Page last updated at 00:33 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

Gaelic for wildlife goes online

The Gaelic name for bluebells means cuckoo's shoes

"The thing the pig dislikes" and "cuckoo's shoe" are among the English translations of Gaelic names for wildlife on a new online database.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has launched Faclan Nadair - meaning Words of Nature - on its website.

Environment Minister Mike Russell said the Gaelic translation added to the understanding of native plants and animals and their habitats.

The site has images and audio guides to help with pronunciation of the Gaelic.

Mr Russell said: "One of my personal favourites is the name for the capercaillie which comes from the Gaelic capall-coille meaning the horse of the wood."

The Gaelic for owl is unsurprising - cailleach oidhche, or old woman of the night
Shona Sloan
SNH officer

He added: "However there is a more serious point. Gaelic is the natural key to opening up and understanding Scotland's natural wonders due to its powerful descriptions, which tell a story about a particular species, and the fact that the language is so clearly tied to the landscape, and therefore its habitats."

SNH's Gaelic communications officer Shona Sloan, who is from South Uist and a native Gaelic speaker, said the Gaelic names often gave clues to the behaviour of wildlife.

She said: "The Gaelic for owl is unsurprising - cailleach oidhche, or old woman of the night. The male is bodach oidhche - old man of the night.

"But what may be less obvious are the two names in Gaelic for the bluebell - brog na chuthaig - the cuckoo's shoe - as it appears at the same time as the cuckoo and due to the shape of its flowers - or fuath-mhuc, the thing the pig dislikes.

"This reflects the fact you are unlikely to find a pig near bluebells as they are believed to find the smell unpleasant."

In Gaelic there are six names for the cranefly, often nicknamed daddy longlegs in English.

Print Sponsor

Inside the Gaelic natural world
29 Jan 09 |  Highlands and Islands


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2020 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific