Some Irish Names for Wild Animals

A selection of some of the beautifully descriptive words for wild animals which are found in the Irish language. You can find a similar blog post on Ireland’s wild birds here.

Starting off with a favourite. Jellyfish is known as ‘Smugairle Róin’, which translates as ‘Seal Snot‘.

Photo source

Bats have a few names in Irish including, ‘Sciathán Leathair‘, literally ‘Leather Wings‘, or more sinisterly, ‘Bás Dorcha‘, which translates as ‘Black Death‘.

Photo: Ellis Lawrence (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Irish name of the pine marten reflects the animal’s preference for woodland habitats, it is known as ‘Cat Crainn‘, or in English ‘The Tree Cat‘.

Photo: Barnaby_S (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Irish name for the wolf is ‘Mactíre‘ which rather poetically translates as ‘Son of the Land’.

Photo: Hanna Knutsson (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In Irish the diminutive shrew is known as ‘Dallóg Fhéir‘ or ‘Little Blind One of the Grass‘.

Photo: Kentish Plumer (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

One of the Irish names for a stoat is ‘an Bheainín Uasal‘ or ‘the Little Lady‘.

Photo: Steve Childs (CC BY 2.0)

An old Irish name for a hare is ‘Mìl maige‘ or in English: ‘Animal of the Plains/open spaces‘.

(Photo Philippe Rouzet CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Another old Irish name for the wild boar is ‘Fíaclach Coilleadh‘ which roughly translates as ‘Tusked one of the Forests‘ (source).

Photo: Joel Tonyan (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

One of the Irish names for the rabbit is ‘Preabaire Poill‘ or the ‘Bouncer/Hopper of the Holes‘.

Photo: Ecomare/Salko de Wolf Den Hoorn Texel (CC BY-SA 4.0)

In Irish the porpoise is know as ‘Muc Mhara‘ or ‘Pig of the Sea‘ and also ‘Torc na Tuinne‘ or ‘Boar of the Waves‘.(source).

Photo: David Hsiao (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Another Irish name for the seal is ‘Lao Mara‘ or ‘Calf of the Sea‘.

Photo: Nick Ford (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The native Irish lizard is know as ‘Earc Luachra’, which roughly translates as the the ‘Speckled one of the Rushes‘.

Photo: Dmitry Azovtsev • CC BY-SA 3.0

And finally…. The old Irish for an otter is ‘Doburchù‘ or in English ‘Water Hound‘ (source).

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4 thoughts on “Some Irish Names for Wild Animals

  1. Ní saineolaí mé – ní cainteoir dúchais mé – is cainteoir dóchais mé – ach cheap mé go gciallaíonn smugairle róin seal spit (tle) in ionad seal snot.

    1. Very interesting! I’m an Afrikaans speaking South African, trying to learn Irish, and first had to translate you comment

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