Manx language

Manx language
yn Ghaelg, yn Ghailck
Pronunciation [əˈɣilk], [əˈɣilɡ]
Spoken in Isle of Man
Native speakers Extinct as a first language in 1974; subsequently revived and now with about a hundred competent speakers,[1][2] including a small number of children who are new native speakers,[3]
and 1,689 people (2.2% total population) in the Isle of Man professing some knowledge of the language[4] (2001)
Language family
Official status
Official language in  Isle of Man
Regulated by Coonseil ny Gaelgey (Manx Gaelic Council)
Language codes
ISO 639-1 gv
ISO 639-2 glv
ISO 639-3 glv
Linguasphere 50-AAA-aj

Manx (native name Gaelg or Gailck, pronounced [ɡilk] or [ɡilɡ][5]), also known as Manx Gaelic, and as the Manks language,[6] is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, historically spoken by the Manx people. Only a small minority of the Island's population is fluent in the language, but a larger minority has some knowledge of it. It is widely considered to be an important part of the Isle of Man's culture and heritage. The last native speaker, Ned Maddrell, died in 1974. However in recent years the language has been the subject of revival efforts. Mooinjer Veggey [muɲdʒer veɣə], a Manx medium playgroup, was succeeded by the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh [bʊn-skolʲ ɣɪlɡax], a primary school for 4- to 11-year-olds in St John's.[7] In recent years, despite the small number of speakers, the language has become more visible on the island, with increased signage and radio broadcasts. The revival of Manx has been aided by the fact that the language was well recorded: for example the Bible was translated into Manx, and a number of audio recordings were made of native speakers.


Names of the language


In Manx the language is called Gaelg or Gailck, a word which shares the same etymological root as the English word "Gaelic". The two sister languages of Manx, Irish and Scottish Gaelic, use Gaeilge and Gàidhlig respectively for their languages.

To distinguish it from the other two forms of Gaelic, the phrases Gaelg/Gailck Vannin (Gaelic of Mann) and Gaelg/Gailck Vanninnagh (Manx Gaelic) may also be used.

In addition, the nickname "Çhengey ny Mayrey" (the mother tongue/tongue of the mother) is occasionally used.


The language is usually referred to in English as Manx. The term Manx Gaelic is also often used, for example when discussing the relationship between the three Goidelic languages (Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx) or to avoid confusion with Anglo-Manx, the form of English as spoken in the Island. Scottish Gaelic is often referred to in English as simply Gaelic, but this is less common with Manx and Irish.

The word Manx is frequently spelled as Manks in historical sources, particularly those written by natives of the island; the word means Mannish, and originates from the Norse Mannisk. The name of the island, Man, is frequently spelled as Mann. It is sometimes accompanied by a footnote explaining that it is a two-syllable word, with the stress on the first syllable, "MAN-en". It comes from the name of the Celtic God "Manannán mac Lir"


An ogham inscription on a stone in the Manx Museum
William Christian, better known as Illiam Dhone (Brown-haired William)
Lag ny Keeilley (Hollow of the Church) on Cronk ny Arrey Laa (Hill of the Day Watch); the Manx language has had a substantial influence on the island's toponomy and nomenclature.

Manx is a Goidelic language, closely related to Irish and Scottish Gaelic. On the whole it is not mutually intelligible with these, though the speakers of the three languages find it easy to gain passive competency in each other's languages and even spoken competency.

Like Scottish Gaelic and modern Irish, Manx is derived from older forms of Irish. The earliest known language of the Isle of Man was a form of Brythonic.

Manx is descended from Primitive Irish, which is first attested in Ogham inscriptions from the 4th century AD. These writings have been found throughout Ireland and the west coast of Great Britain. Primitive Irish transitioned into Old Irish through the 5th century. Old Irish, dating from the 6th century, used the Latin alphabet and is attested primarily in marginalia to Latin manuscripts, but there are no extant examples from the Isle of Man. By the 10th century Old Irish had evolved into Middle Irish, which was spoken throughout Ireland, in Scotland and the Isle of Man. Like the coastal areas of Scotland and Ireland, the Isle of Man was colonised by the Norse, who left their legacy in certain loanwords, personal names, and placenames such as Laxey (Laksaa) and Ramsay (Rhumsaa).

During the later Middle Ages, the Isle of Man fell increasingly under the influence of England, and from then on the English language has been the chief external factor in the development of Manx. Manx began to diverge from Early Modern Irish in around the 13th century and from Scottish Gaelic in the 15th.[8] The language sharply declined during the 19th century and was supplanted by English.

Manx-language books were not printed until the beginning of the 18th century, and there was no Manx–English dictionary until the 19th century. Except for a few ballads composed in the 16th century and some religious literature, there is no pre-20th century literature in the Manx language. The Manx were to all intents and purposes an oral society, with all folklore, history, interpersonal business and the like passed on by word of mouth.[9]

In 1848, J. G. Cumming wrote that, "there are ... few persons (perhaps none of the young) who speak no English," and Henry Jenner estimated in 1874 that about 30% of the population habitually spoke Manx (12,340 out of a population of 41,084). According to official census figures, 9.1% of the population claimed to speak Manx in 1901; in 1921 the percentage was only 1.1%.[10] Since the language had fallen to a status of low prestige, parents tended not to teach the language to their children, thinking that Manx would be useless to them compared with English.

Following the decline in the use of Manx during the 19th century, Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh (The Manx Language Society) was founded in 1899. By the middle of the 20th century only a few elderly native speakers remained (the last of them, Ned Maddrell, died on 27 December 1974), but by then a scholarly revival had begun to spread and many people had learned Manx as a second language. The revival of Manx has been aided by the recording work done in the 20th century by researchers. Most notably, the Irish Folklore Commission was sent in with recording equipment in 1948 by Éamon de Valera. There is also the work conducted by language enthusiast and fluent speaker Brian Stowell, who is considered personally responsible for the current revival of the Manx language.[citation needed]

In the 2001 census, 1,689 out of 76,315, or 2.2% of the population, claimed to have knowledge of Manx,[4] although the degree of knowledge varied.

Manx given names are once again becoming common on the Isle of Man, especially Moirrey and Voirrey (Mary, properly pronounced similar to the Scottish Moira, but often mispronounced as Moiree/Voiree when used as a given name by non-Manx speakers), Illiam (William), Orry (from the Manx King of Norse origin), Breeshey (also Breesha) (Bridget), Aalish (also Ealish) (Alice), Juan (Jack), Ean (John), Joney, Fenella (Fiona), Pherick (Patrick) and Freya (from the Norse Goddess) remain popular.

Classification and dialects

Manx is one of the three descendants of Old Irish (via Middle Irish and early Modern Gaelic), and is closely related to Irish and Scottish Gaelic. It shares a number of developments in phonology, vocabulary and grammar with Irish and Scottish Gaelic (in some cases only with dialects of these), but also shows a number of unique changes. There are two dialects of Manx, Northern Manx and Southern Manx.[11]

Manx shares with Scottish Gaelic the partial loss of contrastive palatalisation of labial consonants; thus while in Irish the velarised consonants /pˠ bˠ fˠ w mˠ/ contrast phonemically with palatalised /pʲ bʲ fʲ vʲ mʲ/, in Scottish Gaelic and Manx, the phonemic contrast has been lost to some extent.[12] A consequence of this phonemic merger is that Middle Irish unstressed word-final [əβʲ] (spelled -(a)ibh, -(a)imh in Irish and Gaelic) has merged with [əβ] (-(e)abh, -(e)amh) in Manx; both have become [u], spelled -oo or -u(e). Examples include shassoo ("to stand"; Irish seasamh), credjue ("religion"; Irish creideamh), nealloo ("fainting"; Early Modern Irish (i) néalaibh, lit. in clouds), and erriu ("on you (plural)"; Irish oraibh).[13] However, Manx is further advanced in this than is Scottish, where the verb ending -ibh second person plural is consistently [-iv], as it is in the second plural pronoun sibh (shiu in Manx).

