People are often surprised to find that Ireland actually has two national languages. English and Irish, or Gaelic (and Gaeilge) as it is also known. While English is the primary and first language for the majority of the island, there are still some small areas that speak Irish exclusively. These are known as 'Gaeltacht' areas.
There is also an Irish-language television channel and radio. If you travel anywhere in Ireland, you'll find road signs are written in Irish and English. All state literature and ceremonies are conducted in both Irish and English, and the national anthem is in Irish too. It's a unique and very romantic language.
It offers many beautiful phrases and words to express love, compassion, and friendship. We use many of these Irish terms of endearment on our handcrafted Handcrafted Irish Jewelry here at Claddagh Design. So below we've shared just a small sample of our favourites!
The Irish Language
When you consider the length of time Ireland has been inhabited (some ten thousand years or so), the adoption of English is a relatively recent development. The use of the Irish language really only began go into decline in the 18th century under British rule and discouraged its use.
For thousands of years before that, Irish was the only language spoken in Ireland. The first records of it's use was around 400AD in Ogham inscriptions carved into standing stones. Ogham was an alphabet made up of a series of strokes and lines. This then developed into the Latin alphabet once Christianity came to the island. It became more recognizable as the language we know today. Gaelic also spread to Scotland and the Isle of Man, and similar forms still exist there today.
With increasing British influence, English became more economically beneficial to the people of Ireland. The population became less resistant to loss of our native language. With waves of emigration in the 1800s, especially during the famine, English became a useful language. In the lead up to the struggle for independence, we begin to see a revival of the language. Since then, it has been taught in schools, used in literature and by all state-run organizations. Today, we are seeing a growing resurgence of this ancient language, both at home here in Ireland and throughout the Irish diaspora. Irish is now celebrated as an important part of Ireland's cultural heritage.
Our native language is now recognised as an integral part of our national identity, and as the beautiful Celtic language that it is. Not that we're biased!
Terms of EndearmentGrá go Deo Pendant with Connemara Marble - Love Forever
The Irish language has many different ways to say the same thing. The romantic nature of the language means that there are more than a handful of ways to address someone that means a lot to you. Here are some of our favorites.
A Chara: Means 'friend', and can be used to address anyone, in formal or informal settings.
A Stór: Means 'my treasure', usually used to express affectionate friendship, especially for parent and children relationships.
A Chroí: Means 'my heart', a stronger version of the above, meant more for lovers to use.
Mo Ghrá (pronounced 'graw'): Means 'my love', for relationships that are that little bit more serious!
Mo Cuishle (pronounced 'coosh-la'): Literally means 'my pulse', for the person who makes your heart beat. Often generally translated as 'my darling'.
A Thaisce: Means 'my treasure', another version of 'a stór'.
A Chumann: Means 'my sweetheart', but is also the word for 'society', which can be confusing!
Mo Shearc (pronounced 'hark'): Means 'my love' Another simple version of 'mo ghrá'.
Mo Rúnsearc (pronounced 'roon-hark'): Literally means 'my secret love', there is no direct equivalent in English.
Mo Mhuirnin (pronounced 'mur-neen'): Means 'my little darling' or 'my dear', a more formal phrase.
Mo fhíorghra: (pronounced 'heer-graw') Means 'my true love', one of the most romantic phrases around.
Mo shíorghra: Means 'my eternal love', sometimes used as a term for 'soulmates'.
A Ghrá mo Chroí: Means 'my heart's beloved' or 'the love of my heart'.
A Ghrá Geal: Means 'my bright love', often the term used to describe a boyfriend/girlfriend.
Seanleannán (pronounced 'shan-lan-awn'): Literally means 'old love', or 'old flame'
A Pheata (pronounced 'fat-a'): Means 'a mother's darling', for a mother to express endearment for her children
A chéadsearc (pronounced 'cade-shark'): Means 'my first love', or 'my one and only'
Irish people are well known for being a charismatic bunch that have a special way with words. Naturally, to go with the many different words in the Irish language for expressing love, there are also a lot of popular sayings and proverbs about love too. Here are a few particularly romantic ones...
