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latha vs an-diugh

I've now learnt that latha is 'day' while an-diugh is 'today'. I was just wondering why the different words exist, and if there are other places where latha/diugh are used where the distinction is important.

December 12, 2019



The same reason that oidhche is night and a-nochd is tonight… Language and its vocabulary changes.

The -diugh part is actually the same original word as Di- in DiDòmhnaich (from forms of Old Irish día ‘day’), and probably cognate with English day.

-nochd in a-nochd is also cognate with English night (through PIE. *nókʷts).

But for some reason, alternative words, oidhche (from O.Ir adaig, aidche ‘night’ of unknown origin) and là, latha (O.Ir laithe, ‘day’, related to Slavic lěto ‘summer’) won in general usage, and the other ones remain only in set phrases.


Thanks - yes my question was perhaps unclear - I'm aware that 'these things happen' - it was more what the etymological origins/language evolution was that led to this difference - which you've explained nicely - thanks!


An interesting book, although old and probably outdated, is https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/An_Etymological_Dictionary_of_the_Gaelic_Language

  • diu, diugh (to)-day, an diu, to-day, Ir. andiu, aniu, O. Ir. indiu, W. heddyw, M. Br. hiziu, Br. hirio, *divo- (Stokes); Skr. divâ; Lat. diû. See Di-, day. The an (O. Ir. in) is the article.
  • dé, an dé, yesterday, Ir. ané, (andé), O. Ir. indhé, W. y ddoe, Br. deac'h, M. Br. dech, sendi-gesi, art. an and gesi; Lat. heri (= hesî); Gr. χθές; Eng. yesterday. The Celtic forms are all influenced by the word for "to-day", G. an diu, O. Ir. indiu, W. heddyw, dyw; from diu, divo, day, q.v. Zimmer in fact refers the word to the root of diu (Zeit.30 17). *jesi, ghjesi, heri, etc. (St.).

List of abbreviations at https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/An_Etymological_Dictionary_of_the_Gaelic_Language/Abbreviations

Note that for instance the Irish words that are listed as aniu and ané nowadays are normally spelled inniu and inné, so take it with a pinch of salt.


Thanks! It is quite outdated by today standards, but still might be helpful, I used to browse scans of it on other sites, didn’t know it’s on Wikisource. :)

For people looking for state-of-the-art Celtic etymologies, I’d recommend Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic by Ranko Matasović, and for Old Irish, dil.ie: Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language which contrary to its name is a dictionary of Old and Middle Irish, modernized from the 1913–1976 analog edition – though this one’s pretty hard to use if you’re not familiar with it.


For the same reason the different words exist in English.


Well, in English the words have the same root - day - but I was interested that in Gaelic they appear to be completely different and found that interesting. (that is, why not 'an-latha' for example?)


The two look different in quite a lot of languages, like in Spanish, German, Finnish... There isn't really a reason why they should necessarily have the same root.

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