Like western and northern dialects of Irish (cf. Irish phonology) and most dialects of Scottish Gaelic, Manx has changed the historical consonant clusters /kn ɡn mn tn/ to /kr ɡr mr tr/. For example, Middle Irish cnáid ("mockery") and mná ("women") have become craid and mraane respectively in Manx.[14] The affrication of [t̪ʲ d̪ʲ] to [tʃ dʒ] is also common to Manx, northern Irish, and Scottish Gaelic.[15]

Also like northern and western dialects of Irish, as well as like southern dialects of Scottish Gaelic (e.g. Arran, Kintyre), the unstressed word-final syllable [iʝ] of Middle Irish (spelled -(a)idh and -(a)igh) has developed to [iː] in Manx, where it is spelled -ee, as in kionnee ("buy"; cf. Irish ceannaigh) and cullee ("apparatus"; cf. Gaelic culaidh).[16]

Another property Manx shares with Ulster Irish and some dialects of Scottish Gaelic is that /a/ rather than /ə/ appears in unstressed syllables before /x/ (in Manx spelling, agh), for example jeeragh ("straight") [ˈdʒiːrax] (Irish díreach), cooinaghtyn ("to remember") [ˈkuːnʲaxt̪ən] (Gaelic cuimhneachd).[17]

Similarly to Munster Irish, historical bh [βʲ] and mh (nasalised [βʲ]) have been lost in the middle or at the end of a word in Manx either with compensatory lengthening or vocalisation as u resulting in diphthongisation with the preceding vowel. For example, Manx geurey ("winter") [ˈɡʲeurə], [ˈɡʲuːrə] and sleityn ("mountains") [ˈsleːdʒən] correspond to Irish geimhreadh and sléibhte (Southern Irish dialect spelling and pronunciation gíre ([ˈɟiːɾʲə]) and sléte ([ˈʃlʲeːtʲə])).[18] Another similarity to Munster Irish is the development of the Old Irish diphthongs [oi ai] before velarised consonants (spelled ao in Irish and Scottish Gaelic) to [eː] in many words, as in seyr ("carpenter") [seːr] and keyl ("narrow") [keːl] (spelled saor and caol in Irish and Scottish, and pronounced virtually the same in Munster).[19]

Like southern and western varieties of Irish and northern varieties of Scottish Gaelic, but unlike the geographically closer varieties of Ulster Irish and Arran and Kintyre Gaelic, Manx shows vowel lengthening or diphthongisation before the Old Irish fortis and lenis sonorants. For example, cloan ("children") [klɔːn], dhone ("brown") [d̪ɔːn], eeym ("butter") [iːᵇm] correspond to Irish/Scottish Gaelic clann, donn, and im respectively, which have long vowels or diphthongs in western and southern Irish and in the Scottish Gaelic dialects of the Outer Hebrides and Skye, thus western Irish [klˠɑːn̪ˠ], Southern Irish/Northern Scottish [kl̪ˠaun̪ˠ], [d̪ˠaun̪ˠ]/[d̪ˠoun̪ˠ], [iːm]/[ɤim]), but short vowels and 'long' consonants in northern Irish, Arran, and Kintyre, [kl̪ˠan̪ːˠ], [d̪ˠon̪ːˠ] and [imʲː].[20]

Another similarity with southern Irish is the treatment of Middle Irish word-final unstressed [əð], spelled -(e)adh in Irish and Scottish Gaelic. In nouns (including verbal nouns), this became [ə] in Manx, as it did in southern Irish, e.g. caggey ("war") [ˈkaːɣə], moylley ("to praise") [ˈmɔlə]; cf. Irish cogadh and moladh, pronounced [ˈkˠɔɡˠə] and [ˈmˠɔl̪ˠə] in southern Irish.[21] In finite verb forms before full nouns (as opposed to pronouns) [əð] became [ax] in Manx, as in southern Irish, e.g. voyllagh [ˈvɔlax] ("would praise"), cf. Irish mholfadh, pronounced [ˈvˠɔl̪ˠhəx] in southern Irish.[22]

Dialect map of Manx (boundaries are approximate)

Linguistic analysis of the last few dozen native speakers reveals a number of dialectal differences between the northern and the southern parts of the island. Northern Manx is reflected by speakers from towns and villages from Maughold in the northeast of the island to Peel on the west coast. Southern Manx is used by speakers from the Sheading of Rushen.

In Southern Manx, older á and in some cases ó have become [eː]. In Northern Manx the same happens, but á sometimes remains [aː] as well. For example, laa ("day", cf. Irish ) is [leː] in the south but [leː] or [laː] in the north. Old ó is always [eː] in both dialects, e.g. aeg ("young", cf. Irish óg) is [eːɡ] in both dialects.[23]

In Northern Manx, older (e)a before nn in the same syllable is diphthongised, while in Southern Manx it is lengthened but remains a monophthong. For example, kione ("head", cf. Irish ceann) is [kʲaun] in the north but [kʲoːn] in the south.[24]

In both dialects of Manx, words with ua and in some cases ao in Irish and Scottish are spelled with eay in Manx. In Northern Manx, this sound is [iː], while in Southern Manx it is [ɯː], [uː], or [yː]. For example, geay ("wind", cf. Irish gaoth) is [ɡiː] in the north and [ɡɯː] in the south, while geayl ("coal", cf. Irish gual is [ɡiːl] in the north and [ɡyːl], [ɡɯːl], or [ɡuːl] in the south.[25]

In both the north and the south, there is a tendency to insert a short [d] sound before a word-final [n] in monosyllabic words, as in [sleᵈn] for slane ("whole") and [beᵈn] for ben ("woman"). This phenomenon is known as pre-occlusion. In Southern Manx, however, there is also pre-occlusion of [d] before [l] and of [ɡ] before [ŋ], as in [ʃuːᵈl] for shooyl ("walking") and [lɔᶢŋ] for lhong ("ship"). These forms are generally pronounced without pre-occlusion in the north. Preocclusion of [b] before [m], on the other hand, is more common in the north, as in trome ("heavy"), which is [t̪roᵇm] in the north but [t̪roːm] or [t̪roːᵇm] in the south.[26] This feature is also found in Cornish.

Southern Manx tends to lose word-initial [ɡ] before [lʲ], while Northern Manx usually preserves it, e.g. glion ("glen") is [ɡlʲɔᵈn] in the north and [lʲɔᵈn] in the south, and glioon ("knee") is [ɡlʲuːn] in the north and [lʲuːᵈn] in the south.[27]


The Manx orthography is unlike that of Irish and Scottish Gaelic, both of which use closely related modernised variants of the orthography of Early Modern Irish, the language of the educated Gaelic elite of both Ireland and Scotland (where it is called Classical Gaelic) until the mid-19th century. These orthographies in general show both word pronunciation and word derivation from the Gaelic past, though not in a one-to-one system, there being only 18 letters to represent around 50 phonemes. While Manx in effect uses the English alphabet, except for ⟨x⟩ and ⟨z⟩, the 24 letters of its alphabet likewise do not cover a similar range of phonemes, and therefore many digraphs and trigraphs are used.

The orthography was developed by people who were unaware of traditional Gaelic orthography, as they had learned literacy in Welsh and English (the initial development in the 16th century), then only English (later developments). Therefore, the orthography shows the pronunciation of words mainly from the point of view of early Modern English "phonetics", and to a small extent Welsh, rather than from the Gaelic point of view.[28] The result is an inconsistent and only partially phonetic spelling system, in the same way that English orthographic practices are inconsistent and only partially phonetic. T. F. O'Rahilly expressed the opinion that Gaelic in the Isle of Man was saddled with a corrupt spelling which is neither traditional nor phonetic; if the traditional Gaelic orthography had been preserved, the close kinship that exists between Manx Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic would be obvious to all at first sight.[29]

There is no evidence of Gaelic script having been used on the island.


