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  5. "Slàinte mhath."

"Slàinte mhath."

Translation:Good health.

December 19, 2019



In what context would this be used?


Most common example: if you were having an uisge-beatha with someone, you might say "Slàinte" for cheers. They might reply with "Slàinte mhath". But you could always starts with "Slàinte mahth"


Or if one started with "slàinte mhath" the reply might be "slàinte mhòr"


Does the word mhòr come from mòr, meaning big?


Good question. It is generally assumed it does, although it does sound a bit odd when you think about it. Apart from the obvious that 'good' and 'big' have some similarity in meaning, I can't find much of an explanation.

The only thing I could find in Mark (2003) is that mòr can sometimes mean 'long' when referring to time, as in bliadhnaichean mòra, but that's not really the same thing.

The English word great does show that one word can mean both 'big' and 'excellent'.

I did find a couple of cognates that could also mean something like 'good'.

GPC, the big Welsh dictionary gives a range of meanings for mawr fairly similar to the other languages, 'big', but also 'long' of time and (meaning f) 'great, important, significant, powerful, influential; grand, noble, remarkable, renowned (often corresponding to ‘the Great’ of kings, emperors, &c.), self-important, proud; active, enthusiastic, skilful, adroit, knowledgeable; favourite; striking, strange, surprising, wonderful, awful, terrible'. But nothing that really fits here.

So I don't really think we can do any better than 'if great can mean both 'big' and 'excellent', then why can't mòr?'


Yes, it's the lenited form, as used with feminine nouns. just like math becomes mhath in this instance. As I understand it, it can mean "great" as well as"big", hence is use in the reply to the toast, if someone wishes you "Slàinte mhath", you reply "Slàinte mhòr".


In other words, this, or variants are the main way to say 'cheers'. Several languages use related words that also mean 'health' in this context.

  • French: À votre santé 'To your health'
  • Galego, Portuguese: Saúde 'Health'
  • Italian: Alla salute 'To the health'


More usually, 'Santé!' and 'Salute!', by the way. Just like modern Gàidhlig, and practically every Romance language I can think of, off the top of my head.


This looks like an interesting distinction between what people actually do and what people think is correct. Not knowing the exact phrases, I looked in Wiktionary. Italian Wiktionary (presumably written by people who speak Italian) says cheers means alla salute, and French Wiktionary (presumably written by people who speak French) says it means à votre santé. I guess these people wrote that and then said salute or santé next time they were in a bar.

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