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Unit One: 1 2 3 4

Unit Two: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Unit Three: Lesson Index

Spelling and Pronunciation - Grammar

More Irish language resources can be found at
Wikiversity's Department of Irish Studies

Directions in Irish work a little differently than they do in English. There are two major differences:

  • Some of the words have multiple meanings: for example, deas, which means both "right" and south".
  • The words and forms used differ depending on context

This article gives a comprehensive overview of Irish directions for the English-speaking student.

Historical Directions[edit | edit source]

Historically, the same words were used in Irish and the languages it descended from for compass directions (north, south) and relative directions (right, left). The directions match up for a person facing east:

East Forward
West Back
South Right
North Left

Deas still means both "south" and "right", but the other direction words are no longer identical in modern Irish. However, the concept survives in some idioms and expressions, which will be discussed below.

Categories of Direction Words[edit | edit source]

In Irish, different direction words are used in different contexts. The types of direction word are:

Used to describe the direction as an independent noun, or to describe a portion of a place. Example: "It will rain in the west this weekend," "She visited the south of France."
Used to modify a noun, usually as part of a place name. Example: "She's from North America"
Going to
Used when describing motion away from the speaker. Example: "She's not here right now, she drove west this morning."
Coming from
Used when describing motion towards the speaker. Example: "It was nice of you Dubliners to drive from the east to see us."
Used to compare relative positions of two things.

The hardest direction for English speakers to understand is "coming from," because it implies traveling in the opposite direction. For example:

  • tar suas means "come up (to here)"
  • tar anuas means "come from up (there)"--or in other words, "come down".

List of Irish Direction Words and Forms[edit | edit source]

This chart shows the different direction words. In each case there's a three-letter pattern shared by all the words indicating a certain direction (except for deisceart, South, which breaks the pattern).

Direction Going Coming Adjective Noun Comparative
North ó thuaidh aduaidh thuaidh tuaisceart lastuaidh
South ó dheas aneas theas deisceart laisteas
East soir anoir thoir oirthear lastoir
West siar aniar thiar iarthar laistiar
Up suas aníos thuas
Down síos anuas thíos

Forming Intermediate Directions[edit | edit source]

To form intermediate directions, use the appropriate term for the east-west direction, followed by the "going" form (the a- form) of the north-south direction:

thiar aneas (in the southwest)

Right and Left[edit | edit source]

In and Out[edit | edit source]

  • Amach
  • Amuigh

Compass Idioms[edit | edit source]

Some of the surviving idioms related to the points of the compass in Irish include:

seas siar
Stand back (literally "stand to the west")
aniar aduaidh
By surprise (literally "from the northwest")
amach anseo
From now on

Further Reading[edit | edit source]

Direction and Location in Modern Irish