Manx uses relatively few diacritics, but a cedilla is often (but not always) used to differentiate between the two pronunciations of "ch".

  • Çhiarn (ˈtʃaːrn) means "lord" and is pronounced with a hard "ch" (/tʃ/) as in the English "watch"
  • Cha' means "not", and is pronounced with a velar fricative, as in the correct pronunciation of the Scots "loch" (/ˈlɒx/ ), a sound which is more commonly represented by "gh" in Manx. This is one of the features Manx shares with the Northern dialects of Irish and Scottish Gaelic (instead of the negation used elsewhere in Ireland).


The following examples are taken from Broderick 1984–86, 1:178–79 and 1:350–53. The first example is from a speaker of Northern Manx, the second from Ned Maddrell, a speaker of Southern Manx.

Orthography Phonetic transcription Gloss
V'ad smooinaghtyn dy beagh cabbyl jeeaghyn skee as deinagh ayns y voghree dy beagh eh er ve ec ny ferrishyn fud ny h-oie as beagh ad cur lesh yn saggyrt dy cur e vannaght er. vod̪ ˈsmuːnʲaxt̪ən d̪ə biəx ˈkaːbəl dʒiːən skiː as ˈd̪øinʲax uns ə ˈvoːxəri d̪ə biəx e er vi ek nə ˈferiʃən fod̪ nə høi as biəx əd̪ kør leʃ ən ˈsaːɡərt̪ d̪ə kør ə ˈvanax er They used to think if a horse was looking tired and weary in the morning then it had been with the fairies all night and they would bring the priest to put his blessing on it.
Va ben aynshoh yn çhiaghtin chaie as v'ee laccal mish dy ynsagh ee dy gra yn Padjer yn Çhiarn. Dooyrt ee dy row ee gra eh tra v'ee inneen veg, agh t'eh ooilley jarroodit eck, as v'ee laccal gynsagh eh reesht son dy gra eh ec vrastyl ny red ennagh. As dooyrt mish dy jinnagh mee jannoo my share son dy cooney lhee as ren ee çheet aynshoh son dy clashtyn eh, as vel oo laccal dy clashtyn mee dy gra eh? və ˈbɛn əˈsoː ən ˈtʃaːn ˈkai as vai ˈlaːl ˈmiʃ ði ˈjinðax i ðə ˈɡreː in ˈpaːdʒər ən ˈtʃaːrn ‖ d̪ot̪ i ðə ˈrau i ɡreː a ˈt̪reː vai iˈnʲin ˈveːɡ ‖ ax t̪e ˈolʲu dʒaˈrud̪ətʃ ek ‖ as vei ˈlaːl ˈɡʲinðax a ˈriːʃ san ðə ˈɡreː ə əɡ ˈvraːst̪əl nə ˈrið ənax ‖ as ˈd̪ut̪ miʃ ðə ˈdʒinax mi ˈdʒinu mə ˈʃeː san ðə ˈkunə lʲei as ˈrenʲ i ˈtʃit̪ oˈsoː san ðə ˈklaːʃtʲən a ‖ as vel u ˈlaːl ðə ˈklaːʃtʲən mi ðə ˈɡreː a ‖ There was a woman here last week and she wanted me to teach her to say the Lord's Prayer. She said that she used to say it when she was a little girl, but she has forgotten it all, and she wanted to learn it again to say it at a class or something. And I said I would do my best to help her and she came here to hear it, and do you want to hear me say it?

Gaelic versions of the Lord's Prayer

The Lord's Prayer has been translated into all the Goidelic tongues. Although the wording is not completely cognate, they demonstrate the different orthographies.

The standard version of the Lord's Prayer in Manx
Ayr ain t'ayns niau,
Casherick dy row dt'ennym.
Dy jig dty reeriaght.
Dt'aigney dy row jeant er y thalloo,
myr t'ayns niau.
Cur dooin nyn arran jiu as gagh laa,
as leih dooin nyn loghtyn,
myr ta shin leih dauesyn ta jannoo loghtyn nyn 'oi.
As ny leeid shin ayns miolagh,
agh livrey shin veih olk:
Son lhiats y reeriaght, as y phooar, as y ghloyr, son dy bragh as dy bragh.
Manx version of 1713[30]
Ayr Ain, t'ayns Niau;
Caſherick dy rou dt'ennym;
Di jig dty Reereeaght;
Dt'aigney dy rou jeant er y Talloo
myr t'ayns Niau;
Cur dooin nyn Arran jiu as gagh laa;
As leih dooin nyn Loghtyn,
myr ta ſhin leih daueſyn ta janoo loghtyn ny noi ſhin;
As ny leeid ſhin ayns Miolagh;
Agh livrey ſhin veih olk;
Son liats y Reeriaght y Phooar as y Ghloyr, ſon dy bragh as dy bragh.
The prayer in Old Irish[31]
A athair fil hi nimib,
Noemthar thainm.
Tost do flaithius.
Did do toil i talmain
amail ata in nim.
Tabair dun indiu ar sasad lathi.
Ocus log dun ar fiachu
amail logmaitne diar fhechemnaib.
Ocus nis lecea sind i n-amus n-dofulachtai.
Acht ron soer o cech ulc.
Amen ropfir.
The Prayer in modern Irish
Ár n-Athair, atá ar neamh:
go naofar d'ainm (alt. go naomhaíthear t'ainm).
Go dtaga do ríocht (alt.go dtagaidh do ríocht).
Go ndéantar do thoil ar an talamh (alt. ar an dtalamh),
mar dhéantar ar neamh.
Ár n-arán laethúil tabhair dúinn inniu,
agus maith dúinn ár bhfiacha (alt. ár gcionta),
mar mhaithimid dár bhféichiúna féin (alt. mar a mhaithimíd dóibh a chiontaíonn inár n-aghaidh).
Agus ná lig sinn i gcathú (alt. i gcathaíbh),
ach saor sinn ó olc (alt. ón olc).
Óir is leatsa an Ríocht agus an Chumhacht agus an Ghloir, tré shaol na saol (alt. le saol na saol / go síoraí).
Amen (alt. Âiméin).
The Prayer in Scottish Gaelic
Ar n-Athair a tha air nèamh,
Gu naomhaichear d' ainm.
Thigeadh do rìoghachd.
Dèanar do thoil air an talamh,
mar a nithear air nèamh.
Tabhair dhuinn an-diugh ar n-aran làitheil.
Agus maith dhuinn ar fiachan,
amhail a mhaitheas sinne dar luchd-fiach.
Agus na leig ann am buaireadh sinn;
ach saor sinn o olc:
oir is leatsa an rìoghachd, agus a' chumhachd, agus a' ghlòir, gu sìorraidh.


Because Manx has never had a large user base, it has never been practical to produce large amounts of written literature. A body of oral literature, on the other hand, did exist. It is known that the "Fianna" tales and the like were known, with the Manx ballad Fin as Oshin commemorating Finn MacCool and Ossian.[32] With the coming of Protestantism, this slowly disappeared, while a tradition of carvals, religious songs or carols, developed with religious sanction[when?].

As far as is known, there was no distinctively Manx written literature before the Reformation, and by this time any presumed literary link with Ireland and Scotland, such as through Irish-trained priests, had been lost. The first published literature in Manx was the Book of Common Prayer, translated by John Phillips, the Welsh-born Bishop of Sodor and Man (1605–33). The early Manx script does have some similarities with orthographical systems found occasionally in Scotland and in Ireland for the transliteration of Gaelic, such as the Book of the Dean of Lismore, as well as in some cases extensive texts based on English and Scottish English orthographical practices of the time. Little secular Manx literature has been preserved.

