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95 Core Concepts in Irish

What are the most basic, elementary, core concepts that virtually all languages express? Many linguists have put a great deal of effort into answering this question, and several short word lists have come out of it. The most famous are probably the Swadesh lists, based mostly on intuition and refined over time. Later lists like the Leipzig-Jakarta have used more stringent methods to determine which vocabulary items are most resistant to borrowing and change over time.

What I've done here is taken five such word lists (Swadesh 100, Ranked Swadesh 40, Swadesh-Yakhontov, Leipzig-Jakarta, and Woodward) and kept only the items that occur in at least two of the lists. I then translated these 95 concepts into Irish for your convenience. Enjoy!

m = masculine gender
f = feminine gender

1) name = ainm (m)
2) water = uisce (m)
3) blood = fuil (f)
4) fire = tine (f)
5) stone/rock = cloch (f), carraig (f)
6) dog = madra (m)
7) fish = iasc (m)
8) louse/flea = míol cnis (m), dreancaid (f)
9) hand/arm = lámh (f), géag (f)
10) eye = súil (f)
11) ear = cluas (f)
12) nose = srón (f), gaosán (m)
13) tongue = teanga (f)
14) tooth = fiacail (f)
15) bone = cnámh (f)
16) horn = adharc (m)
17) tail = eireaball (m)
18) egg = ubh (f)
19) leaf = duille (m), duilleog (f)
20) night/evening = oíche (f), tráthnóna (m)
21) star = réalta (f)
22) sun = grian (f)
23) moon = gealach (f)
24) earth/soil = talamh (m), cré (f), ithir (f), úir (f)
25) salt = salann (m)
26) mountain = sliabh (m), cnoc (m)
27) tree = crann (m)
28) rain = fearthainn (f), báisteach (f)
29) wind = gaoth (f)
30) bird = éan (m)
31) flesh/meat = feoil (f)
32) liver = ae (m)
33) skin/hide = craiceann (m), seithe (f)
34) knee = glúin (f)
35) breast/chest = cíoch (f), cliabh (m), brollach(m)
36) person, human = duine (m)
37) man = fear (m)
38) woman = bean (f)
39) child = leanbh (m), páiste (m)
40) hair/fur = gruaig (f), folt (m), fionnadh (m)
41) mouth = béal (m)
42) neck = muineál (m)
43) foot/leg = cos (f)
44) feather = cleite (m)
45) grease/fat = bealadh (m), saill (f), blonag (f)
46) smoke = toit (f), deatach (m)
47) ash/soot = luaith (f), súiche (m)
48) sand = gaineamh (m)
49) wood = adhmad (m), connadh (m)
50) root = fréamh (f), rúta (m)
51) rope/cord = téad (f), rópa (m)
52) path/road = cosán (m), bóthar (m), bealach (m), slí (f)
53) year = bliain (f)

54) die = faigh bás
55) see/look/watch = feic, féach, fóir
56) hear/listen = clois, cluin, éist
57) know = fhios a bheith agat
58) drink = ól
59) give = tabhair
60) come = tar
61) stand = seas
62) sit/set = suigh
63) lie/lay = luigh
64) fly = eitil
65) eat = ith
66) bite = cailg
67) burn = dóigh
68) kill = maraigh
69) say/tell/speak/talk = abair, inis, can
70) laugh = gáir

71) new = nua
72) full = lán
73) good = maith
74) long = fada
75) red = rua, dearg
76) black = dubh
77) white = bán
78) green = glas, uaine
79) yellow = buí
80) small/little = beag
81) big/large = mór
82) wide/broad = leathan
83) heavy = trom
84) old = sean
85) dry = tirim

86) I/me = mé/mise
87) you = tú/tusa, sibh/sibhse
88) what/which = cad, céard, cén
89) who/whom = cé, a
90) one = aon, duine
91) two = dó, beirt, dís
92) not/no = ní, níl, níor, cha
93) this/these = seo, é/í/iad seo
94) we/us = sinn/sinne, muid/muidne
95) all/everything/everyone = uile, gach uile, gach aon rud, cách

Please let me know if you spot any mistakes here. And if you take this list and translate it into another language, that would be awesome! I'd be sure to give you some lingots! More versions can be found here. (Be sure to check what's been translated already before posting your own.) And if you like this kind of thing, check out my website for more!

September 19, 2014



I love your list so interesting


Following your Wikipedia links, #87 (you) refers to only the singular in both the Swadesh 100 list and the Leipzig-Jakarta list. I don’t know if the other lists which you’d mentioned include the plural. If they don’t, then sibh and sibhse should be removed.

Cén rud could be included in #88, and a could be included in #89.

Irish uses different words for “one” and “two” (#90 and #91), depending upon whether it’s a pure cardinal or if it’s being used for counting people. I don’t know whether you’re looking for just the pure cardinal, or if you’re looking for both forms for each number. In any case, an should not be in #90 (it means “the”; Irish doesn’t have indefinite articles).

Cha could be included in #92.

Is #93 supposed to represent only the adjective, only the pronoun, either, or both?


Thanks for your suggestions! As you can see, I'm not much of an Irish speaker. I just looked at a Swadesh list and consulted a online dictionaries.

