1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Irish
  4. >
  5. 'Gardaí' nó 'Póilíní' ?


'Gardaí' nó 'Póilíní' ?

I'm not sure if this was answered previously, but it's on my mind ...

I've noticed in some duolingo exercises, the use of the word 'poilíní' translated as 'police'. As a test i purposely redid the exercise to insert various words - 'garda/gardaí/an garda síochána' instead... and I was graded 'WRONG' everytime!

I'm mentioning this because I don't know many Irish people who ever use the word 'police', over the words 'garda/gardaí' which are regularly used.

Do you think I'm wrong in suggesting that this should be amended to fit with the standard vernacular in Ireland? any other opinions out there? thanks.

April 4, 2018



I think maybe duolingo should accept both. I'm an americain but I live in Ireland and when I say police my teacher corrects me saying "In Ireland it's Garda," So I agree with your point.


I agree too that duolingo should accept both.

If you were learning French, would you not expect to learn the word "gendarme"?

It is beneficial for learners outside Ireland to learn specific terms which relate to Ireland, an essential part of the learning experience, in my view.


Fun fact: the French course doesn't teach gendarme (if the search function is working correctly). We certainly don't teach carabiniere in the Italian course, but you're right that they would be good additions.


At least one commenter said that Is garda í was accepted for the English to Irish exercise "She is a police officer", even though it would be untrue for the vast majority of police officers that Duolingo learners will encounter. In fact, uncapitalized, Is garda í just means "she is a guard", and it could refer to a security guard, or a defensive player on a sports team.

On the other hand, if Duolingo had an Irish to English exercise Is Garda í, "She is a police officer" would be a valid answer, because everyone with the rank of Garda is, in fact, a police officer. But Duolingo doesn't have any Irish to English translations with Garda in them.

So when you say "Duolingo should accept both" do you mean for Irish to English translations, or for English to Irish translations?


Is garda í just means "she is a guard", Is Garda í, "She is a police officer" ... so it seems that in spoken Irish these words are one in the same? although there seems a greater distinction in the written form.

Perhaps DL should accept both within the context of a new exercise to cover words and phrases that exist specifically in the country of Ireland and the Irish language/culture but not in standard English translations?

There certainly are well and truly enough words to cover a new lesson, for example - https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/up-to-90-ireland-in-our-favourite-words-and-phrases-1.3160188


I am not Irish but I live in Ireland, I don't mind that the word "póilín" is used either way, but the word "garda" is essential to,how to put it? everyday life, and it is curiously absent on duolingo.

Ideally, there should be a balanced use of the generic and specific word...

We all agree they are not synonymous, I think.


Only about a quarter of the people who start the Irish course on Duolingo do so from Irish IP addresses. That means that a large majority of the users of the Irish course on Duolingo live in jurisdictions that have póilíní, but don't have Gardaí - there are no Gardaí serving in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, for example, or in the NYPD, and there are more than a few Irish speakers in both New York and in Northern Ireland, and in many other jurisdictions throughout Europe and the rest of the world. Even people who do live in Ireland watch British, American and Scandinavian cop shows on TV, and when they talk about them at work with their pals, they don't refer to the characters as na Gardaí, they refer to them as na póilíní. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwJmRQby0fg mar shampla)

Garda is not a synonym for póilín. Every Garda is a póilín, but not every póilín is a Garda.

The slogan on https://www.garda.ie/ga/ says Seirbhías Náisiúnta Póilíneachta agus Slándála na hÉireann - Póilíneacht is what they do, they they are overseen by The Policing Authority (http://www.policingauthority.ie/)/An tÚdarás Póilíneachta.


i don't think I quite understand the distinction you've made here - ''Garda is not a synonym for póilín. Every Garda is a póilín, but not every póilín is a Garda.''

I am an Irish person, born and raised, and i've always used the word garda unless i was in conversation with a foreigner who may not be aware of Irish gardaí ... i'm well aware of this tv show and various words police, cops, coppers etc or whatever slang words people use to describe them around the world, but don't they all refer to the same thing?

If i do a google search for an Irish garda car, it doesn't say police or póilíní. Also, as you've pointed out, the garda website is called garda.ie ...after all this is an Irish course specific to Ireland, it's language and culture whatever shape or form the diaspora has taken. Garda still seems like an integral part of the language that deserves it's place as a synonym.

I hope you can explain further. thanks.


To summarise SatharnPHL's point, Ireland is not the same as the RoI: the gardaí are the police force of the Republic, not of all Ireland, nor of the rest of the world.

Personally I agree with that: the course should teach the terms garda and gardaí if it doesn't (doesn't it?), but it's definitely not synonimous with police.


My point isn't really about the difference between Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Even in the Republic of Ireland, you can't simply change every instance of póilín to Garda.


To understand SatharnPHL’s distinction, consider an analogous distinction in French terminology: “Gendarme is not a synonym for policier. Every gendarme is a policier, but not every policier is a gendarme.” Only members of a gendarmerie are gendarmes ; a garda is not a gendarme. Similarly, only members of An Garda Síochána are gardaí ; a gendarme is not a garda. Each of them is a póilín / policier, though.

One could make an argument that in the context of a location within Ireland (the republic), garda should be accepted as well as póilín as a translation of “policeman” (in its epicene sense) in English to Irish translations; for example, if an exercise includes “in Cork” to give it a locational context. However, in exercises without a locational context, the generic póilín is the best translation of “policeman”.


If i show you a picture of a Garda car and ask you "Is this a police car?", the correct answer is "Yes".

If i show you a picture of a police car from New York or Chicago or Manchester, and ask you "Is this a Garda car?", the correct answer is "No", because Garda is not a synonym for police.

Note that for many Irish people, the term used in general conversation is "the Guards", not "the Gardaí".


Got it. You're saying that Garda/Gardaí only refers to the police in RoI? ... actually most of my family and friends would in fact say, 'the guards' and also use 'the gardaí' in conversation. I'm assuming 'the guards' spawned from Garda (and not from the English word 'guard', more like 'gard'... maybe?!), and since we generally speak English now, the plural is also used in the same way (where i'm from anyways) ... ie: the gardaí


No, I'm also saying that despite the fact that the police force in the Republic is called An Garda Síochána, people in the Republic still use the word póilíní when they are discussing TV shows like Chicago PD, or Hawaii Five-O that they can watch on RTÉ2, because Garda is not the Irish for "policeman", and "Garda" is not the English for póilín.


I can’t comment on the Garda vs. Poilini debate as I have no knowledge of these matters, but my guess is one if the reasons “poilini”might have been chosen as a vocabulary word in the first place is because it is an obvious English cognate, and in general duolingo likes to teach cognates in all its courses.



The Bridge: Drámaíocht Eorpach
Clár 10

Tá na póilíní fós sa tóir ar pháiste Freddie agus ar an gcoireach. Faigheann Freddie téacs ón bhfuadaitheoir le pictiúr den pháiste agus an áit a gcaithfidh sé casadh leis. Éiríonn le Freddie imeacht ó na póilíní ach nuair a thagann Saga agus Henrik chuig an áit a raibh Freddie le casadh leis an bhfuadaitheoir, ní bhíonn duine ar bith ann, ach faigheann siad fianaise thábhachtach a chuireann sa treo ceart iad. Ach an mbeidh siad ann in am?

Learn Irish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.