When the Anglican church authorities commenced the production of written literature in the language in the 18th century, the system developed by John Philips was further "anglicized", the one Welsh-retention being the use of ⟨y⟩ to represent schwa (e.g. cabbyl [kaːβəl] "horse" and cooney [kuːnə] "help" as well as /ɪ/ (e.g. fys [fɪz] “knowledge”), though it is also used to represent [j], as in English (e.g. y Yuan [ə juːan] "John" (vocative), yeeast [jiːəst] "fish").

Later pieces included short stories and poetry. Translations also occurred, notably of Paradise Lost in 1796.

In 2006, the first full length novel in Manx, Dunveryssyn yn Tooder-Folley (The Vampire Murders) was published by Brian Stowell, after being serialised in the press.

The Railway Series

Although the books of The Railway Series by the Reverend W. Awdry were written in English, Manx had a significant influence on the world in which they were set. Thomas the Tank Engine and his fellow locomotive characters live on the fictional Island of Sodor, which is to the east of the Isle of Man, but at the same time loosely based on it. It has its own language "Sudric", which "is fast dying out and is akin to Manx and Gaelic"[33] – but the difference between Manx and Sudric is not enough to prevent the two communities understanding one another.[34]

A lot of the names, are clearly based on Manx forms, but often the nouns are inverted to match English word order. Some of the locations have quasi-Manx names, e.g. Killdane, which comes from "Keeill-y-Deighan" (Church of the Devil),[35] hills are called Knock and Cronk,[33] while "Nagh Beurla", means "I speak no English",[34] a distortion of the Manx. The names of some of the 'historical' characters – used in the background but not appearing in the stories – were taken from locations on the Isle of Man, such as Sir Crosby Marown (Crosby being a small village in the parish of Marown) and Harold Regaby.[36]



The consonant phonemes of Manx are as follows:[37]

Manx consonant phonemes
  Bilabial Labio-
Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Palato-
Velar Labio-
Plosive p b             ɡʲ k ɡ        
Fricative     f v     s   ʃ       ɣʲ x ɣ     h  
Nasal   m       n                 ŋ        
Trill               r                        
Approximant                       j           w    
Lateral           l                          

The voiceless plosives are pronounced with aspiration. The dental, postalveolar and palato-velar plosives /t̪ d̪ tʲ dʲ kʲ/ are affricated to [t̪͡θ d̪͡ð t͡ʃ d͡ʒ kʲ͡ç] in many contexts.

Manx has an optional process of lenition of plosives between vowels, whereby voiced plosives and voiceless fricatives become voiced fricatives and voiceless plosives become either voiced plosives or voiced fricatives. This process introduces the allophones [β ð z ʒ] to the series of voiced fricatives in Manx. The voiced fricative [ʒ] may be further lenited to [j], and [ɣ] may disappear altogether. Examples include:[38]

Voiceless plosive to voiced plosive
  • /t̪/[d̪]: brattag [ˈbrad̪aɡ] "flag, rag"
  • /k/[ɡ]: peccah [ˈpɛɡə] "sin"
Voiceless plosive to voiced fricative
  • /p/[v]: cappan [ˈkavan] "cup"
  • /t̪/[ð]: baatey [ˈbɛːða] "boat"
  • /k/[ɣ]: feeackle [ˈfiːɣəl] "tooth"
Voiced plosive to voiced fricative
  • /b/[v]: cabbyl [ˈkaːvəl] "horse"
  • /d̪/[ð]: eddin [ˈɛðənʲ] "face"
  • /dʲ/[ʒ]: padjer [ˈpaːʒər] "prayer"
  • /dʲ/[ʒ][j]: maidjey [ˈmaːʒə], [ˈmaːjə] "stick"
  • /ɡ/[ɣ]: ruggit [ˈroɣət] "born"
Voiceless fricative to voiced fricative
  • /s/[ð] or [z]: poosit [ˈpuːðitʲ] or [ˈpuːzitʲ] "married"
  • /s/[ð]: shassoo [ˈʃaːðu] "stand"
  • /ʃ/[ʒ]: aashagh [ˈɛːʒax] "easy"
  • /ʃ/[ʒ][j]: toshiaght [ˈt̪ɔʒax], [ˈt̪ɔjax] "beginning"
  • /x/[ɣ]: beaghey [ˈbɛːɣə] "live"
  • /x/[ɣ]: shaghey [ʃaː] "past"

Another optional process of Manx phonology is pre-occlusion, the insertion of a very short plosive consonant before a sonorant consonant. In Manx, this applies to stressed monosyllabic words (i.e. words one syllable long). The inserted consonant is homorganic with the following sonorant, which means it has the same place of articulation. Long vowels are often shortened before pre-occluded sounds. Examples include:[39]

  • /m/[ᵇm]: trome /t̪roːm/[t̪roᵇm] "heavy"
  • /n/[ᵈn]: kione /kʲoːn/[kʲoᵈn] "head"
  • /nʲ/[ᵈnʲ]: ein /eːnʲ/[eːᵈnʲ], [eᵈnʲ] "birds"
  • /ŋ/[ᶢŋ]: lhong /loŋ/[loᶢŋ] "ship"
  • /l/[ᵈl]: shooyll /ʃuːl/[ʃuːᵈl] "walking"

The trill /r/ is realised as a one- or two-contact flap [ɾ] at the beginning of syllable, and as a stronger trill [r] when preceded by another consonant in the same syllable. At the end of a syllable, /r/ can be pronounced either as a strong trill [r] or, more frequently, as a weak fricative [ɹ̝], which may vocalise to a nonsyllabic [ə̯] or disappear altogether.[40] This vocalisation may be due to the influence of Manx English, which is itself a non-rhotic accent.[41] Examples of the pronunciation of /r/ include:

  • ribbey "snare" [ˈɾibə]
  • arran "bread" [ˈaɾan]
  • mooar "big" [muːr], [muːɹ̝], [muːə̯], [muː]


The vowel phonemes of Manx are as follows:[42]

Manx vowel phonemes
Short Long
Front Central Back Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e ə o
Open (æ) a (æː)

The status of æ and æː as separate phonemes is debatable, but is suggested by the allophony of certain words such as ta "is", mraane "women", and so on. An alternative analysis is that Manx has the following system, where the vowels /a/ and /aː/ have allophones ranging from [ɛ]/[ɛː] through [æ]/[æː] to [a]/[aː]. As with Irish and Scottish Gaelic, there is a large amount of vowel allophony, such as that of /a/,/a:/. This depends mainly on the 'broad' and 'slender' status of the neighbouring consonants:

Manx vowel phonemes and their allophonic variation
Phoneme "Slender" "Broad"
/i/, /i:/ [i], [i:] [ɪ], [ɪ:]
/e/,/e:/ [e]/[e:] [ɛ]/[ɛ:]
/a/,/a:/ [ɛ~æ]/[ɛ:~æ:] [a]/[a:]
/ə/ [ɨ] [ə]
/əi/ (Middle Gaelic) [i:] [ɛ:],[ɯ:],[ɪ:]
/o/,/o:/ [o],[o:] [ɔ],[ɔ:]
/u/,/u:/ [u],[u:] [ø~ʊ],[u:]
/uə/ (Middle Gaelic) [i:],[y:] [ɪ:],[ɯ:],[u:]

When stressed, /ə/ is realised as [ø].[43]

Manx has a relatively large number of diphthongs, all of them falling:

Manx diphthongs
  Second element is /i/ Second element is /u/ Second element is /ə/
First element is close ui   iə • uə
First element is mid ei • əi • oi eu • əu  
First element is open ai au  


