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  5. "They will be in Harris too."

"They will be in Harris too."

Translation:Bidh iad anns na Hearadh cuideachd.

January 28, 2020



Why plural? (Na Hearadh)


Don’t know the exact etymology, but Wikipedia and Wiktionary suggest it’s originally Norse, perhaps from hérað (a Norse administrative district, ‘hundred’, ‘county’) or hærri (‘higher’) – neither of which ends with -s.

Thus my guess (but don’t take my word on it and wait for somebody better informed) is the name originally was plural (meaning either ‘multiple hérað districts’ or ‘high hills’) and in English too (it’s Harris after all and not Harry or Harri). In Gaelic it’s always plural na Hearadh.


I have always been baffled. To add to the confusion it is always na Hearadh in the genitive, making it look feminine singular. Search for hearadh in faclair.com for lots of examples. I have wondered if the original was something like *Nahearadh, with the na being misconstrued as the article.

As for Harris, I have always assumed that the s was just translating the apparently plural Gaelic, in the same way that Athens translates the plural Ancient Greek Ἀθῆναι. (It remained plural until the 1970s.)


My assumption would be (but wildly speculating here with no sources to back it up) that the genitival na is also histotically plural.

Since there were no native Gaelic nouns beginning with h-, the plural na did not cuase eclipsis. Then, by the time when Gaelic lost eclipsis and did restoring nasals in place of eclipsis (na + ecl. → nan, i/a + ecl. → (ann) an, gu + ecl. → gun, etc.), the phrase na Hearadh in genitive was so common (and not necessarily understood as gen​.pl any longer) that it did not change to hypothetical *nan Hearadh – especially since it already sounded like a good fem. gen​.sg. *na h-earadh.


Great question and great answer. Tapadh leat


I wrote Bidh iad sna Hearadh cuideachd. but it did not accept it. This is a perfectly valid alternative so it should be accepted wherever anns na is. I reported it.


There is an area in the island of Yell in Shetland that is called The Herra. Why that particular hérað should be identified as such is a mystery.


That is intriguing. I have just looked it up and found it means 'region, district, hundred'. The similarity of spelling is beyond coincidence - it is essentially the same word, given that dh is simply the Gaelic for ð - it was pronounced the same, even though it isn't any more, and the first a was a later addition because of our 'spelling rule'.

As for what it might mean, it does sometimes happen that you get the generic without the specific. For example, there are lots of fords such as Oxford, but one or two places that are simply Ford. It is notable that Harris is not an island - it is a region of an island, so it could have been the region of the island that was notable in some way.

Although this is suggested as a possible etymology it does seem by far the most plausible given that it is the same word. It is not obvious why anyone would go for any other. D


This is really interesting reading. Thanks to all contributors to the conversation.

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