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  5. "a' bhean agus a' chaileag"

"a' bhean agus a' chaileag"

Translation:the wife and the girl

January 12, 2020



Hello, I feel like this is the first time I've seen " a' " instead am or an. Can you write am or an as a' in any situation?


Not in Gaelic (although you use an in Irish).

The simple rule is that whenever lenition occurs (actually occurs, with the h inserted, not just could occur if it started with something else!) you change an/am to a'. It does not apply to fh as that is silent, so you write an fhuil 'the blood'. D


Does this not mean woman also ??


yes, but bean is probably more recognised as wife.

There are a few other words for woman which would be more likely to be used. Boireanach for example.


Historically there was no such thing as a 'woman'. There was a caileag 'unmarried woman' and bean 'married woman'. The modern concept of a women without judgment of marital status resulted in a new word, boireannach being introduced, so this is always the word you should use for 'woman'. This did not apply in the past and does not apply in Irish. In both of these you should use bean, but be aware that the listener might make a judgment about the marital status of the bean.

For example you will often meet bean in an old song, translating as 'woman', but it will never describe someone's sweetheart. D


When a new word for woman was introduced? What is the etymology of this word?


It comes from boireann meaning 'female/feminine' - hence boireannach is 'something female', contrasting with fireannach 'something male'.

Wikipedia derives this from Old Irish boinenn, thus relating it bean. This makes the -eann a suffix making the noun into an adjective, and then the -ach another suffix making it back into a noun again. There is no reason offered as to why the n changed to an r. Perhaps it was to mirror the r in fireannach.

You will notice that I said 'something female' and 'something male' and this is important. Both of these words were originally neuter, and then when we lost our neuter, these and almost all other neuter words became masculine. This is the usual explanation for this word being masculine with a feminine meaning.

I can't find any related word in modern Irish. This could be because there aren't any really good dictionaries, but it is certainly not common. There is an apparently unrelated homonym boireann 'boulder' and it is possible this influenced the spelling with the r.

As for when the word was introduced in the sense of a woman, it is difficult to tell. My sociological argument would suggest to me the 20th century. Am Faclair Beag (modern) gives the 'woman' meaning first, showing it is now a general purpose translation for 'woman', whereas Dwelly (1911 + earlier sources) gives 'female' first and says in one place 'Female. This is an indefinite term corresponding to fear, but restricted to adults', which is not very helpful. Beyond that we need to look in a historical corpus to find out exactly how common this word was at different dates. There is one at Glasgow University but it does not yet have the facility to produce statistics showing usage change over time. That means that in time it may well be possible to answer the question. D


Great explaination! Mòran taing! Would it be more appropriate to use "boireannach" when referring to a woman? As in, is it more... politically correct (for lack of a better term) than using the more archaic "bean"?


If you don't wish to imply anything about the woman at all, then use boireannach in the same way you use woman.

Of course we often use the word woman when we do wish to imply something about her. For example, boireannach would be a slightly odd translation for the woman of my dreams. But I am not sure how you would translate this. It would probably depend on how old you both were. A young person thinking of the woman they would like to marry would certainly say caileag. An older person referring to an older woman might say bean.The point is that I am not prepared to say that there is ever a translation that would work in all possible circumstances.


this requires two (a')s yet there is only one available


This should be reported the next time someone gets this problem. Diagnostics are very difficult as there is no way the mods can see the exact question you got, but maybe they can solve it.


I took a wild guess and got it right. I just KNEW it wasn't a'bhean agus a' haddock


Obviously not. It should be

A' bhean agus an haddock

Of course only recently borrowed words start with h anyway. But even with borrowed words we do not spell them with a dd (except proper nouns) or with a k (except proper nouns and names of things of foreign origin). So it should be (and this is correct Gaelic)

A' bhean agus an adag

It's probably not the best translation for girl anyway. If the girl were particularly haddock-like, then probably the best translation would be

A' bhean agus a' mhaighdean-mhara
The wife and the mermaid

Notice the similarity between maighdean and maid(en) and between mara and mer.


You helped me laugh at myself. Thank you! 8~)


I've reported it but just another heads up that I chose "a" because there was no "a' " option and was marked incorrect


Well in that case, if any of the mods reads this there are actually two mistakes here. One is that there is an a' missing. The other is that they should accept it without one or other or both of the apostrophes anyway, assuming this was a listening exercise, as a would be valid Gaelic, and sound the same, albeit with a different meaning ('his').


Only one ‘a in the options


There is only one "a' " and two "a", so unable to complete correctly, otherwise every time you type the answer is marked as 'incorrect'!


This clearly is a fault and needs to be fixed.

But as an aside, and only if this was a listening exercise, one or both of the a' can be replaced with a 'his', (which of course sound the same) so they should be on the list of accepted answers.


Hi Daibhidh Yes, you are quite right and I tried that a few times, before moving to the keyboard.

It is so annoying and not for the first time!

Anyway, thank you so much for reverting.

Have a lovely day. Helen


There is only one ‘a available on the selection instead of the two required


We understand your frustration, but multiple people reporting it here does not help much.

Edit: the mods now know about it – see Joanne's post. So there is no point in reporting it either.


This answer only gives one a' , ie with an apostrophe. How can you write the correct answer unless there are two of them with an apostrophe? a' bhean agus a' chaileag. Not possible.


It's a bug. Next time it comes up for you report it under the "my answer should be accepted" section. It'll flag it with the correct moderator.

A work around is that you can actually type in the answers instead of using the tiles.


Hi tj Yes, that's exactly what I did many times. As you say, I resorted to the keyboard and if it happens again will report and use keyboard. Many thanks for the courtesy of your reply. Have a lovely day. Helen


Thanks... I'm relatively new to the site and am glad to know which option to choose for reporting the - albeit fairly few - errors in the system.


PLEASE DON'T REPORT IT..! We know it's a bug, but we can't fix it in the incubator. It's a bug that's been around for a while. Staff are working on it, but no fix as of yet :(


This is constantly wrong. There should be two (a')s with an apostrophe but there's only one.


Why not 'the woman and the girl'?


Well there has been a lot of discussion on this page about what bean means but no one has actually answered the question of whether they should accept woman.

The facts seem to be

  1. The basic meaning of bean in modern Gaelic is 'wife'
  2. Many people will also be familiar with the sense that can only be translated as woman, even though it is not exactly the same as woman. This is found in older Gaelic, poetry and Irish.

But there is something else that has not been mentioned. The wife (fact 1) sounds a bit odd in English. We do not usually say that because if we were talking about a specific wife we would usually say whose. That means that it is arguably quite reasonable to put some other meaning on the word, and so say the woman (fact 2).

For this reason I think they should really accept both words in this rather unnatural sentence.


Listed as a new word in this section "bean" to mean "woman". Why wasn't "the woman and the girl" excepted


Well there had been a big discussion on this page about what is the correct translation, but clearly if they say it means woman then they should accept woman.

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