Scottish Gaelic or Scots Gaelic, sometimes also referred to simply as
Gaelic (Gàidhlig [ˈkaːlikʲ] ( listen)) or the Gaelic, is
a Celtic language native to the
Gaels of Scotland. A member of the
Goidelic branch of the Celtic languages, Scottish Gaelic, like Modern
Irish and Manx, developed out of Middle Irish. Most of modern Scotland
was once Gaelic-speaking, as evidenced especially by Gaelic-language
In the 2011 census of Scotland, 57,375 people (1.1% of the Scottish
population aged over three years old) reported as able to speak
Gaelic, 1,275 fewer than in 2001. The highest percentages of Gaelic
speakers were in the Outer Hebrides. Only about half of speakers
were fully literate in the language. Nevertheless, there are
revival efforts, and the number of speakers of the language under age
20 did not decrease between the 2001 and 2011 censuses.
Scottish Gaelic is an official language of neither the European Union
nor the United Kingdom. However, it is classed as an indigenous
language under the European Charter for Regional or Minority
Languages, which the British government has ratified, and the
Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005
Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 established a language development
body, Bòrd na Gàidhlig.
Canadian Gaelic is spoken mainly in
Nova Scotia and
Prince Edward Island. In the 2011 census, there were 7,195 total
speakers of "Gaelic languages" in Canada, with 1,365 in Nova Scotia
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island where the responses mainly refer to Scottish
Gaelic. About 2,320 Canadians in 2011 also claimed Gaelic languages
as their "mother tongue", with over 300 in
Nova Scotia and Prince
2.1 Origins to zenith
2.2 Eclipse of Gaelic in Scotland
2.3 Modern era
2.4 Defunct dialects
3.1 Number of speakers
3.2 Distribution in Scotland
4.1 Noun inflection
4.2 Verb inflection
4.3 Word order
5.1 Loanwords into other languages
7 Writing system
8 Official recognition
8.1.1 Scottish Parliament
8.1.2 Qualifications in the language
8.1.3 European Union
9.3 Higher and further education
9.3.1 University of the Highlands and Islands
12 Personal names
14 Common words and phrases with Irish and Manx equivalents
15 See also
18 External links
See also: Scotia
Anne Lorne Gillies
Anne Lorne Gillies speaking publicly in the
Scottish Gaelic language.
Aside from "Scottish Gaelic", the language may also be referred to
simply as "Gaelic". In Scotland, the word "Gaelic" in reference to
Scottish Gaelic specifically is pronounced /ˈɡɑːlɪk/, while
Scotland it is often pronounced /ˈɡeɪlɪk/. Outside
Ireland and Great Britain, "Gaelic" may refer to the Irish
Scottish Gaelic should not be confused with Scots, the Middle
English-derived language varieties which had come to be spoken in most
of the Lowlands of
Scotland by the early modern era. Prior to the 15th
century, these dialects were known as Inglis ("English") by its own
speakers, with Gaelic being called Scottis ("Scottish"). From the late
15th century, however, it became increasingly common for such speakers
to refer to
Scottish Gaelic as Erse ("Irish") and the Lowland
vernacular as Scottis. Today,
Scottish Gaelic is recognised as a
separate language from Irish, so the word Erse in reference to
Scottish Gaelic is no longer used.
Main article: History of Scottish Gaelic
Linguistic division in early 12th century Scotland.
Norse-Gaelic zone, use of either or both languages
Cumbric may have survived in this zone; more realistically
a mixture of Cumbric, Gaelic (west) and English (east)
Coronation of King Alexander III on Moot Hill, Scone on 13 July 1249.
He is being greeted by the ollamh rìgh, the royal poet, who is
addressing him with the proclamation "Benach De Re Albanne" (=
Beannachd Dè Rìgh Alban, "God's Blessing on the King of Scotland");
the poet goes on to recite Alexander's genealogy.
Origins to zenith
Gaelic was brought to Scotland, probably in the 4th–5th centuries
CE, by settlers from Ireland who founded the Gaelic kingdom of Dál
Riata on Scotland's west coast in present-day Argyll. Gaelic
Scotland was mostly confined to
Dál Riata until the 8th century,
when it began expanding into Pictish areas north of the Firth of Forth
and the Firth of Clyde. By 900, Pictish appears to have become
extinct, completely replaced by Gaelic. An exception might be made
for the Northern Isles, however, where Pictish was more likely
supplanted by Norse rather than by Gaelic.
