Origin Of The Irish Language 📗: A reason why one wants to learn everything he or she can about the Irish language is because he or she is trying to discover his or her past —his or her historic roots. Similarly, the Irish language has its own history. Let us discover its history here.

The Origin Of The Irish Language


Cúis gur mian le duine gach rud is féidir leis a fhoghlaim faoin nGaeilge ná go bhfuil sé nó sí ag iarraidh a am atá caite a fháil amach – fréamhacha stairiúla. Ar an gcaoi chéanna, tá a stair féin ag an nGaeilge. Lig dúinn a stair a fháil anseo.


I, in particular, love learning about history. History tells me a beautiful story of who I am, really, which is more than just the experiences and connections I have made before. And, with my knowledge of the the past, the future becomes much more easier to go through!


Is breá liom, go háirithe, foghlaim faoin stair. Insíonn an stair scéal álainn dom faoi cé mé, i ndáiríre, atá níos mó ná na heispéiris agus na naisc a rinne mé roimhe seo. Agus, agus an t-eolas atá agam ar an am atá thart, bíonn sé i bhfad níos éasca an todhchaí a rith!


Of course, this also applies to the Irish language. To know what the Irish language really is, we must first discover its history. By the end of the blog, hopefully, all your questions have been answered by us. Read on to learn more.


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What is the origin of the Irish language?


Irish, Gaeilge, Gaelic, Erse – whatever you want to call it – is a member of the Goidelic group of Celtic languages. Other members of the Goidelic languages include Scottish Gaelic, Manx Gaelic or simply Manx. To add, Welsh, Breton, and Cornish are Celtic languages not included in the Goidelic group. The three Gaelic ones come from the Old Irish language while the latter three Celtic languages come from British.


Goídel Glas, a Gaelic hero of the past, was stated as the creator of the Goidelic languages and the mythological ancestors of the Gaels.


Irish first came to Ireland many moons ago, roughly 2,500 years in the past. It is not the first language spoken in Ireland; there were other languages present here before Irish. The Irish language spread only started by the start of the Christian era. It spread like wildfire. This is also the case for Scotland, west coast of Britain, and the Isle of Mann.


The old form of Irish, known as Primitive or Archaic Irish, dates back to the 3rd, 4th, or 5th century AD. Written records existed when Latin was still the written medium. They were found in Ogham inscriptions. Initially, Primitive Irish was only known from bits of texts, mostly from personal names, inscribed in the Ogham alphabet.


How did Irish develop further?


As mentioned above, the Irish language started out as Primitive or Archaic Irish — its “origin of origins”, to be more precise.


During the 10th century, it evolved into what we may know as Middle Irish. It is also sometimes known as Middle Gaelic. This Goidelic that was spoken in Ireland, parts of Scotland, and the Isle of Mann dates back 900-1200 AD, as well. It started to exist at the same time as the late Old English and early Middle English.


It really had an influence — the three Celtic Goidelic languages Scottish, Manx, and Irish Gaelic were descendants of Middle Irish.


Wikipedia has an example of a poem in Middle Irish, which I want to share. The poem was about Eógan Bél, King of Connacht. Here, you can see the poem.


Dún Eogain Bél forsind loch forsrala ilar tréntroch,
ní mair Eogan forsind múr ocus maraid in sendún.
Maraid inad a thige irraibe ’na chrólige,
ní mair in rígan re cair nobíd ina chomlepaid.
Cairptech in rí robúi and, innsaigthech oirgnech Érenn,
ní dechaid coll cána ar goil, rocroch tríchait im óenboin.
Roloisc Life co ba shecht, rooirg Mumain tríchait fecht,
nír dál do Leith Núadat nair co nár dámair immarbáig.
Doluid fecht im-Mumain móir do chuinchid argait is óir,
d’iaraid sét ocus móine do gabail gíall [n]dagdóine.
Trían a shlúaig dar Lúachair síar co Cnoc mBrénainn isin slíab,
a trían aile úad fo dess co Carn Húi Néit na n-éces.
Sé fodéin oc Druimm Abrat co trían a shlúaig, nísdermat,
oc loscud Muman maisse, ba subach don degaisse.
Atchím a chomarba ind ríg a mét dorigne d’anfhír,
nenaid ocus tromm ’malle, conid é fonn a dúine.


Origin of Irish language: Modern Irish


Now, we discuss the Irish language that we know today.


1200-1600 saw the birth of Classical Modern Irish. Then, a standardised language was further developed in the scholar schools and poets all throughout Ireland and Scotland. The language transformed from Old and Middle Irish and was the primary language of Ireland up until the late 18th century, when the Great Famine happened which forced plenty of Irish people to migrate.


As a result, since the 19th century up until now, English became the primary language for Ireland. However, you can find some counties like Cork, Donegal, Galway, and Kerry that still has Modern Irish as the first language. They have areas called Gaeltacht — areas dominated with Irish speakers.


One thing led to another that made English the most used, first language instead of Irish. There have been efforts to restore the declining language. Down below, according to Conradh na Gaeilge:


Restoration efforts


At the start of the eighteenth century scholars started to become interested in the language and in its literature. Many people understood that Spoken Irish was declining. Thomas Davis, in 1843, was among those who publicly declared that Irish is a “national language”. This terminology was again used in the constitutions of 1922 and 1937. The Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language, which was established in 1876, managed to gain recognition for Irish at every level of the education system from primary school level to university.


In the year 1893 Dubhghlas de hÍde, Eoin Mac Néill, Father Eoghan Ó Gramhnaigh and others established Conradh na Gaeilge, or the Gaelic League. Within a couple of years they managed to create a mass movement of support for the Irish language. A start was made to bringing the grammar of the written language into line with the spoken modern language. A result of these efforts was the Official Standard which the Government of Ireland published in 1958.




The restoration efforts are still ongoing up to this day. Plenty of people today with Irish roots seek their history, along with others just wanting to study Irish for the education or even just for the fun of it, hence the need for schools, lessons, mediums, etc.


There are many of those who teach the Irish language and culture, with Fluentirish being one of them. You can read our blogs to discover how you can learn the Irish language. I recommend you read our blogs such as English words of Irish origin and Irish language schools.



>>Which level?: Find out which level of spoken Irish you understand!