Stress generally falls on the first syllable of a word in Manx, but in many cases, stress is attracted to a long vowel in the second syllable.[44] Examples include:

  • buggane /bəˈɣeːn/ "sprite"
  • tarroogh /t̪aˈruːx/ "busy"
  • reeoil /riːˈoːl/ "royal"
  • vondeish /vonˈd̪eːʃ/ "advantage"


Manx nouns fall into one of two genders, masculine or feminine. Nouns are inflected for number (the plural being formed in a variety of ways, most commonly by addition of the suffix -yn [ən]), but usually there is no inflection for case, except in a minority of nouns that have a distinct genitive singular form, which is formed in various ways (most common is the addition of the suffix -ey [ə] to feminine nouns). Historical genitive singulars are often encountered in compounds even when they are no longer productive forms; for example thie-ollee "cowhouse" uses the old genitive of ollagh "cattle".[45]

Manx verbs generally form their finite forms by means of periphrasis: inflected forms of the auxiliary verbs ve "to be" or jannoo "to do" are combined with the verbal noun of the main verb. Only the future, conditional, preterite, and imperative can be formed directly by inflecting the main verb, but even in these tenses, the periphrastic formation is more common in Late Spoken Manx.[46] Examples:

Manx finite verb forms
Tense Periphrastic form
(literal translation)
Inflected form Gloss
Present ta mee tilgey
(I am throwing)
I throw
Imperfect va mee tilgey
(I was throwing)
I was throwing
Perfect ta mee er tilgey
(I am after throwing)[47]
I have thrown
Pluperfect va mee er tilgey
(I was after throwing)[47]
I had thrown
Future neeym tilgey
(I will do throwing)
tilgym I will throw
Conditional yinnin tilgey
(I would do throwing)
hilgin I would throw
Preterite ren mee tilgey
(I did throwing)
hilg mee I threw
Imperative jean tilgey!
(Do throwing!)

The future and conditional tenses (and in some irregular verbs, the preterite) make a distinction between "independent" and "dependent" forms. Independent forms are used when the verb is not preceded by any particle; dependent forms are used when a particle (e.g. cha "not") does precede the verb. For example, "you will lose" is caillee oo with the independent form caillee ("will lose"), while "you will not lose" is cha gaill oo with the dependent form caill (which has undergone eclipsis to gaill after cha). Similarly "they went" is hie ad with the independent form hie ("went"), while "they did not go" is cha jagh ad with the dependent form jagh.[48] This contrast is inherited from Old Irish, which shows such pairs as beirid ("(s)he carries") vs. ní beir ("(s)he does not carry"), and is found in Scottish Gaelic as well, e.g. gabhaidh ("will take") vs. cha ghabh ("will not take"). In Modern Irish, the distinction is found only in irregular verbs (e.g. chonaic ("saw") vs. ní fhaca ("did not see").

Like the other Insular Celtic languages, Manx has so-called inflected prepositions, contractions of a preposition with a pronominal direct object. For example, the preposition ec "at" has the following forms:

Inflections of ec "at"
  Singular Plural
First person aym ("at me") ain ("at us")
Second person ayd ("at you") eu ("at you")
Third person Masculine echey ("at him") oc ("at them")
Feminine eck ("at her")


Manx IPA[49] English Irish
Scottish Gaelic
[eːn], [oːn], [uːn]
one aon [eːn], [iːn], [ɯːn] aon [ɯːn]
daa, ghaa
[d̪eː]. [ɣeː]
two [d̪oː], dhá/dá [ɣaː]/[d̪aː]
(people only) dís [dʒiːʃ]
, beirt [bʲertʲ]
tree [t̪riː] three trí [t̪riː] trì [t̪ʰɾiː]
kiare [kʲeːə(r)] four ceathair, ceithre [kʲahirʲ], [kʲerʲhʲi] ceithir [ˈkʲʰehɪɾʲ]
queig [kweɡ] five cúig [kuːɡʲ] còig [kʰoːkʲ]
shey [ʃeː] six [ʃeː] sia [ʃiə]
shiaght [ʃaːx] seven seacht [ʃaxd] seachd [ʃɛxk]
hoght [hoːx] eight ocht [oxd] (dialect hocht [hoxd]) ochd [ɔxk]
nuy [nɛi], [niː] nine naoi [neː], [niː], [nəi] naoi [n̪ˠɤj]
jeih [dʒɛi] ten deich [dʲeh], [dʒei] deich [tʲeç]
nane jeig [neːn dʒeɡ] eleven aon déag [eːn dʲiaɡ], [iːn dʲeːɡ], [iːn/ɯːn dʒeːɡ] aon deug [ɯːn tʲiak]}
daa yeig [d̪eiɡʲ] twelve dó dhéag, dhá dhéag, dá dhéag [d̪oː jiaɡ], [d̪oː jeːɡ], [ɣaː jeːɡ], [d̪aː jeːɡ] dà dheug [t̪aː ʝiak]
tree jeig [t̪ri dʒeɡ] thirteen trí déag [t̪ʲrʲiː dʲiaɡ], [t̪ʲrʲiː dʲeːɡ], [t̪ʲrʲiː dʒeːɡ] trì deug [t̪ʰɾiː tʲiak]
feeid [fiːdʒ] twenty fiche [fʲihʲi], [fʲiçə]; fichid [fʲihʲidʲ], [fʲiçidʒ] (dative) fichead [fiçət̪]
keead [kiːəd] hundred céad [kʲiad], [kʲeːd] ceud [kʲʰiat̪]

Initial consonant mutations

Like all modern Celtic languages, Manx shows initial consonant mutations, which are processes by which the initial consonant of a word is altered according to its morphological and/or syntactic environment.[50] Manx has two mutations: lenition and nasalisation, found on nouns and verbs in a variety of environments; adjectives can undergo lenition but not nasalisation. In the late spoken language of the 20th century the system was breaking down, with speakers frequently failing to use mutation in environments where it was called for, and occasionally using it in environments where it was not called for.

Lenition and nasalisation in Manx
Unmutated consonant Lenition Nasalisation
/p/ /f/ /b/[* 1]
/t̪/ /h/, /x/ /d̪/
/tʲ/ /h/, /xʲ/ /dʲ/[* 1]
/kʲ/ /xʲ/ /ɡʲ/[* 1]
/k/ /x/, /h/ /ɡ/
/m/[* 1]
/mw/[* 1]
/d̪/ /ɣ/, /w/ /n/[* 1]
/dʲ/ /ɣʲ/, /j/ /nʲ/
/ɡʲ/ /ɣʲ/, /j/ /ŋ/?[* 1]
/ɡ/ /ɣ/ /ŋ/?[* 2]
(no change)
/v/[* 1]
/w/[* 1]
(no change)
/ʃ/ /h/ , /xʲ/ (no change)
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Not attested in the late spoken language (Broderick 1984–86, 3:66)
  2. ^ In the corpus of the late spoken language, there is only one example of the nasalisation of /ɡ/: the sentence Ta mee er ngeddyn yn eayn ("I have found the lamb"), where ng is pronounced /n/. However, it is possible that the verbal noun in this case is not geddyn, which usually means "get", but rather feddyn, which is the more usual word for "find" (Broderick 1984–86 2:190, 3:66).