In southern Scotland, place name analysis suggests dense usage of
Galloway and adjoining areas to the north and west, as well
West Lothian and parts of western Midlothian. Less dense usage
is suggested for north Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, the
Clyde Valley and
eastern Dumfriesshire. In south-eastern Scotland, there is no evidence
that Gaelic was ever widely spoken: the area shifted from
Old English during its long incorporation into the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom
In 1018 after the conquest of the
Lothians by the Kingdom of Scotland,
Gaelic reached its social, cultural, political, and geographic zenith
in Scotland. Elites spoke Gaelic although some commoners in the
Lothians retained Old English. Colloquial speech in
been developing independently of that in Ireland at least as early as
its crossing the Druim Alban into Pictland. In Latin, the entire
country was for the first time called Scotia, and Gaelic was the
Eclipse of Gaelic in Scotland
Many historians mark the reign of King Malcom Canmore (Malcolm III) as
the beginning of Gaelic's eclipse in Scotland, because his wife
Margaret spoke no Gaelic, gave her children Anglo-Saxon rather than
Gaelic names, and brought many English bishops, priests, and monastics
to Scotland. When both Malcolm and Margaret died in 1093, the
Gaelic aristocracy rejected their anglicised sons and instead backed
Malcolm's brother Donald Bàn as the next King of Scots.[full
citation needed] Sometimes called the ‘last Celtic King of
Scotland,’ Donald had spent 17 years in
Gaelic Ireland and his
power base was in the thoroughly Gaelic west of Scotland. He was the
last Scottish monarch to be buried on Iona, the one-time centre of the
Scottish Gaelic Church[clarification needed] and the traditional
burial place of the Gaelic Kings of Dàl Riada and the Kingdom of
During the reigns of the sons of Donald's nephew and successor,
Malcolm Canmore (1097–1153), Anglo-Norman names and practices spread
Scotland south of the Forth–Clyde line and along the
northeastern coastal plain as far north as Moray. Norman French
completely displaced Gaelic at court. The establishment of royal
burghs throughout the same area, particularly under David I, attracted
large numbers of foreigners speaking Old English. This was the
beginning of Gaelic's status as a predominantly rural language in
Clan chiefs in the northern and western parts of
Scotland continued to
support Gaelic bards who remained a central feature of court life
there. The semi-independent Lordship of the Isles in the Hebrides and
western coastal mainland remained thoroughly Gaelic since the
language's recovery there in the 12th century, providing a political
foundation for cultural prestige down to the end of the 15th
By the mid-14th century what eventually came to be called Scots (at
that time termed Inglis) emerged as the official language of
government and law. Scotland's emergent nationalism in the era
following the conclusion of the
Wars of Scottish Independence
Wars of Scottish Independence was
organized using Scots as well. For example, the nation's great
patriotic literature including John Barbour's
The Brus (1375) and
Blind Harry's The Wallace (before 1488) was written in Scots, not
Gaelic. By the end of the 15th century, English/Scots speakers
referred to Gaelic instead as 'Yrisch' or 'Erse', i.e. Irish and their
own language as 'Scottis'.
Scottish Gaelic has a rich oral (beul-aithris) and written tradition,
having been the language of the bardic culture of the Highland clans
for many years. The language preserves knowledge of and adherence to
pre-feudal laws and customs, the salience of which was evident in the
complaints and claims of the
Highland Land League
Highland Land League in the late 19th
century, which elected MPs to the Parliament of the
United Kingdom. However, the language suffered under
centralization efforts by the Scottish and later British states,
especially after the
Battle of Culloden
Battle of Culloden in 1746, during the Highland
Clearances, and by the exclusion of
Scottish Gaelic from the
educational system. Even before then, charitable schools operated by
the Society in
Scotland for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge
used instructional methods designed to suppress the language in favour
of English and corporal punishment against students using
The first well-known translation of the
Scottish Gaelic was
made in 1767 when Dr James Stuart of Killin and
Dugald Buchanan of
Rannoch produced a translation of the New Testament. Very few European
languages have made the transition to a modern literary language
without an early modern translation of the Bible; the lack of a
well-known translation may have contributed to the decline of Scottish
In the 21st century,
Scottish Gaelic literature
Scottish Gaelic literature has seen development
within the area of prose fiction publication, as well as challenges
due to the continuing decline of the language.
Linguistic divide in the middle ages. Left: the divide in 1400 after
Loch, 1932; Right: the divide in 1500 after Nicholson, 1974. (both
reproduced from Withers, 1984)
All surviving dialects are Highland and/or Hebridean dialects.
Dialects of Lowland Gaelic have been defunct since the demise of
Galwegian Gaelic, originally spoken in Galloway, which seems to have
been the last Lowland dialect and which survived into the Modern
Period. By the 18th century Lowland Gaelic had been largely replaced
by Lowland Scots across much of Lowland Scotland.
Gaelic in the Eastern and Southern Scottish Highlands, although alive
in the mid-twentieth century, is now largely defunct. What is known as
Scottish Gaelic is essentially the Gaelic spoken in the Outer Hebrides
and in Skye.
Dialects on both sides of the
Straits of Moyle
Straits of Moyle (the North Channel)
Scottish Gaelic with Irish are now extinct, though native
speakers were still to be found on the Mull of Kintyre, in
in North East Ireland as late as the mid-20th century. Records of
their speech show that Irish and
Scottish Gaelic existed in a dialect
chain with no clear language boundary.
A certain number of features of Highland dialects moribund in Scotland
have been preserved in the
Nova Scotia Gaelic community. Those of
particular note are the pronunciation of the broad or velarised l
(l̪ˠ) as [w], as in the
This section needs expansion with: preservation and revitalization
Canadian Gaelic stats. You can help by adding to it. (October
The Endangered Languages Project lists Gaelic's status as
"threatened", with "20,000 to 30,000 active
users".[better source needed] UNESCO classifies Gaelic
as "definitely endangered".
Number of speakers
Gaelic speakers in
Monolingual Gaelic speakers
Gaelic and English bilinguals
Total Gaelic language group
The 1755–2001 figures are census data quoted by MacAulay. The
2011 Gaelic speakers figures come from table KS206SC of the 2011
Census. The 2011 total population figure comes from table KS101SC.
