Manx (Gaelg/Gailck)

Manx is a Celtic language spoken on the Isle of Man (Ellan Vannin). It is closely related to the Irish of Ulster and Scottish Gaelic of Galloway and was brought to the Isle of Man by settlers from those areas during the 5th century AD. Manx began to emerge as a distinct language in the 13th-14th century after the collapse of the Norse kingdom of Mann and the Isles and prior to the long period of English control through the Stanleys.

Manx at a glance

  • Native name: Gaelg / Gailck [gilk/gilg]; Y Ghaelg / Y Ghailck [əˈɣɪlk / əˈɣɪlɡ]
  • Language family: Indo-European, Celtic, Insular, Goidelic
  • Number of speakers: c. 1,823
  • Spoken in: Isle of Man
  • First written: 1610
  • Writing system: Latin script
  • Status: official language in the Isle of Man

Decline and revival

Manx was once spoken by almost the entire population of the Isle of Man until the 1765 Revestment Act by which the Duke of Atholl sold the island to the British Crown. After this the number of speakers went into decline as a result of the collapse of the Manx economy and large scale emmigration. The decline of Manx was further accelerated by immigration from North West England during the later 18th and early 19th centuries, and the large numbers of English-speaking tourists who started to visit the island from the 1830s onwards.

By the 1960s only two native speakers of Manx remained: Mrs. Sage Kinvig of Ronague (died in 1962) and Mr. Edward (Ned) Maddrell of Glenchass (died on 27th December 1974, aged 97). While Ned Maddrell is usually cited as the last native speaker of Manx, and the language was declared extinct after his death in 1974, a few other Manx speakers were around until the 1980s.

However reports of the demise of Manx were premature. Efforts have been made to preserve and revive the language since the 19th centruy. At first the aim was mainly to preserve Manx and to publish literature in and about the language. Later people were encouraged to learn and speak the language.

The numbers of Manx speakers recorded on censuses taken during the 20th century are: (1901) 4,419, (1911) 2,382, (1921) 896, (1931) 531, (1951) 355, (1961) 165, (1971) 284. The question about Manx was not included on the 1981 census. In the latest census, 2,200 people claimed to be able to speak, read and/or write the language.

In 1985, the Island's Parliament, the Tynwald, passed a resolution to give the Manx language limited official recognition for the first time in Manx history. The government sponsored Manx Heritage Foundation (Undinys Eiraght Vannin) and the Manx Gaelic Advisory Council (Coonceil ny Gaelgey) was also set up to regulate and standardise the official use of Manx.

Current status

Manx has been taught in Manx schools since 1992 and Manx classes have proved popular. Since 2001 a number of Manx medium playgroups and a primary school have been set up, some lessons are taught through Manx at one secondary school, and Manx language classes for adults are popular. There are also choirs that sing in Manx, and people are writing and creating songs, stories, novels, radio programmes, videos and other material in the language.

More information about Manx, and language death and revival.

Written form

Manx first acquired a written form in around 1610, when John Phillips, the Welsh-born Bishop of Sodor and Mann, had the Book of Common Prayer translated into Manx using an orthography based on Welsh, though this translation was not published until 1894. In the early 18th century Bishop Thomas Wilson had his Principles and Duties of Christianity translated into Manx, using an orthography based on English. That orthography, with some modifications, has continued to be used to the present day.

Relationship to other languages

Although closely related to Irish and Scottish Gaelic, Manx looks quite different because of the different spelling conventions. However there is quite a high degree of mutual intelligiblity among the spoken Gaelic languages.

Manx is also distantly related to Welsh (Cymraeg), Cornish (Kernewek) and Breton (Brezhoneg), which form the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages, also known as P-Celtic. The Celtic languages all have a similar grammatical structure, but have relatively little vocabulary in common.

Manx alphabet (Abbyrlhit ny Gaelgey)

A a B b C c D d E e F f
aittyn beih couyll darragh eboin faarney
G g H h I i J j K k L l
guilckagh hibbin iuar juys keirn lhouan
M m N n O o P p Q q R r
malpys neaynin onnane pobbyl quinsh rennaigh
S s T t U u V v W w Y y
shellagh tramman unjin vervine wooshlagh yiarn


Manx pronunciation

Manx pronunciation


Manx mutations (Ceaghley)

First Class Second Class Third Class
Rad. Len. Ecl. Rad. Len. Ecl. Rad. Len. Ecl.
v, w
v, w
n/c sh
th h dh d gh, w gh(n) sl l tl, cl
çh h j dh gh, w gh(n) sn h tn
c ch g j y y(ny) str hr tr
k ch g gi y y(ni)      
qu wh gu g gh gh(ng)      
f - v            
ph - v            


Rad. = radical (the unmutated letter); Len. = lenition; Ecl. = Eclipsis (nasalisation); n/c = no change


There's a good way to learn the mutations at (PDF)

Download an alphabet chart for Manx (Excel)

Sample texts in Manx

Er Laa Tin Vaal ta sleih cheet voish dy chooilley ard jeh Mannin dy chlashtyn ny slattyssyn focklit magh. Ta ny shenn tosheeyioarree livrey ny slattyn oc da'n Chiannoort, as ta'n chied vriw loo ny feallagh noa stiagh. Eisht ta dy chooilley hoshiagh-jioarey gliooney sheese roish yn Chiannoort, as goaill yn tlat echey veih laueyn yn Chiannoort. Ta toshiaghjioarey Glenfaba lhaih ny slattyssyn ayns Gaelg.


On Tynwald Day people come from every part of the Isle of Man to hear the laws pronounced. The six old coroners deliver their rods to the Governor, and the first Deemster swears the new coroners in. Then every coroner kneels down before the Governor, and takes his rod (wand) from the hands of the Governor. The coroner of Glenfaba reads the laws in Manx.

From:Cooinaghtyn Manninagh (Manx Reminiscences, by Dr. John Clague)

Ta dagh chooilley ghooinney ruggit seyr as corrym rish dy chooilley ghooinney elley ayns ooashley as ayns cairys. Ta resoon as cooinsheanse stowit orroo as lhisagh ad dellal rish y cheilley lesh spyrryd braaraghyn.

Hear a recording of this text by Bob Carswell


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Sample videos in Manx

A day in the life of the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh (Manx-medium primary school)

A conversation in Manx between Ned Maddrell and Tommy Lecce

Manannan - an animation about Mannan beg mac y Leir, the Celtic sea god who is said to protect the Isle of Man with his mists

Ruth Keggin – Irree ny greiney (Sunrise), a song in Manx written by Bob Carswell

Information about Manx | Phrases | Numbers | Colours | Family words | Colours | Time | Idioms | Proverbs | Terms of endearment | Comparison of Celtic languages | Celtic cognates | Celtiadur | Songs | Tower of Babel | The decline and revival of Manx | My podcast about Manx | Links | Learning materials


Information about the Manx language and culture

Manx language lessons and other learning resouces

More Manx links

Celtic languages

Breton, Celtiberian, Cornish, Cumbric, Gaulish, Irish, Lepontic, Lusitanian, Manx, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh

Languages written with the Latin alphabet

Page last modified: 07.05.23


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