive irregularly:—

Beuc, roar, Beucaich.
Bùir, bellow, Bùirich.
Geum, low, Geumnaich.
Glaodh, cry, Glaodhaich.
Caisd, listen, Caisdeachd.
Eisd, hearken, Eisdeachd.
Marcaich, ride, Marcachd.
Thig, come, Teachd, tighinn.
Faigh, find, Faghail, faotainn.
Eirich, rise, Eirigh.
Iarr, request, Iarraidh.
Taisg, lay up, Tasgaidh.
Coidil, sleep, Codal.
Fuaigh, sew, Fuaghal.
Gluais, move, Gluasad, gluasachd.
Tuit, fall, Tuiteam.
Teirig, wear out, Teireachduinn.
Teasairg, deliver, Teasairgin.

Compound Tenses.

The compound Tenses of the first order are made up of the several simple Tenses of the auxiliary verb Bi be, and the Infinitive preceded by the Preposition ag at. Between two Consonants, ag commonly loses the g, and is written a'; as, {83}ta iad a' deanamh they are doing. Between two Vowels, the a is dropped, and the g is retained; as, ta mi 'g iarruidh I am asking. When preceded by a Consonant, and followed by a Vowel, the Preposition is written entire, as, ta iad ag iarruidh they are asking. When preceded by a Vowel, and followed by a Consonant, it is often suppressed altogether; as, ta mi deanamh I am doing[53].

The compound Tenses of the second order are made up of the simple Tenses of Bi and the Infinitive preceded by the Preposition iar after[54].


Simple Tenses.

The Preterite Affirm. and Negat. is formed from the same Tense in the Active, by adding adh. The Preter. Subj. adds teadh.

The Future is formed from the Fut. Act. by changing the Terminations in the Affirm. and Subj. into ar, (more properly far, as of old) and adding the same syllable in the Negative.

The Imperative is formed from the Imperat. Act. by adding to the second pers. sing. tar, thar, or ar.[55]


The Participle is formed by adding te to the Root[56].

There is no distinction of Number or Person in the Tenses of the Passive Voice.

Verbs which suffer a syncope in the Infinitive, suffer a like syncope in the Pret. Aff. and Neg. throughout the Future Tense, and in the Imperative.

Compound Tense.

The compound Tenses of the first order are made up of the simple Tenses of the auxiliary Bi and the Passive Participle.


The compound Tenses of the second order are made up of the simple Tenses of Bi and the Infinitive preceded by the Preposition iar and the Possessive Pronoun corresponding in Person to the Pronoun, or to the Noun, which is the Nominative to the verb.

Use and Import of the Moods and Tenses.

The Affirmative or Indicative Mood expresses affirmation, and is used in affirmative propositions only, as, Do bhuail mi I struck, bha mi ag bualadh I was striking.

The Negative or Interrogative Mood is used in negative propositions and interrogative clauses, after the Particles ni not, cha not, nach which not, that not, not? mur if not; also, gu, gur, that, an, am, whether used relatively or interrogatively; as, cha d'fholaich mi I did not hide, mur buail sinn if we shall not strike, nach robh iad that they were not, gu robh iad that they were; am buail mi? shall I strike? It is used in the Future Tense after ged although; as, ged bhuail e mi, though he strike me[57].

The Subjunctive Mood is used in the Preterite, either with or without conjunctions; as, bhuailinn I would strike, na'm, mur, nach, &c., buailinn if, unless, &c., I should strike. In the Future it is used only after the conjunctions ma if, o, o'n since, and the Relative a expressed or understood; as, ma bhuaileas mi if I shall strike, am fear a bhuaileas mi the man {86}who will strike me, or the man whom I shall strike; an uair a bhuaileas mi, tra bhuaileas mi the time [in] which I shall strike, i. e., when I shall strike; c'uin [cia ùine] a bhuaileas mi? what [is] the time [in] which I shall strike? i. e., when shall I strike?

The Imperative Mood expresses desire, whether purpose, command, or request; as, buaileam let me strike, buailibh strike ye.

The Infinitive[58] is, in all respects, a noun, denoting the action or energy of the verb, and commonly preceded by a Preposition which marks the time of the action; as, ag bualadh at striking, am bualadh the striking, the threshing. It assumes a regular genitive case, bualadh g. s. bualaidh; as, urlar-bualaidh a threshing floor. The Infinitive sometimes loses the termination, and is regularly declined in its abridged form; thus, cruinnich assemble, inf. cruinneach-adh per. apocop. cruinneach g. s. cruinnich; hence, àite-cruinnich a place of meeting, Acts xix. 29, 31, so, fear-criochnaich, Heb. xii. 2, fear-cuidich, Psalm xxx. 10, liv. 4, ionad-foluich, Psalm xxxii. 7, cxix. 114, litir-dhealaich, Matt. v. 31[59].

There is no part of the Active Voice that can, strictly speaking, be denominated a Participle. The Infinitive preceded by the Preposition ag at, corresponds in meaning to the present Participle; and preceded by iar after, it corresponds to the participle of the past time; as, ag bualadh at striking, or striking; iar bualadh after striking, or struck[60].


Many words, expressing state or action, take the Preposition ag before them, and may be considered as Infinitives of Verbs, whereof the other parts are not in use; as, ag atharrais mimicking, ag gàireachdaich laughing, a' fanoid, a' magadh mocking, jeering.


The Participle passive is an adjective, denoting the completion of the action or energy expressed by the verb; as, arbhar buailte threshed corn.

The Simple Tenses which belong to all verbs are the Preterite or Future, besides which the verb Bi to be, and the defective verb Is I am, have a Present Tense[61].

The Present expresses present existence, state, or energy.

The Preterite Affirmative and Negative expresses past time indefinitely. The Preterite Subjunctive corresponds to the English Tenses formed by the auxiliaries would, could, &c. In general it denotes that the action or energy of the verb takes place eventually or conditionally. The Pret. Aff. or {89}Neg. is used sometimes in this sense, like the English, when the Pret. Subj. occurred in the preceding clause of a sentence, as, na'm biodh tus' an so, cha d' fhuair mo bhrathair bàs, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not [would not have] died; mur bitheamaid air deanamh moille bha sinn a nis air pilltinn air ar n-ais, if we had not lingered, we had [should have] now returned, Gen. xliii. 10.

The Future marks future time indefinitely. This Tense is used in a peculiar sense in Gaelic, to signify that an action or event takes place uniformly, habitually, according to ordinary practice, or the course of nature. Thus; Blessed is he that considereth the poor, expressed according to the Gaelic idiom, would be, Blessed is he that will consider, &c. A wise son maketh a glad father, in Gaelic would run, A wise son will make, &c. Your patient, I am told, is in a bad way; he neither enjoys rest, nor takes medicine. Nay, his situation is worse than you know of; yesterday, he became delirious, and is now almost unmanageable; he tosses his arms, and endeavours to beat every one within his reach. In Gaelic, will enjoy—will take—will toss—will endeavour. In like manner, a great many Gaelic Proverbs express a general truth by means of the Future tense; e.g., bithidh dùil ri fear feachd, ach cha bhi dùil ri fear lic, There is hope that a man may return from war, but there is no hope that a man may return from the grave; literally, there will be hope—there will be no hope. Teirgidh gach ni r' a chaitheamh, every thing wears out in the using; literally,—will wear out[62].

The Compound Tenses mark different modifications of time, {90}which will be easily understood by analysing their component parts.

In the Active Voice, the compound tenses of the first order denote that the action is going on, but not completed at the time specified by the auxiliary verb, or its adjuncts; as, ta mi ag bualadh, I am at striking, i.e., I am striking; bha mi ag bualadh an dé, I was striking yesterday.

Those of the second order denote that the action is newly completed and past, at the time marked by the auxiliary verb; ta mi iar bualadh, I am after striking, i.e., I have struck, Je viens de frapper; Bha mi iar bualadh, I was striking, i.e., I had struck.

In the Passive Voice, the compound tenses of the first order denote that the action is finished at the time marked by the auxiliary verb; ta mi buailte, I am struck.

Those of the second order denote that the action is newly finished at the time marked by the auxiliary[63]; ta mi iar mo bhualadh, I am after my striking, or, I am after the striking of me, which has always a passive signification; that is, it is always understood, from this form of expression, that striking is the action of some agent different from the person struck. It is equivalent to I have been struck, Je viens d'etre frappé.

A set of Compound Tenses, of a structure similar to these last, having the preposition ag, in place of iar, is sometimes used, and in a passive sense, denoting that the action is going on at the time marked by the auxiliary; as, tha 'n tigh 'g a thogail, the house is at its building, i.e., a-building; sea bliadhna agus da fhichead bha 'n teampull 'g a thogail, forty and six years was this temple in building. John ii. 20, 1 Kings vi. 7. Bha an crodh 'g an leigeadh, the cows were a-milking; bidh deudaichean 'g an rusgadh. "Gillies' Collect." p. 82. So {91}in English, the book is a-printing; the deed's a-doing now, "Douglas," Act 1.

The following scheme shows the different modifications of time, as expressed by the several Tenses of the Gaelic Verb, brought together into one view, and compared with the corresponding Tenses of the Greek Verb in Moor's Greek Grammar.

Indicative or Affirmative Mood.
Present Tense.
Ta mi ag bualadh, τυπτω, I strike, or am striking.
Bha mi ag bualadh, ἐτυπτον, I was striking.
Buailidh mi brace τυψω, I will strike, or be striking.
Bithidh mi ag bualadh
Aorist or Preterite.
Bhuail mi, ἐτυψα, I struck.
Ta mi iar bualadh, τετυφα, I have struck.
Bha mi iar bualadh, ἐτετυφειν, I had struck.
Interrogative or Negative Mood.
Am bheil mi ag bualadh? Am I striking?
An robh mi ag bualadh? Was I striking?
Am buail mi? Shall I strike?
{92} Aorist or Preterite.
An do bhuail mi? Did I strike?
Am bheil mi iar bualadh? Have I struck?
An robh mi iar bualadh? Had I struck?
Subjunctive Mood.
Bhuailinn, brace ἐτυπτον ἀν, I would strike.
Bhithinn ag bualadh,
Ma bhuaileas mi, If I shall strike.
Bhithinn iar bualadh, ἐτυψα ἀν, I would have struck.
Imperative Mood.
Buaileam, Let me strike.
Buail, τυπτε, Strike.
Infinitive Mood.
Am bualadh, το τυπτειν, The striking.
A' bhualaidh, του τυπτειν, Of the striking.
Ag bualadh, ἐν τῳ τυπτειν, A-striking.
Indicative or Affirmative Mood.
Ta mi 'g am bhualadh, τυπτομαι, I am in striking[64].
Bha mi 'g am bhualadh, ἐτυπτομην, I was in striking.
{93} Future.
Buailear mi, brace τυφθησομαι, I shall be struck.
Bithidh mi buailte,
Aorist or Preterite.
Bhuaileadh mi, ἐτυφθην, I was struck.
Ta mi buailte, brace τετυμμενος εἰμι, I have been struck.
Ta mi iar mo bhualadh
Bha mi buailte, brace τετυμμενος ἠν, I had been struck.
Bha mi iar mo bhualadh
Interrogative or Negative Mood.
Am buailear mi? Shall I be struck?
Aorist or Preterite.
An do bhuaileadh mi? Was I struck?
Am bheil mi buailte? brace Have I been struck?
Am bheil mi iar mo bhualadh?
An robh mi buailte? brace Had I been struck?
An robh mi iar mo bhualadh?
Subjunctive Mood.
Bhuailteadh mi, ἐτυπτομην αν, I should be struck.
Ma bhuailtear mi, If I shall be struck.
{94} Pluperfect.
Bhithinn buailte, brace ἐτυφθην αν, I should have been struck.
Bhithinn iar mo bhualadh,
Imperative Mood.
Buailtear mi, Let me be struck.
Buailtear thu, τυπτου, Be thou struck.
Buailte, τετυμμενος Struck.

It will afford satisfaction to the grammatical reader, to see how correctly the various modifications of time, as distinguished and arranged by Mr Harris, are expressed in the Gaelic verb, by the auxiliaries, bi be, and dol going. See Hermes B. I. c. 7.

Aorist of the Present.
Τυπτω, I strike, ——
Aorist of the Past.
Ετυψα, I struck, Bhuail mi.
Aorist of the Future.
Τυψω, I shall strike, Buailidh mi.
Inceptive Present.
Μελλω τυπτειν, I am going to strike, Ta mi dol a bhualadh.
Middle or extended Present.
Τυγχανω τυπτων, I am striking, Ta mi ag bualadh.
Completive Present.
Τετυφα, I have struck, Ta mi iar bualadh.
Inceptive Past.
Εμελλον τυπτειν, I was going to strike, Bha mi dol a bhualadh.
{95} Middle or extended Past.
Ετυπτον, I was striking, Bha mi ag bualadh.
Completive Past.
Ετετυφειν, I had struck, Bha mi iar bualadh.
Inceptive future.
Μελλησω τυπτειν, I shall be going to strike, Bithidh mi dol a bhualadh.
Middle or extended Future.
Εσομαι τυπτων, I shall be striking, Bithidh mi ag bualadh.
Completive Future.
Εσομαι τετυφως, I shall have struck, Bithidh mi iar bualadh.


Irregular Verbs of the First Conjugation.

Beir, bear.
Preterite. Future.
Affirm. Do rug, Beiridh.
Negat. D' rug, Beir.
Subjunct. Bheirinn, Bheireas.
Imperat.   Beiream.     Infin.   Beirsinn, breith.
Affirm. Do rugadh, Beirear.
Negat. D' rugadh, Beirear.
Subjunct. Bheirteadh, Bheirear.
Imperat.   Beirthear.
{96} Cluinn, hear.
Preterite. Future.
Affirm. Do chuala, Cluinnidh.
Negat. Cuala, Cluinn.
Subjunct. Chluinnin, Chluinneas.
Imperat.   Cluinneam.     Infin.   Cluinntinn.
Affirm. Do Chualadh, Cluinnear.
Negat. Cualadh, Cluinnear.
Subjunct. Chluinnteadh, Chluinnear.
Imperat.   Cluinntear.
Dean, do or make.
Preterite. Future.
Affirm. Do rinn, Ni.
Negat. D' rinn, Dean.
Subjunct. Dheanainn, Ni.
Imperat.   Deanam.     Infin.   Deanamh.
Affirm. Do rinneadh, Nithear.
Negat. D' rinneadh, Deanar.
Subjunct. Dheantadh, Nithear.
Imperat.   Deantar.     Particip.   Deanta.
Rach, go.
Preterite. Future.
Affirm. Do chaidh, Théid.
Negat. Deachaidh, Téid[65].
Subjunct. Rachainn, Théid.
Imperat.   Racham.     Infin.   Dol.
{97} Ruig, reach.
Preterite. Future.
Affirm. Do rainig, Ruigidh.
Negat. D' rainig, Ruig.
Subjunct. Ruiginn, Ruigeas.
Imperat.   Ruigeam.     Infin.   Ruigsinn, ruigheachd.
Tabhair,[66] give.
Preterite. Future.
Affirm. Do thug, Bheir.
Negat. D' thug, Tabhair.
Subjunct. Bheirinn, tabhairinn, Bheir.
Imperat.   Tabhaiream, thugam.     Infin.   Tabhairt.
Affirm. Do thugadh, Bheirear.
Negat. D' thugadh, Tabhairear.
Subjunct. Bheirteadh, tugtadh. Bheirear.
Imperat.   Thugthar.
Thig, come.
Preterite. Future.
Affirm. Do thainig, Thig.
Negat. D' thainig, Tig[67].
Subjunct. Thiginn, Thig.
Imperat.   Thigeam.     Infin.   Tighinn, teachd.



Irregular Verbs of the Second Conjugation.

Abair,[68] say.
Preterite. Future.
Affirm. Thubhairt, dubhairt, Their.
Negat. Dubhairt, Abair.
Subjunct. Theirinn, abairinn, Their.
Imperat.   Abaiream.     Infin.   Radh.
Affirm. Dubhradh, Theirear.
Negat. Dubhradh, Abairear.
Subjunct. Theirteadh, abairteadh, Theirear.
Imperat.   Abairear[69].
Faic, see.
Preterite. Future.
Affirm. Do chunnaic, Chi.
Negat. Faca, Faic.
Subjunct. Chithinn, faicinn, Chi.
Imperat.   Faiceam.     Infin.   Faicsinn.
Affirm. Do chunnacadh, Chithear.
Negat. Facadh, Faicear.
Subjunct. Chiteadh, faicteadh, Chithear.
Imperat.   Faicthear.     Infin.   Faicsinn.
{99} Faigh, get.
Preterite. Future.
Affirm. Fhuair, Gheibh.
Negat. D'fhuair, Faigh.
Subjunct. Gheibhinn, faighinn, Gheibh.
Imperat.   Faigheam.     Infin.   Faghail, faotainn.
Affirm. Fhuaradh, Gheibhear.
Negat. D' fhuaradh, Faighear.
Subjunct. Gheibhteadh, faighteadh, Gheibhear.
Imperat.   Faightear.

The verbs Tabhair, Abair, Faic, Faigh, have a double Preterite Subjunctive. The latter form of it, which is derived regularly from the Root, is used after the same particles which are prefixed to the Negative Mood, viz. ni, cha, nach, mur, gu, an, am.

Of Defective Verbs.

The following defective verbs are in common use.

Arsa said, quoth, indeclinable; used only in the Pret. Aff. through all the persons; arsa Donull, quoth Donald.

Tiucainn come along, tiucainnibh come ye along, used only in the 2d pers. sing. and plur. of the Imperative.

Theab mi I was near to, I had almost; used through all the persons of the Pret. Aff. and Neg.; as, theab iad bhith caillte they had nearly perished.

Is mi I am, used in the Pres. and Pret. Tenses, which are declined as follows:— {100}

Affirmative Mood.

Present. Preterite.
Sing. Sing.
1 Is mi, I am, it is I. Bu mhi, I was, it was I.
2 Is tu. Bu tu.
3 Is e. B' e.
Plur. Plur.
1 Is sinn. Bu sinn.
2 Is sibh. Bu sibh.
3 Is iad. B' iad.

Negative Mood.

Sing. Sing.
brace 1 mi, I am not, &c. Bu mhi, I was not, &c.
2 tu. Bu tu.
3 e. B' e.
Plur. Plur.
1 sinn. Bu sinn.
2 sibh. Bu sibh.
3 iad. B' iad.

Subjunctive Mood.

Sing. Sing.
1 Ma 's mi, If I be, it be I. Nam bu mhi, If I were, it were I.
2 's tu. Bu tu.
3 's e. B' e.
Plur. Plur.
1 's sinn. Bu sinn.
2 's sibh. Bu sibh.
3 's iad. B' iad.

The only varieties of form which this Verb admits of, are the two syllables is and bu. Each of these syllables {101}commonly loses the vowel when it comes in apposition with another vowel.

It is remarkable, that in the Pres. Neg. the Verb disappears altogether, and the preceding Particle, ni, cha, nach, gur, &c., and the subsequent Pronoun, or Noun, are always understood to convey a proposition, or a question, as unequivocally as though a Verb had been expressed; as, cha tu thou art not, nach e? is he not? is it not he? am mise e? is it I? cha luchd-brathaidh sinn we are not spies, Gen. xlii. 31. Am mò thusa na Abraham? Art thou greater than Abraham? gur còir urnuigh a dheanamh that it is proper to pray, Luke xviii. 1[70].


Of the Reciprocating State of Verbs.

Any transitive Verb may be so combined with a Pronoun, either Personal or Possessive, that it shall denote the agent to be also the object of the action. This may be called the reciprocating state of the Verb. It is declined as follows:—

Buail thu fein, strike thyself.


Simple Tenses.

Affirmative Mood.

Preterite. Future.
Sing. Sing.
1 Do bhuail mi mi fein, Buailidh mi mi fein,
   Bhuail mi mi fein, I will strike myself.
I struck myself.
2 Do bhuail thu thu fein, Buailidh tu thu fein.
3 Do bhuail se e fein; Buailidh se e fein.
Plur. Plur.
1 Do bhuail sinn sinn fein, Buailidh sinn sinn fein.
2 Do bhuail sibh sibh fein, Buailidh sibh sibh fein.
3 Do bhuail siad iad fein. Buailidh siad iad fein.

Negative Mood.

Preterite. Future.
Sing. Sing.
brace 1 Do bhuail mi mi fein, Bhuail mi mi fein,
I struck not myself. I shall not strike myself.
Subjunctive Mood.
Sing. Sing.
1 Bhuailinn mi fein, 1 Bhuaileas mi mi fein,
I would strike myself. I shall strike myself.
Imperative Mood.
Sing. Plur.
1 Buaileam mi fein, Buaileamaid sinn fein.
Let me strike myself.
2 Buail thu fein. Buailibh sibh fein.
3 Buaileadh e e fein. Buaileadh iad iad fein.

Infinitive Mood.

'g am bhualadh fein, striking myself.
'g ad bhualadh fein, striking thyself.
'g a bhualadh fein, striking himself.
'g ar bualadh fein, striking ourselves.
'g 'ur bualadh fein, striking yourselves.
'g am bualadh fein, striking themselves.
iar mo bhualadh fein, after striking myself, &c.
gu mo bhualadh fein, to strike myself, &c.

Compound Tenses.

Affirmative Mood.

Present. Preterite. Future.
1. Comp. 1. Comp. 1. Comp.
Ta mi 'g am bhualadh fein, Bha mi 'g am bhualadh fein, Bidh mi 'g am bhualadh fein,
I am striking myself. I was striking myself. I will be striking myself.
Present. Preterite. Future.
2. Comp. 2. Comp. 2. Comp.
{104} Ta mi iar mo, &c. Bha mi iar mo, &c. Bidh mi iar mo, &c.
I have struck myself. I had struck myself. I shall have struck, &c.

Negative Mood.

Present. Preterite. Future.
1. Comp. 1. Comp. 1. Comp.
Ni bheil mi 'g am, &c. Ni robh mi 'g am, &c. Ni'm bi mi 'g am bhualadh fein.
I am not striking myself. I was not striking myself. I shall not be striking myself.
Present. Preterite. Future.
2. Comp. 2. Comp. 2. Comp.
Ni bheil mi iar mo, &c. Ni robh mi iar mo, &c. Ni'm bi mi iar mo, &c.
I have not struck myself. I had not struck myself. I shall not have struck myself.

Subjunctive Mood.

Preterite. Future.
1. Comp. 1. Comp.
Bhithinn 'g am, &c. Ma bhitheas mi 'g am,
I would be striking, &c. If I shall be striking, &c.
2.Comp. 2. Comp.
Bhithinn iar mo, &c. Ma bhitheas mi iar mo, &c.
I would have struck, &c. If I shall have struck, &c.
{105} Imperative Mood. Infinitive Mood.
1. Comp. Do bhith 'g am bhualadh fein,
To be striking myself.
Bitheam 'g am bhualadh fein, Iar bith 'g am bhualadh fein.
Let me be striking myself. To have been striking myself.

From the foregoing example it appears that the Verb, in its reciprocating state, retains its original form throughout its several Moods, Tenses, and Persons. In the simple Tenses, the Personal Pronoun immediately following the Verb is the Nominative to the Verb. The same pronoun repeated is to be understood as in the objective state. The word fein, corresponding to the English self, accompanies the last Pronoun.

In the compound Tenses, the auxiliary Verb, as usual, is placed first; then follows the Personal Pronoun as its Nominative, then the Prep. ag abridged to 'g in the compound Tenses of the first order, iar in those of the second order; after which follows the Possessive Pronoun, corresponding in Person to that which is the Nominative to the Verb; and lastly the Infinitive, which is the noun to the Possessive Pronoun. Mo and do are here changed, by Metathesis and the substitution of one broad vowel for another, into am and ad. Ta mi 'g am bhualadh fein, rendered literally, is, I am at my own striking, i.e., I am at the striking of myself, equivalent to, I am striking myself. The reciprocal fein is sometimes omitted in the compound Tenses, but is generally retained in the 3d Persons, to prevent their being mistaken for the same persons when used without reciprocation: ta e 'g a bhualadh, he is striking him, ta e 'g a bhualadh fein, he is striking himself.

Of the Impersonal Use of Verbs.

Intransitive Verbs, though they do not regularly admit of a Passive Voice, yet are used impersonally in the 3d Pers. Sing. of the Passive Tenses. This impersonal use of the Passive of intransitive Verbs is founded on the same principle with the Latin Impersonals concurritur, pugnatum est, {106}&c., which are equivalent to concursus fit, pugna facta est. So in Gælic, gluaisfear leam, I will move, Psal. cxvi. 9; gluaisfear leo, they will move, Psal. cxix. 3; ghuileadh leinn, we did weep, flebatur a nobis, Psal. cxxxvii. 1, Edit. Edinb. 1787; cha bhithear saor o pheacadh, there wanteth not sin, Prov. x. 19.

