0. Contents




This page is for facts relating to the declension of Gaelic common nouns.

This page is permanently under construction. Feel free to add stuff, or to comment.

1. General facts


2. Core masculine nouns


a. Here is an example of the declension of a core masculine noun, balach (a boy):


singular
plural
nominative
balach
balaich
dative
balach
balaich
genitive
balaich
balach

b. As can be seen from this example, a core masculine noun comes in two different declensional forms: (a) a basic form, typically ending in a broad consonant (i.e. balach); and (b) a slenderised form, where the final consonant has been changed to the slender equivalent (i.e. balaich - recall that slender final consonants are marked orthographically by inserting an <i> before the consonant).

c. More examples?

d. Basic form: nom/dat singular and gen plural. Slenderised form: gen sing and nom/dat plural.

e. examples

f. list of core masculine nouns.

3. Core feminine nouns


a. Given a masculine nominative singular common noun, you can usually create a related genitive masculine singular noun by slenderising it.

b. For nouns ending in a broad consonant, the slenderisation process is obvious.

For example:
  • cat - cait (cat)
  • balach - balaich (boy)
  • sagart - sagairt (priest)

c. In many cases, slenderising the final consonant appears to cause the preceding vowel to change as well.
  • crann - cruinn ()
  • falt - fuilt (hair)
  • mac - mic (son)
  • bòrd - bùird (table)

You can find a comprehensive list of these nouns here.

d. With nouns ending in a slender consonant, the slenderisation process is implicit, with no change taking place.

For example:
  • cìobair - cìobair (shepherd)


e. Slenderisation is also implicit when the noun ends in a vowel.

For example:
  • baile - baile (town)
  • duine - duine (man)
  • bainne - bainne (milk)
  • balla - balla (wall)

f. However, for some (exceptional) masculine nouns, the genitive singular variant is not formed by simply slenderising the nominative singular.

g. Sometimes, the genitive singular is formed by adding the suffix -a to a masculine singular noun ending in a broad consonant.

Here is a list of these nouns:

nominative
singular
genitive
singular

cath
catha
battle/warfare
dragh
dragha
trouble/bother/worry
eas
easa
waterfall
fiodh
fiodha
wood, timber
gnàth
gnàtha
custom/habit
guth
gutha
voice
lagh
lagha
law
loch
locha
loch
spùt
spùta
gush/spout

h. For a few masculine nouns denoting kinship relations, which end in a slender -r, the genitive singular is formed by deslenderisation.

Here is a list of those nouns:

nominative
singular
genitive
singular

athair
athar
father
bràthair
bràthar
brother
seanair
seanar
grandfather

i. Some masculine nouns form their genitive singular as if they were feminine nouns, by slenderising the nominative singular and adding the suffix -e.

Here is a list of those nouns:

nominative
singular
genitive
singular

biadh
bidhe
food
easbaig
easbaige
bishop
taigh
taighe
house

j. Some masculine nouns form their genitive singular in strange ways, sometimes even changing gender in the process.

Here is a list of those nouns:

nominative
singular
genitive
singular


coin
dog
dia

god
gobha
gobhainn
blacksmith
muir
mara (feminine)
sea
talamh
talmhainn (feminine)
earth

[Insert examples of muir and talamh, showing the gender difference in the two cases.]

3. Genitive singular common nouns - feminine


a. Given a feminine nominative singular common noun, you can usually create a related genitive feminine singular noun by slenderising it, and then adding an -e suffix.

b. For feminine nouns ending in a broad consonant, the slenderisation and -e suffixation processes are both obvious.

For example:
  • làmh - làimhe (hand)
  • caileag - caileige (girl)
  • cluas - cluaise (ear)
  • cailleach - cailliche (old woman)
  • sgian - sgine/sgèine (knife)

c. With nouns ending in a slender consonant, the slenderisation is implicit.

For example:
  • sgoil - sgoile (school)
  • sràid - sràide (street)
  • eaglais - eaglaise (church)

d. And for nouns ending in a slender consonant followed by -e, both slenderisation and -e suffixation are implicit, and no change is observed from the nominative singular.

For example:
  • colaisde - colaisde (college)
  • slige - slige (shell)

Note: in spoken Gaelic, the vowel augment is often dropped from polysyllabic nouns, e.g. caileig, caillich. [examples?]

g. Sometimes, the genitive singular is formed by adding the suffix -a to a masculine singular noun ending in a broad consonant.

Here is a list of these nouns:

nominative
singular
genitive
singular

pìob
pìoba
pipe
feòil
feòla
meat
sùil
sùla
eye
fuil
fala
blood
leum
leuma
leap/jump

h. As with the masculine nouns discussed above, for a few feminine nouns denoting kinship relations, which end in a slender -r, the genitive singular is formed by deslenderisation.

Here is a list of those nouns:

nominative
singular
genitive
singular

màthair
màthar
mother
piuthar
peathar
sister
seanmhair
seanmhar
grandmother




  • obair - obrach/oibre (work), litir - litreach (letter), cathair - cathrach (city) - syncope + -(e)ach.
  • naidheachd - naidheachd (news, f), cumhachd - cumhachd (power, f) - no change.

  • guala(inn) - gualainn/guailne (f, shoulder), àra - àrann (kidney), brà - bràthan (quern), brù - bronn/broinne (belly), dìle - dìleann (flood)
  • tràigh - tràghad (beach, f), bràigh - bràghad (neck, f), teanga - teangaidh (tongue, f)
  • bean - mnà/mnatha (wife, f)
  • deoch - dighe/dibhe (drink, f), leabaidh - leapa (bed, f).
  • bò - bà (cow, f)
  • caora - caorach (sheep, f)
  • lann - lanna/lainne (blade)
  • lann - lainn (enclosure, repository)

4. Dative singular common nouns


a. Every nominative masculine singular common noun is also a dative masculine singular noun.

b. For every feminine nominative singular common noun, you can generally form a related dative feminine singular version by slenderising it.

For example:
  • làmh - làimh (hand)
  • cluas - cluais (ear)
  • bròg - bròig (shoe)
  • cas - cois (foot)
  • bas - bois (palm)
  • clann - cloinn (children)
  • caileag - caileig (girl)
  • cailleach - caillich (old woman)

[Note on implicit slenderisations, and list of vowel changes. ROM (p.67) - only a handful of feminine nouns these days slenderise after preposition in common speech, usually only if they are the complement of a definite article.]

d. Some unusual feminine datives:

nominative
singular
dative
singular

bean
mnaoi
wife

boin
cow
sgian
sgithinn
knife


5. Nominative plural common nouns


6. Genitive plural common nouns


7. Dative plural common nouns