Scrabble as Gaeilge available for junior wordplay devotees


NORTH AMERICAN television network NBC once said that “every man dies, not every man truly Scrabbles” – and that might be true in the Connemara Gaeltacht. But now one of the world’s most successful board games is available as Gaeilge for the first time.

The first Junior Scrabble in Irish was unveiled at the annual Tóstal na Gaeilge conference in Galway at the weekend. The developers aim to bring out the classic version for adults in the language later this year.

“Coinín” (rabbit), “cupán” (cup) and “sioraf” (giraffe) are some of the words found in “Junior Scrabble – Puzal Ollmhór Urláir do Leanaí” , which is designed as a half-metre square floor puzzle for young players.

Its architect, Eoghan MacCormaic, who is development worker with Glór na nGael, says that it is “both a jigsaw puzzle and a spelling game”, aimed at four- to eight-years-olds.

He agrees that adults working with children on Irish homework might also find it useful, though its vocabulary is unlikely to lead to the sort of heated arguments that “mo rothar” or “mo bhicycle” can engender among purists in Irish.

It is fully licensed by the game’s manufacturers, Mr MacCormaic says, and the 40 words selected for it had to be approved by the official manufacturers.

It was developed as a joint venture between Glór na nGael, the network of Irish language committees, and An Comhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelaíochtas (COGG), the organisation committed to teaching of Irish in primary and post-primary schools. Scrabble was invented in 1938 by architect Alfred Mosher Butts, who drew on the New York Times among other sources for a frequency analysis of letters used in his game, originally called Lexiko. He never reaped the fruits of his invention, however. The rights were bought in 1948 by James Bruton of Connecticut, It was only in 1952, when Macy’s retail store president Jack Strauss played the game on holiday, that it got its “break”. He ordered it in, after he discovered his store didn’t stock the game.

Junior Scrabble – Puzal Ollmhór Urláir do Leanaí will be available in toyshops in three months’ time, but is being sold online in advance of the annual Seachtain na Gaeilge at €20, postage free, at

Ó Aidhm go Feidhm – from goal to implementation – was the theme of this year’s Tóstal na Gaeilge, hosted by Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge.

The conference focused on the next 20 years, in light of the Government’s recently published 20-year strategy for the language.