Rahul Sharma (Editor)


Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit

Béarlachas ([ˈbʲeːɾˠlˠəxəsˠ]) is Irish for words and phrases used in Irish that are influenced by or stem from the English language. The term comes from Béarla, the Irish word for the English language, and refers to both simple anglicisms and interlanguage forms. It is a result of bilingualism within a society where there is a dominant, superstrate language (in this case, English) and a minority substrate language with few or no monolingual speakers and a perceived "lesser" status (in this case, Irish).



Béarlachas exists in many forms, from the direct translation of English phrases to the common form of creating verbal nouns from English words by adding the suffix -áil (this is also used to form verbs from native roots, such as trasnáil, "cross over", from trasna "across", tuigeáil (Connacht, Ulster) "understanding" (Munster tuiscint), from tuig "understand", and so on) "Táim ag runáil go dtí an siopa" (I'm running towards the shop) is an example of Béarlachas as "runáil" is a verb created from the English word "run" with the Irish suffix -áil attached; the correct Irish sentence is Táim ag rith go dtí an siopa.

Calquing also occurs: an English phrase is literally translated into Irish, even though an equivalent Irish phrase already exists. An example of this is "Moilligh síos" ("slow down" – moill "delay" + síos "downwards", calqued from English), instead of the more traditional "Maolaigh ar do luas" ("reduce your velocity"), or simply Maolaigh! "Slow down!".

Old borrowings

Many words that are commonly thought by "purists" to be béarlachas have been a part of the Irish language for a long time, and have become "nativised". True béarlachas is where the word or phrase is known to be English and is not felt to be native to the Irish language, just as in the English language certain French or Latin words and phrases are used with the speaker's full knowledge of their "non-English" status, such as status quo, in situ, plus ça change, c'est la vie, and coup d'etat. At the same time, certain words that are assumed to be from English are actually from Norse or Norman French, and as such are not Béarlachas. For example:

  • liosta: list (Norman French "liste")
  • aidhm: aim (Norman French "aesmer") (where cuspóir is considered by some to be the "native" Irish word)
  • halla: hall (Norse "hǫll") (the Irish word is áras).
  • véarsa, béarsa [the b- initial considered to be uneducated dialect]: verse (Norman French verse [βʲeːrsə]; the Irish word is rann)
  • Other words are early Béarlachas, having entered the language in 18th and 19th centuries:

  • praghas: price (also possibly from Norman French "preis", "pris")
  • dabht: doubt (the Irish words are: amhras, )
  • Modern concepts

    Words used for foreign inventions, imports, and so on, where a native Irish word does not exist, are often a macaronic import as well. These are strictly speaking not béarlachas, but examples of loans from foreign languages. In some cases an Irish word has been developed, and in others it has not. This has been a characteristic of word development in the language for as long as written records exist, and is not limited to béarlachas. In some cases the original Irish word is no longer known, or has a different meaning within the same semantic field:

    Modern forms:

  • fón, guthán "phone"
  • carr, gluaisteán "car"
  • badhsuiceal, rothar "bicycle"
  • Older forms:

  • iarla (Norse jarl), tiarna (Irish) "lord, earl"
  • póg (Old Welsh pawg, Latin (osculum) pacis "(kiss of) peace") "kiss"
  • bád (Old Norse), currach (Irish) "boat"
  • garsún (Munster), gasúr (Connacht, Ulster), from French garçon "small boy", buachaill (Irish) "teenager, youth"
  • Variation

    In some cases, the foreign loan has an official pronunciation in Irish, and a colloquial one based on English; the colloquial form is Béarlachas, while official form is a Gaelicisation of the foreign word:

  • ceint (Irish pronunciation: [kʲenʲtʲ, sˠɛnʲtʲ]) "cent"
  • bus (Irish pronunciation: [bʷʊsʷ, bos]) "bus"
  • stádas (Irish pronunciation: [staːdəs, statəs/stætəs/ʃtætəs, steitəs]) "status"
  • The most striking forms of Béarlachas, however, are the names of the letters of the alphabet, the vast majority of which are normally said in the English way, except for ⟨a⟩, as well as the use of words such as bhuel "well", dheas "yes", no "no", jost "just", dhiúnó "you know" (for tá's agat) and álraight "all right" (for go maith). Such words are used with their English syntax in Irish:

  • Bhuel, fanfa mé jost anseo, dhiúnó, go dtioca tú ar ais.
  • Well, I'll just wait here, you know, till you come back.
  • 'bhFuil tú álraight ansan, a bhuachaill? - No, nílim álraight anaonchor.
  • Are you all right there, lad? - No, I'm not all right at all.
  • Letters that are not traditionally used in Irish orthography occur (such as ⟨j, k, q, v, w, x, y, z⟩, as well as ⟨h⟩ at the beginning of words), though in older Béarlachas words the foreign sounds have been gaelicised:

  • Jab: Job (beside post from French, obair from Latin)
  • Zú, Sú: Zoo (where gairdín ainmhithe already exists)
  • w > bh / v: bhálcaereacht, válcaereacht "strolling, walking"
  • Most words that begin with ⟨p⟩ in the language are also foreign loans, as ⟨p⟩ did not exist in prehistoric or early Old Irish (such as póg "kiss" (Old Welsh pawg, Latin pacem "peace", peaca Latin pecatum "sin").

    Use in Republicanism

    Between the 1970s and the 1990s, Republican prisoners in Long Kesh (now HM Prison Maze) spoke in Irish. They nicknamed the place "An Gaoltacht", a portmanteau replacing the first syllable of the Irish "Gaeltacht" (Irish speaking region) with the English "gaol/jail".

    It is thought by some that the Republican slogan "Tiocfaidh ár lá" (Our day will come) is a form of Béarlachas, more idiomatic equivalents being "Beidh ár lá linn" (Our day will be with us) or "Beidh ár lá againn" (We will have our day); however the verb "teacht", meaning "come", is often used in a variety of phrases to express the "coming" of days, such as "tháinig an lá go raibh orm an t-oileán d’fhágaint" "the day came when I had to leave the island".


    The same concept also exists within Scottish Gaelic, where it is referred to, in the Scottish Gaelic form, as Beurlachas (Scottish Gaelic pronunciation: [pjɤːrˠlˠ̪əxəs̪]). Some examples include:

  • stòraidh "story" for instead of sgeulachd
  • gèam "game" instead of cluiche
  • tidsear "teacher" instead of the older mùin(t)ear
  • nurs "nurse" instead of banaltram.
  • References

    Béarlachas Wikipedia

    Similar Topics
    Safar (film)
    John Altman (actor)