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Gaelic script
Script type
Time period
1571 –
LanguagesIrish, Scottish Gaelic
Related scripts
Parent systems
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Latg (216), ​Latin (Gaelic variant)
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

Gaelic type (sometimes called Irish character, Irish type, or Gaelic script) is a family of Insular script typefaces devised for printing Classical Gaelic. It was widely used from the 16th century until the mid-18th century in Scotland and the mid-20th century in Ireland, but is now rarely used. Sometimes, all Gaelic typefaces are called Celtic or uncial although most Gaelic types are not uncials. The "Anglo-Saxon" types of the 17th century are included in this category because both the Anglo-Saxon types and the Gaelic/Irish types derive from the insular manuscript hand.

The terms Gaelic type, Gaelic script and Irish character translate the Irish phrase cló Gaelach (pronounced [ˌkl̪ˠoː ˈɡeːl̪ˠəx]). In Ireland, the term cló Gaelach is used in opposition to the term cló Rómhánach, Roman type.

The Scottish Gaelic term is corra-litir (pronounced [ˌkʰɔrˠə ˈliʰtʲɪɾʲ]). Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair (c. 1698–1770) was one of the last Scottish writers with the ability to write in this script,[1] but his main work, Ais-Eiridh na Sean Chánoin Albannaich, was published in the Roman script.


Overview of some Gaelic typefaces

Besides the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, Gaelic typefaces must include all vowels with acute accents ⟨Áá Éé Íí Óó Úú⟩ as well as a set of consonants with dot above ⟨Ḃḃ Ċċ Ḋḋ Ḟḟ Ġġ Ṁṁ Ṗṗ Ṡṡ Ṫṫ⟩, and the Tironian sign et ⟨⁊⟩, used for agus 'and' in Irish.

Gaelic typefaces also often include insular forms: ⟨ꞃ ꞅ⟩ of the letters ⟨r⟩ and ⟨s⟩, and some of the typefaces contain a number of ligatures used in earlier Gaelic typography and deriving from the manuscript tradition. Lower-case ⟨i⟩ is drawn without a dot (though it is not the Turkish dotless ⟨ı⟩), and the letters ⟨d f g t⟩ have insular shapes ⟨ꝺ ꝼ ᵹ ꞇ⟩.

Many modern Gaelic typefaces include Gaelic letterforms for the letters ⟨j k q v w x y z⟩, and typically provide support for at least the vowels of the other Celtic languages. They also distinguish between & and (as did traditional typography), though some modern fonts replace the ampersand with the Tironian note ostensibly because both mean 'and'.


Main article: Insular script

The word Corcaigh in the Gaelic-script font of the same name.

The Irish uncial alphabet originated in medieval manuscripts as an "insular" variant of the Latin alphabet. The first Gaelic typeface was designed in 1571 for a catechism commissioned by Elizabeth I to help attempt to convert the Irish Catholic population to Anglicanism.[citation needed]


Typesetting in Gaelic script remained common in Ireland until the mid-20th century. Gaelic script is today used merely for decorative typesetting; for example, a number of traditional Irish newspapers still print their name in Gaelic script on the first page, and it is also popular for pub signs, greeting cards, and display advertising. Edward Lhuyd's grammar of the Cornish language used Gaelic-script consonants to indicate sounds like [ð] and [θ].

In 1996 Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) created a new corporate logo. The logo consists of a modern take on the Gaelic type face. The R's counter is large with a short tail, the T is roman script while the E is curved but does not have a counter like a lower case E, and the letters also have slight serifs to them. TG4's original logo, under the brand TnaG, also used a modernization of the font, the use of the curved T and a sans-serif A in the word na. Other Irish companies that have used Gaelic script in their logos including the GAA, Telecom Éireann and An Post. The Garda Síochána uses Gaelic Script on its official seal.

The GAA logo uses the script to incorporate both the English language GAA acronym and the Irish language CLG acronym (Irish: Cumann Lúthchleas Gael). The logo more strongly shows the more widely used acronym GAA but taking a closer look a C joins with an L and then to a G lying down.

In Unicode

See also: Insular script § Unicode

Unicode treats the Gaelic script as a font variant of the Latin alphabet. A lowercase insular g (ᵹ) was added in version 4.1 as part of the Phonetic Extensions block because of its use in Irish linguistics as a phonetic character for [ɣ].

According to Michael Everson, in the 2006 Unicode proposal for these characters:[2]

To write text in an ordinary Gaelic font, only ASCII letters should be used, the font making all the relevant substitutions; the insular letters [proposed here] are for use only by specialists who require them for particular purposes.

Unicode 5.1 (2008) added a capital G (Ᵹ) and both capital and lowercase letters D, F, R, S, T, besides "turned insular G", on the basis that Edward Lhuyd used these letters in his 1707 work Archæologia Britannica as a scientific orthography for Cornish.

Unicode 14.0 (2021) added characters, including Insular letters, for the Ormulum:[4]


Duibhlinn (digital font 1993, based on Monotype Series 24 A, 1906)
Ceanannas (digital font 1993, based on drawings of Book of Kells lettering by Arthur Baker.)
In each figure above, the first sentence is a pangram and reads:
Chuaigh bé mhórshách le dlúthspád fíorfhinn trí hata mo dhea-phorcáin bhig,
Ċuaiġ bé ṁórṡáċ le dlúṫspád fíorḟinn trí hata mo ḋea-ṗorcáin ḃig,
meaning "A maiden of great appetite with an intensely white, dense spade went through my good little porker’s hat".
The second sentence (bottom line) reads:
Duibhlinn/Ceanannas an cló a úsáidtear anseo,
meaning "Duibhlinn/Ceannanas is the font used here".
The second sentence uses the short forms of the letters r and s; the first uses the long forms. See: Long s and R rotunda.


See also


  1. ^ Quinnell, Teàrlach (8 July 2009). "Moladh air deagh bhàrd..." Naidheachdan (in Scottish Gaelic). BBC Alba. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  2. ^ Everson, Michael (6 August 2006). "N3122: Proposal to add Latin letters and a Greek symbol to the UCS" (PDF). ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  3. ^ "N3027: Proposal to add medievalist characters to the UCS" (PDF). ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2. 30 January 2006.
  4. ^ Everson, Michael; West, Andrew (5 October 2020). "L2/20-268 Revised proposal to add ten characters for Middle English to the UCS" (PDF). Retrieved 19 September 2022.