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Translate "spirit" into Scottish Gaeilc
September 8, 2008 8:19 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me figure out the best Scottish Gaelic word for translating the English word "spirit" for a tattoo project?

I recently spent 3 weeks in Scotland at the Findhorn Institute experiencing
spirituality in community, and as part of my travels this summer want to
mark the time with a tattoo. I have "Manifest" (in english) and "Peace"
('Fridur' in Icelandic where I spent the other significant portion of my
travels this summer) and want to add "spirit" in Scottish Gaelic. I have
looked up the word on a few online translation dictionaries and have gotten
numerous words with numerous definitions which sometimes are quite close.
Can anyone help me determine the exact word I want for this project?

I've come up with these possibilities, but would love to hear if there are
others that come forth from this query:
misneach
meanmna
aigneadh

Or even perhaps if there is a word that would relate more so to the English
"spirituality"? I did find "spioradail" which is an adjective though I
think, meaning 'spiritual'. I think I would like a noun for this, but am
open to all possibilities.

Thank you.
posted by franklen to Writing & Language (11 answers total)
 
Caveat: I know no gaelic (sadly). I can't put these in the appropriate grammatical form for your use.

But I do have two dictionaries. Here is what they said:

spirit (morale): aigne: an aigne, na h-aigne, na h-aignean (f.)
spirit (of morale & religion): spiorad: an spioraid, na spioradan (m.)

spiritual: spioradail, nas spioradaile (this is the adjective that you mention)

I believe aigneadh is a masculine version of the feminine noun aigne given above.

Putting into the thicker dictionary (Dwelly's illustrated gaelic to english, sadly no illustrations for this purpose):
aigne: 1) mind, temper, disposition
2) spirit, affection, thought
3) the bird swift.
4) anything of unusually quick motion

It seems to me like "spirit" here means something closer to "spunk" than spiritual... but I don't know for sure.

spiorad: 1) spirit (ghost)
2) spirit, mind, vigour, heart
3) spiritous liquors

I'm going to guess this is closer to what you want, but again it doesn't seem quite right.

misneach comes up as courage, while meanma has a long list of definitions; I have to share with you the last of these:
13) Titillation of the nostril, which, when felt, is supposed to portend the arrival or sight of a relation or acquaintance.

Anyhow, it looks like there is a noun for spioradail, but I'm not quite sure which form of "spirit" you want (in English that word has many meanings too!).
posted by nat at 10:07 PM on September 8, 2008


I don't think there's really a gaelic word for spirituality in the general sense, if you are more specific then you'll probably get more suggestions. I'm pretty sure that Spioradial is just an English word- gaelicised.
posted by fshgrl at 10:15 PM on September 8, 2008


I speak a little Irish, which is pretty damn close to Scottish Gaelic. I'm certain that "spioradail" comes straight from the English word, although that may very well be because, as fshgrl said, there's probably not a direct translation of the word "spirit" in Gaelic.

I think Nat's definitions of the words you listed seems accurate, which also suggests that "spirit" may not be the word you are looking to translate.

Would a translation of "soul" be okay? If so, the word you need is most definitely "anam."
posted by Waldo Jeffers at 11:47 PM on September 8, 2008


The word spiritual, which I think is the sense you are talking about, rather than a) distilled liquor or b) martial, community type spirit is, according to the link above, from Latin roots and has until relatively recently meant 'of or concerning the church'. From my experience of Findhorn, that's not the meaning you're really looking for, and I don't think the gaelicised word above is right. I think Waldo Jeffers has it right with 'anum'.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:12 AM on September 9, 2008


Yep, I think you need to watch out with your meaning of spirit.

Another damn Irish speaker here, but misneach means courage, and it looks like meanmna is the same.
posted by carbide at 2:32 AM on September 9, 2008


misneach 'courage, manliness; cheer, encouragement'
meanm 'mettle; courage; will, desire' (cf. meamna 'imagination, whim; joy; mettle')
aigne(adh) 'mind, spirit'

There is, obviously, no Gaelic word for the very modern concept of 'spirituality'; I'm guessing aigne (the more modern spelling) is closest to what you want.

I'm certain that "spioradail" comes straight from the English word


Just goes to show being certain isn't enough; spioradail is from Latin, just like English spiritual, and since the Irish/Gaelic word is first attested in the 8th-century Würzburg Glosses whereas the English word is first attested in the 14th-century Piers Plowman, I'd say they have priority.
posted by languagehat at 7:32 AM on September 9, 2008


Yeah, "spiorad" is the Irish gaelic term for spirit, in the context of "an spiorad naomh" meaning "The Holy Spirit".

The Irish for "ghost" is "puca". I love that word.
posted by ReiToei at 8:49 AM on September 9, 2008


Yeah, I'm gonna have to go with "aigne." (Two years of informal Gaelic courses in Los Angeles. I'm badly out of practice, though.)

Some modern Celtic Pagans and Wiccans use "toradh" (lit. "fruit, proceeds") to refer to the vital essence of offerings, the intangibles that feed the spirits-- but that's not a reference to the human soul, either, more to the unseen worth of food or drink given to the ancestors and deities.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:30 AM on September 9, 2008


Schoolboy Irish here, and my first thought when reading the question was "aigne" too, but looking into the context a bit more, I'd lead more towards soul and "Anam" as Waldo suggests above. Stay away from "Spiorad" - as ReiToei rightly says, it's really in the context of "The Holy Spirit" (and is just a clumsy way of Gaelicisng the English word, imho).
posted by Nick Verstayne at 12:33 PM on September 9, 2008


and is just a clumsy way of Gaelicisng the English word, imho

NO IT'S NOT. IT'S FROM LATIN, AND IT'S OLDER THAN THE ENGLISH WORD. Jesus.
posted by languagehat at 1:32 PM on September 9, 2008


Thanks everyone for your answers, and Waldo for your turning me onto "anam" for soul/spirit, that was definitely what I wanted I realize. WooHoo, off to the ink shop I go, well gotta find a font first :)
posted by franklen at 3:19 PM on September 10, 2008


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