p h o u k a   h o m e i r i s h   l e s s o n s   h o m e


Part I
Chapter 1
Chapter 2

Part II
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

Part III
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5



Part 2 - Etymology

Chapter 2 - The Noun

§9. —The Noun in General

There are but two genders in Irish, — the Masculine and the Feminine. The following are a few general rules for ascertaining to which a noun belongs; but in most cases the learner must find the gender by experience, or from a lexicon.

The following nouns are masculine : — Names of men and males generally.

Diminutives in án, ín; derivatives in arḋe, uiḋe, oiḋe, aire, aċ, ar, or, and personal nouns ending in óir; as, buailteoir, a thresher; abstract substantives in as; as, tinneas, sickness; and usually monosyllables in aṫ, uċt, us, and uṫ; as, uċt, the breast.

The following are generally feminine : — Names of women and females, of countries, rivers, and diseases, diminutives in óg; derivatives in óg ; as,ríoġaċt, a kingdom; and abstract substantives, except those in as ; as, gile, whiteness; and in most cases those nouns in which the last vowel is slender

There are only two numbers, the singular and plural, and four cases distinct in form, the nominative, genitive, dative, and vocative. Under the nominative form are included the relations of the nominative and accusative, under the dative form,* the relations of the dative and ablative. The vocative has always the particle a prefixed, which aspirates the initial mutable.

The case endings in the modern language are, as might be expected, much fewer and less distinct than in the more ancient, in which the accusative singular and plural had frequently a distinct ending, and where also peculiar forms of the neuter and dual are found. The case distinctions appear at an earlier period to have been lost by the Welsh and Cornish, with the exception of that internal inflexion exhibited by the first declension in Irish, of which a few traces exist even in those languages.

We may arrange the nouns in the modern language into five classes, or declensions, which follow. Some nouns partake of the characteristics of several declensions. Zeuss, treating of the ancient language, classifies the nouns into two divisions, the vowel and the consonantal declension, so designated on account of the crude bases ending respectively in vowels and in consonants. In the modern language there are, however, but few traces of the second division left, which may perhaps be enumerated as the fifth declension, with some few nouns of the third, namely, those that make their genitive singular end in aċ.

§10. — First Declension

The first declension consists of masculine nouns whose genitive is formed from the nominative by adding a slender vowel to the broad one in the termination, or by changing the broad vowel or diphthong of the noun into a slender one.

In the plural the nominative is like the genitive singular, and the genitive like the nominative singular.

The dative case in the singular is like the nominative; in the plural, it ends in ib, which is invariable throughout all the declensions.

The vocative case plural is formed by adding a to the nominative singular.

Singular     Plural  
Nom. ball a limb Nom. baill
Gen. baill   Gen. ball
Dat. ball   Dat. ballaiḃ
Voc. baill   Voc. balla

In like manner, decline—

Singular   Plural  
dall a blind man casán a path
fear, gen. fir a man sólás comfort
mac a son bromaċ a colt

Some nouns of this declension form the nominative plural by adding ta to the singular ; as, seol, a sail, PI. solta.

Whenever the nominative plural differs in form from the genitive singular, the dative plural is formed from it, not only in this, but in the other declensions, e. g. soltaidḃ, so sgéal, a tale, Mon. Pl. sgéala, Dat. sgéaltaiḃ.

Many nouns ending in ac form the nominative plural by adding e to genitive singular ; ċ in declension becomes ġ ; as, ualac, a burden, a charge ; Gen. Sing, ualaiġ ; Nom. PI. ualaiġe.

§ 11. — Second Declension.

This declension comprises the greater part of the feminine nouns in the language, and but few masculines.

The genitive singular has a slender increase. This causes an attenuation of the preceding syllable, if it be not slender already, according to the rule ceol le caol, 7c.

The dative case is formed from the genitive by dropping the increase. The nominative plural has a broad or slender increase regulated by the rule, caol le caol, 7c.

Singular     Plural  
Nom. cos a foot Nom. cosa
Gen. coise   Gen. cos
Dat. cois   Dat. coisaiḃ
Voc. cos   Voc. cosa

In a like manner, decline

Singular   Plural  
uiseog a lark croċ a cross
sgológ a farmer cloċ a stone

Words in óid make their nom. pi. in diḋe; e.g.,strabóid, a scolding woman; pl. strabóidiḋe..

Some nouns, the vowel of whose termination is slender, form the plural either by adding a slender termination, or eanna ; as, luiḃ, an herb; Pl. luiḃe,, or luiḃeanna : " but the latter form," says O'Donovan, " which is like the Saxon termination en (as in oxen), is more general, and better than the former, because more distinct and forcible." When the nominative plural terminates in this mode, the genitive plural is formed from it by dropping th a; e.g., the gen. pi. of luiḃ is luiḃeann.

