How to say Happy Birthday in Irish!

Written by Ryan Grace on 28/06/2024

A Brief History of the Irish Language

The Irish language is a Celtic language which is estimated to first have been spoken around 2,500 years ago. It is one of the oldest written languages in the world, with examples of old Irish Ogham writing being found across Ireland dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries. Irish is spoken by around 1.7 million people in the country today, with children learning Irish in school from the age of 5 years old.

Although English is spoken more day to day than Irish, Irish people will always appreciate those who go out of their way to learn cúpla focail (a few words) of the beautiful language.

In this article, we will explore how to say happy birthday in Irish. We will also take a look at some Irish birthday traditions and some useful vocabulary to learn when celebrating birthdays.

Wishing someone a ‘Happy Birthday’ in Ireland

There are two ways to wish someone a happy birthday in Irish. The ending of both phrases changes depending on how many people you are speaking to. If you are saying happy birthday to a single person, you would say:

Lá breithe sona duit (pronounced: Law bre-ha su-na ditch)


Lá breithe sona duit (pronounced: Law bre-ha su-na ditch)

Lá is the Irish word for day, breith means birth and sona means happiness. The word duit is a version of the preposition do meaning to, seen here in the second person duit. In the Irish language, all prepositions change depending on the person/object they are referring to.

When wishing a happy birthday to more than one person, you would change duit to the plural form daoibh (deev).

Irish Birthday Traditions

In Irish, the happy birthday song is sung to the same tune as the English counterpart. Like many other cultures, birthdays are celebrated with families and friends, with people gathering together to share food, drink and play games.

A slightly unusual birthday tradition is known as the “birthday bumps”. On their birthday, the birthday boy or girl is held upside down by an adult in the family. Their head is lightly bumped off the floor by the adult holding the child, once for each year of the child’s age.

In Ireland, children come of age at 18, which is normally celebrated with a large gathering of family and friends. Similarly, 21st birthdays are celebrated as the final milestone birthday of childhood.

It is tradition for Irish mothers to give a gift of a Claddagh Ring to their eldest daughters at the age of 18 years old as a family heirloom.

Other Useful Irish Phrases

Here are some other useful Irish phrases that you can use when celebrating a birthday:

Cáca breithe = Kawka bre-he - birthday cake

Brontannas = brun-ta-nas = present

Féasta = fay-sta = party

Damhsa = dow-sa = dancing

Ceol agus craic = kyowl ah-gus crack = Literally translating as “music and fun”, this phrase is often used to describe the fun that can be expected at an Irish party. If you ever find yourself in Ireland and you’re travelling past an Irish pub, you may even see this phrase written above the door!

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