Like most Insular Celtic languages, Manx uses verb–subject–object word order: the inflected verb of a sentence precedes the subject, which itself precedes the direct object.[51] However, as noted above, most finite verbs are formed periphrastically, using an auxiliary verb in conjunction with the verbal noun. In this case, only the auxiliary verb precedes the subject, while the verbal noun comes after the subject. The auxiliary verb may be a modal verb rather than a form of bee ("be") or jannoo ("do"). Particles like the negative cha ("not") precede the inflected verb. Examples:

subject direct
Hug yn saggyrt e laue urree.
put-pret. the priest his hand on her
"The priest put his hand on her."[52]


subject main
Va ny eayin gee yn conney.
were the lambs eat-v.n. the gorse
"The lambs used to eat the gorse."[53]


subject main
Cha jarg shiu fakin red erbee.
not can you-pl. see-v.n. anything
"You can't see anything."[54]

When the auxiliary verb is a form of jannoo ("do"), the direct object precedes the verbal noun and is connected to it with the particle y:

subject direct
Ren ad my choraa y chlashtyn.
did they my voice particle hear-v.n.
"They heard my voice."[55]

As in Irish (cf. Irish syntax#The forms meaning "to be"), there are two ways of expressing "to be" in Manx: with the substantive verb bee, and with the copula. The substantive verb is used when the predicate is an adjective, adverb, or prepositional phrase.[56] Examples:

t' eh agglagh
is it awful/frightening
"It is awful/frightening."


t' eh dy mie
is he well
"He is well"


t' eh ayns y thie-oast
is he in the house-ale (pub)
"He is in the ale-house (pub)."

Where the predicate is a noun, it must be converted to a prepositional phrase headed by the preposition in ("in") + possessive pronoun (agreeing with the subject) in order for the substantive verb to be grammatical:

t' eh ny wooinney mie
is he in-his man good
"He is a good man" (lit. "He is in his good man")[57]

Otherwise, the copula is used when the predicate is a noun. The copula itself takes the form is or she in the present tense, but it is often omitted in affirmative statements:

She Manninagh mish
copula Manxman me
"I am a Manxman."[58]


Shoh 'n dooinney
this the man "This is the man."[55]

In questions and negative sentences, the present tense of the copula is nee:

Cha nee mish eh
not copula me him
"I am not him."[55]


Nee shoh 'n lioar?
copula this the book
"Is this the book?"[55]


Manx vocabulary is predominantly of Goidelic origin, derived from Old Irish and closely related to words in Irish and Scottish Gaelic. However, Manx itself, as well as the languages from which it is derived, borrowed words from other languages as well, especially Latin, Old Norse, French (particularly Anglo-Norman), and English (both Middle English and Modern English).[59]

The following table shows a selection of nouns from the Swadesh list and indicates their pronunciations and etymologies.

