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  5. "Hata an fhir."

"Hata an fhir."

Translation:The man's hat.

February 7, 2015



This feels backwards to me. "fir" = "men" and "fear" = "man" but in this case "fhir" = "man" and "bhfear" = "men"


Yup, in the first declension singular and plural forms simply get switched around in the genitive. Usually this simply involves slenderising the last consonant in the genitive singular and the nominative plural, occasionally the vowel changes as well (e.g. ‘fır’ from ‘fear’, ‘mıc’ from ‘mac’). There’s a reason for this too. The Proto-Celtic language had more pronounced case endings like Latin, which —depending on what vowel they contained— would ‘broaden’ or ‘slenderise’ the noun stem. The Irish forms ‘fear’ (nom. sg.), ‘fır’ (gen. sg.), ‘fır’ (nom. pl.), ‘fear’ (gen. pl.) are respective cognates of Latin ‘vır’, ‘vırí’, ‘vırí’, ‘vırórum’ (the slender vowels ‘ı’ and ‘e’ slenderised preceding consonants and sometimes triggered a vowel change, while other vowels caused the original ‘broad’ form to be retained). In Old Irish, almost all words lost their final syllable, so that all these endings were either largely reduced (mainly to -a and -e) or completely lost, leaving behind only broad and slender consonants (and occasional vowel changes in the stem) at the end of nouns to mark the cases. That’s why the distribution of forms does not always seem to make much sense.

The same dropping of the final syllable of most words in Old Irish is also why Irish has unpredictable initial mutations: in Proto-Celtic these mutations were caused by a letter at the end of a preceding word, now lost, that interacted in a predictable way with the following consonant (the ‘h’ and ‘n-’ sometimes added before vowels are remnants of these consonants).


The point-by-point comparison with Latin forms was very helpful indeed. Thank you for that.


thanks very much for tbis exposition.


How would one say "a man's hat"?


if one is not a native speaker, one's brain always interprets sounds within the phonemic framework of one's own language. Thus I very clearly hear this as "Hata an Yid" which I believe the Jews refer to as a kippah or a yarmulke.


How would one say "the men's hat" then?


The audio sound to me like "hata a-nyer". Is that universal or a dialectal pronounciation? I know "fh" is silent, but i would have expected to pronounced it "hata an ir".


In Irish, final sounds of words are run into the opening sound of the following word within a phrase (like in French). I don't think the silent letters which begin some words prevent that liaison from occurring.


I typed in The hat of the man. WROONG, why? ;)


It’s not wrong, but “the man’s hat” is more colloquial in English.


I'd like a site that does declensions for all nouns. Like where you enter a noun and it gets declented to each case like you'd see in Latin textbooks. BTW, how many declensions are there?

  • 1447

There is an outline of the declension system for Irish here:

You can confirm the declension of any noun at teanglann.ie:


Why the lenition with 'an fhir'?

'f' eclipses to 'bhf' and lenites to 'fh'. In the genitive plural, we have 'na bhfear'. Should the singular not be 'an bhfir'?

...Come to think of it, there is also 'an mbuann' and 'ní thainim'.

  • 1447

Feminine nouns are lenited after the singular definite article an in the nominative case.
Masculine nouns are lenited after the singular definite article an in the genitive case.


This is an aspect of the Irish language that I really do not like.

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