People are always trying to make out that Gaelic names are "for" some other language, which is just silly. Helen is Greek for Helen. Eilean/Eileen is Scottish Gaelic for a wee island. And ÉléanorÉléonore is French for itself. Just as silly as "translating" Alasdair as Alexander.
There are certain ways that names in one language can match up with those in another. Most obviously if the popularity of the name has an identifiable source. Biblical names and names from other well known texts do have equivalents because these texts have been translated over the centuries. So Màiri is the Gaelic for Mary (and other names in other languages, quite literally because the Bible says so). Similarly, Helen of Troy was so famous as 'the most beautiful woman in the world' that people have been named after her in all sorts of varieties in all sorts of languages. Most people called Eilidh are named after someone else, or lots of people, called Eilidh but if you trace it back you might eventually get to someone named after Helen of Troy.
But this is not the same as saying that Eilidh comes from Helen for two reasons. Firstly, it does not come from English. If this is the source of the name Eilidh it comes from Ελένη. Secondly, some similar name may have existed before, and then been assumed to come from Ελένη, and possibly modified in the process. But once this happens, and it would have happened a lot once mass literature became available then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once people are called Eilidh in the belief that it means 'Helen', then it is being used as the Gaelic for Helen.
The second issue is much more disturbing. Until the 20th century, discrimination against Gaelic was so strong that people were forced to speak English at school and not allowed to use Gaelic names. If you had a Gaelic name then the teacher had to replace it, and over time a set of equivalents was established. Some were valid, such as Mary for Màiri, some were dubious, such as Helen for Eilidh, and some were simply nonsense, such as Norman for Tormod. Luckily you were not made to do this and you can call yourself Eilidh. But it does mean there are at least two connections between Eilidh and Helen and it is at least partially true that Eilidh means 'Helen', but only in the sense that Helen is how we say the name in English. D
Irish is very closely related. At this level they are virtually identical, although you will meet some differences later on. Relevant here if you know Irish, there is a structure with a different word order Is múinteoir mé that is normal in Irish but you should not normally use in Gaelic unless you want to sound rather old-fashioned and pompous.
There are some tips for this intro section, which explain that the verb usually comes before the subject. There is no pronunciation help, but you can find out about that on Wikipedia and search Youtube, etc. There will be some differences in accent by native speakers in the course, but nothing too difficult.
Of course there are. Right here: https://www.duolingo.com/skill/gd/Intro/tips-and-notes
I'm given to understand that many native speakers aren't as 'heavy' with consonants as (e.g.) English speakers, which can lead it sounding different especially when spoken quickly.. a softly pronounced g like this could well come across as a "y" sound if you're not used to hearing that.
Another example is in the phrase 'chan eil fios agam' - (I don't know) which can sound like 'chan eil 's a'am' when spoken quickly by fluent speakers.
This is correct, but the reason it is fh is a bit weird. Firstly you may have spotted that eil is a bizarre variant of tha. Well it actually comes from a verb feil meaning 'to perceive', so * chan fheil fios agam originally meant '[one] doesn't perceive knowledge at me', which is a very roundabout way of saying 'I do not know'. Secondly the origin has been forgotten, so the silent fh in fheil has been forgotten. And thirdly, that means that fios is actually the object of the verb, and objects got lenited in Old Irish, so fios became fhios. For full details see the Welsh course, as this still happens in Welsh.
Of course this is confusing, so you will hear
Tha fhios and chan eil fios
Tha fios and chan eil fhios
are the more common forms. Aren't languages fun? D
In which meaning is "nice" used here? Is it for outward appearance ("beautiful", "handsome") or personal traits ("kind", "generous")?
I think you have solved a problem. No one that I can find has ever come up with any similar word with a similar meaning, in any language, not even Irish, Old Irish or Welsh. Quite a few words in Gaelic are thought to come from North Germanic, and a very high proportion of Gaelic words that are not of Irish, Welsh or English origin do.
However, I cannot find any etymology for snygg or any words with similar meanings in other languages. Wiktionary suggests Icelandic snöggur and Westrobothnian snögg but these do not have similar meanings, and nor does Danish snog.
It is in fact a common mistake to assume without evidence that Gaelic words were borrowed from North Germanic rather than the word coming from some other language, perhaps from Scotland, so all we can say is the words appear related, but it is indeed a great leap forward. D
It's worth pointing out a few things that may reduce confusion.
There are two 'standard' pronunciations for gh, one broad (which may you may not have met yet, as in Fionnlagh) and one slender (which you definitely have met, as in taigh). Later you will meet some irregular pronunciations, but we can ignore them for now.
But a few centuries ago, the pronunciation of dh (both broad and slender) changed (I have no idea why) and is now identical the the standard pronunciation of gh. This is important to remember because it means you cannot tell the difference in a listening exercise. Your only options are to just learn the word, or recognise a related word in another language. Or to realise that if you get one letter wrong it only counts as a typo, not a mistake!
As for how the slender dh/gh is pronounced, it is just like an English y (written /j/ in the proper notation). This is on the border between a vowel and a consonant (compare yet and bailey). Now Eilidh rhymes with bailey, so it is not completely fair to say it is silent. Just think of it as like a y in English (Eiley) and you will get the right pronunciation. In just the same way that taigh sounds like tye in English, rhyming with high and try.
This is very controversial. When a word or other linguistic feature is observed to be shared by people in Scotland (whether speaking Gaelic or Scots) and the Lochlannaich, the universal assumption has always been that 'we borrowed it from them'. But it has always been beyond me how we know that if the only evidence we have is that it occurs both sides of the sea since the earliest records.
Gaelic is sometimes, facetiously but fairly accurately, described as 'Irish with a Norwegian accent', but this does not provide evidence of who copied whom.
Things are compounded by assuming that any word in English that comes from this shared heritage came to us across the sea. This is doubly faulty as first we do not know if it did, and second, even if it did, how do we know the Lochlannaich did not get it from 'across the sea' in the first place? D
Indeed. But it is in the two other good dictionaries that people use, AFB and Mark (2003), who gives the word with two example sentences, but with no examples elsewhere in the dictionary. My personal experience is that is is very common, often being used where we would use the massively overworked nice in English.
Its omission from Dwelly could simply mean that it was not used in 1911, but there could be a much more subtle reason. Dwelly was an amateur. He just turned up in the Highlands and started doing very rigorous, and largely unbiased research, learning Gaelic as he went. But there is one way in which his work is clearly biased. That is in words that may have gendered use. At the time he was working social norms made it essentially impossible for a man, and an outsider at that, to have casual conversations with women, and so it is thought that most of his vocabulary is what was used by men in an entirely homosocial setting. This is born out by the huge number of highly derogatory words for women, particularly ones with sexual connotations. There are virtually no corresponding words for men in his dictionary, although it is reasonable to assume that just as many existed. So it may just be that this was not a word used by men in the absence of women. D