Appendix:Irish nouns

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Irish has five[1] noun declensions, each with four cases (nominative,[2] vocative, genitive, dative), and singular and plural forms.[3] Noun endings are typified by broad and slender[4] consonants, and vowels; case endings are characterised by the broadening and slenderising of consonants, and the addition of suffixes.

The defining feature of each declension is the genitive singular.[5] The dative singular has distinctive features in some declensions.[6]

Plurals are categorised as weak if the genitive plural is the same as the nominative singular; and strong if the genitive plural is the same as the nominative plural. Weak plurals are formed by slenderising consonants, or adding the suffix ‑a.[7] Strong plural suffixes include ‑aí, ‑anna, ‑ta and ‑acha[8],[9] and a few nouns in -a/e with syncopation.[10] The dative plural ‑aibh[11] is non-standard, and considered archaic/dialectical.

The vocative has the same form as the nominative in the second to fifth declensions. In the first declension, it is slender in the singular and broad + a in the plural.

There are two genders in Irish, masculine and feminine. The gender of nouns in each declension is somewhat mixed, but there are clear patterns.[12]

Irish nouns undergo initial mutations.[13]

The definite article[edit]

The entry for the definite article an has a comprehensive declension table, including initial mutation rules.

As an example of the evolution of the article from Proto-Celtic, that of the nominative singular masculine, with t-prothesis before a vowel, can be given as: *sindos > *(s)ind > int > an t-.

The demonstrative sin retains the Proto-Celtic initial 's'. The 's' also appears in the Modern Irish contractions of i with the article: insan, sa(n), sna, as well as the dialectical desna, dosna, ósna.

There is no indefinite article in Irish.

Quick reference table[edit]

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Gender m f [14] m [15] & f [16] m & f [17] f & m [18]
Singular Nom broad consonant consonant vowel;
‑ín; [19]
‑il, ‑in, ‑ir;
Voc slender - [20] - - -
Gen slender + e [21][22] + a - broad;
vowel + ch, d, n
Dat - slender [23] - - slender gen
Weak Plural [24] Nom slender;
+ a
+ a [7] + a [25] + a [26] [27]
Voc + a + a + a + a
Gen - broad [28] - -
Dat [11] + aibh + aibh + aibh + aibh

Irregular nouns[edit]

The defining feature of each declension is the genitive singular. By this definition, a few nouns defy classification, notably:

The Caighdeán lists deoch and teach as irregular, but just a little digging shows them to be second declension nouns.

  • deochgs. digh + e > dí
  • teachgs. tigh + e > tí

Multiple declension nouns[edit]

Some Irish nouns belong to more than one declension. There is a distinction to be made between historical/dialectical declension variants of a particular noun, and homonyms. A good example of the latter is eas (waterfall) from Old Irish es, and eas (stoat) from Old Irish nes.

The following is not meant as an exhaustive list.

Noun 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Variant
aire f, care
m, minister
m, chief
aireamh m m ploughman
altóir f f altar
araí f, appearance f, bridle
beatha f f life
breitheamh m m judge
cistin f f kitchen
cleas m m m, gang trick
cnámh m m bone
cónra f f coffin
cré f f earth
cruicéad m (teanglann) m (wiki) cricket
m m hound
cuisle f f vein
dair f f oak
dún m, str m, wk fort
eas m, str, waterfall
m, wk, stoat
eorna f f barley
féicheamh m m creditor
gabha m m smith
méid f, size m, amount
rámh m m (rámha) oar
ráth m, str, fort
f, str, shoal
m, wk, guarantor
réal m f sixpenny
ros m, linseed m, wooded headland
srón f f nose
talamh m f land
úr m, freshness m, heath

Wiktionary templates[edit]


For declension-specific templates, see the source list on About Irish, or under the relevant appendices.


  1. ^ Verbal nouns per se can be considered a class of their own; verbal nouns as substantive fall into the canonical classes
  2. ^ The accusative has the same form as the nominative, and together they are sometimes called "common"
  3. ^ Traces of PIE dual forms still exist, especially after dhá, and with the second declension nouns bos, bróg, cluas, cos and lámh
  4. ^ In the jargon, velarised and palatised
  5. ^ By this definition, a few nouns defy classification, notably bean, deirfiúr, Dia, , leaba,
  6. ^ Notably, 2nd and 5th
  7. 7.0 7.1 Rarely, the slender version in ‑e; e.g., súil, npl. súile
  8. ^ Slender versions are ‑í, ‑eanna, ‑te, ‑eacha; ‑ta/te may be aspirated to ‑tha/the
  9. ^ Certain nouns and noun endings are associated with particular plurals, see Irish Nouns
  10. ^ e.g. briathar, pl briathra, bráthair, pl bráithre
  11. 11.0 11.1 cf. Latin -ibus. Considered archaic/dialtectical. If *busannaibh were a form, it could be interpreted as (omni)bus‑anna‑ibus
  12. ^ e.g. all first declension nouns are masculine
  13. ^ Initial mutations are not discussed further here. Wiktionary declension templates include bare and initial-mutated forms, in the context of the article
  14. ^ There are three masculine nouns in the 2nd declension: im, sliabh, teach
  15. ^ Especially suffixes -éir, -óir, úir (cf. Latin -or)
  16. ^ Especially suffix ‑acht/‑aíocht; verbal nouns as substantive in ‑áil, ‑irt, ‑úint
  17. ^ Abstract nouns ending in a vowel
  18. ^ Male familial nouns, and the ordinals 20-90
  19. ^ Masculine, except for girls' names, e.g, Máirín
  20. ^ In this table, "-" means that the form is the same as the nominative singular
  21. ^ In this table "+" means that the preceding consonant should be broadened or slenderised, if necessary, to agree with the suffix. In this particular case (+ e), a broad consonant is slenderised
  22. ^ Genitive singular in í comes from nouns in ‑(e)ach: í < ighe
  23. ^ Formally, the genitive singular without the suffix -e
  24. ^ Strong-plural cases all have the same form
  25. ^ There are relatively few weak plurals in the third declension
  26. ^ There is only a couple of weak plurals in the fourth declension
  27. ^ There are some irregular plurals in the 5th declension, with genitive plural = genitive singular
  28. ^ An exception to the "weak plural" rule; e.g., súil, gpl. súl
  29. ^ Originally dearbh + siúr
  30. ^ Actually a verbal noun, where leapa < leabtha
  31. ^ Almost regular fifth declenstion, except that the radical ending, -úr, is broad



External links[edit]

See also[edit]