Manx IPA[49] English Etymology[60]
aane [eːn] liver Goidelic; from Mid.Ir. ae < O.Ir. óa; cf. Ir. ae, Sc.G. adha
aer [eːə] sky Latin; from O.Ir. aer < L. aër; cf. Sc.G. adhar
aile [ail] fire Goidelic; from O.Ir. aingel "very bright"; cf. Ir., Sc.G. aingeal
ardnieu [ərd̪ˈnʲeu] snake Apparently "highly poisonous" (cf. ard "high", nieu "poison")
awin [aunʲ], [ˈawənʲ] river Goidelic; from the M.Ir. dative form abainn of aba < O.Ir. abaind aba; cf. Ir. abha/abhainn, dative abhainn, Sc.G. abhainn (literary nominative abha).
ayr [ˈeːar] father Goidelic; from M.Ir. athair, O.Ir. athir; cf. Ir., Sc.G. athair
beeal [biəl] mouth Goidelic; from O.Ir. bél; cf. Ir. béal, Sc.G. beul/bial
beishteig [beˈʃtʲeːɡ], [prəˈʃtʲeːɡ] worm Latin; from M.Ir. péist < O.Ir. bíast < L. bēstia
ben [beᵈn] woman Goidelic; from M.Ir and O.Ir. ben; cf. Ir., Sc.G. bean
billey [ˈbilʲə] tree Goidelic; from O.Ir. bile
blaa [bleː] flower Goidelic; from O.Ir. bláth, Ir. bláth, Sc.G. blàth
blein [blʲeːnʲ], [blʲiᵈn] year Goidelic; from O.Ir. bliadain; cf. Ir. bliain, Sc.G. bliadhna
bodjal [ˈbaːdʒəl] cloud English/French; shortened from bodjal niaul "pillar of cloud" (cf. Sc.G. baideal neòil); bodjal originally meant "pillar" or "battlement" < E. battle < Fr. bataille
bolg [bolɡ] belly Goidelic; from O.Ir. bolg, Ir., Sc.G bolg
cass [kaːs] foot Goidelic; from O.Ir. cos, cf. Sc.G. cas, Ir.dialect cas, Ir. cos
çhengey [ˈtʃinʲə] tongue Goidelic; from O.Ir. tengae; cf. Ir., Sc.G. teanga
clagh [klaːx] stone Goidelic; from O.Ir. cloch; cf. Sc.G. clach, Ir. cloch
cleaysh [kleːʃ] ear Goidelic; from O.Ir. dative clúais "hearing"; cf. Ir., Sc.G. cluas, Ir. dialect cluais "ear", dative cluais
collaneyn [ˈkalinʲən] guts Goidelic; from O.Ir. cáelán; cf. Ir. caolán, Sc.G. caolan, derived from caol "thin, slender"
crackan [ˈkraːɣən] skin Goidelic; from O.Ir. croiccenn; cf. Ir., Sc.G. craiceann, dialect croiceann
craue [kreːw] bone Goidelic; from O.Ir. cnám; cf. Ir. cnámh, Sc.G. cnàimh
cree [kriː] heart Goidelic; from O.Ir. cride; cf. Ir. croí, Sc.G. cridhe
dooinney [ˈd̪unʲə] person Goidelic; from O.Ir. duine
dreeym [d̪riːm], [d̪riᵇm] back Goidelic; from O.Ir. dative druimm, nominative dromm; cf. Ir. drom, dialect droim, dative droim, Sc.G. drom, dialect druim, dative druim
duillag [ˈd̪olʲaɡ] leaf Goidelic; from O.Ir. duilleóg; cf. Sc.G. duilleag
eairk [eːak] horn Goidelic; from O.Ir. adarc; cf. Ir., Sc.G. adharc, Ir. dialect aidhearc
eayst [eːs] moon Goidelic; from O.Ir. ésca; cf. archaic Ir. éasca, Sc.G. easga
eeast [jiːs] fish Goidelic; from O.Ir. íasc; cf. Ir. iasc, Sc.G. iasg
ennym [ˈenəm] name Goidelic; from O.Ir. ainmm; cf. Ir., Sc.G. ainm
faarkey [ˈføːɹkə] sea Goidelic; from O.Ir. fairrge; cf. Ir. farraige, Sc.G. fairge
faiyr [feːə] grass Goidelic; from O.Ir. fér; cf. Ir. féar, Sc.G. feur,fiar
famman [ˈfaman] tail Goidelic; from O.Ir. femm; cf. Ir. feam, Sc.G. feaman
fedjag [ˈfaiaɡ] feather Goidelic; from O.Ir. eteóc; cf. Ir. eiteog "wing", Sc.G. iteag
feeackle [ˈfiːɣəl] tooth Goidelic; from O.Ir. fíacail; cf. Ir., Sc.G. fiacail
feill [feːlʲ] meat Goidelic; from O.Ir. dative feóil; cf. Ir. feoil, Sc.G. feòil
fer [fer] man Goidelic; from O.Ir. fer; cf. Ir., Sc.G. fear
fliaghey [flʲaːɣə] rain Goidelic; from O.Ir. flechud; cf. Ir. fleachadh "rainwater; a drenching", related to fliuch "wet"
folt [folt̪] hair Goidelic; from O.Ir. folt, Ir.folt, Sc.G. falt
fraue [freːw] root Goidelic; from O.Ir. frém; cf. Ir. fréamh, préamh, Sc.G. freumh
fuill [folʲ] blood Goidelic; from O.Ir. fuil, Ir.,Sc.G. fuil
geay [ɡiː] wind Goidelic; from O.Ir. dative gáith; cf. Ir., Sc.G. gaoth, dative gaoith
geinnagh [ˈɡʲanʲax] sand Goidelic; from O.Ir. gainmech; cf. Sc.G. gainmheach, Ir. gaineamh
glioon [ɡlʲuːnʲ] knee Goidelic; from O.Ir. dative glúin; cf. Ir. glúin, Sc.G. glùn, dative glùin
grian [ɡriːn], [ɡriᵈn] sun Goidelic; from O.Ir. grían; cf. Ir., Sc.G. grian
jaagh [ˈdʒeːax] smoke Goidelic, from M.Ir. deathach < O.Ir. ; cf. Sc.G. deathach
joan [dʒaun] dust Goidelic; from O.Ir. dend; cf. Ir. deannach
kay [kʲeː] fog Goidelic; from O.Ir. ceó; cf. Ir. ceo, Sc.G. ceò
keayn [kiᵈn] sea Goidelic; from O.Ir. cúan; cf. Ir. cuan "harbor", Sc.G. cuan "ocean"
keeagh [kiːx] breast Goidelic; from O.Ir. cíoch; cf. Ir. cíoch, Sc.G. cìoch
keyll [kiːlʲ], [kelʲ] forest Goidelic; from O.Ir. caill; cf. Ir. coill, Sc.G. coille
kione [kʲaun], [kʲoːn] head Goidelic; from O.Ir. cend, dative ciond; cf. Ir., Sc.G. ceann, dative cionn
laa [leː] day Goidelic; from O.Ir. láa; cf. Sc.G. latha,
laue [leːw] hand Goidelic; from O.Ir. lám; cf. Ir. lámh, Sc.G. làmh
leoie [løi] ashes Goidelic; from O.Ir. dative lúaith; cf. Ir. luaith, Sc.G. luath
logh [laːx] lake Goidelic; from O.Ir. loch
lurgey [løɹɡə] leg Goidelic; from O.Ir. lurga "shin bone"; cf. Ir. lorga
maidjey [ˈmaːʒə] stick Goidelic; from O.Ir. maide, Ir.,Sc.G. maide
meeyl [miːl] louse Goidelic; from O.Ir. míol; cf. Ir. míol, Sc.G. mial
mess [meːs] fruit Goidelic; from O.Ir. mes; cf. Ir., Sc.G. meas
moddey [ˈmaːðə] dog Goidelic; from O.Ir. matrad; cf. Ir. madra, N.Ir. mada,madadh [madu], Sc.G. madadh
moir [maːɹ] mother Goidelic; from O.Ir. máthir; cf. Ir. máthair, Sc.G. màthair
mwannal [ˈmonal] neck Goidelic; from O.Ir. muinél; cf. Ir. muineál, muinéal, Sc.G. muineal
oie [ei], [iː] night Goidelic; from O.Ir. adaig (accusative aidchi); cf. Ir. oíche, Sc.G. oidhche
ooh [au], [uː] egg Goidelic; from O.Ir. og; cf. Ir. ubh, Sc.G. ugh
paitçhey [ˈpetʃə] child French; from E.M.Ir. páitse "page, attendant" < O.Fr. page; cf. Ir. páiste, Sc.G. pàiste
raad [reːd̪], [raːd̪] road English; from Cl.Ir. rót,róat < M.E. road; cf. Ir. ród, Sc.G. rathad
rass [raːs] seed Goidelic; from O.Ir. ros
rollage [roˈleːɡ] star Goidelic; from M.Ir. rétlu < O.Ir. rétglu + feminine diminutive suffix -óg; cf. Ir. réaltóg, Sc.G. reultag
roost [ruːs] bark Brythonic; from O.Ir. rúsc < Brythonic (cf. Welsh rhisg(l)); cf. Ir. rúsc, Sc.G. rùsg
skian [ˈskiːən] wing Goidelic; from O.Ir. scíathán; cf. Ir. sciathán, Sc.G. sgiathan
slieau [slʲuː], [ʃlʲuː] mountain Goidelic, from O.Ir. slíab; cf. Ir., Sc.G. sliabh
sniaghtey [ˈʃnʲaxt̪ə] snow Goidelic; from O.Ir. snechta; cf. Ir. sneachta, Sc.G. sneachd
sollan [ˈsolan] salt Goidelic; from O.Ir.,Ir.,Sc.G. salann
sooill [suːlʲ] eye Goidelic; from O.Ir. dative súil; cf. Ir. súil, Sc.G. sùil
stroin [st̪ruᵈnʲ], [st̪raiᵈnʲ] nose Goidelic; from O.Ir. dative sróin; cf. Ir. srón, dialect sróin, dative sróin, Sc.G. sròn, dative sròin
tedd [t̪ed̪] rope Goidelic; from O.Ir. tét; cf. Ir. téad, Sc.G. teud,tiad
thalloo [ˈtalu] earth Goidelic; from O.Ir. talam; cf. Ir., Sc.G. talamh
ushag [ˈoʒaɡ] bird Goidelic; from O.Ir. uiseóg "lark"; cf. Ir. fuiseog, Sc.G. uiseag
ushtey [ˈuʃtʲə] water Goidelic; from O.Ir. uisce; cf. Ir. uisce, Sc.G. uisge
yngyn [ˈiŋən] fingernail Goidelic; from O.Ir. ingen; cf. Ir., Sc.G. ionga, dative iongain, plural Ir. iongna, Sc.G. iongnan, etc.

See Celtic Swadesh lists for the complete list in all the Celtic languages.


Loaghtan, a Manx breed of primitive sheep. The name means "mousy grey" in Manx

Foreign loan words are primarily Norse and English with a smaller number coming from French. Examples of Norse loanwords include ellan (island) from eyland, sker meaning a sea rock; examples of French loanwords include shamyr (room) from chambre, cognate with the English chamber.

English loanwords were common in late (pre-revival) Manx, e.g. boy (boy), badjer (badger), rather than the more usual Gaelic gille/giolla and broc. Henry Jenner on asking someone what he was doing was told "Ta mee smokal pipe" (I am smoking a pipe), and that "and he certainly considered that he was talking Manx, and not English, in saying it." In more recent years, there has been a reaction against such borrowing, resulting in coinages for technical vocabulary.

Some religious terms originating in Latin, Greek and Hebrew e.g. casherick (holy), from the Latin consecrātus; mooinjer (people) from the Latin monasterium (originally a monastery; agglish (church) from the Greek ἐκκλησία (ekklesia, literally meaning assembly) and abb (abbot) from the Hebrew "אבא" (abba, meaning "father"). Many English loanwords also have a classical origin, e.g. çhellveeish and çhellvane meaning television and telephone respectively.

To make up for deficiencies in recorded Manx vocabulary, revivalists have also gone to Irish and Scottish Gaelic for words and inspiration.

Going in the other direction, Manx Gaelic has influenced Manx English (Anglo-Manx). Common words and phrases in Anglo-Manx originating in the language include: "tholtan" (the "th" is pronounced as "t") meaning a ruined farmhouse, qualtagh meaning a first-foot, keeil meaning a church (especially an old one), cammag, traa-dy-liooar meaning "time enough", and tynwald (tinvaal), which is ultimately of Norse origin, but comes via Manx. It is also suggested that the "House of Keys" takes its name from Kiare as Feed (four and twenty), which is the number of its sitting members.

Official recognition

Parliament and politics

Although Manx is commonly used for written slogans by local businesses, and appears on departmental letterheads and promotional materials within the Isle of Man Government, it is not used as a spoken language within the business community, or spoken within the Government.[citation needed]

Manx is used in the annual Tynwald ceremony, with new laws being read out by Yn Lhaihder ('the Reader') in both Manx and English.