To the class of Impersonals ought to be referred a certain part of the Verb which has not yet been mentioned. It resembles in form the Fut. Negat. Passive; buailear, faicear, faighear, &c. In signification, it is Active, Present, and Affirmative. In the course of a narrative, when the speaker wishes to enliven his style by representing the occurrences narrated as present, and passing actually in view, instead of the Preterite Tenses, he adopts the Part of the Verb now described, employing it in an impersonal acceptation, without a Nominative to it expressed. One or two examples will serve to exhibit the use and effect of this anomalous Tense:—Shuidh an òg bhean air sgeir, is a sùil air an lear. Chunnaic i long a' teachd air barraibh nan tonn. Dh' aithnich i aogas a leannain, is chlisg a cridhe 'n a com. Gun mhoille gun tamh, buailear dh' fhios na traighe; agus faighear an laoch, 's a dhaoine m' a thimchioll. In English thus: The young woman sat on a rock, and her eye on the sea. She spied a ship coming on the tops of the waves. She perceived the likeness of her lover, and her heart bounded in her breast. Without delay or stop, she hastens to the shore; and finds the hero, with his men around him. Again: Mar sin chuir sinn an oidhche tharuinn. 'S a' mhadainn dh' imich sinn air ar turus. O bha sinn 'n ar coigrich anns an tir, gabhar suas gu mullach an t-sleibh, direar an tulach gu grad, agus seallar mu 'n cuairt air gach taobh. Faicear thall fa 'r comhair sruth cas ag ruith le gleann cumhann, &c. Thus we passed the night. In the morning we pursued our journey. As we were strangers in the land, we strike up to the top of the moor, ascend the hill with speed, and look around us on every side. We see over against us a rapid stream, rushing down a narrow valley, &c. {107}

The scrupulous chastenesss of style maintained in the Gaelic version of the Sacred Scriptures, has totally excluded this form of expression. It is, however, universally known and acknowledged, as an established idiom of the Gaelic, very common in the mouths of those who speak it, and in animated narration almost indispensable[71].

Of Auxiliary Verbs.

It has been already shown how bi be, is used as an Auxiliary in the declension of all verbs. There are two other verbs which are occasionally employed in a similar capacity; the one with an Active the other with a Passive effect. These are dean to do or make, and rach to go.

The simple tenses of dean combined with the Infinitive of any verb, correspond to the English auxiliary do, did. It sometimes adds to the emphasis, but not to the sense. The following are examples of this Auxiliary combined with the Infinitive of an Intransitive verb:—Rinn e seasamh he made standing, i.e., he did stand; dean suidhe make sitting, i.e., sit down; dheanainn gul agus caoidh I would make weeping {108}and lamentation, i.e., I would weep and lament. The same arrangement takes place when the Auxiliary is combined with the Infinitive of a Transitive verb, accompanied by a possessive pronoun; as, rinn e mo bhualadh he made my striking, i.e., he made [or caused] the striking of me, or, he did strike me; cha dean mi do mholadh, I will not make your praising, i.e., I will not praise you; dean do gharadh, make your warming, dean do gharadh fein, make your own warming, i.e., warm yourself.

The Simple Tenses of rach, combined with the Infinitive of a transitive verb, correspond to the Passive Voice of the verb; as, chaidh mo bhualadh my striking went, i.e., came to pass, or happened, equivalent to I was struck; rachadh do mharbhadh your killing would happen, i.e., you would be killed.

In phrases where either of the auxiliaries dean or rach is combined with a transitive verb, as above, the possessive pronoun may be exchanged for the corresponding personal pronoun in the emphatic form, followed by the preposition do before the Infinitive. The preposition in this case is attenuated into a, which, before a verb of the second conjugation is dropped altogether. Thus, rinn e mo bhualadh he struck me, rinn e mis' a bhualadh he struck ME, chaidh mo bhualadh I was struck, chaidh mis' a bhualadh I myself was struck. In like manner, a noun, or a demonstrative pronoun, may occupy the place of this personal pronoun; as, chaidh an ceannard a mharbhadh[72], agus na daoine chur san ruaig, the leader was killed, and the men put to flight; theid am buachaill a bhualadh, agus an treud a sgapadh, the shepherd will be smitten, and the sheep scattered; is math a chaidh sin innseadh dhuit, that was well told you.





An Adverb, considered as a separate part of speech, is a single indeclinable word, significant of time, place, or any other circumstance or modification of an action or attribute. The number of simple Adverbs in Gaelic is but small. Adverbial phrases, made up of two or more words, are sufficiently numerous. Any adjective may be converted into an adverbial expression, by prefixing to it the preposition gu to; as, fìrinneach true, gu fìrinneach [corresponding] to [what is] true, κατα το αληθες, i.e., truly. Adverbs of this form need not be enumerated. It may be useful, however, to give a list of other adverbs and adverbial phrases, most commonly in use; subjoining, where it can be done, a literal translation of their component parts, and also the English expression which corresponds most nearly to the sense of the Gaelic phrase.

Adverbs of Time.

A cheana; already, truly.

A chianamh; a little while ago.

A chlisge; quickly, in a trice.

A choidhche, Choidh; for ever.

A nis, Nise; now.

A rìs, Rithist; again.

Ainmic, Ainmeach; seldom.

Air ball; on [the] spot, immediately.

Air dheireadh; hindmost.

Air thoiseach; foremost.

Air tùs; in the beginning, at first.

Air uairibh; at times, sometimes.


Am bliadhna; this year.

Am feadh; whilst.

Am feasd; for ever.

Am màireach; to-morrow.

An ceart uair; the very hour, presently.

An comhnuidh; in continuation, continually.

An dé; yesterday.

An deigh laimh; behind hand, afterwards.

An diugh; the [present] day, to-day[73].

An ear-thrath, An iar-thraith; the after time, the day after to-morrow.

An nochd; the [present] night, to-night.

An raoir, An reidhr; yesternight.

An sin; in that [time], then.

An trath; the time, when.

An tràth so, An tràs'; this time, at present.

An uair; the time, when.

An uiridh; last year.

Aon uair; one time, once.

Cia fhada; how long.

Cia minic, Cia tric; how often.

C'uine; what time, when.

Do la, A la; by day[74].

Dh' oidhche; by night[74].

Do ghnàth; [according] to custom, always.

Fa dheoidh; at the end, at last.

Fathast, Fòs; yet, still.


Gu bràth[75], Gu la bhràth; to the general conflagration, for ever.

Gu dìlinn[75]; to the expiration of time, or till the deluge, for ever.

Gu minic; often.

Gu siorruidh; to ever-flowing, for ever.

Gu suthainn; for ever.

Gu tric; often.

Idir; at all.

Mar tha; as it is, already.

Mu dheireadh; at last.

O cheann tamuill; a while ago.

O chian; from far, of old, long ago.

Rè seal, Rè tamuill; for a time.

Riamh; ever, said of past time only.

Roimh làimh; before hand.

Uair eigin; some time.

Adverbs of Place.

A bhos, Bhos; on this side, here below.

A leth taobh; to one side, aside.

A mach, A muigh; without, out.

A mhàn[76]; downwards, down.

An aird; to the height, upwards, up.

A nall, Nall; to this side.

A nuas; from above, down hither.

A null, Null, nunn; to the other side.


A thaobh; aside.

Air aghaidh, Air adhart; on [the] face, forward.

Air ais; backwards.

Air dheireadh; hindmost.

Air thoiseach; foremost.

Am fad, An céin; afar.

An gar; close to.

An laimh; in hand, in custody.

An sin; in that [place], there.

An so; in this [place], here.

An sud; in yon [place], yonder.

An taice; close adjoining, in contact.

Asteach, Astigh;[77] within, in.

C' àite; what place, where.

Cia an taobh; what side, whither.

C' ionadh; what place, whither.

Fad as; afar off.

Fad air astar; far away.

Far; where,—relatively.

Fogus, Am fogus; near.

H-uig' agus uaith; to and fro.

Iolar, Ioras; below there, below yonder.

Le leathad; by a descent, downwards.

Leis; along with it, down a stream, declivity, &c.

Mu 'n cuairt; by the circuit, around.

Ri bruthach; to an ascent, upwards.

Ris; in an exposed state, bare, uncovered.

Seachad; past, aside.

Sios, a sios; downwards.

Suas, a suas; upwards.


Shios; below there, below yonder.

Shuas; above there, above yonder.

Tarsuing; across.

Thairis; over.

Thall; on the other side.

Uthard; above there, above yonder.

Deas[78]; south.

Gu deas; southward.

A deas; from the south.

Iar[79], Siar; west.

Gus an aird an iar; westward.

O'n iar; from the west.

Tuath; north.

Gu tuath; northward.

A tuath; from the north.

Ear, Oir, Soir; east.

Gus an aird an ear; eastward.

O'n ear; from the east.

Adverbs of Manner.

Air achd; in a manner.

Air a' chuthach, Air boile; distracted, mad.

Air chall; lost.

Air chòir; aright.

Air chor; in a manner.

Air chor eigin; in some manner, somehow.

Air chuairt; sojourning.

Air chuimhne; in remembrance.

Air éigin; with difficulty, scarcely.

Air fogradh; in exile, in a fugitive state.


Air ghleus; in trim.

Air iomadan; adrift.

Air iomroll; astray.

Air iunndrain; amissing.

Air lagh; trimmed for action, as a bow bent, a firelock cocked, &c.

Air leth; apart, separately.

Air seacharan; astray.

Air sgeul; found, not lost.

Amhàin; only.

Amhuil, Amhludh; like as.

Am bidheantas; customarily, habitually.

Am feabhas; convalescent, improving.

An coinnimh a chinn; headlong.

An coinnimh a chùil; backwards.

An deidh, An geall; desirous, enamoured.

An nasgaidh; for nothing, gratis.

An tòir; in pursuit.

Araon; together.

As an aghaidh; out of the face, to the face, outright.

As a chéile; loosened, disjointed.

Car air char; rolling, tumbling over and over.

Cia mar; as how, how.

C' arson; on account of what, why, wherefore.

C' ionnas; what manner, how.

Cha, cho; not.

Comhla[80], mar chomhla, Cuideachd; together, in company.

C'uime, for what, why.

Do dheoin, a dheoin; spontaneously, intentionally.

Dh' aindeoin; against one's will.

Do dhìth, a dhìth; a-wanting.

Do rìreadh; really, actually, indeed.


Fa leth; severally, individually.

Gle; very.

Gu beachd; to observation, evidently, clearly.

Gu buileach; to effect, thoroughly, wholly.

Gu dearbh; to conviction, truly, certainly.

Gu deimhin; to assurance, assuredly, verily.

Gu leir; altogether.

Gu leor; to sufficiency, enough.

Gun amharus; without doubt, doubtless.

Gun chàird; without rest, incessantly, without hesitation.

Leth mar leth; half and half.

Le chéile; with each other, together.

Maraon; as one, together, in concert.

Mar an ceudna; in like manner, likewise.

Mar sin; as that, in that manner.

Mar so; as this, thus.

Mar sud; as yon, in yon manner.

Mu seach; in return, alternately.

Na, Nar; let not,—used optatively, or imperatively.

Nach; that not, who not, not?

Ni; not.

Ni h-eadh[81]; it is not so.

Os àird; openly.

Os barr; on top, besides.

Os iosal; secretly, covertly.

Ro; very.

Roimh a cheile; prematurely, too hastily.

Seadh[81]; it is so.

Thar a chéile, Troimh a chéile; in disorder, in confusion, stirred about.

Theagamh; perhaps.

Uidh air 'n uidh; stage by stage, gradually.





The Prepositions, strictly so called, are single words, most of them monosyllables, employed to mark relation. Relation is also expressed by combinations of words which often correspond to simple prepositions in other languages. These combinations are, not improperly, ranked among the prepositions. The following lists contain first the Prepositions properly so called, which are all simple; secondly, improper Prepositions, which, with one or two exceptions, seem all to be made up of a simple Preposition and a Noun.

Proper Prepositions.

Aig, Ag, at. Fuidh, Fo, under. Os, above.
Air, on. Gu, Gus, to. Re, Ri, Ris, to.
Ann, in. Gun, without. Roimh, before.
As, A, out of. Iar, after. Tar, Thar, over, across.
De, of. Le, Leis, with, by. Tre, brace through.                   
Do, to Mar, like to. Troimh,
Eadar, between. Mu, about. Throimh,
Fa, upon. O, Ua, from. Seach, past, in comparison with.

The Preposition ann is often written double, ann an eolas, in knowledge; ann an gliocas, in wisdom. The final n or nn is changed into m before a labial; as, am measg, among; ann am meadhon, in midst. Before the Article or the Relative, this Preposition is written anns; as, anns an toiseach, in the beginning, an cor anns am bheil e, the condition in which he is; and in this situation the letters ann are often dropped, and the s alone retained, 's an toiseach, in the beginning.

De, so far as I know, is found in no Scottish publications. The reasons which have induced me to assign it a place among the prepositions will be mentioned in treating of the combinations of the Proper Prepositions with the Personal Pronouns.

The Preposition do, like the verbal particle, and the Possessive Pronoun of the same sound, loses the o before a vowel, and the consonant is aspirated; thus, dh' Albainn, to {117}Scotland. It is also preceded sometimes by the vowel a when it follows a final consonant; as, dol a dh' Eirin, going to Ireland. This a seems to be nothing else than the vowel of do transposed; just as the letters of the pronouns mo, do, are in certain situations transposed, and become am, ad. In this situation, perhaps it would be advisible to join the a, in writing, to the dh thus, dol adh Eirin. This would rid us of one superfluous a appearing as a separate inexplicable word. The same remarks apply to the prep. de; e.g., armailt mhòr de dhaoinibh agus a dh' eachaibh, a great army of men and of horses, lan do [de] reubainn agus a dh' aingidheachd, full of ravining and wickedness, Luke xi. 39. Do, as has been already observed, often loses the d altogether, and is written a; as, dol a Dhuneidin, going to Edinburgh. When the preposition is thus robbed of its articulation, and only a feeble obscure vowel sound is left, another corruption very naturally follows, and this vowel, as well as the consonant, is discarded, not only in speaking, but even in writing; as, chaidh e Dhuneidin, he went to Edinburgh; chaidh e thìr eile, he went to another land; where the nouns appear in their aspirated form, without any word to govern them.

Fa has been improperly confounded with fuidh or fo. That fa signifies upon, is manifest from such phrases as fa 'n bhord, upon the board, said of a dead body stretched upon a board; leigeader fa làr, dropped on the ground, Carswell: fa 'n adhbhar ud, on that account, equivalent to air an adhbhar ud, see Psal. cvi. 42, and xlv. 2, metr. version.

The reason for admitting iar after, has been already given in treating of the Compound Tenses of Verbs in Chap. V.

The manner of combining these prepositions with nouns will be shown in treating of Syntax. The manner of combining them with the personal pronouns must be explained in this place, because in that connection they appear in a form somewhat different from their radical form. A Proper Preposition is joined to a Personal Pronoun by incorporating both into one word, commonly with some change on the Preposition, or on the Pronoun, or on both.

The following are the Prepositions which admit of this kind of combination, incorporated with the several Personal Pronouns: {118}

Prep. Singular. Plural.
1st Pers. 2d Pers. 3d Pers. 1st Pers. 2d Pers. 3d Pers.
Aig, Ag; agam, agad, brace m. aige, at him; againn, agaibh, aca,
at. at me, at thee. f. aice, at her. at us. at you. at them
Air; orm, ort, brace m. air. oirnn, oirbh, orra.
f. oirre. uirre. orra.
Ann; annam, annad, brace m. ann. annainn, annaibh, annta.
f. innte.
As; asam, asad, brace m. as. asainn, asaibh, asda.
f. aisde.
De; dhiom, dhiot, brace m. dheth. dhinn, dhibh, dhiu.
f. dh'i.
Do; dhomh, dhom, dhuit, brace m. dha. dhuinn, dhuibh, dhoibh.
f. dh'i.
Eadar; ... ... ... eadarainn, eadaraibh, eatorra.
Fo, Fuidh; fodham, fodhad, brace m. fodha. fodhainn, fodhaibh, fodhpa.
f. fuidhpe.
Gu; h-ugam, h-ugad, brace m. h-uige. h-ugainn, h-ugaibh, h-uca.
f. h-uice.
Le; leam, leat, brace m. leis. leinn, leibh, leo.
f. leatha.
Mu; umam, umad, brace m. uime. umainn, umaibh, umpa.
f. uimpe.
O, Ua; uam, uait, brace m. uaith. uainn, uaibh, uapa.
f. uaipe.
Re, Ri; rium, riut, brace m. ris. ruinn, ribh, riu.
f. rithe.
Roimh; romham, romhad, brace m. roimhe. romhainn, romhaibh, rompa.
f. roimpe.
Thar; tharam, tharad, f. thairte. tharuinn, tharuibh, tharta.
Troimh; tromham, tromhad, brace m. troimhe. tromhainn, tromhaibh, trompa.
f. troimpe.


In most of these compound terms, the fragments of the Pronouns which enter into their composition, especially those of the first and second Persons, are very conspicuous[82]. These fragments take after them occasionally the emphatic syllables sa, san, ne, in the same manner as the Personal Pronouns themselves do; as, agamsa at ME, aigesan at HIM, uainne from US.

The two prepositions de and do have long been confounded together, both being written do. It can hardly be supposed that the composite words dhiom, dhiot, &c. would have been distinguished from dhomh, dhuit, &c., by orthography, pronunciation, and signification, if the Prepositions, as well as the Pronouns, which enter into the composition of these words, had been originally the same. In dhiom, &c., the initial Consonant is always followed by a small vowel. In dhomh, &c., with one exception, it is followed by a broad vowel. Hence it is presumable that the Preposition which is the root of dhiom, &c., must have had a small vowel after d, whereas the root of dhomh, &c., has a broad vowel after d. De is a preposition preserved in Latin (a language which has many marks of affinity with the Gaelic), in the same sense which must have belonged to the root of dhiom, &c., in Gaelic. The preposition in question itself occurs in Irish, in the name given to a Colony which is supposed to have settled in Ireland, A.M. 2540, called Tuath de Danann. (See Lh. "Arch. Brit." tit. x. voc. Tuath; also Miss Brooke's "Reliques of Irish Poetry," p. 102.) These facts afford more than a presumption that the true root of the Composite dhiom, &c., is de, and that it signifies of. It has therefore appeared proper to separate it from do, and to assign to each its appropriate meaning[83].


Dhiom, dhiot, &c., and dhomh, dhuit, &c., are written with a plain d after a Lingual; diom, domh, &c.

Eadar is not incorporated with the pronouns of the singular number, but written separately; eadar mis agus thusa, between me and thee.

In combining gu and mu with the pronouns, the letters of the Prepositions suffer a transposition, and are written ug, um. The former of these was long written with ch prefixed, thus chugam, &c. The translators of the Scriptures, observing that ch neither corresponded to the pronunciation, nor made part of the radical Preposition, exchanged it for th, and wrote thugam. The th, being no more than a simple aspiration, corresponds indeed to the common mode of pronouncing the word. Yet it may well be questioned whether the t, even though aspirated, ought to have a place, if g be the only radical consonant belonging to the Preposition. The component parts of the word might be exhibited with less disguise, and the common pronunciation (whether correct or not), also represented, by retaining the h alone, and connecting it with the Preposition by a hyphen, as when written before a Noun, thus h-ugam, h-ugaibh, &c.

Improper Prepositions.

Air cheann; at [the] end, against a certain time.

Air feadh, Air fad; throughout, during.

Air muin; on the back, mounted on.

Air sgàth; for the sake, on pretence.

Air son; on account.

Air tòir; in pursuit.

Air beulaobh; on the fore side, before.

Air culaobh; on the back side, behind.

Am fochair; in presence.

Am measg; in the mixture, amidst, among.


An aghaidh; in the face, against, in opposition.

An ceann; in the end, at the expiration.

An comhail, An coinnimh; in meeting, to meet.

An cois, A chois; at the foot, near to, hard by.

An dàil; in the rencounter, to meet.

An diaigh, An deigh, An deaghaidh, An déis; probably for an deireadh; in the end, after.

An eiric; in return, in requital.

Am fianuis, An lathair; in presence.

An lorg; in the track, in consequence.

As eugais, As easbhuidh; in want, without.

As leth; in behalf, for the sake.

A los; in order to, with the intention of.

Car; during.

Do bhrigh, a bhrigh; by virtue, because.

Do chòir, a chòir; to the presence, near, implying motion.

Do chum, a chum[84]; to, towards, in order to.

Do dhìth, a dhìth, Dh' easbhuidh; for want.

Dh' fhios; to the knowledge, to.

Dh' ionnsuidh; to the approach, or onset, toward.

Do réir, a réir; according to.

Do thaobh, a thaobh; on the side, with respect, concerning.

Fa chùis; by reason, because.

Fa chomhair; opposite.

Mu choinnimh; opposite, over against.

Mu thimchoill, timchioll; by the circuit, around.

O bharr, bharr; from the top, off.

Os ceann; on the top, above, atop.


Ré; duration, during.

Taréis; after[85].

Trid; through, by means.

It is evident, from inspection, that almost all these improper Prepositions are compounded; and comprehend, as one of their component parts, a Noun, which is preceded by a simple or Proper Preposition; like the English, on account, with respect, &c. The words ceann, aghaidh, lorg, barr, taobh, &c., are known to be real Nouns, because they are employed in that capacity in other connections, as well as in the phrases here enumerated. The case is not so clear with regard to son, cum, or cun, reir, which occur only in the above phrases; but it is probable that these are nouns likewise, and that, when combined with simple Prepositions, they constitute phrases of precisely the same structure with the rest of the foregoing list[86]. Comhair is probably comh-aire mutual attention. Dàil and còir, in the sense of proximity, are found in their compounds comh-dhail and fochair [fa chòir.] Tòir, in like manner, in its derivative tòireachd, the act of pursuing. Dh' fhios, to the knowledge, must have been originally applied to persons only. So it is used in many Gaelic songs: beir mo shoiridh le dùrachd dh' fhios na cailinn, &c., bear my good wishes with cordiality to the knowledge of the maid, &c., i.e., present my affectionate regards, &c. This appropriate meaning and use of the phrase came by degrees to be overlooked; and it was employed, promiscuously with do chum and dh' ionnsuidh, to signify unto in a more general sense. If this analysis of the expression be just, then ghios[87] must be deemed only a different, and a corrupt manner of writing dh' fhios.

In the improper preposition os ceann, the noun has almost {124}always been written cionn. Yet in all other situations, the same noun is uniformly written ceann. Whence has arisen this diversity in the orthography of a simple monosyllable? And is it maintained upon just grounds? It must have proceeded either from a persuasion that there are two distinct nouns signifying top, one of which is to be written ceann, and the other cionn[88]; or from an opinion that, granting the two words to be the same individual noun, yet it is proper to distinguish its meaning when used in the capacity of a preposition, from its meaning in other situations, by spelling it in different ways. I know of no good argument in support of the former of these two opinions; nor has it probably been ever maintained. The latter opinion, which seems to be the real one, is founded on a principle subversive of the analogy and stability of written language, namely, that the various significations of the same word are to be distinguished in writing, by changing its letters, the constituent elements of the word. The variation in question, instead of serving to point out the meaning of a word or phrase in one place, from its known meaning in another connection, tends directly to disguise it; and to mislead the reader into a belief that the words, which are thus presented to him under different forms, are themselves radically and essentially different. If the same word has been employed to denote several things somewhat different from each other, that does by no means appear a sufficient reason why the writers of the language should make as many words of one[89].


The use of the proper Prepositions has been already shown in the composition of adverbial phrases, and of the improper Prepositions. The following examples show the further use of them in connection with Nouns and Verbs, and in some idiomatic expressions which do not always admit of being literally rendered in English.

Ag, aig.

At: aig an dorus, at the door; aig an tigh, at the house, at home.

By reason of: aig ro mheud aighir 's a shòlais, by reason of his great joy and satisfaction, Smith's Seann dàna, p. 9; ag meud a mhiann through intense desire, Psal. lxxxiv. 2, metr. vers.; ag lionmhoireachd, Psal. xl. 5.

Signifying possession: tha tuill aig na sionnaich, the foxes have holes; bha aig duine araidh dithis mhac, a certain man had two sons; cha n'eil fhios agam, I have not the knowledge of it, I do not know it.

Chaidh agam air, I have prevailed over him, Psal. xiii. 4, metr. vers.

Joined to the Infinitive of Verbs: ag imeachd, a-walking, walking.


