Eilean Donan Castle, Highland

Gaelic Phonetics

Don't think that Scottish Gaelic is easy to learn!
It is one to the most difficult languages on earth. Especially the pronunciation is a hard nut to crack. On the one hand there are a lot of dialectal variations and another reason is that there are certain sounds in Gaelic which do not have any equivalents in English.

For all who are really eager to learn the basic concepts of this almost extinct language I have compiled a collection of the most important phonetic sounds. Please have a close look at this table:

Table of vowels:

Gaelic letter English pronuncation Gaelic examples
(long) f-a-ther brd, br
(long, flanked by m or n) like French: vi:n (no English equivalent) ms, mhailt, nradh
a (short) p-a-t ad, sad, nach
a (preceding dh, gh or at word's end) m-u-rder stadh, tadhal, agh
a (short, flanked by m or n) like French: vin (no English equivalent) amh, na, nathair
(long) f-a-re dan, c
(long) J-a-ne igin, fin, d
e (short, often at word's end) h-e-r gille, teine
e (short) f-e-ll le, teth
(long) f-ee-l rgh, sth
i (short) f-i-t ith, glic, fir
i (short) b-i-te tigh, rinn
(long) m-o-re l, crr, cr
(long, flanked by m or n) like French: r-o-nde (no English equivalent) mar, mine, ns
(long) t-o-ne c, mr, b
o (short, open) p-o-t do, conas
o (short, preceded by m or n) like French: bon (no English equivalent) monadh, nochd
o (short) c-o-at coma, bolla
(long) s-u-re clan, r, br
and u (flanked by m or n) Roger M-oo-re rn, nsa, maidh
u (short) f-oo-l cus, ubag, gu

Table of vowel combinations:

Gaelic letter English pronuncation Gaelic examples
ai (short) a-ny ainm, aithne, caisean
ai (short) p-a-t cais, ait, caithream
ai (short) s-e-cret airmis, cairbh
i (long) f-a-ther ithne, cin, filte
ao (long) m-u-rder aobhar, saobhaidh
ao (long) m--sli caob, faobhar, aon
e (long) ya-rd derrsa, erra
ea (short) p-e-t eas, seas, gead
ea (close & short) b-a-se beag, eaglais
ea (short) ya-rd ealag, gealach, cealg
ei (close & short) c-a-se ceil, sseid, eile, sgeilp
i (long) sh-a-me iginm ligh
i (long) f-ai-r sgith, simh
eo (short) yo seot, beothail
e (long) yoo cel, be
eu (long) f-a-me ceum, seud
i (long) Ia-n idach
a (long) i (like in murder) iasg, ciatach
o (long) i (like in murder) sol
i (long) ju: il, fi, ibhrach
io (short) sk-i-d giodar
io (short) ju spiol, siola, iola
i (long) oh: fill, fir
i (long) h:i (like in murder) cibhneas
oi (short) m-u-rder goil, oide
oi (short) h-o-me boil
oi (short) dovec-o-t sgoil, oil
ua (long) uh- (like in murder) uallach, fuar
ua (flanked by m or n) uh-ah uan, nuagach, uamha
i (long) m-oo-d cil, din
u (long) uh-i luib, tuinn
u (flanked by m or n) uh-i: cuimhne, muing
ui (short) hui cuid, guidh
aoi (short) i (like in murder) saoile, aoibhneas

Table of consonants:

Gaelic letter English pronuncation Gaelic examples
b b-an boban
bh (initial) v like in v-eil bheil
bh (medial) v mor w like in gra-v-el labhairt, abhras
bh (final) silent lobh
c k like in kingr cr, reic, c
ch lo-ch ach, ch, cha
d dent dall, cadal
d (flanked by e or i) like in jerk dearc, callaid
dh (flanked by e or i) j like in yeah dhearc, buidhe
dh (flanked by a, o, u) g like in Gilmore dha, modh, modhail
dh (final, preceded by e or i) silent branndaidh
f fell fear
g g like in give or good gean, igin, gabh, bog, bagair
gh (flanked by e or i) j like in yeah oighe, gheibh
gh (followed by consonant) silent oighreachd, maighdeag
gh (flanked by a, o, u) g like in Gilmore ghabh, magh
h not a letter of its own combined with other letters only
l l like in full leam, calanas, banail, a lmh
m m like in man mac
mh (nasal) v like in vain amh, damh, damhan
mh (nasal) ah-uh: Samhradh
n n like in name dn, a nmh, ainm
ng a-ng-le mang
p p adopted letter from Germany
r r like in rich mar, a rmh, rn
rn co-rn mrnaich
s (flanked by e or i) s-ure sian, maisein, cois
s (flanked by a,o,u) s like in sun sr, thusa, bus
sh h like in have Shbaid, sheachdain
t-s (initial) t an t-Sbaid
t (flanked by e or i) tsch like in china peitean
t (flanked by a, o, u) t like in Tom tmh, cotan, cat
th h athair, tha
th (final) silent math, dath

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