Note that the numbers of Gaelic speakers relate to the numbers aged 3
and over, and the percentages are calculated using those and the
number of the total population aged 3 and over.
Distribution in Scotland
Geographic Distribution of Gaelic speakers in
2011 UK Census
2011 UK Census showed a total of 57,375 Gaelic speakers in
Scotland (1.1% of population over three years old), of whom only
32,400 could also read and write, due to the lack of Gaelic medium
education in Scotland. Compared to the 2001 Census, there has been
a diminution of approximately 1,300 people. This is the smallest
drop between censuses since the Gaelic language question was first
asked in 1881. The Scottish Government's language minister and Bord na
Gaidhlig took this as evidence that Gaelic's long decline has
The main stronghold of the language continues to be the Outer Hebrides
(Na h-Eileanan Siar), where the overall proportion of speakers is
52.2%. Important pockets of the language also exist in the Highlands
(5.4%) and in
Argyll and Bute (4.0%), and Inverness, where 4.9% speak
the language. The locality with the largest absolute number is Glasgow
with 5,878 such persons, who make up over 10% of all of Scotland's
Gaelic continues to decline in its traditional heartland. Between 2001
and 2011, the absolute number of Gaelic speakers fell sharply in the
Western Isles (−1,745),
Argyll & Bute (−694), and Highland
(−634). The drop in Stornoway, the largest parish in the Western
Isles by population, was especially acute, from 57.5% of the
population in 1991 to 43.4% in 2011. The only parish outside the
Western Isles over 40% Gaelic-speaking is Kilmuir in Northern
46%. The islands in the
Inner Hebrides with significant percentages of
Gaelic speakers are
Colonsay (20.2%), and
As a result of continued decline in the traditional Gaelic heartlands,
today no civil parish in
Scotland has a proportion of Gaelic speakers
greater than 65% (the highest value is in Barvas, Lewis, with 64.1%).
In addition, no civil parish on mainland
Scotland has a proportion of
Gaelic speakers greater than 20% (the highest value is in
Ardnamurchan, Highland, with 19.3%). Out of a total of 871 civil
parishes in Scotland, the proportion of Gaelic speakers exceeds 50% in
7 parishes, exceeds 25% in 14 parishes, and exceeds 10% in 35
parishes. Decline in traditional areas has recently
been balanced by growth in the Scottish Lowlands. Between the 2001 and
2011 censuses, the number of Gaelic speakers rose in nineteen of the
country's 32 council areas. The largest absolute gains were in
North Lanarkshire (+305), Aberdeen City (+216),
Ayrshire (+208). The largest relative gains were in
Aberdeenshire (+0.19%), East
Moray (+0.16%), and
Orkney (+0.13%).
As with other Celtic languages, monolingualism is non-existent except
among native-speaking children under school age in traditional
Gàidhealtachd areas. In 2014, the census of pupils
Scotland showed 497 pupils in publicly funded schools had Gaelic as
the main language at home, a drop of 18% from 606 students in 2010.
During the same period, Gaelic medium education in
Scotland has grown,
with 3,583 pupils being educated in a Gaelic-immersion environment in
2014, up from 2,638 pupils in 2009. However, even among pupils
enrolled in Gaelic medium schools, 81% of primary students and 74% of
secondary students report using English more often than Gaelic when
speaking with their mothers at home.
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Na h-Eileanan Siar
Argyll and Bute
Earra-Ghàidheal agus Bòd
Scottish Gaelic grammar
Scottish Gaelic is an Indo-European language with an inflecting
morphology, verb–subject–object word order and two grammatical
Gaelic nouns inflect for four cases (nominative/accusative, vocative,
genitive and dative) and three numbers (singular, dual and plural).
They are also normally classed as either masculine or feminine. A
small number of words that used to belong to the neuter class show
some degree of gender confusion. For example, in some dialects am muir
"the sea" behaves as a masculine noun in the nominative case, but as a
feminine noun in the genitive (na mara).
Nouns are marked for case in a number of ways, most commonly involving
various combinations of lenition, palatalisation and suffixation.
There are 12 irregular verbs. Most other verbs follow a fully
predictable paradigm, although polysyllabic verbs ending in laterals
can deviate from this paradigm as they show syncopation.
Three persons: 1st, 2nd and 3rd
Two numbers: singular and plural
Two voices: traditionally called active and passive, but actually
personal and impersonal
Three non-composed combined TAM forms expressing tense, aspect and
mood, i.e. non-past (future-habitual), conditional (future of the
past), and past (preterite); several composed TAM forms, such as
pluperfect, future perfect, present perfect, present continuous, past
continuous, conditional perfect, etc. Two verbs, bi, used to attribute
a notionally temporary state, action, or quality to the subject, and
is, used to show a notional permanent identity or quality, have
non-composed present and non-past tense forms: (bi) tha [perfective
present], bidh/bithidh [imperfective non-past]; (is) is
imperfective non-past, bu past and conditional.
Four moods: independent (used in affirmative main clause verbs),
relative (used in verbs in affirmative relative clauses), dependent
(used in subordinate clauses, anti-affirmative relative clauses, and
anti-affirmative main clauses), and subjunctive.
Word order is strictly verb–subject–object, including questions,
negative questions and negatives. Only a restricted set of preverb
particles may occur before the verb.