On, upon: air an làr, on the ground; air an là sin, on that day; air an adhbhar sin, on that account, for that reason.


Denoting claim of debt: ioc dhomh na bheil agam ort, pay me what thou owest me, Matt. xviii. 28; cia meud ata aig mo thighearn ortsa? how much owest thou unto my lord? Luke xvi. 57.[90]

Denoting an oath: air m' fhocal, upon my word; air làimh d' athar 's do sheanathar, by the hand of your father and grandfather.

Tha eagal, mulad, sgìos, ocras, &c., air, he is afraid, sad, fatigued, hungry, &c.

Thig mo bheul air do cheartas, is air do chliù, my mouth shall speak of thy justice and thy praise, Psal. xxxv. 28. metr.; thig mo bheul air gliocas, my mouth shall speak of wisdom, Psal. xlix. 3, metr. v.; sin cùis air am bheil mi nis a' teachd, that is the matter of which I am now to treat.

Tog ort, rouse thyself, bestir thyself, Psal lxxiv. 22, metr. v.

Chaidh agam air, I prevailed over him, Psal. xiii. 4.; metr.; 'S ann ormsa chaidh, it was I that was worsted.

Thug e am monadh air, he betook himself to the mountain.

In respect of: cha 'n fhaca mi an samhuil air olcas, I never saw their like for badness, Gen. xli. 19; air a lughad, however small it be.

Joined with, accompanied by: mòran iarruinn air bheag faobhar, much iron with little edge, McIntyre's Songs. Oidhche bha mi 'n a theach, air mhòran bìdh 's air bheagan eudaich, I was a night in his house, with plenty of {127}food, but scanty clothing; air leth laimh, having but one hand.

Denoting measure or dimension: dà throidh air àirde, two feet in height.

Olc air mhath leat e, whether you take it well or ill.

Ann, ann an, anns.

In.: Anns an tigh, in the house; anns an oidhche, in the night; ann an dòchas, in hope; anns a' bharail sin, of that opinion.

Denoting existence: ta abhainn ann, there is a river, Psal. xlvi. 4, metr.; nach bithinn ann ni 's mò, that I should not be any more; b' fhearr a bhi marbh na ann, it were better to be dead than to be alive; ciod a th' ann? what is it? is mise th' ann, it is I; mar gu b' ann, as it were; tha e 'n a dhuine ionraic, he is a just man; tha i 'n a bantraich, she is a widow[91].

Marking emphasis: is ann air eigin a thàr e as, it was with difficulty he got off; an àite seasamh is ann a theich iad, instead of standing (keeping their ground) they fled; nach freagair thu? fhreagair mi ann, will you not answer? I have answered.


Out of: as an dúthaich, out of the country.

Denoting extinction: tha an solus, no an teine, air dol as, the light, or the fire, is gone out.

As an alt, out of joint; as a' ghualainn, as a' chruachainn, as an uilinn, &c., dislocated in the shoulder, hip, elbow-joint.


Chaidh e as, he escaped.

Cuir as da, destroy him, or it.

Chaidh as da, he is perished, undone.

Thug e na buinn as, he scampered off.

Dubh as, blot out.


Of: Armailt mhòr de dhaoinibh agus a dh' eachaibh, a great army of men and horses.

Off: Bha na geugan air an sgathadh dheth, the branches were lopped off; thug iad an ceann deth, they beheaded him.

Dh' aon rùn, with one consent, with one purpose; dh' aon bharail, with one mind, judgment.

A là agus a dh' oidhche, i.e., de là agus de oidhche, by day and by night. Lat. de nocte, Hor.

Saidhbhreas mór d'a mheud, riches however great. Psal. cxix. 14, metr.


To: Tabhair dhomh, give to me, give me; thug sinn a bos mìn do Dhearg, we gave her soft hand to Dargo.

Dh' eirich sud dha gu h-obann, that befell him suddenly. Mar sin duinne gu latha, so it fared with us till day, so we passed the night; ma 's olc dhomh, cha n-fhearr dhoibh, if it goes ill with me, they fare no better.

Latha dhomhsa siubhal bheann, one day as I travelled the hills; latha dhuinn air machair Alba, one day when we were in the lowlands of Scotland; on Scotia's plains.


Between: eadar an dorus agus an ursainn, between the door and the post.

Dh' eirich eadar mi agus mo choimhearsnach, a quarrel arose betwixt me and my neighbour.


Eadar mhòr agus bheag, both great and small, Psal. xlix. 2, metr.; Rev. xix. 5, eadar bhochd agus nochd, both the poor and the naked.


Upon: Fa 'n bhòrd, upon the board; leigeadar fa làr, was dropped on the ground, omitted, neglected. Carswel. Fa 'n adhbhar ud, on that account; creud fa 'n abradh iad? wherefore should they say?

Fa sheachd, seven times, Psal. vii. 6, metr.; fa cheud, a hundred times, Psal. lxii. 9, metr.

Fuidh, fo.

Under: Fuidh 'n bhòrd, under the board; fuidh bhlàth in blossom; tha an t-arbhar fo dhéis, the corn is in the ear; fuidh smuairean, under concern; fo ghruaim, gloomy; fo mhi-ghean, in bad humour; fuidh mhi-chliu, under bad report.

Denoting intention or purpose: air bhi fuidhe, it being his purpose, Acts xx. 7; tha tighinn fodham, it is my intention or inclination.

Gu, Gus.

To: O thigh gu tigh, from house to house; gu crìch mo shaoghail fein, to the end of my life; gus an crion gu luaithre a' chlach, until the stone shall crumble to dust. Sm. Seann dàna.

A' bhliadhna gus an àm so, this time twelvemonth, a year ago; a sheachduin gus an dé, yesterday se'ennight.

Mile gu leth, a mile and a half; bliadhna gu leth, a year and a half.


Without: Gun amharus, without doubt; gun bhrogan, without shoes; gun fhios, without knowledge, unwittingly; gun fhios nach faic thu e, in case you may see him, {130}if perhaps you may see him; gun fhios am faic thu e, if perhaps you may not see him. Gun chomas aig air, without his being able to prevent it, or avoid it; involuntarily. Gniomh gun chomain, an unmerited, or unprovoked deed. Dh' àithn e dha gun sin a dheanamh, he ordered him not to do that. Fhuair iad rabhadh gun iad a philltinn, they were warned not to return.


After: Iar sin, after that; iar leughadh an t-Soisgeil, after the reading of the Gospel; iar tuiteam sios da aig a chosaibh, having fallen down at his feet; bha mi iar mo mhealladh, I was received.

Le, leis.

With: Chaidh mi leis a' chuideachd mhòir, I went with the multitude.

Denoting the instrument: mharbh e Eoin leis a' chlaidheamh, he killed John with the sword.

Denoting the agent: thomhaiseadh le Diarmid an torc, the boar was measured by Diarmid.

Denoting possession: is le Donull an leabhar, the book is Donald's; cha leis e, it is not his.

Denoting opinion or feeling: is fada leam an là gu h-oidhche, I think the day long, or tedious, till night come; is cruaidh leam do chor, I think your case a hard one; is dòcha leam, I think it probable; is doilich leam, I am sorry; is aithreach leis, he repents.

Along: leis an t-sruth along the stream; leis an leathad, down the declivity.

Leig leam, let me alone; leig leis, let him alone.


About: ag iadhadh mu a cheann, winding about his head; labhair e mu Iudas, he spoke about Judas; nuair smachduichear duine leat mu 'lochd, when thou {131}correctest a man for his sin, Psal. xxxix. 11, metr.; sud am fàth mu'n goir a' chorr, that is the reason of the heron's cry. Seann dàna. Sud fàth mu 'n guidheann ort na naoimh, for this reason will the saints make supplication to Thee.


From: O bhaile gu baile, from town to town; o mhadainn gu feasgar, from morning to evening; o 'n là thainig mi dhachaidh, from the day that I came home; o 'n là, is often abridged into la; as, la thainig mi dhachaidh, since I came home.

Since, because: thugamaid uil' oirnn a' bhanais, o fhuair sinn cuireadh dhol ann, let us all to the wedding, since we have been bidden to it.

Denoting want in opposition to possession, denoted by aig: na tha uainn 's a b' fheairrd sinn againn, what we want and should be the better for having.

Implying desire: ciod tha uait? what would you have? Tha claidheamh uam, I want a sword.


Above: Mar togam os m' uil' aoibhneas àrd cathair Ierusaleim, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy, Psal. cxxxvii. 6, metr.; os mo cheann, above me, over me.

Ri, ris.

To: cosmhuil ri mac righ, like to the son of a king; chuir iad teine ris an tigh, they set fire to the house.

Maille ri, together with.

Laimh ris a' bhalla, nigh to the wall.

Ri là gaoithe, on a day of wind; ri fad mo ré 's mo là, during all the days of my life; ri lìnn Righ Uilliam, in the reign of King William.

Na bi rium, don't molest me.

Feuch ris, try it.

Cuir ris, ply your work, exert yourself; cuirear na {132}nithe so ribh, these things shall be added unto you, Matt. vi. 33. Tha an Spiorad ag cur ruinn na saorsa, the Spirit applieth to us the redemption, Assemb. Sh. Catech.

Exposed: tha an craicionn ris, the skin is exposed, or bare; leig ris, expose or make manifest.


Before: roimh 'n charbad, before the chariot; roimh 'n chamhair, before the dawn; roimh na h-uile nithibh, before, in preference to, all things; chuir mi romham, I set before me, purposed, intended.

Imich romhad, go forward; dh' fhalbh e roimhe, he went his way, he went off.


Past: chaidh e seach an dorus, he passed by the door.

In comparison with: is trom a' chlach seach a' chlòineag, the stone is heavy compared with the down.

Tar, thar.

Over, across: chaidh e thar an amhainn, thar a' mhonadh, he went over the river, over the mountain; tha sin thar m' eolas, thar mo bheachd, &c., that is beyond my knowledge, beyond my comprehension, &c.

Tre, troimh, throimh.

Through: tre uisge is tre theine, through water and through fire.


Of Inseparable Prepositions.

The following initial syllables, used only in composition, are prefixed to nouns, adjectives, or verbs, to modify or alter their signification:— {133}

An[92], Di, Ao, ea, eu, eas, Mi, Neo:—Privative syllables signifying not, or serving to change the signification of the words to which they are prefixed into its contrary; as, socair ease, anshocair distress, uneasiness; ciontach guilty, dichiontach innocent; treabh to cultivate, dithreabh an uncultivated place, a desert; dionach tight, close, aodionach leaky; còir justice, eucoir injustice; slàn whole, in health, easlan sick; caraid a friend, eascaraid an enemy; buidheachas gratitude, mibhuidheachas ingratitude; claon awry, neochlaon unbiassed, impartial; duine a man, neodhuine a worthless unnatural creature.

An, ain, intensitive, denoting an immoderate degree, or faulty excess; as, tighearnas dominion, aintighearnas tyranny; tromaich to make heavy, antromaich to make very heavy, to aggravate; teas heat, ainteas excessive heat; miann desire, ainmhiann inordinate desire, lust.

Ais, ath, again, back; as, eirigh rising, aiseirigh resurrection; beachd view, ath-bheachd retrospect; fàs growth, ath-fhàs after-growth.

Bith, continually; as, bithdheanamh doing continually, busy; am bithdheantas incessantly.

Co, com, comh, con, together, equally, mutually; as, gleacadh fighting, co-ghleacadh fighting together; lion to fill, colion to fulfil, accomplish; ith to eat, comith eating together; radh saying, comhradh conversation, speech; trom weight, cothrom equal weight, equity; aois age, comhaois a contemporary.

Im, about, round, entire; as, làn full, iomlan quite complete; gaoth wind, iomghaoth a whirlwind; slainte health, iom-shlainte perfect health.


In, or ion, worthy: as, ion-mholta worthy to be praised: ion-roghnuidh worthy to be chosen, Psal. xxv. 12, metr. vers.

So, easily, gently: as, faicsin seeing, so-fhaicsin easily seen; sion weather, soinion [so-shion] calm weather; sgeul a tale, soisgeul a good tale, gospel.

Do, with difficulty, evil; as, tuigsin understanding, do-thuigsin difficult to be understood; doinion stormy weather; beart deed, exploit. do-bheart evil deed.




Under this class of words, it is proper to enumerate not only those single Particles which are usually denominated Conjunctions; but also the most common phrases which are used as Conjunctions to connect either words or sentences.

Ach; but.

Agus, is; and.

A chionn gu; because that.

A chum as gu; in order that.

A chum as nach; that not.

Air chor as gu; so that.

Air eagal gu, D' eagal gu; for fear that, lest.

Air son gu, Du bhrigh gu; by reason that

Bheil fhios, 'l fhios? is there knowledge? is it known? an expression of curiosity, or desire to know.

Co; as.

Ged, giodh; although[93].


Ged tha, ge ta; though it be, notwithstanding.

Gidheadh; yet, nevertheless.

Gu, gur; that.

Gun fhios; without knowledge, it being uncertain whether or not, in case not.

Ionnas gu; insomuch that, so that.


Ma; if.

Mar; as, like as.

Mar sud agus; so also.

Ma seadh, Ma ta; if so, if it be so, then.

Mur; if not.

Mur bhiodh gu; were it not that.

Mus an, mu 'n; before that, lest.

Na; than.

Nach; that not.

Na'n, na'm; if.

No; or.

O; since, because.

Oir; for.

Os barr; moreover.

Sol, suil; before that.

Tuille eile; further.

Uime sin; therefore.




The syllables or sounds, employed as expressions of various emotions or sensations, are numerous in Gaelic, but for the most part provincial, and arbitrary. Only one or two single vocables, and a few phrases, require to be noticed under this division.

Och! Ochan! alas!

Ochan nan och! alas and well-a-day!

Fire faire! what a pother!

Mo thruaighe! my misery! Mo chreachadh! my despoiling! woe's me!

Mo nàire! my shame, for shame! fy!

H-ugad, at you, take care of yourself, gardez-vous.

Feuch! behold! lo!




Syntax treats of the connection of words with each other in a sentence; and teaches the proper method of expressing their connection by the Collection and the Form of the words. Gaelic Syntax may be conveniently enough explained under the common divisions of Concord and Government.




Under Concord is to be considered the agreement of the Article with its Noun;—of an Adjective with its Noun;—of a Pronoun with its Antecedent;—of a Verb with its Nominative;—and of one Noun with another.

Section I.

Of the Agreement of the Article with a Noun.


The article is always placed before its Noun, and next to it, unless when an Adjective intervenes.


The article agrees with its Noun in Gender, Number, and Case. Final n is changed into m before a plain Labial; as, am baile the town, am fear the man. It is usually cut off before an aspirated Palatal, or Labial, excepting fh; as, a' chaora the sheep, a' mhuc the sow, a' choin of the dog. In the Dat. Sing. initial a is cut off after a Preposition ending in a Vowel; as, do 'n chloich to the stone[94].


A Noun, when immediately preceded by the Article, suffers some changes in Initial Form:—1. With regard to Nouns beginning with a Consonant, the aspirated form is assumed by a mas. Noun in the gen. and dat. singular; by a fem. noun in the nom. and dat. singular. If the Noun begins with s followed by a vowel or by a Liquid, instead of having the s aspirated, t is inserted between the Article and the Noun, in the foresaid cases; and the s becomes entirely quiescent[95]. 2. With regard to Nouns beginning with a Vowel, t or h is inserted between the Article and the Noun in certain Cases, viz. t in the Nom. sing. of mas. Nouns, h in the gen. sing. of fem. Nouns, and h in the nom. and dat. plur. of Nouns of either gender. Throughout the other sing. and plur. Cases, all Nouns retain their Primary form.

The following examples show all the varieties that take place in declining a Noun with the Article.

Nouns beginning with a Labial or a Palatal.

Bard, mas. a Poet.
Sing. Plur.
N. am Bard, na Baird,
G. a' Bhaird, nam Bard,
D. a', 'n Bhard[96]. na Bardaibh.
Cluas, fem. an Ear.
Sing. Plur.
N. a' Chluas, na Cluasan,
G. na Cluaise, nan Cluas,
D. a', 'n Chluais. na Cluasaibh.
{139} Nouns beginning with f.
Fleasgach, m. a Bachelor.
Sing. Plur.
N. am Fleasgach, na Fleasgaich,
G. an Fhleasgaich, nam Fleasgach,
D. an, 'n Fhleasgach. na Fleasgaich.
Fòid, f. a Turf.
Sing. Plur.
N. an Fhòid, na Foidean,
G. na Fòide, nam Fòid,
D. an, 'n Fhòid. na Foidibh.
Nouns beginning with a Lingual.
Dorus, m. a Door.
Sing. Plur.
N. an Dorus, na Dorsan,
G. an Doruis, nan Dorsa,
D. an, 'n Dorus, na Dorsaibh.
Teasach, f. a Fever.
Sing. Plur.
N. an Teasach, na Teasaichean,
G. na Teasaich, nan Teasach,
D. an, 'n Teasaich. na Teasaichibh.
Nouns beginning with s.
Sloc, mas. a Pit.
Sing. Plur.
N. an Sloc, na Sluic,
G. an t-Sluic, nan Sloc,
D. an, 'n t-Sloc. na Slocaibh.
{140} Sùil, fem. an Eye.
Sing. Plur.
N. an t-Sùil, na Suilean,
G. na Sùla nan Sùl,
D. an, 'n t-Sùil. na Suilibh.
Nouns beginning with a Vowel.
Iasg, m. a Fish.
Sing. Plur.
N. an t-Iasg, na h-Iasga,
G. an Eisg, nan Iasg,
D. an, 'n Iasg. na h-Iasgaibh.
Adharc, f. a Horn.
Sing. Plur.
N. an Adharc, na h-Adhaircean,
G. na h-Adhairc, nan Adharc,
D. an, 'n Adhairc. na h-Adhaircibh.

The initial Form of Adjectives immediately preceded by the Article, follows the same rules with the initial Form of Nouns.

Besides the common use of the Article as a Definitive to ascertain individual objects, it is used in Gaelic—

1. Before a Noun followed by the Pronouns so, sin, or ud; as, am fear so, this man; an tigh ud, yon house.

2. Before a Noun preceded by the Verb is and an Adjective; as, is maith an sealgair e, he is a good huntsman; bu luath an coisiche e, he was a swift footman.

3. Before some names of countries; as, righ na Spainne, the king of Spain; chaidh e do 'n Fhrainc, he went to France; but righ Bhreatain, the king of Britain; chaidh e dh' Eirin, he went to Ireland, without the Article. {141}


Section II.

Of the Agreement of an Adjective with a Noun.


When an Adjective and the Noun which it qualifies are in the same clause or member of a sentence, the Adjective is usually placed after its Noun; as, ceann liath, a hoary head; duine ro ghlic, a very wise man. If they be in different clauses, or if the one be in the subject, and the other in the predicate of a proposition, this rule does not apply; as, is glic an duine sin, that is a wise man; cha truagh leam do chor, I do not think your case unfortunate.

1. Numerals, whether Cardinal or Ordinal, to which add, iomadh many, gach every, are placed before their Nouns; as, tri lathan, three days; an treas latha, the third day; iomadh duine, many a man; gach eun g' a nead, every bird to its nest.—Except such instances as the following : Righ Tearlach a h-Aon, King Charles the First; Righ Seumas a Cuig, King James the Fifth.

2. The possessive pronouns mo, do, &c., are always placed before their nouns; as, mo lamh, my hand. The interrogatives co, cia, &c., are placed before their nouns, with the article intervening; as, cia am fear? which man?

3. Some adjectives of one syllable are usually placed before their Nouns; as, deadh dhuine, a good man; droch ghniomh, a bad action; seann sluagh, old people. Such Adjectives, placed before their Nouns, often combine with them, so as to represent one complex idea, rather than two distinct ones; and the adjective and noun, in that situation, may rather be considered as one complex term, than as two distinct words, and written accordingly; as, oigfhear, a young man; ogbhean, a young woman; garbhchriochan, rude regions[97].



Though a Gaelic Adjective possesses a variety of Forms, yet its Form is not always determined by the Noun whose signification it modifies. The Form of the Adjective depends on its Noun, when it immediately follows the Noun, or only with the intervention of an intensitive Particle, ro, gle, &c., and when both the Noun and the Adjective are in the Subject, or both in the Predicate, or in the same clause or member of a sentence. In all other situations, the form of the Adjective does in no respect depend on the Noun; or, in other words, the Adjective does not agree with the Noun[98].

To illustrate this rule, let the following examples be attentively considered:—Is beag orm a' ghaoth fhuar, I dislike the cold wind; is beag orm fuaim na gaoithe fuaire, I dislike the sound of the cold wind; is beag orm seasamh anns a' ghaoith fhuair, I dislike standing in the cold wind. In these examples, the Adjective and the Noun are both in the same clause or member of a sentence, and therefore they must agree together. In the following examples the Adjective and the Noun do not necessarily agree together:—Is fuar a' ghaoth á tuath, cold is the wind from the north; is tric leis a' ghaoith á tuath bhi fuar, it is usual for the wind from the north to be cold. In these examples, the Noun is in the Subject, and the Adjective in the Predicate of the proposition.


The grammatical distinction observable in the following examples is agreeable to the strictest philosophical propriety:—Rinn mis an scian gheur, I made the sharp knife: here the Adjective agrees with the Noun, for it modifies the Noun, distinguishing that knife from others. Rinn mis an scian geur, I made the knife sharp: here the Adjective does not agree with the Noun, for it modifies not the Noun but the Verb. It does not characterize the object on which the operation is performed, hut it combines with the Verb in specifying the nature of the operation performed. The expression is equivalent to gheuraich mi an scian, I sharpened the knife. So also, mhothaich mi a' ghaoth fhuar, I felt the cold wind; but mhothaich mi a' ghaoth fuar, I felt the wind cold. In the former of these examples the Adjective modifies the Noun, and agrees with it; in the latter it does not agree with the Noun, for its use is to modify the Verb, or to specify the nature of the sensation felt. In like manner, dh' fhàg iad an obair criochnaichte, they left the work finished; fhuaradh an òigh sìnte, marbh, the maid was found stretched out dead. And so in other similar instances.


1. When an Adjective and Noun are so situated and related, that an agreement takes place between them, then the Adjective agrees with its noun in Gender, Number, and Case. A Noun preceded by the Numeral da two, though it be in the Singular Number, [see conclusion of Part II. Chap I.] takes an Adjective in the Plural; as, da iasg bheaga, two small fishes, John, vi. 9. The Initial Form of the Adjective depends partly on the Gender of the Noun, partly on its Termination, and partly on its being preceded by the Article.

The following examples of an Adjective declined along with its Noun, exhibit the varieties in the Initial Form, as well as in the Termination of the Adjective:—


Fear mòr, mas. a Great Man.
Without the Article.
Sing. Plur.
N. Fear mòr, Fir mhòra,
G. Fir mhòir, Fheara mòra,
D. Fear mòr, Fearaibh mòra,
V. Fhir mhòir. Fheara mòra.
With the Article.
N. Am Fear mòr, Na Fir mhòra,
G. An Fhir mhòir, Nam Fear mòra,
D. An Fhear mhòr. Na Fearaibh mòra.
Slat gheal, fem. a white rod.
Without the Article.
N. Slat gheal, Slatan geala,
G. Slaite gile, Shlatan geala,
D. Slait ghil, Slataibh geala,
V. Shlat gheal. Shlata geala.
With the Article.
N. An t-Slat gheal, Na Slatan geala,
G. Na Slaite gile, Nan Slata geala,
D. An t-Slait ghil. Na Slataibh geala.
Oglach dileas, m. a Faithful Servant.
Without the Article.
N. Oglach dileas, Oglaich dhileas,
G. Oglaich dhilis, Oglach dileas,
D. Oglach dileas, Oglachaibh dileas,
V. Oglaich dhilis. Oglacha dileas.
{145} With the Article.
N. An t-Oglach dileas, Na h-Oglaich dhileas.
G. An Oglaich dhilis, Nan Oglach dileas.
D. An Oglach dhileas, Na h-Oglachaibh dileas.
Clarsach fhonnmhor, f. a Tuneful Harp.
Without the Article.
N. Clarsach fhonnmhor, Clarsaichean fonnmhor.
G. Clarsaich fonnmhoir, Chlarsach fonnmhor.
D. Clarsaich fhonnmhoir, Clarsaichibh fonnmhor.
V. Chlarsach fhonnmhor, Chlarsaiche fonnmhor.
With the Article.
N. A' Chlarsach fhonnmhor, Na Clarsaichean fonnmhor.
G. Na Clarsaich fonnmhoir, Nan Clarsach fonnmhor.
D. A', 'n Chlarsaich fhonnmhoir, Na Clarsaichibh fonnmhor.

