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  5. Mnemonics?



Dia daoibh.

I grew up learning French. I started on Duolingo learning Spanish, then Italian, and then Portuguese before Irish was released from beta and I decided to pick it up. English may not be a Romance language, but they have a bit of a history. Whenever I had a snag with vocabulary, I could just look up the etymology and suddenly it made sense.

English and Irish are a bit more removed, linguistically speaking. Sure, there are a few borrowings and cognates, but by and large this is an entirely different animal.

I'm looking for ways to remember vocabulary, especially confusables. Consider the following:
luch, lucha, lacha, lachain
The word for "mice" is very similar to the word for "duck". This often trips me up.

Do any of you have any mnemonics that have helped you with Irish vocabulary, particularly the confusables? Any kind of stupid memory trick, however silly or linguistically unsound? (Those are the best kind, really.)

Go raibh maith agaibh.

March 17, 2015



The stupid memory trick that I use for remembering the difference between speisialta (“special”) and spéisiúil (“interesting”) is the phrase “Ooh, interesting!”, where “ooh” (as in “oohs and aahs”) represents the ú sound in spéisiúil.


That's just the sort of thing I'm looking for. :)


The sun is at the core of the solar system (córas).

He fell down, so he hit the ground (thit, pronounced as English hit).

The author has to supplement his income working as a tutor (an t-údar - mostly a mnemonic for gender, reminding me that it takes the t-prefix).

Focus on the word (focal).

He smacked it until it was back under control (smacht).

The kid loves pasta (páiste).

Cars are made in Corunna (carranna - I kept wanting the plural to be carra or carraí).

I can't really express my mnemonic for tire, fire, in a complete sentence, but I associate it with the image of burning tires as a smoke signal in Black Hawk Down. (Actually I don't think of any of these in the form I've put them down, but "hit fell thit" doesn't convey the essence of what makes it memorable.)

I remember mná, women, and snámh, swimming, because one of the sentences used in Rosetta Stone's L1 Irish is tá na mná ag snámh, usually pronounced with over-lengthened long vowels, with a comically lugubrious tone. My ex and I always laughed our butts off when that sentence came up. I can never forget it. Taaaaa na mnaaaaa ag snaaaaaamh. I'm snickering just typing this.


The two best-known mnemonics used by teachers are probably for grammar rather than vocabulary.

The first is for consonants that are not lenited after other consonants in certain environments.


This most commonly occurs after the article an with a feminine noun in the nominative or a masculine noun in the genitive, where one would expect lenition. It logically extends to include the "dative" case for singular nouns with the article when the lenition system is applied, which applies mainly to the Ulster dialect e.g. ag an doras. It is not absolute in other circumstances e.g. adjectives following nouns.

The second is for nouns beginning with s + another consonant that do not undergo t-prefixation following the article, which occurs for feminine or masculine nouns in the nominative or genitive, respectively, and extends to the dative for feminine or both genders depending on the system used.

SCallions SMell SPicy in STew i.e. sc, sm, sp, st

an siopa (masculine, therefore no change) an tsráid (feminine, therefore t-prefixation)


an spéir (feminine BUT sp, therefore no change)

N.B. This should be distinguished from t-prefixation to vowels, as the latter is written with a hyphen, although properly only in the lower case.

I hope this helps. As an aside, French has contributed to Irish vocabulary in less obvious ways. For example, I have heard that seomra is derived from chambre. It is a helpful mnemonic in any case having a similar pronunciation.


I don't personally have any for your situation, but I would like to suggest that you try the program memrise. It's available on the web or through the app and they use mnemonics on their courses. Maybe you will find it helpful :)


Someone else also recommended Memrise. I guess I'll check it out. :) Go raibh maith agat.


Yes do! For me, it's more of a way to practice while I'm just laying around, or in between boring news segments or commercials. But nonetheless a great way to get at least a little studying in on your lazy days :)


I'm trying to say it like what it is: LACHA (loud, like a duck quack) luch-I say it like a mouse.....


Now I'm trying to imagine a duck quacking and sounding like "lacha, lacha, lacha". :)

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