The majority of the vocabulary of
Scottish Gaelic is native Celtic.
There are a large number of borrowings from Latin, (muinntir,
Didòmhnaich from (dies) dominica), ancient Greek, especially in the
religious domain (eaglais, Bìoball from Ekklesia and Biblia), Norse
(eilean from eyland, sgeir from sker), Hebrew (Sàbaid from shabbáth,
Aba), French (seòmar from chambre) and Scots (aidh, bramar).[dubious
There are also many Brythonic influences on Scottish Gaelic. Scottish
Gaelic contains a number of apparently P-Celtic loanwords, but it is
not always possible to disentangle P and Q Celtic words. However some
common words such as monadh = Welsh mynydd,
Cumbric *monidh are
clearly of P-Celtic origin.
In common with other Indo-European languages, the neologisms which are
coined for modern concepts are typically based on Greek or Latin,
although often coming through English; television, for instance,
becomes telebhisean and computer becomes coimpiùtar. Native speakers
frequently use an English word even if there is a Gaelic equivalent,
applying the rules of Gaelic grammar. With verbs, for instance, they
will simply add the verbal suffix (-eadh, or, in Lewis, -igeadh, as
in, "Tha mi a' watcheadh (Lewis, "watchigeadh") an telly" (I am
watching the television), instead of "Tha mi a' coimhead air an
telebhisean". This phenomenon was described over 170 years ago, by the
minister who compiled the account covering the parish of
the New Statistical Account of Scotland, and examples can be found
dating to the eighteenth century. However, as Gaelic medium
education grows in popularity, a newer generation of literate
becoming more familiar with modern Gaelic vocabulary.
Loanwords into other languages
Scottish Gaelic has also influenced the
Scots language and English,
particularly Scottish Standard English. Loanwords include: whisky,
slogan, brogue, jilt, clan, trousers, gob, as well as familiar
elements of Scottish geography like ben (beinn), glen (gleann) and
loch. Irish has also influenced Lowland Scots and English in Scotland,
but it is not always easy to distinguish its influence from that of
Scottish Gaelic phonology
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering
support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead
Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see
Most varieties of Gaelic have either 8 or 9 vowel phonemes (/i e ɛ a
ɔ o u ɤ ɯ/), which can be either long or short. There are also two
reduced vowels ([ə ɪ]) which only occur short. Although some vowels
are strongly nasal, instances of distinctive nasality are rare. There
are about nine diphthongs and a few triphthongs.
Most consonants have both palatal and non-palatal counterparts,
including a very rich system of liquids, nasals and trills (i.e. 3
contrasting l sounds, 3 contrasting n sounds and 3 contrasting r
sounds). The historically voiced stops [b d̪ ɡ] have lost their
voicing, so the phonemic contrast today is between unaspirated [p t̪
k] and aspirated [pʰ t̪ʰ kʰ]. In many dialects, these stops may
however gain voicing through secondary articulation through a
preceding nasal, for examples doras [t̪ɔɾəs̪] "door" but an doras
"the door" as [ən̪ˠ d̪ɔɾəs̪] or [ə n̪ˠɔɾəs̪].
In some fixed phrases, these changes are shown permanently, as the
link with the base words has been lost, as in an-dràsta "now", from
an tràth-sa "this time/period".
In medial and final position, the aspirated stops are preaspirated
rather than aspirated.
Public signage in Gaelic is becoming increasingly common throughout
the Scottish Highlands. This sign is located in the bilingual port
community of Mallaig.
Scottish Gaelic orthography
Scottish Gaelic alphabet
Scottish Gaelic alphabet has 18 letters:
A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, L, M, N, O, P, R, S, T, U.
The letter h, now mostly used to indicate lenition (historically
sometimes inaccurately called aspiration) of a consonant, was in
general not used in the oldest orthography, as lenition was instead
indicated with a dot over the lenited consonant. The letters of the
alphabet were traditionally named after trees, but this custom has
fallen out of use.
Long vowels are marked with a grave accent (à, è, ì, ò, ù),
indicated through digraphs (e.g. ao is [ɯː]) or conditioned by
certain consonant environments (e.g. a u preceding a non-intervocalic
nn is [uː]). Traditional spelling systems also use the acute accent
on the letters á, é and ó to denote a change in vowel quality
rather than length, but the reformed spellings have replaced these
with the grave.
Certain 18th century sources used only an acute accent along the lines
of Irish, such as in the writings of Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair
(1741–51) and the earliest editions (1768–90) of Duncan Ban
Scottish Gaelic orthography
New Testament set the standard for Scottish Gaelic. The 1981
Scottish Examination Board recommendations for Scottish Gaelic, the
Gaelic Orthographic Conventions, were adopted by most publishers and
agencies, although they remain controversial among some academics,
most notably Ronald Black.
The quality of consonants (palatalised or non-palatalised) is
indicated in writing by the vowels surrounding them. So-called
"slender" consonants are palatalised while "broad" consonants are
neutral or velarised. The vowels e and i are classified as slender,
and a, o, and u as broad. The spelling rule known as caol ri caol agus
leathann ri leathann ("slender to slender and broad to broad")
requires that a word-medial consonant or consonant group followed by a
written i or e be also preceded by an i or e; and similarly if
followed by a, o or u be also preceded by an a, o, or u.
