Ask a foreigner


I’m learning Irish and I found out that there is no word for No. There is a word for negation… as in “not”. And the word for “or” is “no”… which is curious to me… because maybe… the word “no” does kind of mean “or”… instead of being a word that means “stop, or negative” it could mean “something else, not that”

I wonder if its a coincidence that “no” means “or” or if there is some connection. I guess I don’t have a question. My question could be, “Is it true there is no word for No in Gaeilge?”


Not really asking, but things I find interesting.

In Gaelge the verbs for “to come” and “to give” are so similar that I’m imagining that they have a similar root and bringing those two words together gives them a new meaning for me.

Similarly, in Español the verbs for “to marry” and “to hunt” are so similar that I’m also imagining a similar origin and that also gives new meaning to those words!


I understand and speak some Greek. There is no exact word for “relax.”
(When my son’s Grandma came from Greece for his baptism, she cooked and cleaned constantly...hence me finding out that she didn't know about relaxation)😉


careful about assuming a connection between etymologies for similar words.
Oh I hear you. And that’s generally true for English which is such a smorgasbord. But sometimes it *is* true, and that’s where the fun lies for me. And in a language like Gaelge, it’s generally a “tight” language, the loan words are more-or-less obvious. I haven’t delved into Irish etymology though, just noticing.

Something interesting to me is that often words are more connected than we realize. Vowels are super interchangeable and the consonants are in “sound families” (which intermingle).

I also nerd out on letters/sounds/meanings. Which the the Hebrew Kabal and Irish Ogham get into. I’m fascinated with what are considered the oldest sounds. In linguistics there are sound maps, which direction consonants tend to go as they get transformed through dialects.

Anyway, you are more than correct that similar words do not necessarily mean similar origin. An example I like is Greek and Latin “homo”. One means same and one means man.


Ok, so this is just a hobby for me, and I don’t have a library of sources 😅. One example is the mmmm sound. M in Hebrew is represented by the glyph “mem” meaning “water” and loosely represents spirit (this is Kabbalah stuff). In Ogham M is represented by the glyph “muinn” meaning “strongest of efforts” and loosely represents harvest or play.

Mmmmm is a sound that a baby makes when it is hungry for nursing. Babies wanting to nurse can be connected (in my mind!) to the ideas of water(drink), spirit(life), play (with mum), food(harvest), effort to live.

Before anyone comes at me and says, “Ummm, you DO know that Hebrew and Gaelge are not connected in the least, right?!” I say, yes I am aware that these languages developed far and away from each other. However, I am thinking of sounds in a proto-language type of way. So wayyyy back, like 75,000 years ago when there was a bottleneck of human population (Toba Catastrophe Theory) and art (ochre body painting thought to be in use possibly for 300,000 years) and tools were already present and sounds were being given meaning. A single sound *could not* have a single meaning today because so much has tumbled forth from those ancient utterances, but there might be a kind of family of meanings, for *some* languages. Are there isolates? Yes.

Speaking of, have you ever looked at a family trees of languages? I love those! Pretty sure they are on Wikipedia.

I don’t think that was the kind of answer you’re looking for?, but that’s how my brain thinks about it, for what it’s worth!
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No it's all good, and some good googling was just had. 👍 I've looked at language family trees on wikipedia too 😺 I have 21 languages on the go on Duolingo, (which sounds much better than it is - I'm not overly impressed with how much language it teaches but I enjoy it anyway) currently learning Ukranian, so far it's the most difficult for me to pronounce by far.

I remember hearing / reading about certain sounds being easier for babies and I think parents all around the world tend to be called by names with those consanants in?

Another 8nrelated langiage fact I liked, is that apparently people from mountainoys areas, their accent is much more up and down / sing songy. Whereas those from flat lands have flat accents. I like that the physicality of us and places affects our language 🙂


Speaking of, have you ever looked at a family trees of languages?
We studied the written versions (ancient scripts) as well as other methods (like the handles of thousands of knotted threads carried by traders from the Pacific Northwest all the way down to the southern tip of the Andes.) in school as what language(s) people are writing with is so durn useful in dating objects, as well as migration patterns / trade routes.