An Adjective, beginning with a Lingual, and preceded by a Noun terminating in a Lingual, retains its primary Form in all the Singular cases; for the sake, it would seem, of preserving the agreeable sound arising from the coalescence of the two Linguals; as, nighean donn a brown maid, instead of nighean dhonn; a' choin duibh of the black dog, instead of a' choin dhuibh; air a' chois deis on his right foot, instead of air a chois dheis.

II. A Noun preceded by an Adjective assumes the aspirated Form; as, ard bheann a high hill, cruaidh dheuchainn a hard trial.

1. A Noun preceded by a Numeral is in the primary Form; as, tri meoir three fingers; to which add iomadh many, gach every; as, iomadh fear many a man; gach craobh every tree.—Except aon one, da two; ceud first; as, aon fhear one man, da chraoibh two trees.

2. A Noun preceded by any of the following Possessive Pronouns, a her, ar our, bhur your, an their, is in the primary {146}Form; as, a mathair her mother, ar brathair our brother. When the Possessive Pronoun a her, precedes a Noun or an Adjective beginning with a vowel, h is inserted between them; as, a h-athair, her father, a h-aon mhac her only son. The Possessive Pronouns ar our, bhur your, usually take n between them and the following Noun or Adjective beginning with a vowel; as, ar n-athair our father, bhur n-aran your bread. Perhaps a distinction ought to be made, by inserting n only after ar, and not after bhur[99]. This would serve often to distinguish the one word from the other in speaking, where they are ready to be confounded by bhur being pronounced ur.

3. A Noun beginning with a Lingual, preceded by an Adjective ending in n, is in the primary Form; as, aon duine one man, seann sluagh old people.


Section III.

Of the Agreement of a Pronoun with its Antecedent.

The Personal and Possessive Pronouns follow the Number of their Antecedents, i.e. of the Nouns which they represent. Those of the 3d Pers. Sing. follow also the Gender of their antecedent; as, sheas a'bhean aig a chosaibh, agus thoisich i air am fliuchadh leis a deuraibh, agus thiormaich i iad le gruaig a cinn, the woman stood at his feet, and she began to wet them with her tears, and she wiped them with the hair of her head, Luke vii. 38. They follow, however, not the Gender of the Antecedent, but the sex of the creature signified by the Antecedent, in those words in which Sex and Gender disagree, as, an gobhlan-gaoithe mar an ceudn' do sholair nead dh'i fein the swallow too hath provided a nest for herself, Psal. lxxxiv. 3. Gobhlan-gaoithe a swallow, is a mas. Noun, as appears by the mas. Article: but as it is the dam that is spoken of, the reference is made by the Personal Pronoun of the fem. gender. Ta gliocas air a fireanachadh leis a cloinn Wisdom {147}is justified by her children, Matt. xi. 19. Gliocas is a mas. noun; but as Wisdom is here personified as a female, the regimen of the Possessive Pronoun is adapted to that idea[100]. See also Prov. ix. 1-3. In this sentence Och nach b' i mhaduinn e, Deut. xxviii. 67, the former pronoun i is correctly put in the fem. gender, as referring to the fem. noun maduinn; while the latter pron. e is put in the mas. gend. because referring to no expressed antecedent.

If the Antecedent be a sentence, or clause of a sentence, the Pronoun is of the 3d Pers. Sing. masculine; as, dh' ith na bà caola suas na bà reamhra, agus cha n-aithnichteadh orra e, the lean cattle ate up the fat cattle, and could not be known by them.

If the Antecedent be a collective Noun, the Pronoun is of the 3d Pers. Plur. as, thoir àithne do 'n t-sluagh, d' eagal gu m bris iad asteach charge the people lest they break in, Exod. xix. 21.

An Interrogative combined with a Personal Pronoun, asks a question without the intervention of the Substantive verb; as, co mise? who [am] I? co iad na daoine sin? who [are] those men? cia i a' cheud àithne? which [is] the first commandment? In interrogations of this form, the noun is sometimes preceded by the Personal Pronoun, and sometimes not; as, co e am fear? who [is] the man? co am fear? what man? Co am fear? is evidently an incomplete sentence, like what man? in English. The ellipsis may be supplied thus; co e am fear a ta thu ciallachadh? who is the man whom you mean? This example may be abridged into another common interrogation, in which the Interrogative is immediately followed by the Relative; as, co a ta thu ciallachadh? who [is he] whom you mean? ciod a ta thu faicinn? what [is it] that you see?

In an interrogative sentence including a Personal Pronoun and a Noun, as, co e am fear sin? if the Noun be restricted in {148}its signification by some other words connected with it, such as the Article, an Adjective, another Noun in the Genitive, or a relative clause, then the Pronoun usually follows the Gender of the Noun, or the Sex of the object signified by the Noun, if the Gender does not correspond to it; as, co e am fear a theid a suas? who is the man that shall ascend? co i am boirionnach sin? who is that woman? cia i a' cheud àithne? which is the first commandment? If the Noun be not so restricted, the Pronoun is of the masculine gender; as, ciod e uchdmhacachd? what is adoption? ciod e urnuigh? what is prayer?[101]



Section IV.

Of the Agreement of a Verb with its Nominative.

As the Verb has no variation of form corresponding to the Person or Number of its Nominative, the connection between a Verb and its Nominative can be marked only by its collocation. Little variety therefore is allowed in this respect. The Nominative, whether Noun or Pronoun, is ordinarily placed after the Verb; as, ta mi I am, rugadh duine-cloinne a man-child is born[102]. The Article or an Adjective, is frequently {150}placed between the Verb and its Nominative; as, thainig an uair, the hour is come; aithrisear iomadh droch sgeul, many an evil tale will be told. Sometimes, but more rarely, circumstances are expressed beween the Verb and its Nominative; as, rugadh dhuinne, an diugh, ann am baile Dhaibhi, an Slanuighear, there is born to us, this day, in David's town, the Saviour.

The word denoting the object of the verbal action, can never, even in poetry, be placed between the Verb and its Nominative, without altering the sense. Hence the arrangement in the following passages is incorrect:—Ghabh domblas agus fiongeur iad, they took gall and vinegar. "Buch. Gael. Poems," Edin. 1767. p. 14. The collocation should have been ghabh iad domblas, &c. Do chual e 'n cruinne-cé, the world heard it, id. p. 15, ought to have been, do chual an cruinne-cé e. So also, do ghabh truaighe, Iosa dhoibh, Jesus took pity {151}on them. Matt. xx. 34, Irish vers. It ought to have been, do ghabh Iosa truaighe, &c.[103].

The Relatives a who, nach who not, are always put before the verb; as, am fear a thuit, the man who fell; am fear nach dean beud, the man who will not commit a fault.

In poetry, or poetical style, where inversion is allowed, the Nominative is sometimes placed before the Verb; as doimhneachd na talmhain ta 'n a laimh, in his hand is the depth of the earth. Psal. xcv. 4.

Oigh cha tig le clàr 'n an comhdhail,

No virgin with harp will come to meet them.

Smith's "Ant. Gal. Poems," p. 285.

Gach doire, gach coire, 's gach eas,

Bheir a' m' chuimhne cneas mo Ghraidh.

Each grove, each dell, and each water-fall, will bring to my remembrance the form of my love. Id. p. 30.

An la sin cha tigh gu bràth,

A bheir dearrsa mo ghraidh gu tuath.

That day shall never come, which shall bring the sun-beam of my love to the North. Fingal II. 192.

Am focail geilleam do Mhorlamh;

Mo lann do neach beo cha gheill.

In words I yield to Morla; my sword to no living man shall yield. Fing. II. 203. This inversion is never admitted into plain discourse or unimpassioned narrative.

In those Persons of the Verb in which the terminations supply the place of the Personal Pronouns, no Nominative is expressed along with the Verb. In all the other Persons of the Verb, a Noun or a Pronoun is commonly expressed as its Nominative. In sentences of a poetical structure, the Nominative is sometimes, though rarely, omitted; as, am fear nach {152}gabh 'nuair gheibh, cha 'n fhaigh 'nuair 's aill, the man who will not take when [he] can get, will not get when [he] wishes.

A Gharna, cuim a sheas? a Ghuill, cuim a thuit?

Garno, why stoodst? Gaul, why didst fall?

Smith's "Ant. Gal. Poems," p. 153.

The Infinitive often takes before it the Nominative of the Agent; in which case the Preposition do is either expressed or understood before the Infinitive; as, feuch, cia meud a mhaith, braithre do bhi 'n an comhnuidh ann sith! behold how great a good it is, that brethren dwell in peace! Psal. cxxxiii, 1. Is e mi dh' fhantuinn 's an fheoil, a 's feumaile dhuibhse, my abiding in the flesh is more needful for you, Phil. i. 24, Cha n'eil e iomchuidh sinne dh' fhagail focail Dé, agus a fhrithealadh do bhordaibh, it is not meet that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables, Acts vi. 2. The Preposition do, being softened as usual into a, readily disappears after a Vowel; as, air son mi bhi a rìs a lathàir maille ribh, by my being again present with you, Phil. i. 26[104].


Section V.

Of the Agreement of one Noun with Another.

When in the same sentence two or more Nouns, applied as names to the same object, stand in the same grammatical relation to other words, it should naturally be expected that their Form, in so far as it depends on that relation, should be the same; in other words, that Nouns denoting the same object, and related alike to the governing word, should agree in Case. This accordingly happens in Greek and Latin. In Gaelic, where a variety of form gives room for the application of the same rule, it has been followed in some instances; as, Doncha mac Chailain mhic Dhonuil, Duncan the son of {153}Colin the son of Donald; where the words Chailain and mhic denoting the same person, and being alike related to the preceding Noun mac are on that account both in the same Case. It must be acknowledged, however, that this rule, obvious and natural as it is, has not been uniformly observed by the speakers of Gaelic. For example; instead of mac Ioseiph an t-saoir, the son of Joseph the carpenter, many would more readily say, mac Ioseiph an saor; instead of thuit e le laimh Oscair an laoich chruadalaich, he fell by the hand of Oscar the bold hero, it would rather be said, thuit e le laimh Oscair an laoch cruadalach. The latter of these two modes of expression may perhaps be defended on the ground of its being elliptical; and the ellipsis may be supplied thus: mac Ioseiph [is e sin] an saor; laimh Oscair [neach is e] an laoch cruadalach. Still it must be allowed, in favour of the rule in question, that the observance of it serves to mark the relation of the Nouns to each other, which would otherwise remain, in many instances, doubtful. Thus in one of the foregoing examples, if we should reject the rule, and write mac Ioseiph an saor; it would be impossible to know, from the form of the words, whether Joseph or his son were the carpenter.

The translators of the Scriptures into Gaelic, induced probably by the reasonableness and utility of the rule under consideration, by the example of the most polished Tongues, and by the usage of the Gaelic itself in some phrases, have uniformly adhered to this rule when the leading Noun was in the Genitive; as, do mhacaibh Bharsillai a' Ghileadaich, 1 Kings ii. 7; righ-chathair Dhaibhi athar, 1 Kings ii. 12; do thaobh Bheniamin am brathar, Judg. xxi. 6; ag gabhail nan clar chloiche, eadhon chlar a' cho-cheangail, Deut. ix. 9. The rule seems to have been disregarded when the leading Noun was in the Dative. See 1 Kings i. 25, Ruth iv. 5, Acts xiii. 33. {154}




Under this head is to be explained the Government of Nouns, of Adjectives, of Verbs, of Prepositions, and of Conjunctions.


Section I.

Of the Government of Nouns.

One Noun governs another in the Genitive. The Noun governed is always placed after that which governs it; as, ceann tighe, the head of a house or family; solus na gréine, light of the sun; bainne ghabhar milk of goats.

The Infinitives of Transitive Verbs, being themselves Nouns, (See Part II. Chap. V. p. 86.) govern in like manner the Genitive of their object; as, ag cur sìl, sowing seed; a dh' fhaicinn an t-sluaigh, to see the people; iar leughadh an t-soisgeil, after reading the gospel[105].

Although no good reason appears why this rule, which is common to the Gaelic with many other languages, should ever be set aside, yet it has been set aside in speaking, and sometimes in writing Gaelic.

1. When the Noun governed does in its turn govern another Noun in the Genitive, the former is often put in the Nominative instead of the Genitive case. The following instances of this anomaly occur in the Gaelic Scriptures:—Guth briathran an t-sluaigh, instead of, bhriathran, the voice of the words of the people, Deut. v. 28; do mheas craobhan a' gharaidh, instead of, chraobhan, of the fruit of the trees of the garden, {155}Gen. iii. 2; ag itheadh tighean bhantrach, for thighean, devouring widows' houses, Matt. xxiii. 14; ag nochdadh obair an lagha, for oibre, showing the work of the law, Rom. ii. 15; ag cuimhneachadh gun sgur obair bhur creidimh, agus saothair bhur graidh, for oibre, saoithreach, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, 1 Thess. i. 3; trid fuil is fearta Chriost, through the blood and merits of Christ, Gael. Paraph. 1787, p. 381, for trid fola Chriost, as in Eph. ii. 13; ag àiteach sliabh Shioin, for sleibh, inhabiting the hill of Zion, Psal. ix. 11. metr; air son obair Chriosd, Phil. ii. 30, 1767, according to the usage of the language, but changed to oibre, in Edit. 1796, to suit the Grammatical Rule[106]. For the most part, however, the general rule, even in these circumstances, is followed; as, guth fola do bhrathar, the voice of thy brother's blood, Gen. iv. 10; amhainn duthcha cloinne a shluaigh the river of the land of the children of his people, Numb. xxii. 5; a' nigheadh chos sheirbhiseach mo thighearna, to wash the feet of the servants of my lord, 1 Sam. xxv. 41.

2. Such expressions as the following seem to be exceptions to the rule:—Dithis mac, 2 Sam. xv. 27, 36; ceathrar mac, 1 Chron. xxi. 20; leanabaibh mac, Matt. ii. 16. In the following similar instances, the rule is observed:—Dithis mhac, Gen. xli. 50; dithis fhear, 2 Sam. xii. 1; ceathrar fhear, Acts xxi. 23; ceathrar mhaighdiona, Acts xxi. 9.

The same anomaly takes place in the regimen of the infinitive, as in that of other Nouns. Though an Infinitive be in that grammatical relation to a preceding Noun which would require its being put in the Genitive, yet when itself also governs another noun in the Genitive, it often retains the form of the Nominative. The Infinitives naomhachadh, gnathachadh, briseadh, admit of a regular Genitive, naomhachaidh, gnathachaidh, brisidh. In the following examples, {156}these Infinitives, because they govern a subsequent Noun in the Genitive, are themselves in the Nominative, though their relation to the preceding word naturally requires their being put in the Genitive Case. Tha an treas àithne a' toirmeasg mi-naomhachadh no mi-ghnathachadh ni sam bith, &c., the third commandment forbids the profaning or the abusing of any thing, &c. Assem. Cat. Gael. Edin. 1792, Answer to Q. 55. Ged fheud luchdbriseadh na h-aithne so dol as, &c., id. Q. 56., though the transgressors of this commandment may escape, &c. Cuis crathadh cinn is casadh béil, Psal. xxii. 7, as it is in the older edition of the Gaelic Psalms. An deigh leughadh an lagha, after the reading of the Law, Acts. xiii. 15; luchd cumadh uilc, Rom. i. 30[107].

The Infinitive is not put in the Genitive, when preceded {157}by a Possessive Pronoun, because it is in the same limited state as if it governed a Noun in the Genitive Case; as, a chum am marbhadh 's na beanntaibh, to kill them in the mountains, Exod. xxxii., not marbhaidh, which is the Case regularly governed by chum. Co tha 'g iarraidh do mharbhadh? John vii. 20, not do mharbhaidh. Thug iad leo e chum a cheusadh. Matt. xxvii. 31. Chum an cruinneachadh gu cath. Rev. xx. 8[108].

This coincidence in the Regimen of the Infinitive in two similar situations, viz., when limited by a Possessive Pronoun, and when limited by a subsequent Noun, furnishes no slight argument in support of the construction defended above, of putting the Infin. in the Nom. case when itself governs a Noun in the Genitive; for we find the Infin. is invariably put in the Nom. when limited in its signification by a Possess. Pronoun.

When one Noun governs another in the Genitive, the Article is never joined to both, even though each be limited in its signification, as, mac an righ, the son of the king, not am mac an righ; taobh deas a' bhaile, the south side of the town, not an taobh deas a' bhaile[109]. For the most part, the Article is thus joined to the latter Noun. Sometimes it is joined to the former Noun; as, an ceann tighe, the head of the family; an ceann iuil, the pilot; but in such instances the two Nouns figure as one complex term, like paterfamilias, rather than as two terms. The following examples, in which the Article is joined to both Nouns, seem to be totally repugnant to the Gaelic idiom: cuimhneachadh nan cùig aran nan cùig mìle, Matt. xvi. 9; nan seachd aran nan ceithir mìle, Matt. xvi. 10[110].


A Possessive Pronoun joined to the Noun governed excludes, in like manner, the Article from the Noun governing; as, barr-iall a bhròige, the latchet of his shoe, not am barr-iall a bhròige; obair bhur lamh, the work of your hands, not an obair bhur lamh.

The Noun governed is sometimes in the Primary, sometimes in the Aspirated Form.

Proper Names of the Masculine Gender are in the Aspirated Form; as, bràthair Dhonuill, Donald's brother; uaigh Choluim, Columba's grave. Except when a final and an initial Lingual meet; as, clann Donuill, Donald's descendants; beinn Deirg Dargo's hill.

When both Nouns are Appellatives, and no word intervenes between them, the initial Form of the latter Noun follows, for the most part, that of an Adjective agreeing with the former Noun. See p. 144.

Thus, d' a ghàradh fiona, g' a ghàradh fiona, without the Article, Matt, xx. 1, 2, like do dhuine maith; but do 'n ghàradh fhiona, with the Article v. 4, 7, like do 'n duine mhaith. So we should say do 'n ard fhear-chiuil, rather than do 'n ard fhear-ciuil, as in the title of many of the Psalms.

Except.—If the latter Noun denote an individual of a species, that is, if it take the Article a before it in English, it is put in the primary form, although the former Noun be feminine; as, sùil caraid, the eye of a friend, not sùil charaid, like sùil mhor, duais fàidh, a prophet's reward, Matt. x. 4, not duais fhàidh, like duais mhòr. Chum maitheanais peacaidh, Acts, ii. 38, signifies for the remission of a sin; rather chum maitheanais pheacaidh for the remission of sin.



Section II.

Of the Government of Adjectives.

Adjectives of fulness govern the Genitive; as, làn uamhainn full of dread, Acts, ix. 6, buidheach beidh, satisfied with meat.

The first Comparative takes the Particle na than, before the following Noun; as, ni 's gile na an sneachdadh, whiter than the snow, b' fhaide gach mios na bliadhna, each month seemed longer than a year. Smith's "Ant. Poems," p. 9.

The second Comparative is construed thus: is feairrd mi so, I am the better for this; bu mhisd e am buille sin, he was the worse for that blow; cha truimid a' choluinn a ciall, the body is not the heavier for its understanding.

Superlatives are followed by the Preposition de or dhe of; as, am fear a 's àirde dhe 'n triuir, the man who is tallest of the three, the tallest man of the three.


Section III.

Of the Government of Verbs.

A Transitive Verb governs its object in the Nominative or Objective Case; as, mharbh iad an righ, they killed the king; na buail mi, do not strike me. The object is commonly placed after the Verb, but never between the Verb and its Nominative. [See Part III. Chap. I., Sect. IV.] Sometimes the object is placed, by way of emphasis, before the Verb; as, mise chuir e rìs ann am àite, agus esan chroch e, me he put again in my place, and him he hanged, Gen. xli. 13. An t-each agus a mharcach thilg e 's an fhairge, the horse and his rider hath he cast into the sea, Exod. xv. 1.

Many Transitive Verbs require a Preposition before their object; as, iarr air Donull, desire Donald; labhair ri Donull, speak to Donald; leig le Donull, let Donald alone; beannuich do Dhonull, salute Donald; fiosraich de Dhonull, enquire of Donald. {160}

Bu was, requires the following initial Consonant to be aspirated; as, bu mhaith dhuit, it was good for you; bu chruaidh an gnothuch, it was a hard case; except initial d, and t which are not aspirated; as, bu dual duit, it was natural for you; bu trom an eallach, the burden was heavy; bu ghearr a lo, 's bu dubh a sgeul, short was her course, and sad was her story. Smith's "Ant. Poems."


Section IV.

Of the Government of Adverbs.

The collocation of Adverbs is for the most part arbitrary.

The Adverbs ro, gle, very, are placed before the Adjectives they modify, and require the following initial Consonant to be aspirated; as, ro bheag, very little; gle gheal, very white.

The Negative cha or cho not, when followed by a word beginning with a Labial or Palatal, requires the initial Consonant to be aspirated; as, cha mhòr e, it is not great; cha bhuail mi, I will not strike; cha chuala mi, I did not hear; but an initial Lingual remains unaspirated; as, cha dean mi, I will not do; cha tog e, he will not raise; cha soirbhich iad, they will not prosper. N is inserted between cha and an initial Vowel or an aspirated f; as, cha n-e, it is not; cha n-éigin, it is not necessary; cha n-fhaca mi, I saw not.

The Negative ni requires h before an initial Vowel; as, ni h-iad, they are not; ni h-eudar, it may not.


Section V.

Of the Government of Prepositions.

The Proper Prepositions aig, air, &c., govern the Dative; as, aig mo chois, at my foot; air mo laimh, on my hand. They are always placed before the word they govern. The following Prepositions require the Noun governed to be put in the Aspirated Form, viz., de, do, fuidh, fo, fa, gun, mar, mu, o, tre. Air sometimes governs the Noun in the Aspirated Form; as, air bharraibh sgiath na gaoithe, on the extremities of the {161}wings of the wind, Psal. xviii. 10. Gun governs either the Nominative or Dative; as, gun chrioch, without end, Heb. vii. 16; gun chéill, without understanding, Psal. xxxii. 9; gun chloinn, Gen. xv. 2. Mar, and gus or gu, when prefixed to a Noun without the Article, usually govern the Dative case; as, mar nighin, as a daughter, 2 Sam. xii. 13; mar amhainn mhòir, like a great river, Psal. cv. 41; gu crìch mo shaoghail fein, to the end of my life-time, Psal. cxix. 33, xlviii. 10. But if the Article be joined to the Noun, it is governed in the Nominative; as, mar a' ghrian, like the sun, Psal. lxxxix. 36, 37; gus an sruth, to the stream, Deut. iii. 16; gus a' chrioch, to the end, Heb. iii. 6, 14. Eadar governs the Nom.; as, eadar a' chraobh agus a' chlach, between the tree and the stone. Eadar, when signifying between, requires the Primary Form; as, eadar maighstir agus muinntireach, between a master and a servant; when it signifies both, it requires the Aspirated Form; as, eadar shean agus òg, both old and young; eadar fheara agus mhnai, both men and women, Acts viii. 12.

The Prepositions as, gus, leis, ris, are used before the Monosyllables an, am, a'. The corresponding Prepositions a, gu, le, ri, often take an h before an initial Vowel; as, a h-Eirin, out of Ireland; gu h-ealamh, readily; le h-eagal, with fear.

The Improper Prepositions govern the following Noun in the Genitive; as, air feadh na tìre, throughout the land; an aghaidh an t-sluaigh, against the people; ré na h-ùine, during the time. It is manifest that this Genitive is governed by the Noun feadh, aghaidh, ré, &c., which is always included in the Preposition. See Part II. Chap. VII.

Prepositions are often prefixed to a Clause of a sentence; and then they have no regimen; as, gus am bord a ghiulan, to carry the table, Exod. xxv. 27; luath chum fuil a dhortadh, swift to shed blood, Rom. iii. 15. Edit. 1767; an déigh an obair a chriochnachadh, after finishing the work. {162}


Section VI.

Of the Government of Conjunctions.

The Conjunctions agus and, no or, couple the same Cases of Nouns; as, air feadh chreagan agus choilltean, through rocks and woods; ag reubadh nam bruach 's nan crann, tearing the banks and the trees. When two or more Nouns, coupled by a Conjunction, are governed in the Dative by a Preposition, it is usual to repeat the Preposition before each Noun; as, air fad agus air leud, in length and in breadth; 'n an cridhe, 'n an cainnt, agus 'n am beus, in their heart, in their speech, and in their behaviour.

Co as, prefixed to an Adjective, commonly requires the initial consonant of the Adj. to be aspirated; as, co mhaith, as good, co ghrinn, as fine. But sometimes we find co mòr, as great, co buan, as durable, &c., without the aspirate. Sometimes the aspirate is transferred from the Adj. to the Conjunct. as, cho beag, as little, for co bheag. In the North Highlands, an adjective preceded by co is commonly put in the Comparative form; as, co miosa, as bad; co treise, as strong.