This rule sometimes leads to the insertion of an orthographic vowel
that does not influence the pronunciation of the vowel. For example,
plurals in Gaelic are often formed with the suffix -an [ən], for
example, bròg [prɔːk] (shoe) / brògan [prɔːkən] (shoes). But
because of the spelling rule, the suffix is spelled -ean (but
pronounced the same, [ən]) after a slender consonant, as in muinntir
[mɯi̯ɲtʲɪrʲ] ((a) people) / muinntirean [mɯi̯ɲtʲɪrʲən]
(peoples) where the written e is purely a graphic vowel inserted to
conform with the spelling rule because an i precedes the r.
Bilingual English/Gaelic sign at Queen Street Station in Glasgow.
Unstressed vowels omitted in speech can be omitted in informal
writing. For example:
Tha mi an dòchas. ("I hope.") > Tha mi 'n dòchas.
Gaelic orthographic rules are mostly regular; however, English
sound-to-letter correspondences cannot be applied to written Gaelic.
Scots English orthographic rules have also been used at various times
in Gaelic writing. Notable examples of Gaelic verse composed in this
manner are the
Book of the Dean of Lismore
Book of the Dean of Lismore and the Fernaig manuscript.
An electronic noticeboard displaying
Fàilte gu stèisean Dùn Èideann
Gaelic has long suffered from its lack of use in educational and
administrative contexts and was long suppressed.
The UK government has ratified the European Charter for Regional or
Minority Languages in respect of Gaelic. Along with Irish and Welsh,
Gaelic is designated under Part III of the Charter, which requires the
UK Government to take a range of concrete measures in the fields of
education, justice, public administration, broadcasting and culture.
It has not received the same degree of official recognition from the
UK Government as Welsh. With the advent of devolution, however,
Scottish matters have begun to receive greater attention, and it
achieved a degree of official recognition when the Gaelic Language
(Scotland) Act was enacted by the
Scottish Parliament on 21 April
The key provisions of the Act are:
Establishing the Gaelic development body, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, (BnG),
on a statutory basis with a view to securing the status of the Gaelic
language as an official language of
Scotland commanding equal respect
English language and to promote the use and understanding of
Requiring BnG to prepare a National Gaelic Language Plan every five
years for approval by Scottish Ministers.
Requiring BnG to produce guidance on Gaelic medium education and
Gaelic as a subject for education authorities.
Requiring public bodies in Scotland, both Scottish public bodies and
cross-border public bodies insofar as they carry out devolved
functions, to develop Gaelic language plans in relation to the
services they offer, if requested to do so by BnG.
Following a consultation period, in which the government received many
submissions, the majority of which asked that the bill be
strengthened, a revised bill was published; the main alteration was
that the guidance of the Bòrd is now statutory (rather than
advisory). In the committee stages in the Scottish Parliament, there
was much debate over whether Gaelic should be given 'equal validity'
with English. Due to executive concerns about resourcing implications
if this wording was used, the Education Committee settled on the
concept of 'equal respect'. It is not clear what the legal force of
this wording is.
The Act was passed by the
Scottish Parliament unanimously, with
support from all sectors of the Scottish political spectrum, on 21
April 2005. Under the provisions of the Act, it will ultimately fall
to BnG to secure the status of the Gaelic language as an official
language of Scotland.
Some commentators, such as Éamonn Ó Gribín (2006) argue that the
Gaelic Act falls so far short of the status accorded to Welsh that one
would be foolish or naïve to believe that any substantial change will
occur in the fortunes of the language as a result of Bòrd na
On 10 December 2008, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Scottish Human Rights
Commission had the UDHR translated into Gaelic for the first time.
However, given there are no longer any monolingual Gaelic
speakers, following an appeal in the court case of Taylor v
Haughney (1982), involving the status of Gaelic in judicial
proceedings, the High Court ruled against a general right to use
Gaelic in court proceedings.
Qualifications in the language
Scottish Qualifications Authority
Scottish Qualifications Authority offer two streams of Gaelic
examination across all levels of the syllabus: Gaelic for learners
(equivalent to the modern foreign languages syllabus) and Gaelic for
native speakers (equivalent to the English syllabus).
An Comunn Gàidhealach
An Comunn Gàidhealach performs assessment of spoken Gaelic, resulting
in the issue of a Bronze Card, Silver Card or Gold Card. Syllabus
details are available on An Comunn's website. These are not widely
recognised as qualifications, but are required for those taking part
in certain competitions at the annual mods.
In October 2009, a new agreement was made which allows Scottish Gaelic
to be used formally between
Scottish Government ministers and European
Union officials. The deal was signed by Britain's representative to
the EU, Sir Kim Darroch, and the Scottish government. This does not
Scottish Gaelic official status in the EU, but gives it the right
to be a means of formal communications in the EU's institutions. The
Scottish government will have to pay for the translation from Gaelic
to other European languages. The deal was received positively in
Scotland; Secretary of State for
Jim Murphy said the move was
a strong sign of the UK government's support for Gaelic. He said that
"Allowing Gaelic speakers to communicate with European institutions in
their mother tongue is a progressive step forward and one which should
be welcomed". Culture Minister Mike Russell said that "this is a
significant step forward for the recognition of Gaelic both at home
and abroad and I look forward to addressing the council in Gaelic very
soon. Seeing Gaelic spoken in such a forum raises the profile of the
language as we drive forward our commitment to creating a new
generation of Gaelic speakers in Scotland."
