'Glas' vs 'uaine' vs...'glas' - 50 Shades of Green/Grey


It was at this point in the colour project I realized colours were not going to be so simple in Irish, with variations for red, green, grey and plenty of nuance with with yellow, white, orange and silver. While its a bit more confusing than I had expected, it's exactly what I was looking for, a deeper insight into a beautiful language!

'Glas' vs 'uaine'

I found two words for green in Irish. I must admit I was less familiar with 'uaine', only remembering 'glas' from my school days. A very (I do mean very) simplistic way to look at it is 'glas' is for natural greens and 'uaine' is for artificial greens. The grass is 'féar glas' and the green in the Irish flag is 'uaine'. In reality I think its more of a learned difference as 'uaine' is not a newly created word to describe artificial greens, its been in the Irish language describing fields, eyes and clothes for ages. I found a brilliant blog post breaking down the differences in colour shades for green on Nótaí Imil here which I found via the talkirish.com forum.

'Mo cat glas' – My green cat :)

Growing up I had a cat Tico that I would tell people was a green cat, to which they would laugh and say 'Catherine, cat's aren’t green' ...but mine was. She was a grey tabby cat but to me I always described her as green and now I know she was just 'glas'. In Irish 'glas' is used to cover a variety of greys also, see the talkirish.com forum again.

'Cloch glas' grey stone, 'spéir ghlas' grey sky and 'éadach glas' grey clothes. I think that these natural greys often come with a hint of green in them so the word crossover makes complete sense to me.

I've experienced colour word crossover in Japanese too. The green light at a intersections is called 'ao' /青 which means blue and the prefecture Aomori, which is one of the greenest places I've every been to literally means blue mountains. And you can see from the Nótaí Imil that 'glas' and 'gorm' blue also have some crossover in Irish.

I get why English sticks to primary colours to describe different hues and there are specific words to differentiate many hues, but I feel the rigid primaries can result in people who think cats can't be green!

Catherine Geaney