Gaelic Word of the Week – Flora and Fauna – Lusan agus Creutairean

Each week we publish the text of our Gaelic Word of the Week podcast here with added facts, figures and photos for Gaelic learners who want to learn a little about the language and about the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. This week our words are lusan and creutairean – flora and fauna.

The environment is one of the areas covered by the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba and as part of this, the Parliament and the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee often has to consider issues relating to the flora and fauna – lusan agus creutairean – of Scotland.

One issue which frequently occurs in non-native species of plants – lusan – and animals – beathaichean. Some of these are relatively benign but others are damaging to the environment and other species.

This week we are going to be looking at issues about translating and writing about flora and fauna – lusan is creutairean – in Gaelic – particularly about non-native ones.

 For Gaelic, like for English – Beurla, most people know the names of a range of animals – beathaichean, plants – lusan, fish – èisg, insects – meanbh-frìdean, and so on. So there is no problem with common species. Likewise, for exotic species not found in Scotland such as lions and rhinos, many have Gaelic names from legend or from being in the bible. Sròn-adharcach for example is a rhino and leomhann is a lion. Others can be easily Gaelicised like giraffe – sioraf – or zebra – seabra (though one children’s picture dictionary notably called the latter asal-stiallach – literally stripey donkey!).

Picture (c) Rhisiart Hincks, used with permission

However, problems can arise for less common species which people don’t tend to talk about much or where similar species of lusan agus creutairean – look alike and can become confused. For similar or less common species, there can be different names in different dialects too.

For example, if you are translating something relating to polecats, ferrets, stoats and weasels, you will soon see that there is a confusion between them in dictionaries.

To help with this problem, there is a NatureScot thesaurus of Gaelic nature words which gives recommended forms for various lusan and creutairean.

But what do we call the non-native species to Scotland – Alba? And do we even need Gaelic names for them?

For some non-native species, the names can simply be spelt in a Gaelic form, or left as spelt in English if this isn’t possible. However, for some others, if they are of a species from a genus which already has a Gaelic name or of they have a similar name to another species which alerady has a Gaelic name, this makes creating a Gaelic version the obvious option. For example, amongst the non-native species in Scotland – Alba  -are the the mandarin duck and the muntjac deer and the emperor dragonfly – there already being words for duck, deer and dragonfly.

For this reason, NatureScot and Bòrd na Gàidhlig have launched a project From the Bird’s Mouth, Bho Bheul an Eòin, to name these species in Gaelic.  This will involve a process of research and consultation, with advice from scientists, researchers and Gaelic writers, and will tell the story of these species of lusan is creutairean through poetry and prose, through artworks by wildlife artist Derek Robertson and a website and exhibition.

You can see a full list of the species and recommended names on the From the Bird’s Mouth website.

This week’s Gaelic Word of the Week is: Lusan and Creutairean. Let’s practice:

This week’s Gaelic Word of the Week has been written and read by Alasdair MacCaluim, Gaelic Development Officer who is slightly disappointed that the project has gone for uallabaidh for wallaby rather than following the Manx Gaelic example of Myn’changeroo – mini kangaroo!

Bho Wikepedia commons: By Noodle snacks (’s Wallaby) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Alasdair MacCaluim