I came up with this list by starting with the Swadesh 100, the Leipzig-Jakarta, and a few others, but this list is distinct and not dependent on anything else. As a general rule, I try to make the concepts pretty broad so that if language might not make a distinction (between a singular and plural second-person pronoun, for example), then I don't either.

So yes, #87 includes the plural, and #93 is both the determiner form and the pronoun. In language that make a distinction, I've been listing the determiner first. Does Irish make a distinction? It looked to me like seo works for both, but I'm no authority.

Also, I am trying to represent both cardinal number forms and quantifiers. What forms should I add to #90 and #91?


Considering that the first person singular is at #86 and the first person plural is at #94, I wasn’t sure whether the second person at #87 was also intended to have separate entries or not. I guess that I’m surprised that a majority of languages would distinguish between first person singular and first person plural, but wouldn’t distinguish between second person singular and second person plural.

For #90, add duine ; for #91, add beirt and dís.

For #93, the pronoun would be either é seo (singular masculine), í seo (singular feminine), or iad seo (plural). I suppose that “this” could also be an adverb, e.g. “this tall”, but that would also be seo in Irish.

For #57, the English verb “know” can combine the meanings of multiple verbs in other languages, e.g. French savoir and connaître ; German wissen, kennen, and können. Is that intentional? (Irish aithin is analogous to French connaître and German kennen.)

Does #49, “wood”, represent living, dead, or either?


The relationship of first-person singular and plural is action not the same as second-person. A word like we can simply refer to more than one speaker (truly the plural of I), but more often it includes the second person and/or the third. Some languages actually distinguish between first-person plural inclusive and exclusive, but it is rare to lump first-person singular and plural together.

I'd say most languages do distinguish plurality is the second person, but failing to isn't so rare (English being a prime example). With this list, I chose to "lump" rather than "split" concepts. Though of course, exactly how much to lump is a judgement call, or we could wind up with some overly vague items. I'm relying on my training as a linguist and checking my work as new list translations come in.

Thanks again for your suggestions. #49 means either living or dead wood. Like #57, slightly different concepts are lumped together to minimize the chance of a language needing to list the same word for two different entries.


For #49, a live wood is coill. Dead wood as a raw material is adhmad, which you already have; dead wood as a fuel is connadh.

For #70, gáir is also used.

For #54, other verbs are available, depending upon how broadly you’re casting — some are used more frequently with meanings unrelated to death.


And, to add on about #49 coill is what English speakers would call "woods" - It's one set of "woods". The plural, coillte, which Duolingo uses, refers to separate sets of "woods"

And, to add on to the numbers, I say just take off the whole bit of "a" before one. Irish doesn't use indefinite articles, so it's misleading to have it there.

Also note that duine amháin can be used for "one person."


@scilling: I think I misunderstood you about "live wood". #49 is supposed to refer to the material itself, not a forest. How would you refer to the flesh of a living tree? (I know that's a really weird question.)

English doesn't strongly distinguish between wood (material) and woods (a forest) or a wood (old-fashioned), but the distinction is kind of there as mass noun vs. count noun. I could make #49 "wood/forest", but I'm not sure how common it is for a language to use one word for both. If I can find an example or two besides English, I'll do it.

@galaxyrocker: About including a in #90, I see what you mean, but the concepts listed are not specific to Irish. A is listed with one because languages that use an indefinite article often use the same word for it and one. Be sure to check out the main post if you haven't yet.


MrCliffJones, my apologies for the confusion — by “live wood”, I meant a forested area, not the raw material of a live tree. I think that “wood” in the sense of a specific forested area is more common in European English than in North American English, e.g. Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood. The flesh of a living tree would be adhmad — and if one were desperate enough for heat, I suppose that it could even be connadh. (I was using “dead” as a contrast to the forested area meaning.)


@scilling: That makes sense. I'll stick with adhmad and connadh for now, but let me know if you notice another language that uses the same word for wood as a material and as a wooded area.


I have checked out the main post, but it's clear not all words carry across. I think it's best to delete it when it doesn't, so as not to cause confusion.


Fair enough. When I started this project, there was no "main post" to serve as a master list, but now that there is, I see no harm in your suggestion. Done!


Oh, this is so cool, you obviously put a ton of work into this. I was a linguistics major but I've never heard of the Leipzig-Jakarta list, that's interesting and it sounds a lot more refined than the famous Swadesh list (I guess comparative linguistics wasn't big at my school).


We didn't cover it at my school either. I just found out about it online.


Thank you for the time and effort you put into this. Sending lingots your way.


Thanks! I have a second list in the works that takes word frequency into account. Your lingots will wind up paying contributors.


Then .. please .. have a few more!


Thanks for the time you put into this! Looking at #92 (No), I saw uimh which I hadn't heard of before. Supposedly Irish doesn't have a word for "no". I'm pretty sure it's actually a contraction of 'uimhir' which means "number/no." rather than the actual word "No". Thanks for introducing me to the Swadesh and Leipzig-Jakarta lists though!


Hm, thanks for the info! I looked into that and made an update.


Irish is my first language and I’ve never heard of half of these in my life. I’ll go out on a limb and say they’re wrong because the dialects aren’t hugely different, and with a level 2 in Irish and an American name, I’m guessing you’re just one of those that appropriates our nationality anyways

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