1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Irish
  4. >
  5. Some help with the Slender/Br…


Some help with the Slender/Broad distinction.

Quite a few people seem to be struggling to get to grips with the Irish spelling. It's different from English, but once you get the hang of it you'll find that it's fairly regular, unlike English. Here is a quick guide from Wikipedia.


  • Broad: Like a B in English.

  • Slender: Like a B with a Y sound after it. Like in beo.


  • Broad: Like a C in English, sometimes with a W sound made in the back of the throat. Like caoi.

  • Slender: Like a C sound in "Cute". Ceart.

  • Never an "S" sound.


  • Broad: Like a D in English but with your tongue at the back of your teeth instead of the roof of your mouth. Dán.

  • Slender: Like a J in English but with your tongue at the back of your teeth instead of the roof of your mouth. Déan.


  • Broad: Like an F in English.

  • Slender: Like the F in the word "few".


  • Broad: Like the G in the word "Garden". Sometimes with a slight "W" sound at the back of the throat.

  • Slender: Like the above but with Y sound, "Gy" e.g. Gearr.

  • Never a "J" sound.


  • Broad: Like an L with a nasal sound to it; Lom.

  • Slender: Like an L with a y sound; Leaba.



  • Broad: Like an N with a nasal sound to it; *Nádúr.

  • Slender: Like the Spanish "ñ". Nead.


  • Broad: Like an English P in the word "Pot".

  • Slender: Like the P in the word "Pure".


  • Broad: Like a Spanish R, not rolled.

  • Slender: Like a rzh sound. It's in this video.


  • Broad: Like the S in Spain.

  • Slender: An SH sound, like in the word "Sharp".


  • Broad: Like a T in English but with your tongue at the back of your teeth instead of the roof of your mouth.

  • Slender: Like a ch in the word "Chair" but with your tongue at the back of your teeth instead of the roof of your mouth.

If ye need more help, comment below and I'll get back to ye when I can.

September 1, 2014



Now for the letters with the Seimhiú.

Bh and Mh

  • Broad: Normally a W sound, but can also be a V sound like in taobh.

  • Slender: Normally a V sound, but can add an "ee" sound to the end of a word e.g. agaibh can be said as A-GwIV, or A-GwEE.


  • Broad: Like a J in Spanish or the ch in loch, a guttural sound.

  • Slender: Like the H in the word "Hue".

Dh and Gh * Broad: Like the broad Ch above, but with a G sound instead of a C sound for the beginning of words. The pronunciation can vary in the middle or at the end of a word. See the pronunciation of dhuit.

  • Slender: Like a Y sound.


  • Broad and Slender: This produces a silent sound i.e. is not pronounced.


Like the F in the main post.

Sh and Th

  • Broad and Slender H sound.


For the broad 'ch', here's the wikipedia page for the sound, which includes audio: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiceless_velar_fricative

And for the broad 'dh' and 'gh', here's the page on the sound, which also includes audio: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiced_velar_fricative


I just found this, thanks for takin' the time. Just one thing though, since I can't yet read Irish I can't figure out how to pronounce your examples... such as leaba... I hope there will be soon some information on how to understand the lovely Irish spelling - so different from English. Since I know an Aoise, I know that her name is pronounced Eesha, or Ysha, (in English way,) but I'd never know from reading it, as I know none of the rules. One of the words on the course, Buachaill, for i.e. Oh, Help! (As an English speaker I'd say Booahchayl, with a ch like 'cheese.') Totally wrong! Luckily they say words for you, but when not, I'm lost. Also, what do broad and slender mean or refer to? Ah, you can't imagine how very little a poor student knows at the very start! :-) I want to be able to read Irish sooooo badly! Then I can read the Irish versions of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill's poems, or learn Séan Nos songs! Happiness! Thank you!


I included links for the pronunciation of the words and the Wikipedia page has good explanations.

Broad consonants are consonants surrounded by broad vowels, which are: A,O and U.

Slenderconsonants are consonants surrounded by slender vowels, which are: e and I.

The rule Caol le Caol agus Leathan le Leathan (slender with slender and broad with broad) means that there can only be the same type of vowel on both sides of the consonant.

Leaba would be pronounced like "L-yaba". The "L" sound would be like the L when you say "will you".

The letters aoi are pronounced as "ee" as in the word see.

If you search YouTube for some of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill's poetry, you should be able to find someone reading it in Irish. Her name would be pronounced "Noo-la nee Ghoan-nil". The GH sound is like a CH sound but with a G sound instead of a C sound.


The one I'm really struggling with is the slender R. The video you linked gives a good example of the sound, but I was wondering if you have any hints on how you actually make the sound?

Go raibh maith agat! :)


Here is a combination of internet tips. After a serious bout of tongue cramps, this seems to come pretty close:

"One way of forming the sound is to make a shallow pocket in the tongue tip, curling the tongue and placing the tongue tip near the top rear of your upper front teeth. Pronounce "r", and you should feel air blow down against your lower lip as your tongue drops. Do not let the tongue tip go forward as it drops, or you will make a sound like English "th". Practice first on English "where", "Mary", and "we're here", pronouncing these with the Irish slender "r". Then try: fir (fir), féir (fayr), féirín (fayr-EEN), préachán (pray-KAWN), péire (PAYR-e)".

"If a slender "r" follows a consonant, a sound like (i) may come between the consonants. For example, "breá" may sound like (bir-RAW*), and "preab" may sound like (pir-RAB)".

"Fortunately original slender r has become broad when it begins a word, so that this sound is required only in medial or final position: ri “king” has a broad r, but tír “country” and Máire “Mary” have the slender sound".


Go raibh maith agat as bhur gcabhrú. :)

At the moment my attempts at a slender R are getting a kind of hissed sound at the end of a word (a bit like a slender S but further back in the mouth. I guess I'll have to keep practicing.

The ironic thing? When I was teaching myself to roll my Rs in spanish I kept getting this 'Rzzh' sound that took ages to get past. Now it turns out I need that sound in Irish, I can't get it back again!


It's quite a hard sound to master. It's kinda like a zh sound (like the J in the French word "Jean") but there's an R sound in there as well. The Duolingo audio doesn't say it properly, so you'll need to watch TG4 or listen to Raidio na Gaeltachta or listen to the examples on Forvo from native speakers.

Learn Irish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.