ClàrMenu
FaclairDictionary EnglishGàidhlig

The Scottish Gaelic Alphabet An t-Aibidil Gàidhlig

Learn the Scottish Gaelic alphabet, which 18 letters it has and which of those can have accents. Ionnsaich an t-aibidil Gàidhlig, mu na 18 litrichean a tha aige, agus an fheadhainn a ghabhas stràc.

What letters are in the Scottish Gaelic alphabet? Dè na litrichean a tha ann an aibidil na Gàidhlig?

Scottish Gaelic uses the same alphabet (A, B, C …) as English, though Gaelic uses just 18 of the 26 letters.Cleachdaidh Gàidhlig na h-aon aibidil (A, B, C …) a chleachdas Beurla, ach cha chleachd Gàidhlig ach 18 de na 26 litrichean.

Vowels in Gaelic may also be written with a grave accent over them. The Gaelic name for this accent is a stràc.Uaireannan tha fuaimreagan ann le stràc os an cionn cuideachd.

Here are the 18 letters used in the Gaelic alphabet:Seo na 18 litrichean anns an aibidil:

Aa, Bb, Cc, Dd, Ee, Ff, Gg, Hh, Ii, Ll, Mm, Nn, Oo, Pp, Rr, Ss, Tt, UuAa, Bb, Cc, Dd, Ee, Ff, Gg, Hh, Ii, Ll, Mm, Nn, Oo, Pp, Rr, Ss, Tt, Uu

These letters are not used in the Gaelic alphabet:Cha bhi a’ Ghàidhlig a’ cur na litrichean seo gu feum:

Jj, Kk, Qq, Vv, Ww, Xx, Yy, ZzJj, Kk, Qq, Vv, Ww, Xx, Yy, Zz

Sometimes these letters appear in loan words, such as x-ray.Uaireannan, thèid na litrichean seo a chleachdadh ann am faclan-iasaid, mar x-ray.

Vowels with accents look like this:Tha fuaimreagan le stràcan coltach ri seo:

Àà, Èè, Ìì, Òò, Ùù Àà, Èè, Ìì, Òò, Ùù

What sounds do the letters make?Cò ris a tha fuaimean nan litrichean coltach?

Often, the letters in the Gaelic alphabet sound similar to English. Gu tric, tha fuaimean nan litrichean Ghàidhlig coltach ri fuaimean nan litrichean Bheurla.

a

b

c

d

e

f

g

h

i

l

m

n

o

p

r

s

t

u

However, the letters can sound different when they come together. Uaireannan, tha na fuaimean eadar-dhealaichte nuair a tha na litrichean còmhla ri chèile.

Check out our Gaelic sounds section to learn more about the sounds and for help with pronunciation. Thoir sùil air fuaimean na Gàidhlig airson barrachd ionnsachadh mu na fuaimean agus taic fhaighinn air ciamar a chanas tu iad.

What do the accents on vowels mean?Dè tha na stràcan a’ ciallachadh?

A vowel with an accent normally has a longer, drawn-out version of the same sound you expect, though there are some exceptions. Nuair a bhios stràc os cionn fuaimreige, mar as trice bidh seo a’ riochdachadh an aon fhuaim air am biodh tu an dùil ach nas fhaide. Tha corra fhacal ann nach leanas an riaghailt seo, ge-tà.

Learn more about vowel sounds in our Gaelic sounds section. Ionnsaich barrachd mu fhuaimean nam fuaimreagan san earrann againn air fuaimean na Gàidhlig.

Only vowels can have accents in Gaelic, never consonants. Cha ghabh ach fuaimreagan stràcan; cha bhi connragan gan gabhail idir.

Do I need to bother writing accents?Am feum mi stràcan a sgrìobhadh?

Yes! It’s really important not to forget accents when writing in Gaelic. Sometimes an accent is the only difference in spelling between two completely different words: Feumaidh! The e uabhasach fhèin cudromach stràcan a chleachdadh nuair a bhios tu a’ sgrìobhadh anns a’ Ghàidhlig. Uaireannan, is e stràc an diofar eadar dà fhacal a tha gu tur eadar-dhealaichte:

bata = a stick

bàta = a boat

Look at typing in Gaelic to learn how to type accents on your device.Thoir sùil air tàipeadh sa Ghàidhlig airson barrachd ionnsachadh mu na fuaimean agus taic fhaighinn air ciamar a chanas tu iad.

Isn’t there an acute accent too?Nach eil stràc gheur ann cuideachd?

