Appendix:Old Irish pronunciation

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The charts below show the way in which the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) represents Old Irish pronunciations in Wiktionary entries.

See w:Old Irish language § Phonology for detailed discussion of the phonology of Old Irish.

Some details of Old Irish phonetics are not known. /f/, /v/, and /ṽ/ (and their palatalized equivalents) may have been bilabial [ɸ], [β], and [β̃] rather than labiodental [f], [v], and [ṽ]. /sʲ/ may have been pronounced [ɕ] or [ʃ], as in modern Irish. /hʲ/ may have been the same sound as /h/ and/or /xʲ/. The vowels /i/ and /e/ may have had backed allophones like [ɨ] and [ə] when they were preceded by a plain consonant (which happened only in unstressed syllables).

The precise articulation of the fortis sonorants /n͈/, /n͈ʲ/, /l͈/, /l͈ʲ/, /r͈/, /r͈ʲ/ is unknown, but they were probably longer, tenser, and generally more strongly articulated than their lenis counterparts /n/, /nʲ/, /l/, /lʲ/, /r/, /rʲ/, as in the Modern Irish dialects (e.g. Connacht Irish) that still possess a four-way distinction in the coronal nasals and laterals. /n͈ʲ/ and /l͈ʲ/ may have been pronounced [ɲ̟] and [ʎ̟] respectively. The difference between /r͈(ʲ)/ and /r(ʲ)/ may have been that the former were trills while the latter were flaps.

Plain Palatalized[1] English approximations
IPA Example IPA Example
b bó bʲ bél boot; beautiful
d daimid dʲ derg do (but dental), dew
ð adarc, nead ðʲ buide though; bathe you
f fuil
fʲ fín
fool; fuel
ɡ gaibid ɡʲ gér goose; argue
ɣ ag ɣʲ aig (no equivalent)
h a úil ‘his eye’
a athair ‘her father’ (not written)
hʲ a éitig ‘his wife’
a iasc ‘her fish’ (not written)
hand; hew
k caraid kʲ ceist coot; cute
lár, ball ʲ lebor, céille filth; million
l laith, colainn lʲ lesc, gaile pool; leaf
m mór mʲ milis moot; mute
nóeb, ennac ʲ nél, fírinne tenth; inch
n gonaid nʲ ne noon; new
ŋ ngaibid ŋʲ ngér long; angular
p póc pʲ persan poor; pure
rún, berraid ʲ rí, airrecht rule (but trilled); real (but trilled)
r beraid rʲ beirid rule (but tapped); real (but tapped)
s sacart sʲ sen soon; bless you or possibly sheet
t tarb tʲ tír tool (but dental); tune
θ tharb θʲ thír thorn; birth you
v aball vʲ gaibid voodoo; view
demon ʲ cnáim (no equivalent; like /v/ and /vʲ/ but nasalized)
x charaid xʲ cheist loch (Scottish English); hue (pronounced strongly)
IPA Examples English approximation
a banbh pot (General American)
bás father
e bein best
bél pay
i bith kit
mí meet
o bocc cloth
bó boat
u cullach good
cúl too
Short diphthongs
au̯ daum house
eu̯ neuch (no equivalent; a bit like coat in very posh RP)
iu̯ do·biur (no equivalent)
Long diphthongs
aːi̯[2] áes prize
aːu̯[3] dáu loud
eːu̯ béo stay with
iːa̯ cíall fear (nonrhotic accent)
iːu̯ díummus be with
oːi̯[2] cóem void
oːu̯[4] bóu go with
uːa̯ cúan tour (nonrhotic accent)
uːi̯ dr do it (but compressed into a single syllable)
IPA Explanation
ˈ Primary stress (placed before the stressed syllable)
ˌ Secondary stress (usually found only in compounds)


  1. ^ Old Irish makes contrasts between plain and palatalized consonants. Palatalized consonants, denoted in the IPA by a superscript ⟨ʲ⟩, are pronounced with the body of the tongue raised toward the hard palate, in a manner similar to the articulation of the ⟨y⟩ sound in yes.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The sounds /aːi̯/ and /oːi̯/ merged into a single phoneme during the Old Irish period. It is not known how this merged sound was pronounced, but by Early Modern Irish it was spelled ao(i) and pronounced [ɯː].
  3. ^ The sound /aːu̯/ merged with /oː/ during the Old Irish period.
  4. ^ The sound /oːu̯/ merged with /aːu̯/, which then later merged with /oː/.