Bilingual signs in English and Gaelic are now part of the architecture
Scottish Parliament building completed in 2004.
Scottish Gaelic used in Machine-readable British passports differs
from Irish passports in places. "Passport" is rendered Cead-siubhail
(in Irish, Pas); "The European Union", Aonadh Eòrpach (in Irish, An
tAontas Eorpach), while "Northern Ireland" is Èirinn a Tuath in
Gaelic (the Irish equivalent is Tuaisceart Éireann).
Main article: Gaelic broadcasting in Scotland
The BBC operates a Gaelic-language radio station Radio nan Gàidheal
as well as a television channel, BBC Alba. Launched on 19 September
BBC Alba is widely available in the UK (on Freeview, Freesat,
Sky and Virgin Media). It also broadcasts across Europe on the Astra 2
satellites. The channel is being operated in partnership between
MG Alba – an organisation funded by the Scottish
Government, which works to promote the Gaelic language in
broadcasting. The ITV franchise in central Scotland, STV Central,
produces a number of
Scottish Gaelic programmes for both
BBC Alba and
its own main channel.
BBC Alba was broadcast on Freeview, viewers were able to receive
the channel TeleG, which broadcast for an hour every evening. Upon BBC
Alba's launch on Freeview, it took the channel number than was
previously assigned to TeleG.
There are also television programmes in the language on other BBC
channels and on the independent commercial channels, usually subtitled
in English. The ITV franchise in the north of Scotland, STV North
(formerly Grampian Television) produces some non-news programming in
Bilingual road sign
See also: Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba
Bilingual road signs, street names, business and advertisement signage
(in both Gaelic and English) are gradually being introduced throughout
Gaelic-speaking regions in the Highlands and Islands, including
Argyll. In many cases, this has simply meant re-adopting the
traditional spelling of a name (such as Ràtagan or
rather than the anglicised forms Ratagan or Lochailort respectively).
Bilingual railway station signs are now more frequent than they used
to be. Practically all the stations in the Highland area use both
English and Gaelic, and the spread of bilingual station signs is
becoming ever more frequent in the Lowlands of Scotland, including
areas where Gaelic has not been spoken for a long time.[citation
This has been welcomed by many supporters of the language as a means
of raising its profile as well as securing its future as a 'living
language' (i.e. allowing people to use it to navigate from A to B in
place of English) and creating a sense of place. However, in some
places, such as Caithness, the Highland Council's intention to
introduce bilingual signage has incited controversy.
Ordnance Survey has acted in recent years to correct many of the
mistakes that appear on maps. They announced in 2004 that they
intended to correct them and set up a committee to determine the
correct forms of Gaelic place names for their maps.
Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba ("Place names in Scotland") is the national
advisory partnership for Gaelic place names in Scotland.
Main article: Canadian Gaelic
Antigonish, Nova Scotia
In the nineteenth century,
Canadian Gaelic was the third-most widely
spoken language in Canada and Gaelic-speaking immigrant
communities could be found throughout the country. Gaelic poets in
Canada produced a significant literary tradition. The number of
Gaelic-speaking individuals and communities declined sharply, however,
after the First World War.
Nova Scotia is home to 1,275 Gaelic speakers as of 2011, of whom
300 claim to have Gaelic as their "mother tongue". The Nova Scotia
government maintains an Office of Gaelic Affairs which works to
promote the Gaelic language, culture, and tourism. As in Scotland,
areas of North-Eastern
Nova Scotia and Cape Breton have bilingual
Nova Scotia also has Comhairle na Gàidhlig (The Gaelic
Council of Nova Scotia), a non-profit society dedicated to the
maintenance and promotion of the Gaelic language and culture in
Maxville Public School in Maxville, Glengarry, Ontario,
Scottish Gaelic lessons weekly. In Prince Edward
Island, the Colonel Gray High School now offers both an introductory
and an advanced course in Gaelic; both language and history are taught
in these classes. This is the first recorded time
that Gaelic has ever been taught as an official course on Prince
The province of
British Columbia is host to the Comunn Gàidhlig
Bhancoubhair (The Gaelic Society of Vancouver), the
Choir, the Victoria Gaelic Choir, as well as the annual Gaelic
festival Mòd Vancouver. The city of Vancouver's Scottish Cultural
Centre also holds seasonal
Scottish Gaelic evening classes.
Sgoil Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu (
Glasgow Gaelic School)
Main article: Gaelic medium education in Scotland
The Education (Scotland) Act 1872, which completely ignored Gaelic,
and led to generations of
Gaels being forbidden to speak their native
language in the classroom, is now recognised as having dealt a major
blow to the language. People still living can recall being beaten for
speaking Gaelic in school. Even later, when these attitudes had
changed, little provision was made for Gaelic medium education in
Scottish schools. As late as 1958, even in Highland schools, only 20%
of primary students were taught Gaelic as a subject, and only 5% were
taught other subjects through the Gaelic language.
Gaelic-medium playgroups for young children began to appear in
Scotland during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Parent enthusiasm may
have been a factor in the "establishment of the first Gaelic medium
primary school units in
Inverness in 1985". 
The first modern solely Gaelic-medium secondary school, Sgoil
Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu ("
Glasgow Gaelic School"), was opened at Woodside
Glasgow in 2006 (61 partially Gaelic-medium primary schools and
approximately a dozen Gaelic-medium secondary schools also exist).
