Diphthongs

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Diphthongs are sequences of two vowels joined together to act as one, long vowel sequence. There are approximately 9 diphthongs in Gaelic. We can divide these into two classes: (A) those which are spelled using two vowels, and (B) those which are spelled using a combination of vowels and consonants.

Type A

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[iə] from ia
[iəR] iarr demand!
[kʲiəL] ciall sense (n.)
[Lʲiə] liath grey (adj.)
[biəɣ] biadh food
[fiəɣ] fiadh deer
[iəRɪ] iarraidh wanting


[uə] from ua
[fuər] fuar cold
[guəL] gual coal
[kLuəs] cluas ear
[sguəb] sguab brush!
[tuəɣ] tuagh axe (n.)
[duəʃ] duais prize
[buəj] buaidh impact (n.)


[ia] from eu Note: not all eu vowels are pronounced as diphthongs, e.g. Seumas where eu is pronounced as a long é [eː] sound
[biaL] beul mouth
[kʲiad] ceud hundred
[fiar] feur grass
[gʲiar] geur sharp


Note: eum is usually pronounced as é [eː]
[Lʲeːm] leum jump!
[kʲeːm] ceum step (n.)
[beːm] beum stroke

Type B

These diphthongs occur before ll, nn, m and also before the fricatives bh, mh, gh, dh in which case those fricatives are often silent.

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[ai] from ai
[kaiLʲ] caill lose!
[saiLʲ] saill salt!
[kaiNʲdʲ] cainnt speech
[ɣaiv] dhaibh to them
[taiʃə] taibhse ghost


[ei] from ei
[ʃeiNʲ] seinn sing!
[beiNʲ] beinn mountain


The first part of the diphthong does not exist in English. You can produce this sound by making an [o] and spreading your lips at the same time, as if you were grinning widely.

[ɤi] from ei, ai, oi
[mɤiLʲ] moill delay (n.)
[kɤiLʲdʲən] coilltean forests
[sɤiLʲʃɪç] soillsich enlighten!
[LɤiNʲ] loinn elegance
[brɤim] broim fart (n.)
[grʲɤim] greim grip (n.)
[sɤidʲɛr] saighdear soldier
[mɤidʲan] maighdean maiden


Like the last diphthong, but the first part of this diphthong is like the unrounded form of [u]. Again, you can produce this sound by making an [u] and spreading your lips at the same time, as if you were grinning widely. NB: Some dialects pronounce this sound like [ɤ].

[ɯi] from ui, aoi
[krɯiNʲ] cruinn round
[drɯim] druim ridge
[sɯim] suim sum (n.)
[tɯiLʲ] tuill holes
[krɯiv] craoibh tree (dative)
[Nɯiv] naoimh saints
[Lɯij] laoigh calf (genitive)
[mrɯ͂ĩ] mnaoi wife (dative)


[au] from a, ea
[kaum] cam crooked
[kauL] call loss
[bauL] ball member
[ann] ann in him
[RauN] rann verse
[bauN] bann band
[Lãũmbə] lampa lamp
[sãũrəɣ] samhradh summer
[kʲauN] ceann head
[pjauN] peann pen (n.)
[tʲauN] teann tight
[gʲauL] geall bet!
[gʲãũrəɣ] geamhradh winter


[ɔu] from o
[tɔum] tom hillock
[kɔum] com torso
[Lɔum] lom bare (adj.)
[dɔuN] donn brown
[fɔuN] fonn melody
[bɔuN] bonn base
[sɔuN] sonn hero
[tɔuL] toll hole
[pɔuL] poll mud

Summary chart

Summary chart of Scottish Gaelic diphthongs:
TYPE (A) [iə] ia
[uə] ua
[ia] eu
TYPE (B) [ai] aill, ainn, aibh
[ei] einn
[ɤi] oill, oinn, oim
[ɯi] uinn, uim, uill, aoi(bh/mh/gh)
[au] (e)am, (e)ann, (e)all, (e)amh
[ɔu] onn, om, oll



Fuaimean na Gàidhlig
Vowels - Consonants - Fricatives - Slenderisation - Pre-aspiration - Lenition - Helping vowel - Diphthongs
Hiatus - l n r - rt & rd - Vowels before rr ll nn - Unstressed vowels