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  5. "an t-aodann brèagha"

"an t-aodann brèagha"

Translation:the pretty face

April 11, 2020



When do you use an t- after the definite article "an" and when do you not need it.


an t- is the nominative singular form used before masculine nouns beginning in a vowel: an t-athair the father, an t-ubhal the apple, an t-ainm the name.

Also, when the article would cause lenition, and the noun starts with an s, the s is also lenited to t, that happens:

  • in nom. sg. feminine: an t-sùil the eye, an t-sìde the weather,
  • in gen. sg. masculine: an t-sagairt the priest’s, of the priest,
  • in dat. sg. of both genders: ris an t-sagart with the priest, anns an t-sùil in the eye

The latter is just a weird lenition pattern of s after the article an. You can read more about it in the discussion for "an t-slige ghorm" and "an t-sùil gheal", and on Gramadach na Gaeilge (website about Irish grammar, but the explanation works identically for Scottish Gaelic).


It should accept braw. It is the normal Scottish English translation, but more importantly, this course, unlike some other Duolingo courses, likes the most direct translation possible in order to facilitate the learning of the Gaelic. And braw appears to be the same word as brèagha. No one actually knows where brèagha comes from but it seems almost certain that it is related to variants of braw found in Scottish English, Scots and all the Brythonic languages.


No one actually knows where brèagha comes from

From what I can find, the etymology is pretty clear. OIr. bregda the adjectival form of Brega, originally referring to a person or thing worthy of Brega (?) – the exact meaning might not be exactly understood (hard to get into the minds of original speakers who came up with the expression only through lenses of manuscript authors passing the expression along centuries later) – but the etymology is known, it comes from place-name Brega, and later got the meaning fine, pretty, hence Irish breá (breagha in older orthography) and Sc. Gaelic brèagha.

Scots braw on the other hand seems (but I base it mostly on Wiktionary, so not sure how accurate this is) related to Swedish and Norwegian bra good, fine, and to English brave – all ultimately tracing back to French brave and Italian bravo. I wouldn’t be surprised if its use were influenced by Gaelic brèagha and the words confused and merged by the speakers of both languages – so in that sense they may be equivalent, but they don’t seem related historically.

Italian bravo might be ultimately borrowed from Celtic in some ancient history, but that’s very uncertain (so there might be some very old link between them, but it’s not very likely).

As for Brythonic languages – I don’t know enough about them: what words in them are you speaking about? Welsh braf also seems to be a French brave borrowing.


Yes I agree that it goes back to Old Irish, but I do not accept the etymology given in eDIL for three reasons.

  • It seems inherently implausible.
  • The experts put a (?) in their etymology which means they were not convinced.
  • This person does not seem to have had any existence so whatever, apart from in the supposed etymology of this word.

I have discussed this further on Welsh Duolingo.

My guess is that there may have been a bit of snobbery going on here. The Old Irish we have recorded is all the prestige language of the court and the church. It is disputed how much Brythonic was spoken in Ireland before the development/arrival of Goidelic. But it seems likely there was more in the common speech than in the prestige speech. If so, then braf could have sounded very common and it might have been eggcorned and re-etymologized in favour of some imagined noble from the past.

As for braf, I agree bravo / brave might be related way back - far enough back for the meanings to have diverged, but the Welsh braf / Breton brav / Scots braw all seem to have a close phonological and semantic relation to each other, and to be semantically closer to brèagha than to brave / bravo. Moira582602's comment, on the thread cited above, quotes a separate Welsh word, braw 'terror, fear', so it seems that they may have braw related to brave and braf relate to brèagha.


Brega (or Latinized Bregia) was a place (territorial and population name, principally of an area roughly co-extensive with Co. Meath and north Co. Dublin, usu. translated Bregia) (see Kings of Brega) – a prestigious one as that’s where the Hill of Tara lies, bregda is a well attested OIr word and meant Bregian, finegood because related to that prestigious place. There’s no way that Welsh braf could be directly related to Old Irish bregda from which Gaelic brèagha and Irish breaghdha, breagha, breá come (it would have to be something like bram, brab or braf in OIr., and it would yield brà(bh,mh) in modern languages, not breagha).

