Why Gaelic

Curious Facts


Gaelic is a modern, vibrant language, spoken in our communities, schools and on our TVs.

It is central to the lives of almost 60,000 people who are fluent speakers. Gaelic has provided us with a legacy of placenames, an ancient culture, folklore and literature, as well as a lively Gaelic music scene.


The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act (2005)

This act was the first piece of legislation to give formal recognition to Gaelic, aiming to secure Gaelic as an official language of Scotland, commanding equal respect with English.


There are plenty of English words loaned to the Gaelic language, but Gaelic has also been lending words back!

Maybe you'll recognise some of these other Gaelic loan words:

  • Galore from gu leòr - plenty, enough
  • Smashing from 'S math sin - great
  • Slogan from sluagh-ghairm - army-cry
  • Trousers from the old Gaelic word triubhas - tight fitting shorts

The first Gaelic speakers of Scotland

Around the year 500 AD the kingdom of Dál Riada covered the areas known today as Argyll, Bute and Lochaber in Scotland, as well as County Antrim in Ireland. Dál Riada had the first significant concentration of Gaelic speakers in Scotland.


The Fèis movement

Fèis (plural Fèisean) is the Gaelic word for a festival or feast. However, over the past few years the word has become synonymous with the Fèis movement, a group of Gaelic arts tuition festivals, mainly for young people, which now take place throughout Scotland. Fèis Bharraigh, the first Fèis, took place in Barra in 1981. There are now over 35 Fèisean, each one community-led and tailored to local needs.


Gaelic music hits the charts

Scottish folk band Capercaillie hit the UK charts in May of ‘92 with ‘Coisich a Rùin’, the first Gaelic 'Top 40' single. It reached no.39.


Gaelic gets its own TV channel

BBC Alba is Scotland's Gaelic language digital television channel, which is broadcast by the BBC throughout the United Kingdom. The channel was launched on Friday 19 September 2008. It's the first multi-genre channel to come entirely from Scotland, with almost all of its programmes made in Scotland. It became available on Freeview in 2011.