There used to be an acute accent in Gaelic as well (e.g. mór), but it’s not normally used in Scotland anymore. You might still see it in older writing though, and Gaelic speakers in Canada often still use it.B’ àbhaist stràc gheur a bhith ann anns a’ Ghàidhlig cuideachd (m.e. mór), ach chan àbhaist gun tèid a chleachdadh ann an Alba tuilleadh. Dh’ fhaodadh gum faic thu e ann an sgrìobhadh nas sine ge-tà, agus bidh cuid de luchd-labhairt na Gàidhlig ann an Canada g chleachdadh fhathast.

The modern system (with only grave accents) is standard in Scotland now, and it’s required for school and university exams.’S e an siostam modrain (le stràcan a-mhàin) an gnàthas ann an Alba san latha an-diugh, agus e riatanach do dheuchainnean ann an sgoiltean agus oilthighean.

Check out the Gaelic Orthographic Conventions (GOC) on the SQA website to read more about the modern spelling.Thoir sùil air Gnàthachas Litreachaidh Gàidhlig (GOC) air làrach-lìn an SQA airson barrachd a leughadh mun t-siostam litreachaidh modrain.

What are slender and broad vowels? Dè th’ ann an fuaimreagan caola agus leathann?

The slender vowels are e and i. ’S iad e agus i na fuaimreagan caola.

All the others are broad. Tha gach fuaimreag eile leathann.

The sound that some consonants make depends on whether they’re next to a broad or slender vowel. Learn more about this in Gaelic sounds.Is tric gum bi an fhuaim a nì connrag eadar-dhealaichte ma bhios iad ri taobh fuaimreag chaol an taca ri fuaimreag leathann. Ionnsaich barrachd mu dheidhinn seo air fuaimean na Gàidhlig.

This is why there is a ‘spelling rule’ in Gaelic which states ‘slender to slender, broad to broad’. It means that any consonant (or group of consonants) may only be surrounded by vowels of one type. However, there are a few words which break this rule. Read more about this in language morsels.Seo an t-adhbhar gu bheil riaghailt a tha ag ràdh “caol ri caol, leathann ri leathann”. Tha seo a’ ciallachadh gu bheil fuaimreag dhen aon seòrsa a bhith air gach taobh de chonnrag (no buidheann chonnragan). Tha corra fhacal ann a bhriseas an riaghailt seo, ge-tà. Leugh tuilleadh mu dheidhinn seo ann an criomagan cànain.

How do you spell words out loud?Ciamar a litreachas tu faclan a-mach gu h-àrd?

To spell a word out loud, people often name each letter in turn using the same “ABC …” sounds as in English. If a letter has an accent, you normally just say “grave” (or “stràc”) after the letter.Airson facal a litreachadh gu h-àrd, is tric gun ainmich daoine gach litir mu seach le bhith a’ cleachdadh na h-aon fuaimean “ABC …” a chluinneas tu ann am Beurla. Ma bhios stràc air litir, mar as tric canaidh tu “stràc” às a dhèidh.

Some prefer to spell words out loud using the sounds the letters themselves make in Gaelic (see ‘What sounds do the letters make?’ above). Either way is fine.’S fheàrr le cuid a bhith a’ cleachdadh na fuaimean a nì na litrichean fhèin anns a’ Ghàidhlig airson litreachadh gu h-àrd (thoir sùil air an earrainn gu h-àrd). Tha gach dòigh cho ceart ri chèile.

Aren’t the letters in Gaelic named after trees?Nach eil na litrichean ann na Gàidhlig gan ainmeachadh às dèidh chraobhan?

Traditionally, each letter in Gaelic is named after a tree. These aren’t used in everyday Gaelic for names of trees or letters, but the traditional names are:Gu traidiseanta, tha gach litir ann an aibidil na Gàidhlig stèidhichte air na craobhan. Cha bhi daoine gan cleachdadh na h-ainmean seo do chraobhan neo airson nan litrichean gu làitheil. Ach, seo na h-ainmean traidiseanta:

Ailm

Elm / Fir

Beith

Birch

Coll

Hazel

Dair

Oak

Eadha

Aspen

Feàrn

Fern

Gort

Gorse

Uath

Hawthorn

Iogh

Yew

Luis

Rowan

Muin

Vine

Nuin

Ash

Oir / Onn

Gorse

Peith bhog

Downy Birch

Ruis

Elder

Suil

Willow

Teine

Whin

Ur

Heather