Bare is a shoulder without a brother

Latest post Tue, Apr 25 2017 20:08 by ksuemiller. 3 replies.
  • Tue, Apr 11 2017 14:37

    • ksuemiller
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    Bare is a shoulder without a brother

    I'm trying to find out more about this phrase.  I understand it to be Irish, or Celtic, ot Gaelic (forgive me for not knowing how or if those terms are interchangeable).  My family has Irish roots and my brother recently passed away.  I think this phrase or saying it a perfect tribute or description of how I feel now.  Any history would be appreciated, as well as knowledge on how to write AND pronounce it properly.

    Many thanks in advance!

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  • Wed, Apr 12 2017 8:09 In reply to

    • Ryboss47
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    Re: Bare is a shoulder without a brother

    I can't offer a translation but I can absolutely clear things up a little.  I believe one of the most misunderstood topics is the title of the language itself.  It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine especially when people refer to it as Celtic.  That's correct in a sense.  It is A Celtic language.  Basically it's broken down like this--think of it as a branching chart, or whatever term you'd like to call it.  Celtic would be at the top which branches off into two groups...Goidelic (or Gaelic) and Brittonic languages.  And then the Gaelic languages break down into three languages itself:  Irish Gaelic or simply just Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx.  I've commonly heard that using the term "Gaelic" when speaking in English, one would be actually referring to Scottish Gaelic.  I even find that the name in Scottish for Scottish is closer to "Gaelic" than the Irish term for "Irish".  But I've heard many argue on both sides as to which language is actually being referred to when using the term "Gaelic".  Many of us find it easiest and fair among languages to simply call it Irish.  Just as you would Spanish for Spain, Japanese for Japan, Polish for Poland, Norwegian for Norway, Russian for Russia, etc.

    In Scottish...Gàidhlig

    In Irish...Gaeilge


    Just my two cents.


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  • Tue, Apr 25 2017 12:23 In reply to

    • otuathail
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    Re: Bare is a shoulder without a brother

    Ní maith liom do thrioblóid. I'm sorry for your loss.

    The phrase bare is a shoulder without a brother comes from a popular seanfhocal (an old Irish proverb).

    Is maol gualainn gan bhráthair

    You can hear the pronounciation here...

    The literal translation would be a shoulder is bare without a brother.

    The word maol can mean bare or bald, but also unprotected.

    The word gualainn means shoulder.

    In modern Irish, the word bráthair for brother, usually refers to a comrade, fellow-man, kinsman type of relationship, rather than brother as a sibling, which would be deartháir in modern Irish. The word deartháir comes from dearbh-bhráthair, meaning real-, true- or blood- brother, to differeniate a sibling brother from your kinsmen, who you would have also called your brothers in ancient Ireland. Bráthair can also be used to refer a brother in a religous order.

    In any case, in the context of a seanfhocal the use of bráthair in reference to a sibling is fine. But if you wanted to be specific that you mean sibling, you could change bráthair to deartháir, but that would be changing the original seanfhocal which I personally wouldn't do.

    So the gist of the proverb is it's not good to stand alone, or a shoulder without a friend is undefended, it’s hard to stand alone against the worldwoe to him who is without a friend, etc.

    Hope this helps.


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  • Tue, Apr 25 2017 20:08 In reply to

    • ksuemiller
    • Top 500 Contributor
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    Re: Bare is a shoulder without a brother

    This is EXACTLY what I needed - thank you so much!

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