Manx is recognised under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. It is also one of the regional languages recognised in the framework of the British-Irish Council.

Political parties have not generally been prominent in Manx politics, but notably two of them, Mec Vannin and Liberal Vannin bear Manx names, although the former no longer stands in elections.


Manx is taught as a second language at all of the island's primary and secondary schools and also at the Isle of Man College and Centre for Manx Studies. Manx is used as the sole medium for teaching at five of the Island's preschools by a company named Mooinjer Veggey,[61] which also operates the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh.

The first native speakers of Manx (bilingual with English) in many years have now appeared: children brought up by Manx-speaking parents. Primary immersion education in Manx is provided by the Manx government: since 2003, the former St John's School building has been used by the sole Manx primary school, the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh (Manx language-medium primary school). Degrees in Manx are available from the Isle of Man College and the Centre for Manx Studies, while the University of Edinburgh offers an Honours course on the Culture, History, and Language of the Isle of Man.


Occasional broadcasts in Manx are made on local stations such as Manx Radio (Radio Vannin), including the news.[62] There are, however, no television broadcasts.

Manx newspapers also carry a few short pieces in the language.

The first film to be made in Manx – the 22-minute long Ny Kiree fo Niaghtey (The Sheep Under the Snow) – premiered in 1983 and was entered for the 5th Celtic Film and Television Festival in Cardiff in 1984. It was directed by Shorys Y Creayrie (George Broderick) for Foillan Films of Laxey, and is about the background to an early 18th century folk song.


Use of Manx on the national museum; note the smaller font size of the Manx.

Bilingual road and street signs, and village and town boundary signs, are gradually being introduced throughout the Isle of Man as signage is replaced (unless a village has only a Manx name). All other roadsigns are in English only.

Business signage in Manx is gradually being introduced, but is not mandated by law.


Although church services in Manx were once fairly common, they occur infrequently now.

In the time of Bishop Wilson it had been a constant source of complaint among the Manx clergy that they were the only church in Christendom that had no version of the Bible in the vulgar tongue. Wilson set to work to remedy the defect, and, with the assistance of some of his clergy, managed to get some of the Bible translated, and the Gospel of St. Matthew printed. Bishop Hildesley, his successor, with the help of the whole body of Manx clergy, completed the work, and in 1775 the whole Bible was printed.[63]

The Manx Bible was reprinted in the 1970s, in a "family" edition. Jenner claims that some of bowdlerisation had occurred in the translation, e.g. Rahab, the prostitute is translated as hen-oast (a hostess or female inn-keeper).[63]

Manx was used in some churches into the late 19th century.[63]

See also


  1. ^ Anyone here speak Jersey?
  2. ^ Fockle ny ghaa: schoolchildren take charge
  3. ^ Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: glv
  4. ^ a b Manx Gaelic revival 'impressive'. Retrieved 2008-11-30.
  5. ^ Jackson 1955, 49
  6. ^
  7. ^ Bunscoill Ghaelgagh. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  8. ^ Broderick 1993, 228
  9. ^ Cumming 1848:315–316 Appendix M
  10. ^ Gunther 1990, 59–60
  11. ^ Broderick 1984–86, 1:xxvii–xxviii, 160
  12. ^ Jackson 1955, 66. Jackson claims that northern Irish has also lost the contrast between velarised and palatalised labials, but this seems to be a mistake on his part, as both Mayo Irish and Ulster Irish are consistently described as having the contrast (cf. Mhac an Fhailigh 1968, 27; Hughes 1994, 621; see also Ó Baoill 1978, 87)
  13. ^ O'Rahilly 1932, 77–82; Broderick 1984–86, 2:152
  14. ^ O'Rahilly 1932, 22
  15. ^ O'Rahilly 1932, 203
  16. ^ O'Rahilly 1932, 57
  17. ^ O'Rahilly 1932, 110; Jackson 1955, 55
  18. ^ O'Rahilly 1932, 24; Broderick 1984–86 3:80–83; Ó Sé 2000:15, 120
  19. ^ Jackson 1955, 47–50; Ó Cuív 1944, 38, 91
  20. ^ O'Rahilly 1932, 51; Jackson 1955, 57–58; Holmer 1957, 87, 88, 106; 1962, 41
  21. ^ O'Rahilly 1932, 68; Broderick 1984–86, 2:56, 308
  22. ^ O'Rahilly 1932, 75
  23. ^ Broderick 1984–8,6 1:160
  24. ^ Broderick 1984–86, 1:161
  25. ^ Broderick 1984–86, 1:161–62
  26. ^ Broderick 1984–86, 1:162–63
  27. ^ Broderick 1984–86, 1:164–65
  28. ^ Kelly 1870:xiii footnote in Spoken Sound as a Rule for Orthography, credited to W. Mackenzie.
  29. ^ O'Rahilly 1932, 128
  30. ^ MANX GAELIC ( Gaelig, Gaelg ) ec Va'n teks ayn feddynit magh ass "ORATIO DOMINICA – Polyglottos, Polymorphos – Nimirum, Plus Centum Linguis, Versionibus, aut Characteribus Reddita & Expressa", Daniel Brown, Lunnin, 1713.
  31. ^ Ta'n lhieggan shoh jeh'n Phadjer aascreeuit 'sy chlou Romanagh veih'n çhenn chlou Yernagh. Son d'akin er y lhieggan shen jeh'n phadjer gow dys y duillag shoh ec
  32. ^
  33. ^ a b "The History of Sodor and its Railways". The Real Lives of Thomas the Tank Engine. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  34. ^ a b The Rev. W. Awdry; G Awdry (1987). The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways. Kaye & Ward. p. 5. ISBN 0 434 92762 7. 
  35. ^ The Rev. W. Awdry; G Awdry (1987). The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways. Kaye & Ward. p. 12. ISBN 0 434 92762 7. 
  36. ^ Sibley, Brian (1995). The Thomas the Tank Engine Man. Heinemann. pp. 159. ISBN 0 434 96909 5. 
  37. ^ Thomson 1992, 128–29; Broderick 1993, 234
  38. ^ Broderick 1984–86, 3:3–13; Thomson 1992, 129
  39. ^ Broderick 1984–86, 3:28–34; 1993, 236
  40. ^ Broderick 1984–86; 3:17–18
  41. ^ Jackson 1955, 118; Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language, 1998, Isle of Man, retrieved 2008-09-28
  42. ^ Broderick 1993, 230–33
  43. ^ Broderick 1993, 232–33
  44. ^ Broderick 1993, 236
  45. ^ Thomson 1992, 118–19; Broderick 1993, 239–40
  46. ^ Broderick 1984–86, 75–82; 1993, 250, 271; Thomson 1992, 122
  47. ^ a b The particle er is identical in form to the preposition er "on"; however, it is etymologically distinct, coming from Old Irish íar "after" (Williams 1994, 725).
  48. ^ Broderick 1984–86, 1:92; 1992, 250; Thomson 1992, 122
  49. ^ a b Broderick 1984–86, vol. 2
  50. ^ Broderick 1984–86, 1:7–21; 1993, 236–39; Thomson 1992, 132–35
  51. ^ Broderick 1993, 276
  52. ^ Broderick 1984–86, 1:181
  53. ^ Broderick 1984–86, 1:179
  54. ^ Broderick 1993, 274
  55. ^ a b c d Thomson 1992, 105
  56. ^ Broderick 1993, 276–77
  57. ^ Broderick 1993, 277
  58. ^ Broderick 1993, 278
  59. ^ Broderick 1993, 282–83
  60. ^ Macbain 1911; Dictionary of the Irish Language; Broderick 1984–86, vol. 2
  61. ^ Mooinjer Veggey – Official site
  62. ^
  63. ^ a b c


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