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Scottish Gaelic alphabet

The Scottish Gaelic alphabet contains 18 letters, five of which are vowels. The letters are (vowels in bold):

a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, u

The five vowels also appear with grave accents, the absence or presence of which can change the meaning of a word drastically as in bàta (a boat) versus bata (a stick):

à, è, ì, ò, ù

The acute accent is also used on some vowels:

á, é, ó

Traditionally - and linguistically - there are also 10 digraphs, consisting of the formerly dotted letters and doubled l, n, r:

bh, ch, dh, fh, gh, ll, nn, ph, rr, sh, th

Since the 1980s the acute accent has not been used in Scottish high school examination papers, and many publishers have adopted the Scottish Qualifications Authority's orthographic conventions for their books.[1] The acute accent is still used in most Scottish universities (and several Scottish academics remain vociferously opposed to the SEB's conventions[citation needed]) and by a minority of Scottish publishers, as well as in Canada.

It is also increasingly common to see other Latin letters in loanwords, including v and z, etc.

The alphabet is known as the aibidil in Scottish Gaelic, and formerly the Beith Luis Nuin from the first three letters of the Ogham alphabet: b, l, n.

Traditional names of the letters

The letters were traditionally named after trees and other plants. Some of the names differ from their modern equivalents (e.g. dair > darach, suil > seileach).

ailm elm beith white birch coll hazel dair oak eadha aspen feàrn alder
gort ivy uath hawthorn iogh yew luis rowan muin vine nuin ash
onn furze / oir spindle peith downy birch ruis elder suil willow teine furze ura heather

See also


  1. ^ "Gaelic Orthographic Conventions 2005" (PDF). Scottish Qualifications Authority, publication code BB1532. p. 5. Retrieved 2007-03-24.  First published by the Scottish Certificate of Education Examination Board (SCEEB) in 1981 and revised by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) in 2005.