Tattoo Ideas: Gaelic Words + Phrases
Like their Native American counterparts did with tribal tattoos, Scottish and Irish warriors also defined their rank or commemorated a particular battle by tattooing permanent marks onto their skin. As far back as the 1600's Scots were using tattoos as identifiers in times of war. As warriors of old evolved into military men and firefighters of now, Scottish tattoos took on a new form. A firefighter, for example, will not get a tattoo until the day of his retirement, at which point he will ink a Lifetime of Service memorial on his arm, often symbolized by flames or a fireman's helmet. Another type of Scottish tattoo is the Fallen Fighter memorial tattoo, which honors a friend or family member who died in the line of duty. If his or her occupation was that of a firefighter, the tattoo will often have the person's name, date of birth, date of death and ladder number.
But perhaps the most popular tattoo of Irish/Scottish descent is the Scottish clan tattoo that has emerged over the past 20 years or so. Scottish clan tattoos are family crests of Scottish families that typically include the "swatch" or plaid design. Each of the 13 regions in Scotland have their own crest along with their own plaid, so tattooing a particular design explains where an individual's family hails from.
Gaelic is the language that is spoken by Irish and Scottish people, with differences in usage, accent and pronunciation depending on which country you are in. There are a number of different dialects spoken within various areas of the country as well. The three main Irish dialects can be found in the provinces of Munster, Connacht and Ulster, with the newest (but rarely recorded) dialect appearing in Dublin and spoken amongst the younger generations. The Scottish Gaelic language (a branch of Celtic) is the main language spoken in Scotland today and dates back as early as the 5th or 6th century. There are a number of English names that can be directly translated to Gaelic. Ailean is Alan, Donnchadh is Duncan, Coinneach is Kenneth; Iain is John, Uilleam is William, Catriona is Catherine, Mairi is Mary, Seumas is James and Padraig is Patrick. Other names, however, have no direct equivalent, so if you're interested in getting your name tattooed in Gaelic you will have to settle for the closest translation.
As with any tattoo that is done in a foreign language not your own, make sure you do your homework. Double check your translation with several sources. A native speaker is your best bet, someone who speaks Gaelic as their first language, English as their second. If a native speaker is not available to you, your next best bet is a Gaelic scholar who has studied the language extensively. Last but not least, there are several online translators who offer their services for free. Although they can be very useful, keep in mind that it is important to ensure your translation is correct by either using several different online translators or confirming it's accuracy with native speakers on a Gaelic forum or message board.
Here are some Gaelic phrases to get your creative juices flowing:
Is fhearr fheuchainn na bhith san duil -- It's better to try than to hopeAn uair as laine 'n cupan, 's ann as dorr' a ghiulan -- When the cup is fullest it is most difficult to carryB' i sin reul 's an oidhche dhoilleir -- That were a star on a dark nightNíl aon leigheas ar an ngrá ach pósadh -- The only cure for love is marriage
Gra, Dilseacht, Cairdeas -- love, loyalty, friendshipCha d'dhùin doras nach d'fhosgail doras -- No door ever closed, but another openedEiridh tonn air uisge balbh -- A wave will rise on quiet waterFear gu aois, is bean gu bàs -- A son is a son until he comes of age; a daughter is a daughter all her lifeAn rud is annamh is íontach -- What is seldom is wonderfulCeileann searc ainimh 's locht -- Love is blindTada gan iarracht -- Nothing without effort