According to Bòrd na Gàidhlig, a total of 2,092 primary pupils were
enrolled in Gaelic-medium primary education in 2008–09, as opposed
to 24 in 1985.
The Columba Initiative, also known as colmcille (formerly Iomairt
Cholm Cille), is a body that seeks to promote links between speakers
Scottish Gaelic and Irish.
In May 2004, the
Nova Scotia government announced the funding of an
initiative to support the language and its culture within the
province. Several public schools in Northeastern
Nova Scotia and Cape
Breton offer Gaelic classes as part of the high-school curriculum.
The government's Gaelic Affairs offers lunch-time lessons to public
servants in Halifax.
Maxville Public School in Maxville, Glengarry, Ontario,
Scottish Gaelic lessons weekly, and Prince Edward Island, Canada, the
Colonel Gray High School offer an introductory and an advanced course
in Scottish Gaelic.
Higher and further education
A number of Scottish and some Irish universities offer full-time
degrees including a Gaelic language element, usually graduating as
St. Francis Xavier University, the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and
Cape Breton University
Cape Breton University (formerly University College Of Cape
Breton) in Nova Scotia,
Canada also offer a Celtic Studies degrees
and/or Gaelic language programs.
In Russia the
Moscow State University
Moscow State University offers Gaelic language, history
and culture courses.
University of the Highlands and Islands
University of the Highlands and Islands
University of the Highlands and Islands offers a range of Gaelic
language, history and culture courses at NC, HND, BA (ordinary), BA
(Hons) and Msc, and offers opportunities for postgraduate research
through the medium of Gaelic. Residential courses at Sabhal Mòr
Ostaig on the
Isle of Skye
Isle of Skye offer adults the chance to become fluent in
Gaelic in one year. Many continue to complete degrees, or to follow up
as distance learners. A number of other colleges offer a one-year
certificate course, which is also available online (pending
Lews Castle College's Benbecula campus offers an independent 1-year
course in Gaelic and Traditional Music (FE, SQF level 5/6).
A sign indicating services in Gaelic and English at a Free Church of
Scotland congregation in the community of Ness, Isle of Lewis.
See also: Gaelic-speaking congregations in the Church of Scotland
In the Western Isles, the isles of Lewis, Harris and
North Uist have a
Presbyterian majority (largely Church of
Scotland – Eaglais na
Alba in Gaelic, Free Church of
Scotland and Free Presbyterian Church
of Scotland.) The isles of
South Uist and
Barra have a Catholic
majority. All these churches have Gaelic-speaking congregations
throughout the Western Isles. Notable city congregations with regular
services in Gaelic are St Columba's Church,
Glasgow and Greyfriars
Tolbooth & Highland Kirk, Edinburgh. Leabhar Sheirbheisean – a
shorter Gaelic version of the English-language Book of Common Order
– was published in 1996 by the Church of Scotland.
The widespread use of English in worship has often been suggested as
one of the historic reasons for the decline of Gaelic. The Church of
Scotland is supportive today,[vague] but has a shortage of
Gaelic-speaking ministers. The Free Church also recently announced
plans to abolish Gaelic-language communion services, citing both a
lack of ministers and a desire to have their congregations united at
[relevant? – discuss]
The most notable use of the language in sport is that of the Camanachd
Association, the shinty society, who have a bilingual logo.
In the mid-1990s, the Celtic League started a campaign to have the
word "Alba" on the Scottish football and rugby union tops. Since 2005,
the SFA have supported the use of
Scottish Gaelic on their teams'
strip in recognition of the language's revival in Scotland.
However, the SRU is still being lobbied to have "Alba" on the national
Some sports coverage, albeit at a small level, takes place in Scottish
Scottish Gaelic name
Gaelic has its own version of European-wide names which also have
English forms, for example: Iain (John), Alasdair (Alexander), Uilleam
(William), Catrìona (Catherine), Raibeart (Robert), Cairistìona
(Christina), Anna (Ann), Màiri (Mary), Seumas (James), Pàdraig
(Patrick) and Tòmas (Thomas). Not all traditional Gaelic names have
direct equivalents in English: Oighrig, which is normally rendered as
Euphemia (Effie) or Henrietta (Etta) (formerly also as Henny or even
as Harriet), or, Diorbhal, which is "matched" with Dorothy, simply on
the basis of a certain similarity in spelling. Many of these
traditional Gaelic-only names are now regarded as old-fashioned, and
hence are rarely or never used.
Some names have come into Gaelic from Old Norse; for example,
Somhairle ( < Somarliðr), Tormod (< Þórmóðr), Raghnall or
Raonull (< Rögnvaldr), Torcuil (< Þórkell, Þórketill),
Ìomhar (Ívarr). These are conventionally rendered in English as
Sorley (or, historically, Somerled), Norman, Ronald or Ranald, Torquil
and Iver (or Evander).
Some Scottish names are Anglicized forms of Gaelic names: Aonghas →
(Angus), Dòmhnall→ (Donald), for instance. Hamish, and the recently
established Mhairi (pronounced [vaːri]) come from the Gaelic for,
respectively, James, and Mary, but derive from the form of the names
as they appear in the vocative case: Seumas (James) (nom.) →
Sheumais (voc.), and, Màiri (Mary) (nom.) → Mhàiri (voc.).