Also comp. Breagha in glossary to Foras Feasa ar Éirinn (here original page on archive.org):

Breagha, nom. pl., gpl. Breagh, it has no sing. form, cf., Connachta, Ulaidh, etc. (sometimes rendered Breagh in Trans.); a plain (and its people) in East Meath, Latinised Bregia, and extending, according to Mageoghegan (Annals of Clon. anno 778), from Dublin to Bealach Breck, west of Kells, and from the Hill of Howth to Sliabh Fuaid; (…). It is often called Breaghmhagh and Magh Breagh; Breagha also means the people of Breagha or Bregia. (…)

Sure it seems that the name Brega itself isn’t clearly explained, DIL connects it to plural of bri ‘a hill’ (so Brega would be people of the hills and their terrain?), (acc. to Matasović) from Proto-Celtic *brigs, related to German Berg from PIE. *bʰerǵʰ- high, hill, mountain, raise. MacBain suggests connection to OIr. bríg might, power, and thus to PCelt. *brigo / *brigā which Matasović also explains as derivative of brig- as related to peak, high position.

Welsh braf, Scots braw, and even Norwegian and Swedish bra are all connected, as you noticed, through French brave.

But there is no /v/ (or /m/ or /b/ that would yield /v/ when lenited) in the Irish at any stage of the language, so that word cannot be historically related to them. On the other hand Old Welsh would need g in there to be connected (but lenited g disappeared in Middle Welsh, so in modern language we would not see it). Also, GPC seems also pretty confident braf is a borrowing from brave (though gives English as the source of borrowing).

Also, see Gaelic Journal, vol 6, page 134 – in footnotes to 7th chapter of Séadna Peadar Ua Laoghaire explains breaghdha (the footnote 11 in the right column of the page):

¹¹ Breaġḋa, “fine. splendid,” is probably derived from (Críoċ) Bhreaġ, the country around Tara, and the scene of the magnificence of the high-kings. In the same way, róṁḋa, ruaṁḋa occurs in ancient writings in the sense of “fine, magnificent,” derived from Róiṁ, Rome. The adjective ending ḋa is added, as in fearḋa manly.


I am so glad that duolingo has forums as it is hard to find many people who know alot about brythonic or Gaelic etomogy outside of duolingo.

What linguistics evidences is their for a pre-Gaelic, brythanic substrate in Scottish or Irish gealic?

Gaelic languages have about a half dozen features that distinguish them from mainland Celtic languages. Including the VSO syntax. These features are also found in semetic languages of phoenicia, middle east and north Africa. Is there evidence for a pre-indoueropean substrate coming from semetic languages perhaps phoenicians? Or did the semetic language family extend into along the Atlantic coast before the coming of the indo-europeans? The phoenicians were great for sailing exploring very early on?

It is note worthy that DNA shows the mainland celts never invaded the British isles. The early people groups that originally populated the British isles at the end of the ice age are largely the same people that were their when the angel saxons and Norse showed up.

The I haplotype carried by most of the early inhabitants of the British isles shows they share a common genetic herritage and are closest related to semetic peoples (as aposed to indo-Europeans) arabs and Jews share the haplotype J. And I and J split from each other as opposed to R1b and R1a which is the genetic signature of indo Europeans. (Latin, Greek, Russian, Poles etc.)

Is it possible that semetic features are from the language spoken by the I haplytye inhabitantof the British isles?

Is it possible that the Gaelic and brythonic languages contain the remnants or are the remnants (though influenced by the indo-European languages?) Or is it possible it is the originally language spoken in the British isles by the original inhabitances and not an imported language that replaced the original language?


Very interesting. I have strong views on the received views. Firstly, linguists in the past tried to pigeonhole languages and failed to recognise the possibility of multiple roots for a language. My view is that we should look for evidence of whether all Celtic languages are all from a single stock or whether they have, say, certain features that are Indo-European and other features that are common to western Europe, or north-west Europe, or shared with Semitic languages, etc. before we start any classification.

