Irish kinship

Irish kinship is a system of kinship terminology (descended from the original Celtic practices) which shows a bifurcate collateral pattern. This system is used by a minority of people living in the Gaeltacht regions of Ireland. Irish kinship terminology varies from English kinship as it focuses on gender and generation,[1] with less emphasis on differentiating lineal vs. collateral.[2]


Irish kinship is limited to a small number of words of Gaelic origin used in identifying relatives.

Máthair - Mother
Athair - Father
Mac - Son
Iníon - Daughter
Deartháir - Brother
Deirfiúr - Sister
Aintin - Aunt
Uncail - Uncle
Nia - Nephew
Neacht - Niece
Seanmháthair - Grandmother
Seanathair - Grandfather
Garmhac - Grandson
Gariníon - Granddaughter
Col Gaolta - Cousin[3]

Use of terminology

A majority of the terms used in the kinship system are similar to the English kinship system, but the terms for aunty, uncle, nephew, niece and cousin have a far vaguer and different use. These terms, however varying in degree of use as this system is confined to the Gaeltacht regions, and hence are not widely used among other members of Irish society.[4]

Aintin and Uncail, Nia and Neacht

Aintin is the word for aunt and Uncail for uncle but in the Irish kinship system aunt and uncle have a wider definition; in common kinship an aunt or uncle is the sister or brother of either the mother or the father. However, in Irish kinship, Aintin and Uncail are used for not only the siblings of the parents, but as well for any relative whose age is of a great distance from the child. This effectively makes cousins of the parents, aunts and uncles, while those who are aged or in their senior years are termed Seanaintin and Seanuncail (great aunt and great uncle). Using this system makes distant cousins the nephews and nieces of the distant relatives, using the terms Nia and Neacht[5]

Col Gaolta

Col Gaolta is a word for cousin; in the Irish kinship system, this word is used for all relatives in one's generation or those near your age (Exc, brother and sister). The word actually means related by blood.[6]

Mo Mhuintir

Mo Mhuintir, being Irish for My People, is a vague term used for relatives people believe they are related to, but do not have enough information to determine how.[2]


  1. Kelly, Fergus (1988). A guide to early Irish lawVolume 3 of Early Irish law series (Reprint, Digitized. ed.). the University of Michigan: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. ISBN 0-901282-95-2. Retrieved Oct 24, 2008.
  2. 1 2 "Countries and Their CulturesGaels (Irish) Kinship". Retrieved April 7, 2012.
  3. "Irish Lessons". Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  4. "Gaeltacht Mary proud to represent her heritage". Donegal Democrat. July 2, 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  5. Chadwick, Nora (1998). The Celts (Second ed.). Penguin History (Non-Classics). ISBN 0-14-025074-3.
  6. Green, Miranda J. (1996). The Celtic World "Politics and Status Timothy Champion". Psychology Press. pp. 8594. ISBN 0-415-14627-5. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
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