"Bean mhath."

Translation:A good wife.

February 25, 2020



Are there any good husbands?


Who are you asking?


LoL. Just commenting on the fact that there is always "A good wife" in Duolingo lessons, but I have not encountered "A good husband" in any exercises.


Well they use a random set of sentences in each language, so let us hope it is just chance that there are no good husbands in the Celtic courses. I have found these in other languages

Some sentences aren't so sure

The nearest we get in Welsh is



Of course! How could I forget Cymraeg! Probably because I have not practiced in about a year. (Yikes! Mea Culpa. )

I notice with a lot of the sentences, that they mention someone is a good man, as if that were a definable thing, but when speaking of women, it's more likely to talk about a good wife, but not a good woman. Or at least I have not come across it so far.

Sorry to drag the discussion into linguistic treatment of men vs women in general instead of Gàidhlig specifically.


All Western languages are adapting to a rapidly changing social environment, so this is an important issue. It is bad enough trying to be non-gender biased in one language, but when you try to use a different language, that has different cultural issues opposing different linguistic issues, things get really complicated. You may already have seen that some words are gendered in English and not in Gaelic, and vice versa. It just happens that it is much easier in Gaelic than in English to replace any word with fear with one with neach (I think this is because neach is one syllable).

You may also have seen the claims that in some Gaelic dialects the two sorts of possessive are applied in reverse for women. Each language has its own problem. I believe there are some oriental languages where this simply does not happen, or happens lexically rather than grammatically.

You may also be aware that words such as bean and boireannach do not match up exactly with any masculine words - see my other comment on this page. D


Anything is possible with theoretical grammar. :)


Does anyone know how to explain the difference between math and mhath?


Put at its simplest, the h is inserted to mark a sound change called lenition. This happens to words beginning with most consonants when they directly follow certain other words, or classes of words. You don't learn these all at once, but gradually throughout the course.

The first causes of lenition you meet are

  • the feminine singular definite article (usually) - a' bhean
  • feminine singular nouns - bean mhath
  • a, which is put before a name when you are speaking to someone - a Mhàiri

It won't surprise you that bean is feminine, but you generally have to learn the gender of every noun, just as in French or German.

If you haven't found the notes already, then you can click on the 'Tips' button just as you are starting an exercise (not on the app) or you can find the whole lot here. I suggest you bookmark that. You can search for the word lenition in it, but don't try to learn it all at once.


So if duine doesn't mean husband until you use aig, does bean always mean wife?


This is a very complicated situation because social attitudes have changed a lot in the last 1000 years, and even more in the last 100 years, so all languages are struggling to adapt. First of all we had formalization of marriage, then gender equality, which meant the old system where classification of females did not mirror that of males had to be modified. Then you had a demand for gender-neutral terminology. Then you had orientation-neutral terminology.

1000 years ago, marriage would have been pretty informal, unless you were reasonably high born. Bean (old spelling ben) would have meant a woman in general or the woman you lived with, and fear a man in general or the man you lived with. Gradually these came to be treated as translations of 'wife' and 'husband'. However, when I say 'woman' and 'man' that really meant old enough to marry. There would have been separate terms for what we would call adolescents (which finished perhaps five or more years later than it does now).

Duine basically means a person (non-gender specific) and always has done, but for some reason it came to mean 'man' or 'husband' (i.e. the same as fear) in Scotland. It is now being brought back as the gender-neutral term for a person because of the need for such a word. But it retains its masculine sense only when used as 'my man' i.e. 'my husband'. See the definitions in Gaelic, Irish and Old Irish here.

As terms became necessary to include people of both marriageable and pre-marriageable age, many languages just extended the existing terms, bean, fear, duine, woman, but for some reason, in Gaelic only, bean got stuck as predominantly meaning 'wife', or at least not including younger, unmarried women; another word boireannach (something feminine, hence neuter, hence masculine in modern Gaelic) came to be used to mean 'woman' in the modern sense.

So, having made things very complicated, bean still means a woman in Irish, but in Gaelic, although it technically means 'woman' (see most dictionaries), as well as 'wife', its use has become more and more restricted to 'wife', as boireannach takes over. Duine, increasingly means 'person', as it used to, except in an duine agam 'my man, my husband'.

Did you want a simple answer? D


Mòran taing, a charaid!


It just seems so strange to me that we have to say "an duine agam" but we don't say "an bean agam"


I accidentally typed "bean math" and it was accepted as correct. Duolingo didn't even say I had a typo. Should that have been the case?


Duolingo does that automatically, unfortunately we can't do anything about it :(


That's a pity. Duolingo obviously need to improve their computer algorithms then!

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