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Colours in Gaelic


Very nicely done, with pictures.

April 27, 2020



Just realized not all the colours in the rainbow are present in the video..


and faclair.com for 'violet' and 'rainbow'

Dathan a' bhogha-fhroise :







Dath na fail-chuaich

Feel free to add any corrections or additions about colours in Gaelic!


There is no fixed number of colours in the rainbow as it just fades from one colour to the next. It is common practice in English (and only common practice) to have seven.

But from the linguistic perspective, there is a fixed number of standard colours in any given language. There are 11 in English and 12 in Gaelic. Now some of these cannot occur in the rainbow as they are dark or light (dubh, geal, pinc, donn). Two do occur in the rainbow (ruadh, glas) but the reason they do not occur in the rainbow (when split into seven by English speakers) is that our perception of the colours in the rainbow is influenced by our vocabulary.

Guirmean (related to gorm), also known as glasrach or glas-lus is literally 'woad'. Indigo (guirmean Innseanach) is so called because it came from India. But this is just the same chemical from a different plant, so it is necessarily exactly the same colour. And it is exactly the colour of jeans, as this is probably the only traditional dye that is still in common use, not mixed with anything. The reason it is still used in jeans is that people like the uneven faded effect. There are lots of 'better' modern dyes available, but then jeans would not look like jeans.

Scarlet/vermillion/carmine/cochineal is still in use as a food colouring, but it is usually mixed and you probably don't know which sweets are coloured with it anyway. D


Wise words. The colors of the rainbow are everything between 380 and 780 nm in wavelength. This is what we can see. I use to end discussions about turquoise (It's green! No, it's blue!) by stating that it is around 480 nm. Works perfectly.


I tried to find a link to grue but it cross-referred me to Wikipedia's Blue–green distinction in language. This contains a long list of the terminology in different languages, demonstrating how the classification is entirely a linguistic one, not a physical one. It is also well worth following the link there to Berlin and Kay's original work, on which my 11-colour claim is based. Note that there has been subsequent work, meaning that

  • 'grey' has been determined to be a bit erratic in when it turns up
  • some languages have developed a 12th colour (which would be Stage VIII).
    • A light blue, analogous to pink as light red, has developed in a band from Malta, through Israel and up into Russia
    • One author has suggested that brown in French is in the process of splitting into brun and marron
    • In Gaelic red is now covered by both ruadh (browner, more natural) and dearg (more scarlet and less natural). D


Grass is gorm I remember from long ago. Presumably the probably apocryphal Rangers fans in Larkhall don’t know that.


Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!


Thank you for the help! :oD :)


I was surprised at "dreasa uaine". On my monitor it looks like light blue. I would have guessed liath, or maybe gorm, but not uaine.


It does appear to be a blueish green on mine... perhaps they should have named it tuirc-ghorm aka turquoise. ;-)

It's a good thing that Gaelic is such a colourful language, or as Ciaran Iòsaph MacAonghais wrote, Scottish Gaelic: Scotland in full colour.


Really interesting new book (Window to the West: Culture and Environment in the Scottish Gàidhealtachd, 2020, by Meg Bateman and John Purser) with pdf on the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig - Clò Ostaig page:



(A lot of interesting discussion on colour(s) in Gaelic.)


Bit confused by the "Kimono Orains" - surely Kimono should be spelled without a "K" ?


Yes. I quite agree. It is standard in Gaelic to respell foreign words according to Gaelic rules. Personally I think this is stupid, but it is not up to me. Ciomònò ? I think kimono would be easier to recognise and pronounce. D


Have you ever realised that Kimono is not the original way of writing it? You would not recognise it in the native spelling, believe me.


As far as I can tell, it is the original way of writing it in English. Merriam-Webster suggests it was spelt this way from its first use in 1886. According to Wikipedia it is pronounced [kìmónó] in Heiban - unfortunately it does not state what phonetic notation is being used so we cannot be certain of the pronunciation, but it look quite like kimono. It also gives the IPA as [kʲimo̞no̞] which also looks quite close to the English, with the beginning actually looking more like the Gaelic with the slender [kʲ]. The [o̞] sounds are short, unlike the English and Gaelic, and presumably something between the os in Gaelic and English not. This is not far from the long o in ciomònò but a long way from the long o in English kimono. So, based on Wiktionary, both the English and my Gaelic are fairly close, apart from the vowel length. But perhaps there is another way to pronounce it in Japanese?

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