The most common class of Gaelic surnames are those beginning with mac
(Gaelic for "son"), such as MacGillEathain/MacIllEathain
(MacLean). The female form is nic (Gaelic for "daughter"), so
Catherine MacPhee is properly called in Gaelic, Catrìona Nic a'
Phì (strictly, "nic" is a contraction of the Gaelic phrase
nighean mhic, meaning "daughter of the son", thus NicDhòmhnaill
really means "daughter of MacDonald" rather than "daughter of
Donald"). The "of" part actually comes from the genitive form of the
patronymic that follows the prefix; in the case of MacDhòmhnaill,
Dhòmhnaill ("of Donald") is the genitive form of Dòmhnall
However, East Sutherland Gaelic uses mac for both male and female
Several colours give rise to common Scottish surnames: bàn (Bain –
white), ruadh (Roy – red), dubh (Dow, Duff – black), donn (Dunn
– brown), buidhe (Bowie – yellow).
Common words and phrases with Irish and Manx equivalents
Further information: Differences between
Scottish Gaelic and Irish
aon [eːn], [i:n], [ɯːn]
(cú [kʰu:] hound)
(coo [kʰuː] hound)
(crann [kʰɾaun̪ˠ] mast)
(craobh [kʰɾeːv], [kʰɾiːv], [kʰɾɯːv] branch)
sleep (verbal noun)
cha do dh'òl thu [xa t̪ə ɣɔːl̪ˠ u]
níor ól tú [n̠ʲi:əɾ o:l̪ˠ t̪ˠu:]
cha diu oo [xa deu u]
you did not drink
bha mi a' faicinn [va mi fɛçkʲɪɲ]
bhí mé ag feiceáil [vʲi: mʲe: əg fʲɛca:l̠ʲ]
(bhíos ag feiscint [vʲi:sˠ əg fʲɛʃcin̠ʲtʲ])
va mee fakin [vɛ mə faːɣin]
I was seeing
health (cheers! (toast))
Note: Items in brackets denote archaic or dialectal forms
An Comunn Gàidhealach
Bòrd na Gàidhlig
Book of Deer
Scottish Gaelic and Irish
Gaelic broadcasting in Scotland
Gaelic Digital Service
Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005
Gaelic medium education in Scotland
Gaelic road signs in Scotland
Gaelic Society of Moscow
Irish language speaking regions in Ireland.
Gàidhealtachd Scots Gaelic speaking regions in Scotland.
Goidelic substrate hypothesis
Languages of Scotland
Scots language (Lowland Scots)
List of Celtic language media
Scottish Gaelic place names
List of television channels in Celtic languages
Official Languages Act 2003 Republic of Ireland.
Scottish Gaelic literature
Status of the Irish language
Welsh Language Act 1993
William J. Watson
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Scottish Gaelic edition of, the free encyclopedia
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Scottish Gaelic language.
For a list of words relating to Scottish Gaelic, see the Scottish
Gaelic language category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikibooks has more on the topic of: Scottish Gaelic
Wikivoyage has a phrasebook for Scottish Gaelic.
BBC Alba –
Scottish Gaelic language, music and news
Bòrd na Gàidhlig – Scotland's Gaelic-language Board
Gaelic Resource Database – founded by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
Scottish Gaelic Swadesh list of basic vocabulary words (from
Wiktionary's Swadesh-list appendix)
Faclair Dwelly air Loidhne – Dwelly's Gaelic dictionary online
Gàidhlig air an Lìon – Sabhal Mòr Ostaig's links to pages in and
about Scottish Gaelic
Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic) Local Studies – Census information from
1881 to the present, 27 volumes covering all Gaelic-speaking regions
Pàrlamaid na h-Alba: Gàidhlig –
Scottish Parliament site in Gaelic
Gaelic psalms at Back Free Church, Isle Of
Sermons in Scottish Gaelic, Back Free Church, Back, Isle of Lewis
Comhairle na Gàidhlig – The Gaelic Council of
Nova Scotia (Canada)
Comunn Gàidhlig Bhancoubhair – The Gaelic Society of Vancouver
DASG - The Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic
An Comunn's website
Links to related articles
Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig)
Galwegian (Galloway) Gaelic
Scottish Gaelic Renaissance
Dependent and independent verb forms
Stornoway Gazette (sporadic)
West Highland Free Press
West Highland Free Press (sporadic)
BBC Alba (BBC Gàidhlig)
BBC Radio nan Gàidheal
Isles FM (sporadic)
Two Lochs Radio
Two Lochs Radio (sporadic)
Cuillin FM (sporadic)
Reidio Guth nan Gàidheal (online)
Personal and family names
List of personal names
Early Irish literature
Modern literature in Irish
Scottish Gaelic literature
Scottish Gaelic Renaissance
Tomás de Bhaldraithe
Dónall Mac Amhlaigh
Liam Mac Con Iomaire
Máirtín Ó Cadhain
Pádraic Ó Conaire
Dara Ó Conaola
Mícheál Ó Conghaile
Seán Ó Conghaile
Máirtín Ó Direáin
Liam Ó Flaithearta
Diarmuid Ó Gráinne
Breandán Ó hEithir
Joe Steve Ó Neachtain
Daithí Ó Muirí
Doireann Ní Ghríofa
Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin
Tomás Ó Criomhthain
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