The vocative singular of masc. nouns having a broad vowel in the termination of the nominative is generally attenuated.

If the nominative plural be formed by adding te to the singular, as sometimes happens, the genitive plural is formed from it by adding aḋ; as coill, a wood; plural nom. , coillte; gen. coillteaḋ; dat. coilltiḃ..

§12.— Third Declension.

The nouns of this declension are of both the masculine and feminine gender. It comprises nouns ending in óir, fem, abstracts in aċt, abstracts in eas, monosyllables with io, as fios, &c., and others.

The genitive singular has a broad increase.

The dative ends like the nominative in the singular number.

The nominative plural takes a slender increase, iḋe and te, and a broad increase in a, anna, and aċa.

Singular     Plural  
Nom. fiġeadóir a weaver Nom. fiġeadóiriḋe
Gen. fiġeadóra   Gen. fiġeadóir
Dat. fiġeadóir   Dat. fiġeadóiriḃ
Voc. fiġeadóir   Voc. fiġeadóiriḋe

Carefully observing the rule caol le caol, 7c, decline—

mealltóir a deceiver slánuiġṫeoir a saviour
móin a bog fios knowledge
kios a rath feoil flesh

Also, aṫair, a father; gen. aṫar; nom. pl. aiṫre, or aiṫreaċa, gen. aiṫreaċ ; bráṫair, a brother, nom. pl. bráiṫre, or bráiṫreaċa ; and máṫair, a mother; also, cuid ; gen. coda, a part.

Those nouns in which the nominative plural ends in te, or ṫe, form the genitive by adding aḋ : — móin ; gen. pl. móinteaḋ.

Many feminine nouns in ir make their genitive singular in , as dair, the oak, daraċ ; lasair, a flame, lasraċ, These nouns make their nominative plural in aċa, as lasraċa, so caṫair, a city, caṫraċ ; nom. pl. caṫraċa

Nouns in eas make their genitive either after the analogy of the first or third declension, as tinneas, sickness; gen. tinnis , or tinneasa. The first form is the more common.

Certain nouns which take a broad increase also suffer an internal change; e.g., fios, knowledge, gen. feasa; uss, news, gen. ossa; leas, a rath, gen. leasa, also lis.

§13. — Fourth Declension.

The fourth declension comprises nouns of both genders which have no change in the singular number. Most nouns ending in vowels, and generally those in íġ, íḋ, and ín, are of this declension.

The nominative plural is generally formed by adding iḋe, te, and ṫe to nominative singular.

The genitive plural is formed by adding , or aḋ to nominative singular, and sometimes to the nominative plural.

It is, however, in common usage incorrectly, but frequently, made identical at one time with the nominative singular, and at another with the nominative plural.

Singular     Plural  
Nom. fáinne a ring Nom. fánniḋe
Gen. fáinne   Gen. fáinneaḋ
Dat. fáinne   Dat. fáinniḋiḃ
Voc. fáinne   Voc. fáinniḋe

Duine, a person, makes daoine ; aiṫne makes aiṫeanta in the nominative plural.

§14 — Fifth Declension.

Nouns of the fifth declension are of both genders, and generally end in vowels in the nominative.

The genitive singular is formed by adding n or nn.

The dative case is formed by attenuating the termination of the genitive singular.

The nominative plural is generally formed by adding a to the genitive singular. Some nouns of this declension form their plurals irregularly, but they will be learned by practice, or from the dictionary.

Singular     Plural  
Nom. cóṁarsa a neighbor Nom. cóṁarsana, cóṁársain
Gen. cóṁarsan   Gen. cóṁarsan
Dat. cóṁarsain   Dat. cóṁarsanaiḃ
Voc. cóṁarsa   Voc. cóṁarsana

In a like mannter decline—

teanga a tongue pearsa a person
díle a floor ceaṫraṁa a quarter

Teanga also makes teangṫa, teaċṫaċa in the plural.


* In the former edition of thia grammar the name prepositional was, after O'Donovan, given to this case ; it is more convenient, however, to retain the term dative. It must be borne in mind that it is the preposition prefixed that makes it either dative or ablative, and that the aspiration that will be seen so frequently to occur in the initial letter of the noun in this case, as TJO balA, is owing to the influence of the preposition 'oo, to, and is not a necessary adjunct of the dative case. The dative is, therefore, in this grammar, given in its nude form without the preposition, and consequently without the aspiration, and the same has been done in the case of the vocative.


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Grammar of modern irish - Wright - 1860
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