The Conjunctions mur if not, gu, gur that, are always joined to the Negative Mood; as, mur 'eil mi, if I be not; gu robh e, that he was. M or n is often inserted, euphoniæ causa, between gu and an initial Consonant; viz., m before a Labial, n before a Palatal or Lingual; as, gu-m faca tu, that you saw; gu-n dubhairt iad, that they said[111].

The Conjunctions ma if, o, o'n because, since, are joined to the Pres. and Pret. Affirmative, and Fut. Subjunctive; as, ma ta e, if he be; o'n tha e, since he is; ma bhuail e, if he struck; o'n bhuail e, because he struck; ma bhuaileas tu, if you strike; o bhitheas sinn, since we shall be.

Na'm, na'n if, is joined only to the Pret. Subjunctive. {163}The initial Consonant of the Verb loses its aspiration after this Conjunction; as, na'm bithinn, if I were; nan tuiteadh a' chraobh, if the tree should fall.

Ged although, is used before the Present and Preterite Affirmative, the Fut. Negative, and the Pret. Subjunctive; as, ged tha e, though he be; ged bha mi, though I was; ge do bhuail thu mi, though you struck me; ged bhuail thu mi, though you strike me; ged bheireadh e dhomh, though he should give me[112].






The Parts of Speech which are formed by derivation from other words are Nouns, Adjectives, and Verbs. These are chiefly derived from Nouns and Adjectives, and a few from Verbs.

I. Nouns.

Derivative Nouns may be classed as follows, according to the varieties of their termination.

1. Abstract Nouns in as, formed from Adjectives or Nouns; as, from ceart just, ceartas justice; from diomhan idle, vain, diomhanas idleness, vanity; from caraid a friend, cairdeas contracted for caraideas friendship; from namhaid an enemy, naimhdeas contracted for namhaideas enmity.

2. Abstract Nouns in achd, formed from Adjectives, and sometimes, though more rarely, from Verbs and Nouns; as, from naomh holy, naomhachd holiness; from domhain deep, doimhneachd contracted for domhaineachd depth; from righ a king, rioghachd a kingdom; coimhid to keep, coimheadachd keeping; clachair a mason, clachaireachd mason-work; gobhain a smith, goibhneachd contracted for gobhaineachd iron-work, or rather the trade or occupation of a smith.

3. Abstract Nouns formed from the genitive of Adjectives, by adding e; as, from dall gen. doill blind, doille blindness; from geal gen. gil white, gile whiteness; from leasg gen. leisg lazy, leisge laziness; tearc gen. teirc rare, teirce rarity; trom gen. truim heavy, truime heaviness; truagh gen. truaigh unhappy, truaighe misery; uasal gen. {165}uasail noble, uasaile contr. uaisle or by metath. uailse nobility.

4. Abstract Nouns in ad, formed from the Comparative of Adjectives, and used in speaking of the degree of a quality; as, gilead whiteness, boidhchead beauty, doimhnead depth, lughad smallness, tainead thinness; these are construed with the Prepositions de, air; as, cha n-fhaca mi a samhuil air bhoidhchead, I have not seen her match for beauty; air a lughad or d' a lughad, however small it be.

5. Nouns in air or oir, ach, iche, derived, most of them, from nouns, and signifying persons or agents, as, pìobair a player on the pipe, from pìob a pipe; clàrsair a player on the harp, from clàrsach a harp; cealgair or cealgoir a deceiver, from cealg deceit; sealgair or sealgoir a huntsman, from sealg hunting; marcach a rider, from marc a horse; athach a man of terror, a gigantic figure, from atha fear; oibriche a workman, from obair work; sgeulaiche a reciter of tales, from sgeul a tale; ceannaiche a merchant, from ceannaich to buy[113].

6. Diminutives in an, and in ag or og, formed from Nouns or Adjectives; as, lochan a small lake, from loch a lake; from braid theft, bradag a thievish girl; from ciar dark-coloured, ciarag a little dark-coloured creature. These Diminutives are often formed from the Genitive of their Primitives; as, from feur gen. feoir grass, feoirnean a pile of grass; moll gen. muill chaff, muillean a particle of chaff; folt gen. fuilt hair, fuiltean a single hair; clag gen. cluig a bell, cluigean a little bell; gual gen. guail coal, guailnean a cinder; smùr gen. smùir dust, smùirnean a particle of dust, a mote; clòimh plumage, clòimhneag a small feather, a flake of snow.

Some Nouns are formed in an, which are not Diminutives; as, from lùb to bend, lùban a bow; from buail to beat, thresh, {166}buailtean a beater, or thresher, applied to that part of the flail which threshes out the grain.

7. Collective Nouns in ridh or ri, derived from Nouns or Adjectives; as, from òg young, òigridh youth, in the collective sense of the word; from mac a son, macruidh sons, young men, Psal. cxlviii. 12;[114] from laoch a hero, laochruidh a band of heroes, Psal. xxix. 1. Macfarlan's Paraph. vi. 15, from ceol music, ceolraidh the muses. A. Macdonald's Songs, p. 7, from cos the foot, coisridh infantry, a party on foot. McIntyre's Songs, Edin. 1768, p. 110, from gas a lad, gasradh a band of domestic attendants. O'Brien's Ir. Dict. voc. gas; eachradh, eachruith cavalry, Fingal. IV. 299, Carthon, 59.—This termination is probably the Noun ruith a troop. See Lhuyd et O'Brien, in voc.[115]

8. Nouns in ach, chiefly Patronymics, formed from Proper Names, thus; from Donull Donald, is formed Donullach a man of the name of Macdonald; from Griogar Gregor, Griogarach a Macgregor; so Leodach a Macleod, Granntach a Grant, &c., from Albainn Scotland, Albannach a Scotsman; from Eirin Ireland, Eirineach an Irishman. These Nouns form their Plural regularly, Donullaich, Leodaich, Albannaich, Eirinich. So the following Gentile Nouns, which occur in the Gaelic Scriptures, are regularly formed from their respective Primitives, Partuich Parthians, Medich Medes, Elamuich Elamites, Acts ii. 9. Macedonaich Macedonians, 2 Cor. ix. 2, 4. See also Gen. xv. 19, 20, 21; Exod. xxiii. 23, 28.[116].


9. Collective Nouns in ach; as, duille a leaf, duilleach foliage; giuthas fir, giuthasach a fir wood; iughar yew, iugharach a yew copse; fiadh a deer, fiadhach deer, a herd of deer; crion diminutive, shrunk, crionach decayed wood.

II. Adjectives.

1. Adjectives in ach, formed generally from Nouns; as, from fìrinn truth, fìrinneach true, faithful; from sunnt glee, sunntach cheerful; cràdh pain, cràiteach painful; togradh desire, togarrach willing, desirous.

2. Adjectives in mhor or or, derived from Nouns; as, from àdh felicity, adhmhor happy, blessed; from feoil flesh, feolmhor carnal; from neart strength, neartmhor strong.

3. Adjectives in ail derived from Nouns; as, from fear man, fearail manful; from caraid a friend, cairdail contr. for caraidail friendly; from namhaid an enemy, naimhdail contr. for namhaidail hostile; from sùrd alertness, surdail alert[117].

4. A few Adjectives in ta or da, derived from Nouns; as, Gaelta belonging to the Gael; Eireanda Irish; Romhanta Roman; Kirk. fìreanta righteous, Matt. xxiii. 35.

III. Verbs.

Verbs in ich, for the most part Transitive, and implying causation, derived from Nouns or Adjectives; as, from geal {168}white, gealaich to whiten; naomh holy, naomhaich to sanctify; cruinn round, cruinnich to gather together; lamh the hand, laimhsich to handle; cuimhne memory, cuimhnich to remember. A few are Intransitive; as, from crith tremor, criothnuich to tremble; fann feeble, fannuich to faint.




All compound words in Gaelic consist of two component parts, exclusive of the derivative terminations enumerated in the preceding Chapter. Of these component parts, the former may be conveniently named the Prepositive, the latter the Subjunctive term. It sometimes happens, though rarely, that the Subjunctive term also is a compound word, which must itself be decompounded in order to find out the Root.

In compounding words, the usual mode has been, to prefix to the term denoting the principal idea the word denoting the accessory idea or circumstance by which the signification of the principal word is modified. Accordingly we find Nouns, Adjectives, and Verbs modified by prefixing to them a Noun, an Adjective, a Verb, or a Preposition.

In forming compound words, a Rule of very general application is, that when the Subjunctive term begins with a Consonant, it is aspirated. From this Rule, however, are to be excepted, 1. Words beginning with s followed by a mute, which never admit the aspirate; 2. Words beginning with a Lingual when the Prepositive term ends in n; 3. A few other instances in which there is an euphonic agreement between the Consonants thus brought into apposition, which would be violated if either of them were aspirated.

These observations will be found exemplified in the following Compounds:— {169}

I. Words Compounded with a Noun prefixed.

Nouns Compounded with a Noun.

Beart dress, equipage, ceann head—ceann-bheart head-dress, armour for the head.

Fàinn a ring, cluas the ear—cluas-fhainn an ear-ring.

Galar a distemper, crith shaking—crith-ghalar distemper attended with shaking, the palsy.

Oglach a servant, bean (in composition, ban) a woman—banoglach a female servant.

Fàidh a prophet, ban-fhaidh a prophetess.

Tighearn a lord, baintighearn a lady.

Adjectives Compounded with a Noun.

Geal white, bian the skin—biangheal white-skinned.

Lom bare, cas the foot—caslom bare-foot; ceann the head—ceannlom bare-headed.

Biorach pointed, sharp, cluas the ear—cluasbhiorach having pointed ears.

Verbs Compounded with a Noun.

Luaisg to rock or toss, tonn a wave—tonn-luaisg to toss on the waves.

Sleamhnuich to slide, cùl the back—cùl-sleamhnuich to back-slide.

Folaich to hide, feall deceit—feall-fholaich to lie in wait.

II. Words Compounded with an Adjective Prefixed.

Nouns Compounded with an Adjective.

Uisge water, fior true, genuine—fioruisge spring-water.

Airgiod silver, beo alive—beo-airgiod quick-silver.

Sgolt a crack, crion shrunk, decayed—crionsgolt a fissure in wood caused by drought or decay.

Criochan bounds, regions, garbh rough—garbhchriochan rude mountainous regions. {170}

Adjectives Compounded with an Adjective.

Donn brown, dubh black—dubh-dhonn dark-brown.

Gorm blue, dubh black—dubh-ghorm dark-blue.

Briathrach (not in use) from briathar a word, deas ready—deas-bhriathrach of ready speech, eloquent.

Seallach (not in use) from sealladh sight, geur sharp—geur-sheallach sharp-sighted.

Verbs Compounded with an Adjective.

Ruith to run, dian keen, eager—dian-ruith to run eagerly.

Lean to follow, geur sharp, severe—geur-lean to persecute.

Buail to strike, trom heavy—trom-buail to smite sore, discomfit.

Ceangail to bind, dlùth closer—dlùth-cheangail to bind fast.

III. Words Compounded with a Verb prefixed.

Art a stone, tarruing to draw—tarruing-art load-stone.

Sùil the eye, meall to beguile—meall-shuil a leering eye.

IV. Words Compounded with a Preposition.

Radh a saying, roimh before—roimh-radh preface, prologue.

Solus light, eadar between—eadar-sholus twilight.

Mìnich to explain, eadar-mhìnich to interpret.

Gearr to cut, timchioll about—timchioll-ghearr circumcise.

Lot to wound, troimh through—troimh-lot to stab, pierce through.

Examples of words compounded with an inseparable Preposition are already given in Part II. Chap. VII.

Compound Nouns retain the gender of the principal Nouns in their simple state. Thus crith-ghalar palsy, is masculine, because the principal Noun, Galar distemper, is masculine, although the accessary Noun crith, by which galar is qualified, be feminine. So cìs-mhaor is masculine though cìs be a feminine Noun, Luke xviii. 11; cìs-mheasadh ought also to be masculine, Acts v. 37. Except Nouns compounded with {171}Bean woman, which are all feminine, though the simple principal Noun be masculine, because the compound word denotes an object of the female sex; as, oglach a servant, masculine, but banoglach a maid-servant, feminine, caraid a friend, masculine, bancharaid a female friend, feminine.

Compound words are declined in the same manner as if they were uncompounded.

In writing compound words, the component parts are sometimes separated by a hyphen, and sometimes not. The use of the hyphen does not seem to be regulated by any uniform practice. In the case of two vowels coming in apposition, the insertion of a hyphen seems indispensable; because, by the analogy of Gaelic orthography, two Vowels, belonging to different syllables, are scarcely ever placed next to each other without some mark of separation[118]. Thus so-aomaidh, easily induced, propense; so-iomchair, easily carried; do-innsidh, difficult to be told; and not soamaidh, doinnsidh, &c., without the hyphen.

It was formerly remarked, Part I., that almost all Gaelic Polysyllables are accented on the first syllable. When, in pronouncing compound words, the accent is placed on the first syllable, the two terms appear to be completely incorporated into one word. When, on the other hand, the accent is placed, not on the first syllable of the Compound, but on the first syllable of the Subjunctive term, the two terms seem to retain their respective powers, and to produce their effect separately, and instead of being incorporated into one word, to be rather collaterally connected. A rule may then be derived from the pronunciation for the use of the hyphen in writing Compounds, viz., to insert the hyphen between the component parts, when the Prepositive term is not accented. Thus it is proposed to write aineolach ignorant, antromaich to exaggerate, comhradh conversation, dobheart a bad action, {172}soisgeul Gospel, banoglach a maidservant, &c., without a hyphen; but to write an-fhiosrach unacquainted, ban-fhiosaiche a female fortune-teller, co-fhreagarach corresponding, so-fhaicsin easily seen, &c., with a hyphen[119]. By this rule, a correspondence is maintained, not only between the writing and the pronunciation, but likewise between the written language and the ideas expressed by it. A complex idea, whose parts are most closely united in the mind, is thus denoted by one undivided word; whereas an idea composed of parts more loosely connected, is expressed by a word, whereof the component parts are distinguished, and exhibited separately to the eye. Thus also the Gaelic scholar would have one uniform direction to follow in reading, viz., to place the accent always on the first syllable of an undivided word, or member of a word. If any exception be allowed, it must be only in the case already stated of two vowels coming in apposition, as beo-airgiod quicksilver.

Let it be observed that, according to this rule, an Adjective preceding a Noun can never, but in the case just mentioned, be connected with it by a hyphen. For if the accent be wholly transferred from the Noun to the Adjective, then they are to be written as one undivided word; as, garbhchriochan highlands; but if the accent be not so transferred, the Adjective and the Noun are to be written as two separate words; as, seann duine an old man, deagh chomhairle good advice, droch sgeul a bad tale.


It not unfrequently happens that two Nouns, whereof the one qualifies the meaning of the other, and connected by the common grammatical relation of the one governing the other in the Genitive, come through use to be considered as denoting only one complex object. The two Nouns in this case are sometimes written together in one word, and thus form a Compound of a looser structure than those which have been considered. Such are ceann-cinnidh, the head of a tribe or {173}clan; ceann-tighe, the head of a family; ceann-feadhna, the leader of an army; fear-turnis, a traveller; luchd-faire, watchmen; iobairt-pheacaidh, a sin-offering; urlar-bualaidh, a threshing-floor; fear-bainse, a bridegroom; crith-thalmhain, an earth-quake; crios-guailne, a shoulder-belt, &c. In writing Compound Nouns of this description, the two Nouns are never written in one undivided word, but always separated by a hyphen. It comes to be a question, however, in many instances of one Noun governing another in the Genitive, whether such an expression is to be considered as a compound term, and the words to be connected by a hyphen in writing, or whether they are to be written separately, without any such mark of composition. An observation that was made in treating of the Government of Nouns may help us to an answer, and furnish an easy rule in the case in question. It was remarked that when one Noun governed another in the Genitive, the Article was never joined to both; that for the most part, it was joined to the Noun governed, but sometimes to the Noun governing, that in the latter case, the two Nouns seemed to figure as one compound term, denoting one complex idea. If this last remark hold true, it may be laid down as a rule that in every instance of a Noun governing another in the Genitive, where the Article is or may be prefixed to the governing Noun, there the two Nouns ought to be connected by a hyphen in writing; otherwise not. Thus we can say, without impropriety, an ceann-feadhna, the commander; an luchd-coimhid, the keepers; and the Nouns are accordingly considered as Compounds, and written with a hyphen. But it would be contrary to the usage of the language to say, am mullach craige, the top of a rock; an t-uachdar talmhain, the surface of the ground. Accordingly it would be improper to write a hyphen between the Nouns in these and similar examples.

The different effects of these two modes of writing, with or without the hyphen, is very observable in such instances as the following:—Ainm dùthcha, the name of a country, as Scotland, Argyle, &c.; ainm-dùthcha, a country name, or {174}patronymic, as Scotsman, Highlander, &c.; clann Donuill, Donald's children; clann-Donuill, the Macdonalds.


Though few have exerted themselves hitherto in explaining the structure of the Gaelic language, in respect of its inflections, construction, and collocation, this cannot be said to be the case with regard to Etymology. Much has been attempted, and something has been done, toward analysing single vocables, particularly names of places. But this analysis seems to have been too often made rather in a way of random conjecture than by a judicious regard to the analogy of Derivation and Composition. The passion for analysing has even induced some to assert that all true Gaelic Primitives consist of but one syllable, that all Polysyllables are either derived or compounded, and therefore that there is room to search for their etymon. This seems to be carrying theory too far. It appears a fruitless and rather chimerical attempt to propose a system of directions by which all Polysyllables whatever may be resolved into component parts, and traced to a root of one syllable. All I have thought it necessary to do is to methodize and exemplify those general principals of Etymology which are obvious and unquestioned, and which regulate the composition and derivation of those classes of words whereof the analysis may be traced with some probability of success.



From an Address to the Soldiers of a Highland Regiment, by D. Smith, M.D.

Theid an deadh shaighdear gu h-aobhach suilbhear an dàil gach tuiteamais a thig 'n a chrannchur. Ach 's e a's nòs do 'n droch shaighdear a bhi gearan 's a' talach air gach làimh; beadaidh ri lìnn socair, is diombach ann eiric caoimhneis; lag-chridheach ri h-am cruachais, agus dìblidh ri h-uchd feuma.

In English.

The good soldier will advance, with spirit and cheerfulness, to any service that falls in his way. But it is the practice of the bad soldier to be complaining and grumbling on all occasions; saucy in time of ease, and peevish in return for kindness; faint-hearted under hardships, and feeble in encountering exigency.


Theid. 3. per. sing. Fut. Affirm, of the irregular Verb Rach, go.

An. Nom. sing. of the Article an, the.

Deadh. An indeclinable Adjective, always placed before its Noun.

Shaighdear. Nom. sing. of the mas. noun saighdear, a soldier, in the aspirated form, because preceded by the Adj. deadh. Gram. p. 145. {176}

Gu. A proper Preposition, to, for.

Aobhach. An Adject. of the first Declension, joyous, having an h before it, because preceded by the Prep. gu. Gram. p. 161. Gu h-aobhach, joyfully, cheerfully, an adverbial phrase. Gram. p. 109.

Suilbhear. An Adject. cheerful. Gu is to be supplied from the former phrase; gu suilbhear, cheerfully, an adverbial phrase.

An dàil. An improper Preposition, to meet, to face, to encounter; made up of the proper Prep. ann, in, and the Noun dàil, meeting. Gram. p. 121.

Gach. An indeclinable Adj. Pronoun, each, every.

Tuiteamais. Gen. sing. of the mas. Noun tuiteamas, an occurrence, accident, governed in the Gen. case by the improp. Prep. an dàil (Gram. p. 161), derived from the Verb tuit. Infinitive tuiteam, to fall, befal.

A. Nom. sing. Relative Pronoun, who, which.

Thig. Fut. Affirm. of the irregular Verb thig, come.

'N. Contracted for ann, a proper Prep., in.

A. Possessive Pronoun, his.

Chrannchur. Mas. Noun, a lot; governed in the Dat. by the Prep. ann; in the aspirated form after the adject. Pron. a, 'his'—compounded of crann, a lot, and cur, casting, the Infinitive of the Verb cuir, to put, cast.

Ach. Conjunction, but. Hebr. אד.

'S. for is, Pres. Indic. of the Verb is, I am. 'S e a 's it is [that] which is.

Nòs. Noun mas., custom, habit.

Do. Prep. to.

An. the article, the.

Droch. indeclinable Adject. bad; always placed before its Noun.

Shaighdear. mas. Noun, soldier; governed in the Dative by the Prep. do; in the aspir. form after the Adject. droch. {177}

A bhi. for do bhi or do bhith, Infinit. of the irregular Verb bi, to be.

Gearan. Infin. of the obsolete Verb gearain, to complain, ag being understood; ag gearan equivalent to a present Participle, complaining. Gram. p. 86.

'S. for agus, conjunction, and.

A' talach. for ag talach, complaining, repining; Infin. of the obsolete Verb talaich, to complain of a thing or person.

Air. Prep. on.

Gach. Adject. Pron. indeclin. each, every.

Làimh. dat. sing. of the fem. Noun làmh, a hand; governed in the Dat. by the Prep. air, on. Air gach làimh, on every hand.

Beadaidh. Adject. nice, fond of delicacies, saucy, petulant.

Ri. Prep. to, at.

Lìnn. Noun fem. an age, period, season. Ri lìnn, during the time of any event, or currency of any period; ri lìnn Fhearghuis, in the time, or reign of Fergus; gu faigheamaid sìth r' ar lìnn, that we may have peace in our time.

Socair. Noun fem., ease, conveniency; governed in the Gen. by the Noun lìnn.

Is. for agus, Conjunct. and.

Diombach, or diùmach. Adject. displeased, indignant; derived from the Noun diom or diùm, indignation.

Ann. Prep. governing the Dat. in.

Eiric. Noun femin., requital, compensation; governed in the Dat. by the Prep. ann.

Caoimhneis. Gen. sing. of the mas. Noun caoimhneas, kindness; governed in the Gen. by the noun eiric, derived from the Adject. caomh, gentle, kind.

Lag-chridheach. Adject. faint-hearted; compounded of the Adject. lag, weak, and cridhe, the heart.

Ri. Prep. to, at. {178}

Am. Noun masc., time; governed in the Dat. case by the Prep. ri, and preceded by h. Gram. p. 161.

Cruachais. Gen. sing. of the mas. Noun cruachas, hardship, strait; governed in the Gen. by the noun am; compounded of the Adject. cruaidh, hard, and càs, danger, extremity.

Agus. Conjunct., and.

Dìblidh. Adject., feeble, silly.

Uchd. Noun mas. breast, chest; hence it signifies an ascent, a steep; in the Dat. case, preceded by h, after the Prep. ri: ri h-uchd, in ascending, breasting, encountering, assailing.

Feuma. Gen. sing. of the Noun mas. feum, necessity, exigency; governed in the Gen. by the Noun uchd.

Extract from an old Fingalian Tale or Legend.

Dh' imich Garbh mac Stairn agus Dual a dh' fhaicinn Fhinn agus a threun fheara colgach, iomraiteach ann an gniomharaibh arm. Bha Fionn 's an àm sin 'n a thigheadas samhraidh am Buchanti. 'N an turus d'a ionnsuidh, ghabh iad beachd air gach gleann agus faoin mhonadh, air gach allt agas caol choirean. Ghabh iad sgeul de gach coisiche agus gach fear a thachair 'n an còir. Ann an gleann nan cuach agus nan lon, chunnaic bùth taobh sruthain; chaidh a steach, dh' iarr deoch; dh' eirich ribhinn a b' aluinne snuadh a dh' fhàilteachadh an turuis le sìth. Thug i biadh dhoibh r'a itheadh, dibhe ri òl; dh' iarr an sgeul le cainnt thlà. Bhuail gaol o a sùil an Garbh borb, agus dh' innis cia as doibh. "Thainig sinn o thìr nan crann, far an lionor sonn—mac righ Lochlainn mise—m' ainm Garbh na'm b' aill leat—esan Dual, o thìr nam beann, a thuinich ann Albainn o thuath—a ghabhail cairdeis gun sgàth agus aoidheachd o 'n àrd righ Fionn, sud fàth ar turuis a Chiabh na maise—ciod am bealach am buail sinn? seol ar cos gu teach Fhinn, bi dhuinn mar iùl, is gabh duais." "Duais {179}cha do ghabh mi riamh, ars an nighean bu bhlàithe sùil 's bu deirge gruaidh; cha b' e sud àbhaist Theadhaich nam beann éilde, 'g am bu lionor dàimheach 'n a thalla, 'g am bu tric tathaich o thuath—ni mise dhuibh iùl." Gu gleann-sìth tharladh na fir; gleann an tric guth feidh is loin; gleann nan glas charn is nan scor; gleann nan sruth ri uisg is gaoith. Thachair orra buaghar bho, is rinn dhoibh iùl; thug dhoibh sgeul air duthaich nan creag, air fir agus air mnaibh, air fàs shliabh agus charn, air neart feachd, air rian nan arm, air miann sloigh, agus craobhthuinidh nam Fiann.

