Is there a word for vegan in Gaelic? Or to say that you are vegan?

February 11, 2020


Am Faclair Beag, an English - Scottish Gaelic dictionary, provides two definitions:

  • veganach
  • glasraichear-cruaidh

If I'm not mistaken the second definition translates literally as vegetarian-hard, which I just adore.

Wait a minute, you can't have a v in a Gaelic word, can you?

Not in a native one, but it happens in borrowing, as the sound is not foreign to Gaelic (it’s just written as bh and mh in native words) – but often it is replaced by b, or sometimes m or f, as it doesn’t appear at the beginning of native words.

Irish has quite a few of v words which in older writings (using the Insular or Gaelic script) where lenition was marked with a dot (so called punctum delens) were written with (eg. ‘vest’ is veist in Irish, which used to be written ḃeist, today it’s sometimes – rarely – written bheist too; in Scottish it’s apparently peiteag or peitean though).

Scottish Gaelic seems to be more resistant to accept v in loanwords, The Gaelic-English Dictionary by Colin B.D. Mark explains it in these words:

There are, traditionally, no letters v, w, x, y and z in Gaelic, and this causes difficulties with the adoption of English or other foreign words into Gaelic. In the days when only a few Gaels spoke English, imported words were fairly readily absorbed, particularly if they began with a v sound e.g. it was assumed by Gaelic speakers that a word such as ‘vicar’ was simply biocair lenited. Similarly with bearbhain vervain, biocant viscount, biotailt victuals, the words bolcàno volcano, bolcànach volcanic, (and later, bolcanaich vulcanize). The word ‘velvet’, however, became meileabhaid.

Later borrowings appear to be occupying a halfway house with such spellings as Bheiniseach Venetian, bheirmilean vermilion, and bhòidse voyage.

The loan words listed below, however, generally retain the v, though some do have alternative spellings.


The following have appeared from time to time in the literature, but, in most cases, the word may either be spelt without the use of v, or an alternative word is available.

Then it lists, among others (26 entries altogether): vals nf waltz (uals), Victoria Victoria (Bhioctoria), vàcuum nm vacuum (fàslach), vioras, -ais, -an nm virus (bhìoras) – but Faclair Beag gives bìoras, vìosa nf visa (bhìosa) – Faclair Beag gives visa, veactair, -ean nm vector (bheactair), etc.

Deleted because the OP was edited to address the issue.

Wasn’t exactly my question but thanks

We still don't know if there are Gaelic vegans...

I don't actually know the answer or I would have said, but I suspect the answer is a Gaelic spelling of a word that sounds like "vegan". It's the sort of word that gets picked up as it stands.

It's odd to hear some blatantly English words in the middle of Gaelic speech sometimes. I was watching a programme about a sort of Action Man guy cycling around the Border abbeys, and he repeatedly referred to his "bicycle", not "rothair". Similarly in "Can Seo", a programme made in the 1970s to teach elementary Gaelic, the word "sandwich" was used, not "ceapaire". But I think "vegan" would just be ported over without anyone trying to make a new word up. Maybe the mods will tell us how to spell it.

and he repeatedly referred to his "bicycle", not "rothair".

Today, I heard someone explain that mountain bikes tend to be translated as "baidhseagal-beinn" whereas road bikes are "rothair".

Mmm. It was a road bike he had though. I suppose vocabulary vaires. I heard "rothair" earlier on in the programme I'm watching at the moment. And you would not get me on a bike, even a mountain bike, on that road (Bealach na Bà) for all the tea in China. I'd think twice about taking a car up it!

For what it's worth, I've always used the word 'baidhseagal' over 'rothair'. I think that's more of a dialectal difference.

Come to think of it, although I've always used "fiets" for bicycle in Dutch, I have seen another word used as well, although I can't remember what it was. I don't think it was "Fahrrad" so maybe it was some version of "bicycle". (There's a bicycle repair shop near me called "baisagal", and no I don't know where they got that from!)

Ahem, ahem, There is a vegan version of haggis out there. I've never tried....

ehm... I like to think that Dùn Bheagain is the birthplace and gathering spot for "Bheaganism" and would like a t-shirt to this effect.

Have lingots for making me smile!

Also a lingot from me! Nice one.

Although I fear the shortbread they sell there may not be entirely free from dairy produce.

If he's a bheagain and comes from there, he'd have to be a MacLoud (mouth) then. OK I know the correct spelling.

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