Cite this: eDIL s.v. M or dil.ie/31158

Forms: m, sm, -mm, mb, m, mb

the tenth letter of the Irish alphabet, was in the Ogham alphabet called by the name muin ` vine ' and was the first letter of the third aicme or letter-group, Auraic. 993 , 1186 .

1 in early Irish orthography the letter m represents two sounds:

i In the following cases it was a voiced nasal labial:

(a) initial, folld. by a vowel, l or r;

(b) in the initial combination sm;

(c) before b and p;

(d) medial and final after a vowel where it represents early -mm (< mb, mp, sm, dm): in these cases it was by O.Ir. scribes generally doubled in order to distinguish it from lenited m, a practice which continued to be common during the entire Mid.Ir. period. E.g. am(m) < Indog. *esmi, cf. Lat. sum; cam(m) < *camb; ammus <ad-mess.

(e) after l, n, and r, where no intermediate vowel has fallen out, e.g. calma, ainm, cuirm.

(f) in eclipsis of b, b > m (written mb). In dán díreach unlenited m was classed for purposes of rhyme with ll, nn, ng, and rr, see Meyer, Meyer Prim., p. 7 .

ii In other cases medial or final m represents lenited m (voiced spirant); in late Mid. and Mod.Ir. denoted by mh or .

E.g. sam (cf. Mod.Ir. samhradh, W. haf), clam (W. claf), dam `ox' (W. dafad `sheep'), amles (W. afles), damnae (W. defnydd).

In dán díreach lenited m was classed for rhyming purposes with bh, dh, gh, l, n, r, see Meyer, loc. cit.

2 in Lat. loan-words initial m remains: midach (<medicus); mocol (<macula). In early loan-words medial m between vowels is lenited: sciam (<schēma); domnach (<dominic-); sechtmain (<septimana); but mm in damnaim (<damn-are), arm (<arm-a), comman (<commun-ire), etc.

Occas. Irish lenited m represents Lat. medial b: promaim (mod. fromhaim) <probare; conversely mebair (mebuir, memair) <memoria.

3 the initial combinations ml, mr which occur in Old and early Mid.Ir. give way in the Mid.Ir. period to bl, br; mlith (<mel- `grind'), mrath (cf. mairnid) > blith, brath. See words given under ml, mr.

4 O.Ir. medial and final mb>mm in the Mid.Ir. period. E.g. gsm. caimb, AU 657 (camm `crooked'). cumbae, AU 829 (vn. of com-ben-), later cumma. imbairecc, AU 700 , immbairecc, 709 (<imb-air-icc-), beside immarecc, 696 . O.Ir. imbi (imb + 3 s. m. pron.), AU 903 , LU 8074 , 8098 , etc., later immi, imme.

This change had already begun in O.Ir., esp. in forms of the copula: ar mad (= armbad), Wb. 26b31 , commad (= combad), 17a23 (past subj.), and in the prep. imb folld. by another proclitic word; see Pedersen Vgl. Gr. i 118.

5 medial lenited m and b are occasionally interchanged by scribes; see for exx. mebair and mimasc given below; Muir Robur (<mare rubrum), beside Muir Romair; cumrech (<com-rig-), beside cuibrech; rot-marmais, SR 1680 (= rot-marbais), beside robarbthar (= ro marbthar), LU 7121 ( BDD 80 ).