In English.

Garva the son of Starno and Dual, went to visit Fingal and his brave warriors, renowned for feats of arms. Fingal was at that time in his summer residence at Buchanti. On their journey thither, they took a view of every valley and open hill, every brook and narrow dell. They asked information of every passenger and person that came in their way. In the glen of cuckoos and ouzles they observed a cottage by the side of a rivulet. They entered; asked drink, a lady of elegant appearance arose and kindly bade them welcome. She gave the food to eat, liquor to drink. In mild speech she inquired their purpose. Love from her eye smote the rough Garva, and he told whence they were. "We are come from the land of Pines, where many a hero dwells—the son of Lochlin's king am I—my name is Garva, be pleased to know—my comrade is Dual, from the land of hills, his residence is in the north of Albion. To accept the hospitality and confidential friendship of the mighty prince Fingal, this is the object of our journey, O Lady fair[120]; say, by what pass shall we shape our course? Direct our steps to the mansion of Fingal, be our guide, and accept a reward." "Reward I never took," said the damsel of softest eye and rosiest cheek; "such was not the manner of [my father] Tedaco of the hill of hinds; {180}many were the guests in his hall, frequent his visitors from the North,—I will be your guide." The chiefs reach Glenshee, where is heard the frequent voice of deer and elk; glen of green mounts and cliffs; glen of many streams in time of rain and wind. A keeper of cattle met them, and directed their course. He gave the information concerning the country of rocks; concerning its inhabitants male and female; the produce of moor and mount; the military force, the fashion of the armour; the favourite pursuits of the people; and the pedigree of the Fingalians.

Extract from Bishop Carsuel's Gaelic translation of the
Confession of Faith, Forms of Prayer, &c., used in the Reformed
Church of Scotland
; Printed in the year 1567.

(From the Epistle Dedicatory.)

Acht ata ni cheana is mor an leathtrom agas anuireasbhuidh ata riamh orainde gaoidhil alban & eireand, tar an gcuid eile don domhan, gan ar gcanamhna gaoidheilge do chur agcló riamh mar ataid agcanamhna & adteangtha féin agcló ag gach uile chinel dhaoine oile sa domhan, & ata uireasbhuidh is mó ina gach uireasbhuidh oraind, gan an Biobla naomhtha do bheith agcló gaoidheilge againd, marta sè agcló laidne agas bherla agas ingach teangaidh eile osin amach, agas fós gan seanchus arsean no ar sindsear do bheith mar an gcedna agcló againd riamh, acht ge tá cuid eigin do tseanchus ghaoidheal alban agas eireand sgriobhtha aleabhruibh lámh, agas adtamhlorgaibh fileadh & ollamhan, agas asleachtaibh suadh. Is mortsaothair sin re sgriobhadh do laimh, ag fechain an neithe buailtear sa chló araibrisge agas ar aithghiorra bhios gach én ni dhá mhed da chriochnughadh leis. Agas is mor an doille agas andorchadas peacaidh agas aineolais agas indtleachda do lucht deachtaidh agas sgriobhtha agas chumhdaigh na gaoidheilge, gurab mó is mian leo agas gurab mó ghnathuidheas siad eachtradha dimhaoineacha buaidheartha bregacha {181}saoghalta do cumadh ar thuathaibh dédhanond agas ar mhacaibh mileadh agas arna curadhaibh agas fhind mhac cumhaill gona fhianaibh agas ar mhóran eile nach airbhim agas nach indisim andso do chumhdach, agas do choimhleasughagh, do chiond luadhuidheachta dimhaonigh an tsaoghail dfhaghail doibhféin, ina briathra disle Dé agas slighthe foirfe na firinde do sgriobhadh, agas dheachtadh, agas do chumhdach.

English Translation.

[From the Report of the Committee of the
Highland Society of Scotland, appointed to inquire into the
nature and authenticity of the Poems of

But there is one great disadvantage which we the Gaeil of Scotland and Ireland labour under, beyond the rest of the world, that our Gaelic language has never yet been printed, as the language of every other race of men has been. And we labour under a disadvantage which is still greater than every other disadvantage, that we have not the Holy Bible printed in Gaelic, as it has been printed in Latin and in English, and in every other language; and also that we have never yet had any account printed of the antiquities of our country, or of our ancestors; for though we have some accounts of the Gaeil of Scotland and Ireland, contained in manuscripts, and in the genealogies of bards and historiographers, yet there is great labour in writing them over with the hand, whereas the work which is printed, be it ever so great, is speedily finished. And great is the blindness and sinful darkness, and ignorance and evil design of such as teach, and write, and cultivate the Gaelic language, that, with the view of obtaining for themselves the vain rewards of this world, they are more desirous, and more accustomed, to compose vain, tempting, lying, worldly histories, concerning the Tuath de dannan, and concerning warriors and champions, and Fingal the son of Cumhal, with his heroes, and concerning many others which {182}I will not at present enumerate or mention, in order to maintain or reprove, than to write and teach and maintain the faithful words of God, and of the perfect way of truth[121].

From the Preface to a Metrical Version of the Book of Psalms
in Gaelic
, by Mr Robert Kirk, Minister of the Gospel
at Balquhidder; Printed in the year 1684.

Ataid na Psalma taitneamhach, tarbhach: beag nach mion-fhlaitheas lán dainglibh, Cill fhonnmhar le ceol naomhtha. Mur abholghort Eden, lionta do chrannaibh brioghmhoire na beatha, & do luibhennibh iocshlainteamhail, amhluidh an leabhar Psalmso Dhaibhioth, ata na liaghais ar uile anshocair na nanma. Ata an saoghal & gach beó chreatuir da bfuil ann, na chlarsigh; an duine, se is Clairseoir & duanaire, chum moladh an mor-Dhia mirbhuileach do sheinn; & ata Daibhidh do ghná mar fhear don chuideachd bhias marso ag caoin-chaint gu ceolmhar ma nard-Rí.... Do ghabhas mar chongnamh don obairsi, dioghlum ughdairidh an uile cháil, ar sheannós, phriomh chreideamh & eachdardha na nGaoidheal, sgriobhta & cló-bhuailte: achd gu ba reula iuil & soluis dhamh, brídh na nSalm fein. Anois maseadh a Chomharbadha ro chaomh, ata mar phlaneidi dhealroidh ag sdiurughadh na ngcorp ioch dardha gan mhonmar, is deaghmhaise dhaoibh an tsaothairse a sgrudadh & a ghnathughadh gu neimhfhiat, gan ghuth ar bheiginmhe & neimhnitheachd an tsaothairigh. Griosam oraibhse a Uaisle, & a Thuatha charthanacha araon, gun {183}bheith mur thacharain ar luaidrean a nunn & a nall go sbailpe breigi; achd le gcroidhibh daingne, dosgartha, deagh-fhreumhaighte, druididh re Firinn, Ceart, & Ceannsachd, mar fhuraileas na psalma: Ata clu & tarbha a nsdriocadh don choir; call & masladh a ntuitim le heugcoir.

Imthigh a Dhuilleachain gu dán,

Le Dán glan diagha duisg iad thall;

Cuir failte ar Fonn fial na bFionn,

Ar Gharbh chriocha, 's Indseadh gall.

In English.

The Psalms are pleasant and profitable. A church resounding with sacred melody is almost a little Heaven full of angels. As the Garden of Eden, replenished with trees of life of potent efficacy, and with medicinal plants, so is this Book of the Psalms of David, which contains a remedy for all the diseases of the soul. The world and every living creature it contains are the Harp; man is the Harper and Poet, who sings the praise of the great wonder-working God; and David is ever one of the company who are thus employed in sweetly and tunefully discoursing about the Almighty King.... I was assisted in this work by culling from authors of every kind, who have treated of the ancient manners, the primitive religion, and the history of the Gaels, both in manuscript and in print: but the star and light by which I steered was the sense of the Psalms themselves. Now, then, my very dear colleagues, who as shining luminaries guide the inferior bodies, it becomes you to examine and to use this work candidly, without regarding the meanness and insignificancy of the workman. I beseech you, men of high and of low degree alike, that you be not, like weak silly creatures, tossed to and fro by false conceits; but with firm, resolute, well-established hearts, adhere to Truth, Justice, and Temperance, as these Psalms exhort. There is honour and profit in complying with what is right, loss and disgrace in declining to what is wrong. {184}

Little Volume, move boldly on;

In pure godly strains awaken yonder people;

Salute the hospitable land of the Fingalians,

The highland regions, and the Isles of strangers[122].



[1] Analysis of the Gaelic Language, by William Shaw, A.M.

[2] A few examples of what I conceived to be deviations from grammatical propriety are given from the Gaelic version of the Bible. As the translation of the Prophetical Books underwent a revision, the exceptionable passages in those Books have been changed in the second edition from what they were as they came out of the hands of the original translator. The criticism on those passages is, however, allowed to remain in this edition of the Grammar, because the first edition of the Gaelic Prophets is still in the hands of many, and because it often happens that "we can best teach what is right by showing what is wrong."—Lowth.

[3] It will immediately occur to any grammarian that there is a slight difference between this and the common division into mutes and liquids, by the letter m being removed from the class of liquids to that of mutes. This is not an oversight, but an intentional arrangement; as the accidents of the letter m are, in Gaelic, the same with those of the mute, not of the liquid consonants. For a like reason, s is included in the class of liquids.

[4] Writers, who have touched on this part of Gaelic Grammar, following the Irish grammarians, have divided the consonants further into mutable and immutable. The former name has been given to consonants which, in writing, have been occasionally combined with the letter h; and the latter name to those consonants which have not, in writing, been combined with h. But, in fact, both classes of consonants are alike mutable in their pronunciation; and their mutation ought to have been marked in the orthography, though it has not. This defect in Gaelic orthography has been often observed and regretted, though it has never been corrected. Rather than continue a distinction which has no foundation in the structure of the language, I venture to discard the division of mutable and immutable consonants, as not merely useless, but as tending to mislead the learner.

[5] In explaining the sounds of the letters I have availed myself of the very correct and acute remarks on this subject annexed to the Gaelic version of the New Testament, 1767.

[6] If it be thought that this renders the language too monotonous, it may be observed, on the other hand, that it prevents ambiguities and obscurities in rapid speaking, as the accent marks the initial syllable of polysyllables. Declaimers, of either sex, have often found their advantage in this circumstance.

[7] That is the second sound assigned to a.

[8] The plural of la or latha a day, is sometimes written laeth; but it is doubtful how far this is a proper mode of writing it.

[9] The effect of the vowels in qualifying the sound of the adjoining consonants will be explained in treating of the Palatals and Linguals.

[10] This propensity is seen in the aspirating of consonants in Gaelic words, which have an evident affinity to words in other languages, where the same consonants are not so aspirated. The following list will sufficiently illustrate and confirm the truth of this remark:—

Greek. Latin. Gælic.
Διαβολος Diabolus Diabhol.
Scribo* Scriobh, write.
Febris* Fiabhrus, a fever.
Baculum Bacholl, a staff.
Δεκα Decem Deich, ten.
Lorica Lùireach, a coat of mail.
Clericus Cleireach, a clerk.
Modus Modh, manner.
Gladius Claidheamh, a sword.
brace Cord-is Cridhe, the heart.
Medium Meadhon, middle.
Laudo Luadh, mention.
Lego Leugh, read.
Greg-is Greigh, a herd.
Reg-is Righ, a king.
Plaga Plaigh, a plague.
Sagitta Saighead, an arrow.
Magister Maighistir, master.
Imago Iomhaigh, an image.
Primus Priomh, chief.
Remus Ràmh, an oar.
Similis Samhuil, like.
Humilis Umhal, humble.
Capra Gabhar, a goat.
Μητηρ Mater Mathair, mother.
Rota Roth, Rath, a wheel.
Muto Mùth, change.

It is probable that the consonants, thus aspirated, were pronounced without aspiration in the older dialects of the Celtic tongue; for we are told that in the Irish manuscripts of the first class for antiquity, the consonants are for the most part written without any mark of aspiration. See "Lhuyd's Archæol. Brit.," p. 301, col. 1.

The tendency to attenuate the articulations shows itself in a progressive state, in a few vocables which are pronounced with an aspiration in some districts, but not universally. Such are deatach or deathach smoke, cuntart or cunthart danger, ta or tha am, art, tu or thu thou, troimh or throimh through, tar or thar over, am beil or am bheil is there? dom or domh to me, &c. Has not this remission or suppression of the articulations the effect of enfeebling the speech, by mollifying its bones and relaxing its nerves? Ought not therefore the progress of this corruption to be opposed, by retaining unaspirated articulations in those instances where universal practice has not entirely superseded them, and even by restoring them in some instances, where the loss of them has been attended with manifest inconvenience? It is shameful to see how many monosyllables, once distinguished by their articulations, have in process of time, by dropping these articulations, come to be represented by the solitary vowel a, to the no small confusion of the language and embarrassment of the reader. The place of the absent consonant is often supplied, indeed, in writing, by an apostrophe. This, however, is at best but an imperfect and precarious expedient.

* So in French, from Aprilis, Avrilis; habere, avoir; Febris, Fièvre: επισκοπος, evéque.

[11] Ph is found in no Gaelic word which is not inflected, except a few words transplanted from the Greek or the Hebrew, in which ph represents the Greek ­φ, or the Hebrew פ. It might perhaps be more proper to represent פ by p rather than ph; and to represent φ by f, as the Italians have done in filosofia, filologia, &c., by which some ambiguities and anomalies in declension would be avoided.

[12] The affinity between the sounds of v and u is observable in many languages, particularly in the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

[13] Agreeably to the like pronunciation, the Welsh write this word marw, the Manks marroo.

[14] It is still pronounced fuair in the Northern Highlands, and it is so written in Irish. See Irish Bible, Gen. xxxv. 18, 19; John ii. 14, viii. 62, 53.

[15] So fathast yet, fein self, are in some places pronounced as if they began with an h instead of an f. The latter word is, by the Manks, written hene.

[16] Over a considerable part of the Highlands that propensity to aspiration, which has been already remarked, has affixed to c, in the end of a word, or of an accented syllable, the sound of chc; as, mac a son, torc a boar, acain moaning; pronounced often machc, torchc, achcain.

There is reason to believe that this compound sound of chc was not known of old, but is a modern corruption.

This pronunciation is not universal over the Highlands. In some parts the c retains its proper sound in all situations.

If the articulation in question had, from the first, been compounded, it is highly probable that it would have been represented, in writing, by a combination of letters, such as chc; especially as we find that the same sound is represented at other times, not by a single consonant, but by a combination, as in the case of chd. Why should it be thought that boc a buck, and bochd poor, were originally pronounced alike, when they are distinguished both in writing and signification?

The word שק a sack, has been transplanted from the Hebrew into many languages, among the rest the Gaelic, where it has been always written sac, although now pronounced sachc. In none of the other languages in which the word is used (except the Welsh alone), has the final palatal been aspirated. It would appear therefore that the sound sachc is a departure from the original Gaelic pronunciation. The same change may have happened in the pronunciation of other words, in which the plain c is now aspirated, though it may not have been so originally.

[17] Though th be quiescent in the middle of a polysyllable, over the North and Central Highlands, yet it is, with more propriety, pronounced, in the West Highlands, as an aspiration; as, athair father, mathanas pardon, pronounced a-hair, mahanas.

[18] I am informed that this pronunciation of chd is not universal; but that in some districts, particularly the East Highlands, the d has here, as in other places, its proper lingual sounds. In many, if not all the instances in which chd occurs, the ancient Irish wrote ct. This spelling corresponds to that of some foreign words that have a manifest affinity to Gaelic words of the same signification; which, it is therefore presumable, were all originally pronounced, as they were written, without an aspiration, such as,

Latin. Old French. Gaelic.
Noct-u Noct-is, &c. Nuict an nochd, to night.
Oct-o Huict Ochd, eight.
Benedict-um Benoict Beannachd, blessing.
Maledict-um Maudict Mallachd, cursing.
Ruct-us Bruchd, evomition.
Intellect-us Intleachd, contrivance.
Lact-is, -i, &c. Lachd, milk.
Dict-o, -are, &c. Deachd, to dictate.
brace Reachd, a law, institution.

From the propensity of the Gaelic to aspiration, the original c was converted into ch, and the words were written with cht, as in the Irish acht but, &c., or with the slight change of t into d, as in ochd, &c. This is the opinion of O'Brien, when he says the word lecht is the Celtic root of the Latin lectio—the aspirate h is but a late invention.—O'Br. Ir. Dict. voc. lecht. In process of time the true sound of cht or chd was confounded with the kindred sound of chc, which was commonly, though corruptly, given to final c.

[19] It is certain that the natural sound of d aspirated is that of [the Saxon ð] or th in thou; as the natural sound of t aspirated is that of th in think. This articulation, from whatever cause, has not been admitted into the Gaelic, either Scottish or Irish, although it is used in the kindred dialects of Cornwall and Wales.

[20] In sean old, the n has its plain sound when the following word begins with a Lingual. Accordingly it is often written in that situation seann; as, seann duine an old man, an t-seann tiomnaidh of the old Testament.

[21] So in Latin, canmen from cano was pronounced, and then written carmen; genmen from the obsolete γενω passed into germen.

[22] Another mode, proposed by a learned correspondent, of marking the distinction in the sound of the initial Linguals, is by writing the letter double, thus ll, nn, rr, when its sound is the same with that which is represented by those double letters in the end of a syllable; and when the sound is otherwise, to write the letter single; as, llamh hand, llion fill, mo lamh my hand, lion mi I filled.

It is perhaps too late, however, to urge now even so slight an alteration as this in the Orthography of the Gaelic, which ought rather to be held as fixed beyond the reach of innovation, by the happy diffusion of the Gaelic Scriptures over the Highlands.

[23] Leathan re Leathan, is Caol re Caol.

Of the many writers who have recorded or taken notice of this rule, I have found none who have attempted to account for its introduction into the Gaelic. They only tell that such a correspondence between the vowels ought to be observed, and that it would be improper to write otherwise. Indeed, none of them seem to have attended to the different effects of a broad and of a small vowel on the sound of an adjacent consonant. From this circumstance, duly considered, I have endeavoured to derive a reason for the rule in question, the only probable one that has yet occurred to me.

[24] As deanuibh or deanaibh do ye, beannuich or beannaich bless.

[25] It is worthy of remark that in such words as caird-eil friendly, slaint-eil salutary, the substitution of e in place of a in the termination, both misrepresents the sound, and disguises the derivation of the syllable. The sound of this termination as in fear-ail manly, ban-ail womanly, is properly represented by ail. This syllable is an abbreviation of amhuil like, which is commonly written in its full form by the Irish, as fear-amhuil, &c. It corresponds exactly to the English termination like, in soldier-like, officer-like, which is abridged to ly, as manly, friendly. By writing eil instead of ail, we almost lose sight of amhuil altogether.

[26] From the extracts of the oldest Irish manuscripts given by Lhuyd, Vallancey, and others, it appears that the rule concerning the correspondence of vowels in contiguous syllables, was by no means so generally observed once as it is now. It was gradually extended by the more modern Irish writers, from whom, it is probable, it has been incautiously adopted by the Scottish writers in its present and unwarrantable latitude. The rule we have been considering has been reprobated in strong terms by some of the most judicious Irish philologers, particularly O'Brien, author of an Irish Dictionary printed at Paris 1768, and Vallancey, author of an Irish Grammar, and of various elaborate disquisitions concerning Irish antiquities, from whom I quote the following passages: "This Rule [of dividing one syllable into two by the insertion of an aspirated consonant] together with that of substituting small or broad vowels in the latter syllables, to correspond with the vowel immediately following the consonant in the preceding syllable, has been very destructive to the original and radical purity of the Irish language." Vallancey's Ir. Gram. Chap. III. letter A. "Another [Rule] devised in like manner by our bards and rhymers, I mean that which is called Caol le caol, agus Leathan le leathan, has been woefully destructive to the original and radical purity of the Irish language. This latter (much of a more modern invention than the former, for our old manuscripts show no regard to it) imports and prescribes that two vowels, thus forming, or contributing to form, two different syllables, should both be of the same denomination or class of either broad or small vowels, and this without any regard to the primitive elementary structure of the word." O'Brien's Ir. Dict. Remarks on A. "The words biran and biranach changed sometimes into bioran and bioranach by the abusive rule of Leathan le leathan." Id. in voc. Fear. The opinion of Lhuyd on this point, though not decisive, yet may properly be subjoined to those of Vallancey and O'Brien, as his words serve at least to show that this judicious philologer was no advocate for the Rule in question. "As for passing any censure on the rule concerning broad and small vowels, I chose rather to forbear making any remark at all upon them, by reason that old men who formerly wrote arget silver, instead of airgiod as we now write it, never used to change a vowel but in declining of words, &c. And I do not know that it was ever done in any other language, unless by some particular persons who, through mistake or ignorance, were guilty of it." Archæol. Brit. Preface to Ir. Dict. translated in Bp. Nicolson's Irish Historical Library.

[27] Pinkerton's Inquiry into the History of Scotland.

[28] E.g., troidh a foot, has been written troidh or troigh, either of which corresponds to the pronunciation, as the last consonant is quiescent. In Welsh, the articulation of the final consonant has been preserved, and the word is accordingly written troed. This authority seems sufficient to determine the proper orthography in Gaelic to be troidh and not troigh. For a like reason, perhaps, it would be proper to write tràidh shore, rather than tràigh, the common way of spelling the word, for we find the Irish formerly wrote tràidh, and the Welsh traeth. Claidheamh a sword, since the final articulation was wholly dropped, has been sometimes written claidhe. The mode of writing it still with a final labial, though quiescent, will probably be thought the more proper of the two, when it is considered that claidheamh is the cognate, or rather the same word with the Irish cloidheamh the Welsh cleddyf, and the French glaive.

[29] I flatter myself that all my readers, who are acquainted with any of the ancient or the modern languages which have a distinction of gender in their attributives, will readily perceive that the import of the term Gender, in the grammar of those languages, is precisely what I have stated above. The same term has been introduced into the grammar of the English Tongue, rather improperly, because in an acceptation different from what it bears in the grammar of all other languages. In English there is no distinction of gender competent to Articles, Adjectives, or Participles. When a noun is said to be of the masculine gender, the meaning can only be that the object denoted by it is of the male sex. Thus in the English grammars, gender signifies a quality of the object named, while in other grammars it signifies a quality of the name given to the object. The varieties of who, which, and he, she, it, refer not to what is properly called the gender of the antecedent noun, but to the Sex real or attributed, or the absence of Sex, of the object signified by the antecedent. This is in effect acknowledged by writers on rhetoric, who affirm that in English the pronouns who, he, she, imply an express personification, or attribution of life, and consequently of Sex, to the objects to which these pronouns refer. The same thing is still more strikingly true of the variations on the termination of nouns, as prince, princess; lion, lioness, which are all discriminative of Sex. It seems therefore to be a mis-stated compliment which is usually paid to the English, when it is said that "this is the only language which has adapted the gender of its nouns to the constitution of Nature." The fact is, that it has adapted the Form of some of the most common names of living creatures, and of a few of its pronouns, to the obvious distinction of male, and female, and inanimate, while it has left its nouns without any mark characteristic of gender. The same thing must necessarily happen to any language by abolishing the distinction of masculine and feminine in its attributives. If all languages had been constructed on this plan, it may confidently be affirmed that the grammatical term gender would never have come into use. The compliment intended, and due to the English, might have been more correctly expressed, by saying that "it is the only language that has rejected the unphilosophical distinction of gender, by making its attributives, in this respect, all indeclinable."

[30] Uan beag bainionn, 2 Sam. xii. 3. Numb. vi. 14. So leomhann boirionn, Ezek. xix. 1.

[31] It must appear singularly strange that any nouns which signify females exclusively should be of the masculine gender. The noun bainionnach, is derived from the adjective bainionn, female, which is formed from bean, the appropriate term for a woman. Yet this noun bainionnach, or boirionnach, a female, is masculine, to all grammatical intents and purposes. We say boirionnach còir, a civil woman, am boirionnach maiseach, the handsome woman.

