Irish/Scottish Gaelic: Mac


Senior Member
French - France

When I use Gaelic names like Mac Carthaigh, Mac Dhòmhnaill, etc. I pronounce them [mak]. But I once heard [max] :confused:. What's more, I saw that the article mac on Wiktionary uses other pronunciations:
Irish Gaelic: [mˠɑk], [mˠaːk], [mˠak]
Scottish Gaelic: [maʰk], [maxk]
So I wonder if my pronunciation is good or if I'm mistaken, and if the same pronunciation rules apply for the prefixes Mhic and Nic.

Thanks in advance.
  • To which language does your question refer? The [mak] pronunciation is usual in English (or French) - you wouldn't adopt an Irish or Gaelic pronunciation when speaking English.
    Well, I was thinking about the English pronunciation. It's a little like the word loch. In French we say [lɔk], but the English pronunciation is [lɒx]. I thought maybe it was the same with Mac, Mhic and Nic.
    [x] is a marginal phoneme in English. Even in loch, the majority of English speakers will say [lɒk], though in Scotland, it is of course pronounced with a [x] sound.

    Mac, Mhic and Nic are all anglicized to M(a)c - so in English texts you will say [mak]. In Gaelic text, the original pronunciation should of course be adhered to.
    Here in Scotland, most people with a name beginning 'Mac' don't speak a word of Gaelic, and don't know how to pronounce the simplest of Gaelic words, apart from 'loch'. So I suspect you would greatly confuse them by being faithful to the Gaelic pronounciation.

    There's a comedian named Craig Campbell, from Canada, whose most famous joke is that his parents gave him a Gaelic name, pronounced 'Crek', but when he comes to Scotland people will correct him on the pronounciation of his own name, calling him /kreig/ because they've never heard the original Gaelic pronounciation of the common Scottish name 'Craig' before.
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