As for your specific question about a Brythonic substrate, I consider that there is no overwhelming evidence for, and no alternative theory with overwhelming evidence. But since I think it is a mistake to try and classify one language as coming from some other specific language then we have to look at specific features. I believe whatever Brythonic substrate there may be has been underestimated (to virtually zero). There may be one for Old Irish. There may have been more in the common speech than in the Old Irish we have recorded and there may have been more for what has become Scots Gaelic than for what has become Irish. But then there are also distinctive Germanic features of Scots Gaelic (such as the -(e)an plural which matches English oxen suspiciously.

The thing is that every word or structure you look at has its own isogloss. Onion is found in all the Insular Celtic languages, English, French, Southern (i.e standard) Dutch and has remnants in Spain. So most of the people who used this word would have been Celts - but does that make it a Celtic word or is it from western European substrate? Who can tell?

There is one major feature that I consider to be from some language that influenced Indo-European and Semitic, and that is the M/F gender system. I consider that there is clear evidence that the N is an afterthought, probably the remnant of some language that did not have gender, tacked onto the M/F system.

I could go on, but my main point is that I think we have to examine the isoglosses of specific words or structures, without bias in favour of any particular model. Model building must come after.


Well spoken! I agree that we must look at things individually theory comes later after you have examined evidence. Rather than make a theory and go out to prove it.

But most languages have one or two primary roots with sundry loan words from other languages. When it comes to food though usually the language of the area it was first discovered or raised becomes the normal word... look at chocolate. I believe that it's an Mayan or Aztec word. Now in how many languages world wide. But almost none of those languages are a descendant of a native America language.

But it is looking at this evidence has been interesting... it keeps pointing me back to either a language isolet or afro-asiactic language family.

We know that phoenician was spoken in north Africa and Spain. the Atlantic round house culture, could that have been a Gaelic empire spaning the British isles and spain before Rome smashed Gaelicness out of Spain? Or was that the remnants of the pre-indo- European culture of North west Europe Europe and spain?

What about the tartessian language? I wish there more inscriptions in that language. Could that. Be the other parrent of gealic? Or the remenates of the pre-indo-european Or was that a semetic language?

Was that the remnants of a pre indo European peoples?

I strongly suspect that the that pre indo-European language survived in pockets in Spain or the British isles into ancient history and effected the forming of nations in that area.

As for the cro-magon and many other fossilized human Remains I strongly suspect they died out before contact and the vacuum or blank slate they left is what encouraged migration out of other areas into Europe as there was free land available without a fight. I am only aware of neanderthal DNA in humans not cro-mangon etc. And that small part is probably from a few refugees who fled to the civilizations in the Mideast etc.


I strongly suspect that a few thousand years ago there were primarily only three major languages In Europe proto-indo-European, proto Vasconic (based on DNA evidence I suspect this was the group that brought farming into Europe and were conected to the neolithic farmers etruscans and lydians ) and proto hunter gathers of Spain and northwestern Europe these were perhaps a language isolet or semetic, and the phoenicians language made have played apart.

If we knew more about the paleo iberian languages I think it would help us understand the history of gealic and brythonic languages much better


"Bonny " or "bonnie is an acceptable word for "pretty"


You mean that bonny is a synonym for pretty in your dialect. This course is supposed to be written in American English. The writers aren't much good at that so they try their best to write it in standard British English. But as some of them are first-language Gaels and come from a region where traditional Scots was never spoken in the past, then words that are typically Scots, or old-fashioned British English (and bonny is both) will not be included by default. There are lots of synonyms for pretty, and they cannot include them all. However, they are generally pretty tolerant of Scots, so you can certainly suggest that this word be added.

However, there is another issue. No two words have exactly the same meaning, so brèagha, pretty and bonny are all slightly different. We should not be asking if bonny is a good match for pretty, but if it is a good match for brèagha, which is not quite the same thing. Faclair.com does not list bonny for brèagha although it does for some other words.

From personal experience, I would say that bonny can be used to mean simply pretty/brèagha but I would more usually use it for someone who was not just pretty, but with a cheerful temperament as well, translating bòidheach.

So in conclusion, suggest this word by all means, but on the basis that it is, in your opinion, a good translation for brèagha. D

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