The gender of this Noun seems to have been fixed, not by its signification, but by its determination, for most Derivatives in ach are masculines; as, oganach a young man, marcach a horseman, Albanach a Scotsman, &c. So in Latin, mancipium, scortum, though applied to persons, follow the gender of their termination.

[32] It was necessary to be thus explicit in stating the changes at the beginning and those on the termination as unconnected independent accidents, which ought to be viewed separately; because many who have happened to turn their thoughts toward the declension of the Gaelic noun have got a habit of conjoining these, and supposing that both contribute their united aid toward the forming the cases of nouns. This is blending together things which are unconnected, and ought to be kept distinct. It has therefore appeared necessary to take a separate view of these two accidents of nouns, and to limit the term case to those changes which are made on the termination, excluding entirely those which take place at the beginning.

[33] It is to be observed that these names of the cases are adopted merely because they are already familiar, not because they all denominate correctly the relations expressed by the cases to which they are respectively applied. There is no Accusative or Objective case in Gaelic different from the Nominative; neither is there any Ablative different from the Dative. For this reason, it is not only unnecessary, but erroneous, to reckon up six Cases in Gaelic, distinguished not by the form of the Noun, but by the Prepositions prefixed. This is to depart altogether from the common and proper use of the term Case. And if the new use of that term is to be adopted, then the enumeration is still incomplete, for we ought to have as many Cases as there are Prepositions in the language. Thus, besides a Dative do Bhard, and an Ablative o Bhard, we should have an Impositive Case air Bhard, a Concomitative le Bard, an Insertive ann am Bard, a Precursive roimh Bhard, &c. &c. Grammarians have very correctly reckoned only five Cases in Greek, two in English, one in French [See Moore, Murray, Buffier, &c.] because the variations in the form of the Noun extend no further. Surely nothing but an early and inveterate prepossession in favour of the arrangements of Latin Grammar could ever have suggested the idea of Six Cases in Gaelic or in English.

[34] It is not improbable that anciently all feminine nouns, except a few irregular ones, added a syllable to the nominative, as e or a, in forming the genitive. The translators of the S. S. have sometimes formed the genitive of feminine polysyllables in this manner, as sionagoige from sionagog, Mark v. 36, 38. But it appears more agreeable to the analogy of inflection that such polysyllables should now be written without an e in the genitive.

[35] It is probable that this noun should rather be written àdh. See McFarlane's Paraphrases, III. 3. also Lhuyd and O'Brien, in loco.

[36] Derivatives in an, and ag should form their genitive according to the general Rule, ain, aig; and in pronunciation they do so. When the syllable preceding the termination ends in a small vowel, the Rule of 'Caol re caol' has introduced an e into the final syllable, which is then written ean, eag. In this case writers have been puzzled how to form the genitive. The terminations eain, eaig, would evidently contain too many vowels for a short syllable. To reduce this awkward number of vowels they have commonly thrown out the a, the only letter which properly expressed the vocal sound of the syllable. Thus from caimean m. a mote, they formed the gen. sing. caimein; from cuilean m. a whelp, g. s. cuilein; from duileag f. a leaf, g. s. duileig; from caileag f. a girl, g. s. caileig. Had they not yielded too far to the encroachments of the Rule of 'Caol re caol' they would have written both the nom. and the gen. of these and similar nouns more simply and more justly, thus: caiman, g. s. caimain; cuilan, g. s. cuilain; duilag, g. s. duilaig; cailag, g. s. cailaig.

[37] In many instances, the Plural termination a is oftener written with this final n than without it. When the vowel preceding the termination is small, the termination a or an is very needlessly written e or ean, to preserve the correspondence of vowels.

[38] We are informed by E. O'C. that this is the usual construction in the Irish Dialect, and it appears to be the same in the Scottish. Thus, air son mo dhà shùl, for my two eyes.—Judg. xvi. 28. Ir. & Scott. versions.

[39] So in Hebrew, we find a noun in the singular number joined with twenty, thirty, a hundred, a thousand, &c.

[40] The Pronouns tu thou, se he, si she, siad they, are not employed, like other nominatives, to denote the object after a transitive verb. Hence the incorrectness of the following expression in most editions of the Gaelic Psalms: Se chrùnas tu le coron graidh, Psal. ciii. 4., which translated literally signifies, it is he whom thou wilt crown, &c. To express the true sense, viz., it is he who will crown thee, it ought to have been, se chrùnas thu le coron graidh. So is mise an Tighearn a slanuicheas thu, I am the Lord that healeth thee, Exod. xv. 26; Ma ta e ann a fhreagaireas thu, If there be any that will answer thee, Job v. 1; Co e a bhrathas thu? Who is he that will betray thee? John xxi. 20., Comp. Gen. xii. 3. and xxvii. 29.

[41] This use of the Pronoun of the 2d person plural is probably a modern innovation, for there is nothing like it found in the more ancient Gaelic compositions, nor in the graver poetry even of the present age. As this idiom seems, however, to be employed in conversation with increasing frequency, it will probably lose by degrees its present import, and will come to be used as the common mode of addressing any individual; in the same manner as the corresponding Pronouns are used in English, and other European languages.

[42] There seems hardly a sufficient reason for changing the d in this situation into t, as has been often done, as t'oglach for d'oglach thy servant, &c. The d corresponds sufficiently to the pronunciation, and being the constituent consonant of the pronoun, it ought not to be changed for another.

[43] The Irish are not so much at a loss to avoid a hiatus, as they often use na for a his; which the translators of the Psalms have sometimes judiciously adopted; as,

An talamh tioram le na laimh

Do chruthaich e 's do dhealbh. Psal. xcv. 5.

[44] In the North Highlands this Pronoun is pronounced sid.

[45] This Pronoun occurs in such expressions as an deigh na chuala tu after what you have heard; their leat na th' agad, or na bheil agad, bring what you have. It seems to be contracted for an ni a the thing which.

[46] There is reason to think that ge b'e is corruptly used for cia b' e. Of the former I find no satisfactory analysis. The latter cia b' e is literally which it be, or which it were; which is just the French qui que ce soit, qui que ce fût expressed in English by one word whosoever, whichsoever. We find cia used in this sense and connection, Psal. cxxxv. 11. Glasg. 1753. Gach uile rioghachd mar an ceadn' cia h-iomdha bhi siad ann, All kingdoms likewise, however numerous they be. See also Gen. xliv. 9, Rom. ii. 1.

[47] This pronoun is found written with an initial c in Lhuyd's "Archæol. Brit." Tit. I. page 20. col. 2. ceach; again Tit. X. voc. Bealtine, cecha bliadna each year. So also O'Brien, cach all, every, like the French chaque. "Irish Dict." voc. cach.

[48] The pronouns cach eile and cach a chéile are hardly known in Perthshire. Instead of the former, they use the single word càch pronounced long, and declined like a noun of the singular number; and instead of the latter, a chéile, as in this example, choinnich iad a chéile; thuit cuid, agus theich càch, they met each other; some fell, and the rest fled. Here càch may be considered as a simple pronoun; but the first clause, choinnich iad a cheile, they met his fellow, hardly admits of any satisfactory analysis. The phrases, in fact, seem to be elliptical, and to be expressed more fully, according to the practice of other districts, thus: choinnich iad cach a chiéle; thuit, cuid, agus theich cach eile. Now, if cach be nothing else than gach every, (a conjecture supported by the short pronunciation of the a, as well as by the authorities adduced in the preceding note,) the expressions may be easily analysed: choinnich iad gach [aon] a cheile; thuit cuid, agus theich gach [aon] eile; they met every [one] his fellow; some fell, and every other [one] fled, See 1 Thess. v. 11.

[49] In the older Irish MSS. the Particle do appears under a variety of forms. In one MS. of high antiquity it is often written dno. This seems to be its oldest form. The two consonants were sometimes separated by a vowel, and the n being pronounced and then written r, (See Part I. p. 19.) the word was written doro. (See Astle's Hist. of the Orig. and Progr. of Writing, page 126, Irish Specimen, No. 6.) The Consonants were sometimes transposed, suppressing the latter Vowel, and the Particle became nod (O Brien's Ir. Dict. voc. Sasat, Treas,) and rod (id. voc. Ascaim, Fial.) Sometimes one of the syllables only was retained; hence no (O'Br. voc. No,) ro (id. voc. Ro,) and do in common use. Do likewise suffered a transposition of letters, and was written sometimes ad. (O'Br. voc. Do.)

[50] This correspondence of the Termination with the Root was overlooked in the older editions of the Gaelic Psalms; as pronnfidh, cuirfar, molfidh, innsam, guidham, coimhdar, sinnam, gluaisfar, &c.

[51] The disposition in the Gaelic to drop articulations has, in this instance, been rather unfortunate; as the want of the f weakens the sound of the word, and often occasions a hiatus. There seems a propriety in retaining the f of the Future, after a Liquid, or an aspirated Mute; as, cuirfidh, mairfidh, molfidh, geillfidh, pronnfidh, brisfidh, &c., for these words lose much in sound and emphasis by being changed into caithidh, mairidh, &c.

[52] The incorporation of the Verb with a Personal Pronoun is a manifest improvement, and has gradually taken place in almost all the polished languages. There is incomparably more beauty and force in expressing the energy of the Verb, with its personal relation and concomitant circumstances, in one word, than by a periphrasis of pronouns and auxiliaries. The latter mode may have a slight advantage in point of precision, but the former is greatly superior in elegance and strength. The structure of the Latin and Greek, compared with that of the English Verb, affords a striking illustration of this common and obvious remark. Nothing can be worse managed than the French Verb; which, though it possesses a competent variety of personal inflections, yet loses all the benefit of them by the perpetual enfeebling recurrence of the personal Pronouns.

In comparing the Scottish and Irish dialects of the Gaelic, it may be inferred that the former, having less of inflection or incorporation, than the latter, differs less from the parent tongue, and is an older branch of the Celtic, than its sister dialect. It were unfair, however, to deny that the Irish have improved the Verb, by giving a greater variety of inflection to its Numbers and Persons, as well as by introducing a simple Present Tense. The authors of our metrical version of the Gaelic Psalms were sensible of the advantage possessed by the Irish dialect in these respects, and did not scruple to borrow an idiom which has given grace and dignity to many of their verses.

[53] Such at least is the common practice in writing, in compliance with the common mode of colloquial pronunciation. It might perhaps be better to retain the full form of the Preposition, in grave pronunciation, and always in writing. It is an object worthy of attention to preserve radical articulations, especially in writing; and particularly to avoid every unnecessary use of the monosyllable a, which, it must be confessed, recurs in too many senses.

[54] The Preposition iar has here been improperly confounded with air on. I have ventured to restore it, from the Irish Grammarians. Iar is in common use in the Irish dialect, signifying after. Thus, iar sin after that, iar leaghadh an tshoisgeil after reading the Gospel, iar sleachdadh do niomlan after all have kneeled down, iar seasamh suas after standing up, &c. See "Irish Book of Common Prayer." Air, when applied to time, signifies not after, but at or on, air an am so, air an uair so at this time, air an la sin on that day. There is therefore sufficient reason to believe that, in the case in question, iar is the proper word; and that it has been corruptly supplanted by air.

[55] The Imperative seems to have been anciently formed by adding tar to the Root. This form is still retained in Ireland, and in some parts of Scotland, chiefly in verbs ending in a Lingual; as, buailtear, deantar. (See the Lord's Prayer in the older editions of the Gaelic Version of the Assembly's Catechism; also, the "Irish N. Test." Matt. vi. 10. Luke xi. 2.) In other verbs, the t seems to have been dropped in pronunciation. It was, however, retained by the Irish in writing, but with an aspiration to indicate its being quiescent; thus, togthar, teilgthear, "Ir. N. T." Matt. xxi. 21, Mark xi. 23, crochthar, Matt. xxvii. 22. So also the "Gaelic N. T." 1767, deanthar. Matt. vi. 10, Luke xi. 2. In the later publications the t has been omitted altogether, with what propriety may be well doubted.

[56] To preserve a due correspondence with the pronunciation, the Pass. Part. should always terminate in te, for in this part of the verb, the t has always its small sound. Yet in verbs whereof the characteristic vowel is broad, it is usual to write the termination of the Pass. Part. ta; as, togta raised, crochta suspended. This is done in direct opposition to the pronunciation, merely out of regard to the Irish Rule of Leathan ri leathan, which in this case, as in many others, has been permitted to mar the genuine orthography.

When a verb, whose characteristic vowel is broad, terminates in a Liquid, the final consonant coalesces so closely with the t of the Pass. Part. that the small sound of the latter necessarily occasions the like sound in pronouncing the former. Accordingly the small sound of the Liquid is properly represented in writing, by an i inserted before it. Thus, òl drink, Pass. Part. òilte; pronn pound, proinnte; crann bar, crainnte; sparr ram, spairrte; trus pack, truiste. But when the verb ends in a mute, whether plain or aspirated, there is no such coalescence between its final consonant and the adjected t of the Participle. The final consonant if it be pronounced retains its broad sound. There is no good reason for maintaining a correspondence of vowels in the Participle, which ought therefore to be written, as it is pronounced, without regard to Leathan ri leathan; as, tog raise, Pass. Part. togte; croch hang, crochte; sàth thrust, sàthte; cnamh chew, cnamhte.

The same observations apply, with equal force, to the Pret. Subj. in which the t of the termination is always pronounced with its small sound, and should therefore be followed by a small vowel in writing; as, thogteadh, chrochteadh, not thogtadh, chrochtadh.

[57] In all regular verbs, the difference between the Affirmative and the Negative Moods, though marked but slightly and partially in the Preterite Tense, (only in the initial form of the 2d Conjugation,) yet is strongly marked in the Future Tense. The Fut. Aff. terminates in a feeble vocal sound. In the Fut. Neg. the voice rests on an articulation, or is cut short by a forcible aspiration. Supposing these Tenses to be used by a speaker in reply to a command or a request; by their very structure, the former expresses the softness of compliance; and the latter, the abruptness of a refusal. If a command or a request be expressed by such verbs as these, tog sin, gabh sin, ith sin, the compliant answer is expressed by togaidh, gabhaidh, ithidh; the refusal, by the cha tog, cha ghabh, cha n-ith. May not this peculiar variety of form in the same Tense, when denoting affirmation, and when denoting negation, be reckoned among the characteristic marks of an original language?

[58] This part of the verb, being declined and governed like a noun, bears a closer resemblance to the Latin Gerund than to the Infinitive; and might have been properly named the Gerund. But as Lhuyd and all the later Irish Grammarians have already given it the name of Infinitive, I choose to continue the same appellation rather than change it.

[59] The Editor of the Gaelic Psalms printed at Glasgow, 1753, judging, as it would seem, that cuidich was too bold a licence for cuideachaidh, restored the gen. of the full form of the Infinitive; but in order to reduce it to two syllables, so as to suit the verse, he threw out the middle syllable, and wrote cuid'idh.

[60] I have met with persons of superior knowledge of the Gaelic who contended that such expressions as—ta mi deanamh I am doing, ta e bualadh he is striking (see page 83), are complete without any Preposition understood; and that in such situations deanamh, bualadh, are not infinitives or nouns, but real participles of the Present Tense. With much deference to such authorities, I shall here give the reasons which appear to me to support the contrary opinion.

1. The form of the supposed Participle is invariably the same with that of the Infinitive.

2. If the words deanamh, bualadh, in the phrases adduced, were real Participles, then in all similar instances, it would be not only unnecessary, but ungrammatical, to introduce the preposition ag at all. But this is far from being the case. In all verbs beginning with a vowel, the preposition ag or its unequivocal representative g is indispensable; as, ta iad ag iarruidh, ta mi 'g iarruidh. Shall we say, then, that verbs beginning with a consonant have a present participle, while those that begin with a vowel have none? But even this distinction falls to the ground, when it is considered that in many phrases which involve a verb beginning with a consonant, the preposition ag stands forth to view, and can on no account be suppressed; as, ta iad 'g a bhualadh they are striking him, ta e 'g ar bualadh he is striking us. From these particulars it may be inferred that the preposition ag must always precede the infinitive, in order to complete the phrase which corresponds to the English or Latin pres. participle; and that in those cases where the preposition has been dropped, the omission has been owing to the rapidity or carelessness of colloquial pronunciation.

3. A still stronger argument, in support of the same conclusion, may be derived from the regimen of the phrase in question. The infinitive of a transitive verb, preceded by any preposition, always governs the noun, which is the object of the verbal action, in the genitive. This is an invariable rule of Gaelic Syntax; thus, ta sinn a' dol a dh' iarruidh na spréidhe, we are going to seek the cattle; ta iad ag iomain na spréidhe, they are driving the cattle; ta iad iar cuairteachadh na spréidhe, they have gathered the cattle. This regimen can be accounted for on no other principle, in Gaelic, than that the governing word is a noun, as the infinitive is confessed to be. Now, it happens that the supposed participle has the very same regimen, and governs the genitive as uniformly as the same word would have done, when the presence of a preposition demonstrated it to be a noun; so, ta mi bualadh an doruis, I am knocking the door; ta thu deanamh an uilc, you are doing mischief. The inference is, that even in these situations, the words—bualadh, deanamh, though accompanied with no preposition, are still genuine nouns, and are nothing else than the infinitives of their respective verbs, with the preposition ag understood before each of them.

4. The practice in other dialects of the Celtic, and the authority of respectable grammarians, affords collateral support to the opinion here defended. Gen. Vallancey, the most copious writer on Irish grammar, though he gives the name of participle to a certain part of the Gaelic verb, because it corresponds, in signification, to a part of the Latin verb which has obtained that name, yet constantly exhibits this participle, not as a single word, but a composite expression; made up of a preposition and that part of the verb which is here called the infinitive. The phrase is fully and justly exhibited, but it is wrong named; unless it be allowed to extend the name of Participle to such phrases as inter ambulandum, εν τῳ περιπατειν.—Lhuyd, in his Cornish Grammar, informs us, with his usual accuracy, that the Infinitive Mood, as in the other dialects of the British, sometimes serves as a Substantive, as in the Latin; and by the help of the participle a [the Gaelic ag] before it, it supplies the room of the participle of the present tense, &c. "Archæol. Brit." page 245, col. 3. This observation is strictly applicable to the Gaelic verb. The infinitive, with the particle ag before it, supplies the room of the present Participle. The same judicious writer repeats this observation in his "Introduction to the Irish or Ancient Scottish Language": The Participle of the Present Tense is supplied by the Participle ag before the Infinitive Mood; as, ag radh saying, ag cainnt talking, ag teagasg teaching, ag dul going, &c. "Arch. Brit." page 303, col. 2.

[61] It may appear a strange defect in the Gaelic, that its Verbs, excepting the substantive verbs Bi, Is, have no simple Present Tense. Yet this is manifestly the case in the Scottish, Welsh, and Cornish dialects (see "Arch. Brit." page 246, col. 1, and page 247, col. 1.); to which may be added the Manks. Creidim I believe, guidheam I pray, with perhaps one or two more Present Tenses, now used in Scotland, seem to have been imported from Ireland, for their paucity evinces that they belong not to our dialect. The want of the simple Present Tense is a striking point of resemblance between the Gaelic and the Hebrew verb.

I am indebted to a learned and ingenious correspondent for the following important remark; that the want of the simple Present Tense in all the British dialects of the Celtic, in common with the Hebrew, while the Irish has assumed that Tense, furnishes a strong presumption that the Irish is a dialect of later growth; that the British Gaelic is its parent tongue; and consequently that Britain is the mother country of Ireland.

[62] From observing the same thing happen repeatedly or habitually it is naturally inferred that it will happen again. When an event is predicted it is supposed that the speaker, if no other cause of his foreknowledge appears, infers the future happening of the event from its having already happened in many instances. Thus the Future Tense, which simply foretells, conveys to the hearer an intimation that the thing foretold has already taken place frequently and habitually. In Hebrew, the Future Tense is used with precisely the same effect. In the law of Jehovah he will meditate; i.e., he does meditate habitually. Psal. i, 2. See also Psal. xlii. 1, Job ix. 11, xxiii. 8, 9, &c., passim.

[63] Though this be the precise import of the Compound Tenses of the second order, yet they are not strictly confined to the point of time stated above; but are often used to denote past time indefinitely. In this way, they supply the place of the Compound Tenses of the first order in those verbs which have no passive participle.

[64] See Moor. So tha 'n tigh 'g a thogail, the house is in building.

[65] Téid the Fut. Negat. of Rach to go, has been generally written d'théid; from an opinion, it would seem, that the full form of that Tense is do théid. Yet as the participle do is never found prefixed to the Future Negative of any regular verb, it appears more agreeable to the analogy of conjugation to write this tense in its simplest form téid. See "Gael. New Test." 1767, and 1796, Mat. xiii. 28. xiv. 15. A different mode of writing this tense has been adopted in the edition of the "Gael. Bible," Edin. 1807, where we uniformly find dthéid, dthoir, dthig.

[66] Throughout the verb tabhair, the syllables abhair are often contracted into oir; as, toir, torinnn, &c. Acts xviii. 10. Sometimes written d'thoir, d'thoirinn; rather improperly. See note 65.

[67] Tig rather than d'thig. See note 65.

[68] A Pres. Aff. of this Verb, borrowed from the Irish, is often used in the G. SS. Deiream I say, deir e he saith, deir iad they say.

[69] Dubhairt, dubhradh, are contracted for do thubhairt, &c. Abairinn, abaiream, abairear, are often contracted into abrainn, abram, abrar.

[70] It may appear an odd peculiarity in the Gaelic, that in many of the most common phrases, a proposition or question should thus be expressed without the least trace of a Verb. It can hardly be said that the Substantive Verb is understood, for then there would be no impropriety in expressing it. But the fact is, that it would be completely contrary to the idiom and usage of the language, to introduce a Substantive Verb in these phrases. It will diminish our surprise at this peculiarity to observe that in the ancient languages numerous examples occur of sentences, or clauses of sentences, in which the Substantive Verb is omitted, without occasioning any obscurity or ambiguity; and this in Prose as well as in Verse. Thus in Hebrew; Gen. xlii. 11, 13, 14. We [are] all one man's sons—we [are] true men—thy servants [are] twelve brethren—the youngest [is] with his father—ye [are] spies—&c.

Οὐκ ἀγαθον πολυκοιρανιη.Iliad, B. 204.

κακα κερδεα ἰσ' ἀτησι.Hes. Ε. και Η. ά.

ἐγω δε τισου ταχυπειθης.Theoc. Idyl. 7.

Et mî genus ab Jove summo.—Virg. Æn. VI. 123.

Varium et mutabile semper Femina.—Æn. IV. 569.

Omnia semper suspecta atque sollicita; nullus locus amicitiæ. Cic. de Amic. 15.

  mira feritas, foeda paupertas; non arma, non equi, non penates; victui herba, vestitui pelles, cubile humus; sola in sagittis spes, &c.—Tacit. de. mor. Germ. Cap. ult. In these and the like examples, the Substantive Verb might have been expressed, if with less elegance, yet without grammatical impropriety. What has been frequently done in other languages, seems, in Gaelic, to have been adopted, in certain phrases, as an invariable mode of speech.

The omission of the Substantive Verb is not unknown in English; as,

"In winter awful thou."—Thomson.

"A ministering angel thou."—Scott.

"A cruel sister she."—Mallet.

[71] The effect of this Tense in narration seems to be very nearly, if not precisely, the same with that of the Present of the Infinitive in Latin; as in these passages:

"——misere discedere quaerens,

Ire modo ocius; interdum consistere; in aurem

Dicere nescio quid puero."—Hor. Sat. 1. 8. v. 9.

"At Danaum proceres, Agamemnoniæque phalanges

Ingenti trepidare metu; pars vertere terga,

Ceu quondam petiêre rates; pars tollere vocem."—Æneid. VI. 492.

"——nihil illi tendere contra;

Sed celerare fugam in sylvas, et fidere nocti.'—Æneid. IX. 378.

"Tarquinius fateri amorem, orare, miscere precibus minas, versare in omnes partes muliebrem animum."—Liv. I. 58.

"Neque post id locorum Jugurthæ dies aut nox ulla quieta fuere: neque loco, neque mortali cuiquam, aut tempori satis credere; cives, hostes, juxta metuere; circumspectare omnia, et omni strepitu pavescere; alio atque alio loco, saepe contra decus regium, noctu requiescere; interdum somno excitus, arreptis armis, tumultum facere; ita formidine quasi vecordia exagitari."—Sall. Bell. Jugur. 72.

[72] "An ceannard a mharbhadh" may be considered as the nominative to the verb chaidh; and so in similar phrases; much in the same way as we find in Latin, an Infinitive with an accusative before it, become the nominative to a verb; as "hominem hominis incommodo suum augere commodum est contra naturam." Cic. de. Offic. III. 5. "Turpe est eos qui bene nati sunt turpiter vivere."