“Maireann lá go ruaig ach maireann an grá go huaigh”.A day lasts until it's chased away, but love lasts until the grave. Or in other words, love lasts forever and overcomes all obstacles.
“Maireann croí éadrom i bhfad”. A light heart lives longest. Someone who finds lasting love will live a long and happy life.
“Trí na chéile a thógtar na cáisléain”. In our togetherness, castles are built. In other words, through love, people can build great lives together.
“Cha robh dithis riamh a’ fadadh teine nach do las eatarra”. Two never kindled a fire but it lit between them. Or, love and attraction comes naturally to people who are meant to be together.
"Sliocht sleachta ar sliocht bhur sleachta!" : May you have children and your children have children. This is more of a blessing and is still said at many traditional Irish weddings.
Of course, there are plenty of not so romantic phrases too...
"Ní féasta go rósta, ní céasadh go pósta": There is no feast without a roast, there is no torment without being married. In other words, all marriages have their problems!
"Níl leigheas ar an ngrá ach pósadh": There is no cure for love other than marriage. The only way to solve the troubles of being in love is to marry someone.
"An luífeása le mo mhuintirse?": Would you like to be buried with my people? Apparently, this was a form of marriage proposal in old Ireland!
"Folíonn grá gráin": Love veils ugliness. Hopefully, this is supposed to mean something a little less harsh, like 'love is blind'!
Famous Irish Love Poems
There are so many Irish love poems, both written in Irish or by Irish authors, that more than one library could be filled with them. The Irish poets and writers were a romantic lot! Many of the poems have been put to music and are now popular songs that can be heard at traditional music sessions in pubs around the country.
'I Will Walk with my Love' is a traditional Irish poem, originally recorded in Irish and translated into English. The author and origin of the poem are both unknown, which is quite poignant once you read it...
I once loved a boy, just a bold Irish boy who would come and would go at my request; and this bold Irish boy was my pride and my joy and I built him a bow'r in my breast.
But this girl who has taken my bonny, bonny boy, let her make of him all that she can; and whether he loves me or loves me not, I will walk with my love now and then.
A more uplifting one is 'Exile', again by an anonymous author although it does date from sometime during the 7th to 12th centuries.
What happier fortune can one find Than with the girl who pleased one’s mind To leave one’s home and friends behind And sail on the first favoring wind?
Finally, a third and very well known love poem is 'Fand Yields Cúchulainn to Emer'. Cúchulainn is a prominent figure in Irish mythology and literature, an infamous warrior and athlete. He fell in love with a woman called Fand, from the 'otherworld'. His wife Emer fought to keep him and forced Fand back to the otherworld. The poem is again by an anonymous author but dates from the 9th to 12th centuries.
Emer, he is your man, now, And well may you wear him, When I can no longer hold him, I must yield him.
Many a man has wanted me, But I have kept my vows. I have been an honest woman, Under the roofs and boughs. Pity the woman loves a man, When no love invites her. Better for her to fly from love if unloved, love bites her. Our handmade Irish jewelry is adorned with beautifully expressive Gaelic terms of endearment. Browse the collection here on our Claddagh Design Online Shop
We find that our posts about expressing your love in Irish are really popular, so here is the full list of current posts we have on the subject. Let's start with the terms of endearment and work up to the more intense passions!
- 5 Irish terms of Endearment
- More Irish terms of Endearment
- Ways to say "I Love You" in Irish
- 7 Ways to say "I Love You" in Irish
- Irish phrases about love for your wedding ring
And as usual, keep in mind that you can get these phrases or Ogham versions inscribed on some handmade irish jewelry from Claddagh Design. Or if you want to be extra special, why not commission a custom piece of jewelry?