Friday Fact: How to pronounce Gaelic

My latest books, Daughters of Alba, have a lot of Gaelic (Gaidhlig) in them.  A lot.

When I wrote them I was having fun with learning the language and trying to make my work as authentic as possible.  But some of my early readers begged me for a pronunciation guide.  So, in honour of D of A coming out yesterday, I’ve started putting together a list of names and common terms I’ve used in the books.  I’ll keep adding to the list.


Here are some general notes on pronouncing Gaelic that might help you out.

There are a lot of “extra” letters in Gaelic.

Blends of as many as 3 vowels at a time usually end up sounding like “uh”.

Any time you see an “h” in a word, the letter before it is softened, or sometimes even cancelled out altogether.

For example:

“ch” = a hiss in the throat like at the end of “Bach”

“mh” and “bh” = “v”

“dh” and “th” = disappears entirely

Consonants are different than what we’re used to.

“S” alone at the beginning of a word = “sh” (like the Irish “Sean”)

“T” alone at the beginning of a word = “tch”

“C” = always hard sound like “K”

If you want to sound like a pro, say it with an accent.

Seriously.  There’s a reason the Scots and the Irish speak with that lilting rhythm: it comes from their native tongue.  To get the rhythm of Gaelic down, you’ve got to get away from the rhythm of English.


If you’re reading D of A and want to know how to say the names and words properly, then check out the new Gaidhlig guide.



2 thoughts on “Friday Fact: How to pronounce Gaelic”

  1. Just one comment, from my beginner’s knowledge …

    You wrote: ““S” alone at the beginning of a word = “sh” (like the Irish “Sean”)”

    Actually, S is pronounced as in English, unless immediately followed by the letters i or e (slender vowels), in which case it is pronounced “sh”. So Sile is pronounced sheela, but sona is pronounced “son – er”.

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