[73] So in Hebrew, the article prefixed to the nouns day, night, imports the present day or night. See Exod. xiv. 13.

[74] Perhaps the proper Prep. in these phrases is de, not do—see the Prepositions in the next Chap.—as we find the same Prep. similarly applied in other languages; de nuit by night, John iii. 2; de nocte, Hor. Epis. 1. 2, 32; de tertia vigilia, Cæs. B. G.

[75] These expressions are affirmed, not without reason, to refer to the supposed destruction of the world by fire, or by water; events which were considered as immeasurably remote. (See Smith's "Gal. Antiq." pp. 59. 60). Another explanation has been given of dilinn, as being compounded of dith, want, failure, and linn an age; qu. absumptio sæculi.

[76] Perhaps am fàn, from fàn or fànadh a descent. (See Lhuyd's "Arch. Brit." tit. x. in loco.)

[77] i.e. anns an teach, anns an tigh, in the house. So in Hebrew, מבית within, Gen. vi. 14.

[78] Deas, applied to the hand, signifies the right hand. So in Hebrew, ימין signifies the right hand and the South.

[79] Iar, as a Preposition, signifies after or behind. In like manner in Hebrew, אתר signifies after, or the West.

[80] Probably co luath equally quick, with equal pace.

[81] The probable analysis of seadh is, is é, it is, pronounced in one syllable, 's e. When this syllable was used as a responsive, and not followed by any other word; the voice, resting on the final sound, formed a faint articulation. This was represented in writing by the gentle aspirate dh; and so the word came to be written as we find it. In like manner ni h-eadh is probably nothing else than a substitute for ni he, it is not.

[82] This mode of incorporating the Prepositions with the personal pronouns will remind the Orientalist of the Pronominal Affixes, common in Hebrew and other Eastern languages. The close resemblance between the Gaelic and many of the Asiatic tongues, in this particular, is of itself an almost conclusive proof that the Gaelic bears a much closer affinity to the parent stock than any other living European language.

[83] "In corroboration of this (Mr. S.'s) hypothesis, I have frequently met de in old MSS. I have therefore adopted it in its proper place."—E. O'C.'s "Grammar of the Irish Gaelic." Dublin, 1808.

[84] In many places, this Prep. is pronounced hun.

[85] Tar éis, on the track or footstep. See O'Brien's "Ir. Dict." voc. éis.

[86] On consulting O'Brien's "Ir. Dict." we find son translated profit, advantage, cum a fight, combat, réir will, desire. From these significations the common meaning of air son, do chum, do réir, may perhaps be derived without much violence.

[87] See Gaelic Poems published by Doctor Smith, pp. 8, 9, 178, 291.

[88] There is in Gaelic a Noun cion or cionn, signifying cause; which occurs in the expressions a chionn gu because that, cion-fàth a reason or ground. But this word is entirely different from ceann end or top.

[89] Some confusion has been introduced into the Grammar of the Latin language, by imposing different grammatical names on words, according to the connection in which they stood, while they retained their form and their signification unchanged; as in calling quod at one time a Relative Pronoun, at another time a Conjunction; post in one situation a Preposition, in another, an Adverb. An expedient was thought requisite for distinguishing, in such instances, the one part of speech from the other. Accordingly an accent, or some such mark, was, in writing or printing, placed over the last vowel of the word, when employed in what was reckoned its secondary use; while, in its primary use, it was written without any distinguishing mark. So the conjunction quòd was distinguished from the relative quod; and the adverb post from the preposition pòst. The distinction was erroneous; but the expedient employed to mark it was, at least, harmless. The word was left unaltered and undisguised; and thus succeeding grammarians had it the more in their power to prove that the relative quod and the conjunction quòd are, and have ever been, in reality, one and the same part of speech. It would have been justly thought a bold and unwarrantable step, had the older grammarians gone so far as to alter the letters of the word, in order to mark a distinction of their own creation.

[90] From this use of the preposition air arises the equivoque so humorously turned against Mr James Macpherson by Maccodrum the poet, as related in the Report of the Committee of the Highland Society of Scotland on the authenticity of Osian's Poems, Append. p. 95. Macpherson asked Maccodrum, "Am bheil dad agad air an Fhéinn?" literally, "Have you anything on the Fingalians?" intending to inquire whether the latter had any poems in his possession on the subject of the Fingalian history and exploits. The expression partakes much more of the English than of the Gaelic idiom. Indeed, it can hardly be understood in Gaelic, in the sense that the querist intended. Maccodrum, catching up the expression in its true Gaelic acceptation, answered, with affected surprise, "Bheil dad agam air an Fhéinn? Ma bha dad riamh agam orra, is fad o chaill mi na còirichean." "Have I any claim on the Fingalians? If ever I had, it is long since I lost my voucher."

[91] This use of the preposition ann in conjunction with a possessive Pronoun, is nearly akin to that of the Hebrew ל, [for] in such expressions as these: 'He hath made me [for] a father to Pharaoh, and [for] lord of all his house;' rinn e mi 'n am athair do Pharaoh, agus 'n am thighearn os ceann a thighe uile, Gen. xlv. 8. 'Thou hast taken the wife of Uriah to be [for] thy wife;' ghabh thu bean Uriah gu bi 'n a mnaoi dhuit fein. 2 Sam. xii. 10.

[92] This syllable assumes various forms. Before a broad vowel or consonant an, as, anshocair; before a small vowel or consonant ain, as, aineolach ignorant, aindeoin unwillingness; before a labial am or aim, as, aimbeartach poor; sometimes with the m aspirated, as, aimhleas detriment, ruin, aimh-leathan narrow.

[93] The conjunction ged loses the d when written before an adjective or a personal pronoun; as, ge binn do ghuth, though your voice be sweet; ge h-àrd Jehovah, Psal. cxxxviii. 6.

The translators of the Scriptures appear to have erred in supposing ge to be the entire Conjunction, and that d is the verbal particle do. This has led them to write ge d' or ge do in situations in which do alters the sense from what was intended, or is totally inadmissible. Ge do ghluais mi, Deut. xxix. 19, is given as the translation of though I walk, i.e. though I shall walk, but in reality it signifies though I did walk, for do ghluais is past tense. It ought to be ged ghluais mi. So also ge do ghleidh thu mi, Judg. xiii. 16, though you detain me, ought rather to be ged ghleidh thu mi. Ge do ghlaodhas iad rium, Jer. xi. 11, though they cry to me, is not agreeable to the Gaelic idiom. It ought rather to be ged ghlaodh iad rium, as in Hosea, xi. 7. Ge do dh' fheudainnse muinghin bhi agam, Phil. iii. 4, though I might have confidence. Here the verbal particle is doubled unnecessarily, and surely not according to classical precision. Let it be written ged dh' fheudainnse, and the phrase is correct. Ge do 's eigin domh am bas fhulang, Mark xiv. 31, though I must suffer death: ge do tha aireamh chloinn Israel, &c., Rom. ix. 27, though the number of the children of Israel be, &c. The present tenses is and tha never take the do before them. Ged is eigin, ged tha, is liable to no objection. At other times, when the do appeared indisputably out of place, the d has been dismissed altogether, contrary to usual mode of pronunciation; as, ge nach eil, Acts xvii. 27, 2 Cor. xii. 11, where the common pronunciation requires ged nach eil. So, ge d' nach duin' an t-aodach, &c. ge d' nach biodh ann ach an righ &c. (McIntosh's "Gael Prov." pp. 35, 36), where the d is retained even before nach, because such is the constant way of pronouncing the phrase.

These faulty expressions which, without intending to derogate from the high regard due to such respectable authorities, I have thus freely ventured to point out, seemed to have proceeded from mistaking the constituent letters of the conjunction in question. It would appear that d was originally a radical letter of the word; that through time it came, like many other consonants, to be aspirated; and by degrees became, in some situations, quiescent. In Irish it is written giodh. This manner of writing the word is adopted by the translator of Baxter's "Call." One of its compounds is always written gidheadh. In these, the d is preserved, though in its aspirated state. In Scotland it is still pronounced, in most situations, ged, without aspirating the d at all. These circumstances put together seem to prove the final d is a radical constituent letter of this Conjunction.

I have the satisfaction to say that the very accurate Author of the Gaelic Translation of the Scriptures has, with great candour, acknowledged the justice of the criticism contained in the foregoing note. It is judged expedient to retain it in this edition of the Grammar, lest the authority of that excellent Translation might perpetuate a form of speech which is confessed to be faulty.

[94] To avoid, as far as may be, the too frequent use of a by itself, perhaps it would be better always to write the article full, an or am; and to apply the above rules, about the elision of its letters, only to regulate the pronunciation. Irish books, and our earlier Scottish publications, have the article written almost always full, in situations where, according to the latest mode of Orthography, it is mutilated.

[95] The practice of suppressing the sound of an initial consonant in certain situations, and supplying its place by another of a softer sound, is carried to a much greater extent in the Irish dialect. It is termed eclipsis by the Irish grammarians, and is an evidence of a nice attention to euphonia.

[96] The Dat. case is always preceded by a Preposition, ris a' bhard, do 'n bhard, aig na bardaibh; in declining a Noun with the article, any Proper Preposition may be supplied before the Dative case.

[97] So in English, Grandfather, Highlands, sometimes; in Latin, Respublica, Decemviri; in Italian, Primavera; in French, Bonheur, Malheur, &c. from being an adjective and a noun, came to be considered as a single complex term, or a compound word, and to be written accordingly.

A close analogy may be traced between the Gaelic and the French in the collocation of the Adjective. In both languages, the Adjective is ordinarily placed after its Noun. If it be placed before its Noun, it is by a kind of poetical inversion; dorchadas tiugh, des tenebres epaisses; by inversion, tiugh dhorchadas, d' epaisses tenebres; fear mòr, un homme grand; by inversion, in a metaphorical sense, mòr fhear, un grand homme. A Numeral Adjective, in both languages, is placed before its Noun; as also iomadh, plusieurs; except when joined to a proper name, where the Cardinal is used for the Ordinal; Seumas a Ceithir, Jaques Quatre.

[98] The same seems to be the case in the Cornish Language. See Lhuyd's "Arch. Brit." p. 243, col. 3.

When an Adjective precedes its Noun, it undergoes no change of termination; as, thig an Tighearn a nuas le ard iolaich, the Lord will descend with a great shout, 1 Thes. iv. 16; mar ghuth mor shluaigh, as the voice of a great multitude, Rev. xix. 6.

[99] Thus, bhur inntinn your mind, Acts xv. 24.

[100] This, however, does not happen invariably. Where the Sex, though specified, is overlooked as of small importance, the Personal or Possessive Pronouns follow the Gender of the Antecedent. See 2 Sam. xii. 3.

[101] I am aware of the singularity of asserting the grammatical propriety of such expressions as ciod e Uchdmhacachd? ciod e Urnuigh? as, the nouns uchdmhacachd, urnuigh are known to be of the feminine Gender; and as this assertion stands opposed to the respectable authority of the Editor of the Assembly's Catechism in Gaelic, Edin. 1792, where we read, Ciod i urnuigh? &c. The following defence of it is offered to the attentive reader.

In every question the words which convey the interrogation must refer to some higher genus or species than the words which express the subject of the query. It is in the choice of the speaker to make that reference to any genus or species he pleases. If I ask 'Who was Alexander?' the Interrogative who refers to the species man, of which Alexander, the subject of the query, is understood to have been an individual. The question is equivalent to 'What man was Alexander?' If I ask 'What is Man?' the Interrogative what refers to the genus of Existence or Being, of which Man is considered as a subordinate genus or species. The question is the same with 'What Being is Man?' I may also ask 'What was Alexander?' Here the Interrogative what refers to some genus or species of which Alexander is conceived to have been an individual, though the particular genus intended by the querist is left to be gathered from the tenor of the preceding discourse. It would be improper, however, to say 'Who is man?' as the Interrogative refers to no higher genus than that expressed by the word Man. It is the same as if one should ask 'What man is Man?'

In the question 'What is Prayer?' the object of the querist is to learn the meaning of the term Prayer. The Interrogative what refers to the genus of Existence, as in the question 'What is Man?' not to the word Prayer, which is the subject of the query. It is equivalent to 'What is [that thing which is named] Prayer?' In those languages where a variety of gender is prevalent, this reference of the Interrogative is more conspicuously marked. A Latin writer would say 'Quid est Oratio*?' A Frenchman, 'Qu' est-ce que la Prière?' These questions, in a complete form, would run thus; 'Quid est [id quod dicitur] Oratio?' 'Qu' est-ce que [l'on appelle] la Prière?' On the same principle, and in the same sense, a Gaelic writer must say, 'Ciod e urnuigh?' the Interrogative Ciod e referring not to urnuigh but to some higher genus. The expression, when completed, is 'Ciod e [sin de 'n goirear] urnuigh?'

Is there then no case in which the Interrogative may follow the gender of the subject? If the subject of the query be expressed, as it often is, by a general term, limited in its signification by a noun, adjective, relative clause, &c; the reference of the Interrogative is often, though not always not necessarily, made to that term in its general acceptation, and consequently be 'What is the Lord's Prayer?' Here the subject of the query is not Prayer, but an individual of that species, denoted by the term prayer limited in its signification by another noun. The Interrogative what may refer, as in the former examples, to the genus of Existence; or it may refer to the species Prayer, of which the subject of the query is an individual. That is, I may be understood to ask either 'What is that thing which is called the Lord's Prayer?' or 'What is that prayer which is called the Lord's Prayer?' A Latin writer would say, in the former sense, 'Quid est Oratio Dominica†?' in the latter sense, 'Quaenam est Oratio Dominica?' The former of these expressions is resolvable into 'Quid est [id quod dicitur] Oratio Dominica?' the latter into 'Quaenam [oratio] est Oratio Dominica?' The same diversity of expression would be used in French: 'Qu' est-ce que l'Oraison Dominicale?' and 'Quelle est l'Oraison Dominicale?' The former resolvable into 'Qu' est-ce que [l'on appelle] l'Oraison Dominicale? the latter into 'Quelle [oraison] est l'Oraison Dominicale? So also in Gaelic, 'Ciod e Urnuigh an Tighearna?' equivalent to 'Ciod e [sin de'n goirear] Urnuigh an Tighearna?' or, which will occur oftener, 'Ciod i Urnuigh an Tighearna?' equivalent to 'Ciod i [an urnuigh sin de 'n goirear] Urnuigh an Tighearna?'

* See a short Latin Catechism at the end of Mr Ruddiman's Latin Rudiments, where many similar expressions occur; as 'Quid est fides? 'Quid est Lex? Quid est Baptismus? Quid Sacramenta?' &c.

† So Ruddiman, 'Quid est Sacra Coena?'

[102] The same arrangement obtains pretty uniformly in Hebrew, and seems the natural and ordinary collocation of the Verb and its Noun in that language. When the Noun in Hebrew is placed before the Verb, it will generally be found that the Noun does not immediately connect with the Verb as the Nominative to it, but rather stands in an absolute state; and that it is brought forward in that state by itself to excite attention, and denotes some kind of emphasis, or opposition to another Noun. Take the following examples for illustration: Gen. i. 1, 2. 'In the beginning God created [ברא אלהים in the natural order] the Heaven and the Earth.' והארץ היתה; not and the Earth was, &c., but 'and with respect to the Earth, it was without form,' &c. Thus expressed in Gaelic: 'agus an talamh bha e gun dealbh,' &c. Gen. xviii. 33. 'And the Lord went his way [וילך יהוה in the natural order] as soon as he had left communing with Abraham;' ואברהם שב, not simply 'and Abraham returned,' &c., but 'and Abraham—he too returned to his place.' In Gaelic, 'agus Abraham, phill esan g' aite fein.' See also Num. xxiv. 25.—Gen. iii. 12. 'And the man said, the woman whom thou gavest to be with me, הוא נתנה לי she it was that gave me of the tree, and I did eat.' Gen. iii. 13. 'And the woman said, הנחש השיאני, not merely 'the Serpent beguiled me,' but 'the Serpent was the cause; it beguiled me, and I did eat.' Exod. xiv. 14. 'Jehovah—he will fight for you; but as for you, ye shall hold your peace.' This kind of emphasis is correctly expressed in the Eng. translation of Psal. lx. 12, 'for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.' Without multiplying examples, I shall only observe that it must be difficult for the English reader to conceive that the Noun denoting the subject of a proposition, when placed after its Verb, should be in the natural order; and when placed before its Verb, should be in an inverted order of the words. To a person well aquainted with the Gaelic, this idiom is familiar; and therefore it is the easier for him to apprehend the effect of such an arrangement in any other language. For want of attending to this peculiarity in the structure of the Hebrew, much of that force and emphasis, which in other languages would be expressed by various particles, but in Hebrew depend on the collocation alone, must pass unobserved and unfelt.

[103] I am happy to be put right, in my stricture on the above passage, by E. O'C., author of a Gaelic Grammar, Dublin, 1808, who informs us that truaighe is here the Nominative, and Iosa the Accusative case; and that the meaning is not Jesus took pity on them, but pity seized Jesus for them.

[104] This construction resembles that of the Latin Infinitive preceded by the Accusative of the Agent.

——Mene desistere victam,

Nec posse Italia Teucrorum avertere regem?—I. Ænid 28.

[105] So in English, the Infinitive of a Transitive Verb is sometimes used instead of the Present Participle, and followed by the Preposition of; as, 'the woman was there gathering of sticks.' 1 Kings xvii. 10.

———— some sad drops

Wept at completing of the mortal sin.—"Parad. Lost."

See more examples, Num. xiii, 25, 2 Sam. ii. 21, 2 Chron. xx. 25, xxxv. 14, Ezek. xxxix. 12.

[106] On the same principle it is that in some compound words, composed of two Nouns whereof the former governs the latter in the Genitive, the former Noun is seldom itself put in the Genitive case. Thus, ainm bean-na-bainse, the bride's name; it would sound extremely harsh to say ainm mna-na-bainse; clach ceann-an-teine, not clach cinn-an-teine, the stone which supports a hearth fire.

[107] These examples suggest, and seem to authorise a special use of this idiom of Gaelic Syntax, which, if uniformly observed, might contribute much to the perspicuity and precision of many common expressions. When a compound term occurs, made up of a Noun and an Infinitive governed by that Noun, it often happens that this term itself governs another Noun in the Genitive. Let the two parts of the compound term be viewed separately. If it appear that the subsequent Noun is governed by the former part of the compound word, then the latter part should remain regularly in the Genitive Case. But if the subsequent Noun be governed by the latter part of the compound word, then, agreeably to the construction exemplified in the above passages, that latter part, which is here supposed to be an Infinitive, should fall back into the Nominative Case. Thus tigh-coimhid an Righ, the King's store house, where the Noun Righ is governed by tigh, the former term of the compound word; but tigh comhead an ionmhais, John viii. 20, the house for keeping the treasure, where ionmhais is governed by coimhead, which is therefore put in the Nominative instead of the Genitive. So luchd-coimhid, Matt. xxviii. 4, when no other Noun is governed; but fear-coimhead a' phriosuin, Acts, xvi. 27, 36, where the last Noun is governed in the Genitive by coimhead, which is therefore put in the Nominative. So also fear-coimhid, Psal. cxxi. 3, but fear-coimhead Israeil, Psal. cxxi. 4. Edin. 1799. Tigh-bearraidh nam buachaillean, the shearing-house belonging to the shepherds, 2 King, x. 12, but tigh-bearradh nan caorach, the house for shearing the sheep. Luchd-brathaidh an Righ the King's spies; but luchd-brathadh an Righ, the betrayers of the King. Luchd-mortaidh Heroid, assassins employed by Herod; but luchd-mortadh Eoin, the murderers of John.

I am aware that this distinction has been little regarded by the translators of the Scriptures. It appeared, however, worthy of being suggested, on account of its evident utility in point of precision, and because it is supported by the genius and practice of the Gaelic language.

[108] For this reason, there seems to be an impropriety in writing chum a losgaidh, 1 Cor. xiii. 3, instead of chum a losgadh.

[109] The same peculiarity in the use of the Article takes place in Hebrew, and constitutes a striking point of analogy in the structure of the two languages. See Buxt. Thes. Gram. Heb. Lib. II. Cap. V.

[110] This solecism is found in the Irish as well as in the Scottish Gaelic translation. The Manks translation has avoided it. In the Irish version and in the Scottish Gaelic version of 1767, a similar instance occurs in Acts, ii. 20, an la mor agus oirdheirc sin an Tighearna. In the Scottish edition of 1796, the requisite correction is made by omitting the first Article. It is omitted likewise in the Manks N. T. On the other hand, the Article, which had been rightly left out in the Edition of 1767, is improperly introduced in the Edition of 1796, in 1 Cor. xi. 27, an cupan so an Tighearna. It is proper to mention that, in the passage last quoted, the first article an had crept, by mistake, into a part of the impression 1796, but was corrected in the remaining part.

[111] The inserted m or n is generally written with an apostrophe before it, thus gu'm, gu'n. This would indicate that some vowel is here suppressed in writing. But if no vowel ever stood in the place of this apostrophe, which seems to be the fact, the apostrophe itself has been needlessly and improperly introduced.

[112] I much doubt the propriety of joining the Conjunction ged to the Fut. Affirm.; as, ge do gheibh na h-uile dhaoine oilbheum, though all men shall be offended, Matt. xxvi. 33. It should rather have been, ged fhaigh na h-uile dhaoine, &c. The Fut. Subj. seems to be equally improper; as, ge do ghlaodhas iad rium, though they shall cry to me, Jer. xi. 21, Edit. 1786. Rather, ged ghlaodh iad rium, as in Hosea, xi. 7. So also, ged eirich dragh, 's ged bhagair bàs, though trouble shall arise, and though death shall threaten. Gael. Paraph. xlvii. 7. Edin. 1787. See page 134. Note 93.

[113] The terminations air, oir, seem from their signification as well as form, to be nothing else than fear man, in its aspirated form fhear. From these terminations are derived the Latin terminations or, orator, doctor, &c., arius sicarius, essedarius, &c.; the French eur, vengeur, createur, &c.; aire, commissaire, notaire, &c., ter, chevalier, charretier, &c.; the English er, maker, lover, &c., ary, prebendary, antiquary, &c., eer, volunteer, &c.

[114] Timcheal na macraidhe beside the young men, Lhuyd, O'Brien. voc. timcheal. This passage proves macraidh to be a singular Noun of the fem. gender, not, as might be thought, the Plural of mac. So laochruidh, madraidh, &c., may rather be considered as collective Nouns of the singular Number than as plurals.

[115] The same termination having the same import, is found in the French words cavalerie, infanterie, and in the English cavalry, infantry, yeomanry.

[116] In the Gaelic N. Test, the Gentile Nouns Κορινθιος, Γαλαται, Εφεσιοι, are rendered Corintianaich, Galatianaich, Ephesianaich. Would it not be agreeable to the analogy of Gaelic derivation to write Corintich, Galataich, Ephesich, subjoining the Gaelic termination alone to the Primitive, rather than by introducing the syllable an, to form a Derivative of a mixed and redundant structure, partly vernacular, partly foreign? The word Samaritanaich, John iv. 40, is remarkably redundant, having no fewer than three Gentile Terminations. From Σαμαρεια is formed, agreeably to the Greek mode of derivation, Σαμαρειται. To this the Latins added their own termination, and wrote Samaritani; which the Irish lengthened out still further into Samaritanaich. The proper Gaelic derivation would be Samaraich, like Elamaich, Medich, Persich, &c. The Irish Galiléanach is, in the Scottish Translation 1796, properly changed into Galiléach, Acts v. 37.

[117] The termination ail is a contraction for amhuil like. In Irish this termination is generally written full, fearamhuil, geanamhuil, &c. From the Gaelic termination ail, is derived the Latin termination alis, fatalis, hospitalis, &c., whence the English al, final, conditional, &c. See page 33. Note 25.

[118] Two or three exceptions from this rule occur; as the Plurals dée gods, mnai women, lai days. But these are so irregular in their form as well as spelling, that they ought rather to be rejected altogether, and their place supplied by the common Plurals diathan, mnathan, lathan or lathachan.

[119] As if we should write in English impious, impotent, without a hyphen; but im-penitent, im-probable, with a hyphen.

[120] O beautiful ringlet.

[121] The above is the passage so often referred to in the controversy concerning the antiquity of Ossian's Poems. It was natural enough for the zealous Bishop to speak disparagingly of anything which appeared to him to divert the minds of the people from those important religious truths to which he piously wished to direct their most serious attention. But whatever may be thought of his judgment, his testimony is decisive as to the existence of traditional histories concerning Fingal and his people; and proves that the rehearsal of those compositions was a common and favourite entertainment with the people throughout the Highlands at the time when he lived.

[122] i.e., the Hebrides.