the third consonant of the Ogham alphabet, called in
Irish after the
, fern (
Introd. § 4
), represents a bilabial voiceless spirant. O. Ir.
initial f in most cases comes from IE ṷ, e.g. fer, corresponding to Lat. vir, W. gwr; fír: Lat. uērus, W. gwir. Both
initially and in the interior of words it may also denote
lenited s < sṷ, e.g. (mo) fiur (siur < *sṷesōr, W. chwaer);
(mór) fesser (sesser; cf. W. chwech); airfitiud, < *air-sétiud (√ sṷeizd); toffunn, vn. of do-seinn. In the later
language this f lenites to -h-. Occasionally f seems written
for -βf, e.g. atrefea, fut. of ad-treba,
. In loan words f may replace Lat. u, e.g. fín
< uinum, fís < visio; Lat. ph, e.g. felsub. fellsam < philosoph-;
Lat. f, e.g. figor < figura. In fromad beside promad (Lat.
prob-) there is an alternation of f/p also found in a few
other words, native as well as borrowed, e.g. fairche /pairche
(< parūchia), fairisínech, pairisínech, frém /
(O. Ir. frén).
In late Romance loanwords f may replace p. eg. falafraigh < palefrei. In Mid. Ir. rotfia = rotbia (e.g.
Lism. L. 350
, etc.) f may represent the sound of β
unvoiced by preceding, t, but cf.
Lism. L. 775
Inorganic f is frequently inserted
(a) in O. Ir. deuterotonic forms of compound verbs before the initial vowel
of a stressed syllable, e.g. do-fuarat `remains over' (*di-uss-reth), do-fuissim `generates' (*to-uss-sem).
Mid. Ir. it also appears in forms such as do-fongad (see
tongaid), do-fuit = do-tuit, do-fargaid (targaid `offered')
do-fucc = doficc, and cf. dafiṅggebad `who would ward him
. And occasionally in a hiatus form of
a simple verb: bífad, sec. fut. of benaid
. Cf. Fer fī = Fer hí, s.v. 3 eó.
(c) In a number of
words which in O. Ir. began with a vowel f is prefixed in
the later language. In the classical period both forms are
in use in the literature, but it is in most cases the f- form
that has survived in Mod. Ir.: fadaig- kindle (O. Ir. ad-doí); faicsin seeing (O. Ir. aicsiu); faidlenn rack (earlier
aidlenn); faire watch, heed (O. Ir. aire); faisnéis relating (O.
Ir. aisndís); fanaid waits (O. Ir. anaid); farrad in phr. i
¤ (O. Ir. arrad); fás growing (O. Ir. ás); faslach (aslach);
fastad, -ód, -úd (O. Ir. astud); fathach giant (athach, O. Ir.
aithech peasant); fatód kindling (O. Ir. atúd); féta- is
able (O. Ir. -éta possesses); fiafraig- inquire (O. Ir. -iarfaig);
focus near, neighbourhood (O. Ir. ocus); fúacht cold (O. Ir.
úacht); fúaigid (cf. úaigid); fúar cold (O. Ir. úar); fúath
horror (O. Ir. úath); fuinnsenn gs., ashtree, (see uinnius);
fuiseóc lark (see uiseóg); furnaide waiting (O. Ir. irnaide,
ernaide; see airnaide).
In the case of certain words, mostly verbal forms, beginning with f followed by a vowel, a form without the initial f
is also recognized in the Early Modern period; thus we
get, e.g. fácbáil, ácbáil; faghbháil, aghbháil; fúair, úair;
furáilemh, uráilemh; falafraigh, alafruigh; feiretrom (Lat.
feretrum), eiletrum; fomhóir, omhóir, etc.
The lenition, that is, the expunction of f (see
Ériu ii 41
is sporadically expressed by ḟ from a comparatively early
period; there are instances in Sg., but the practice did not
become regular before the Early Modern period. During
this period fh is also used occasionally (
Matthew vi 38
It is regular in Stapleton (see below). In
, where ḟ represents lenited s < *su (see above) the reason
of the dot is not apparent. Cf.
The `eclipsis' or voicing of f is not marked in the Glosses
or in the earlier Mid. Ir. MSS. In later Mid. Ir. it is expressed usually by ff; in some MSS often by ḟ, e.g. i ḟasach
. In the Late Middle and
Early Modern period we find ff, ḟf, bf, bḟ, bhf. Some scribes
use all these indiscriminately in the same text. In
Stapleton's Catechismus (1639) both lenition and eclipsis
are denoted by fh.