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This has really been bugging me. I have always pronounced Firbolg as Fur-bolg, but I have heard other people pronounce it like Fear-bolg. What is the official pronunciation?

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    \$\begingroup\$ (To save other folks the effort, this D&D FAQ on the Wizards of the Coast Web site has a section entitled How Do You Pronounce...? and that section does not include this monster.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 20 at 11:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm going to go ahead and add in the dungeons-and-dragons tag, since Firbolgs date back to at least 2e, if not 1e. (I can't remember off the top of my head which of Niles' trilogies I first saw them in.) I'm not sold on whether the 5e tag is necessary, or helps or hurts, so I'm erring there on the side of "leave well enough alone." \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Apr 20 at 11:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is a great shame. \$\endgroup\$ – Knossos Apr 21 at 12:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ pronounce it however you like, as long as there are no Firbolg within earshot \$\endgroup\$ – Kara Brightwell Apr 22 at 9:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @brenbrightwell good point, but they can turn invisible so i would never be 100% sure none were in earshot \$\endgroup\$ – Deus Apr 22 at 12:55
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Fear-bolg

Dndbeyond.com has a pronunciation button next to the main title of the Firbolg page that gives you an audio clip.

They pronounce it as fear-bolg.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You could also pronounce it "fire blog" if you were my DM back the the auld days ... \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 20 at 12:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've always said fur-bolg (fir like a fir tree) \$\endgroup\$ – Himitsu_no_Yami Apr 20 at 15:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @illustro: The pronunciation on D&D Beyond is "canonical" in terms of the official pronunciation according to WotC. How the word is pronounced outside of D&D rarely has any bearing on the official pronunciation of the word in D&D... It may not be correct in the real world, but it's definitely "canonical" :P \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 21 at 10:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Indeed, the Irish language itself does not have a standard, common pronunciation. There are regional dialects, and despite there being a "standard" Irish (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Caighdeán_Oifigiúil), phonology varies widely. And that's without getting into etymology! \$\endgroup\$ – Zaphod Apr 21 at 10:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ *standard common pronunciation = (the one taught in primary and secondary schools) \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Apr 21 at 13:04
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FEER-bolg

According to the Dragon Magazine #31 article "Ay pronunseeAYshun gyd", by Frank Mentzer, firbolg is correctly pronounced "FEER-bolg".

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You pronounce it feer-buhl-uh g

Firbolg is taken directly from the Irish (Gaelige) legends. It is the name of the race that, in Irish mythology, were defeated by the Tuatha DeDannan.

In Irish it's literal meaning is the "men of Builg", ie the men of the tribe of Builg or the men descended from Builg.

Dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster both provide the proper IPA pronunciation for the word.

(Source: I'm Irish, and studied Irish mythology as part of my schooling as well as growing up in Ireland, I also consulted with some fluent Irish speakers I know [and live with])

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    \$\begingroup\$ I believe it's worth mentioning that the sources you've provided and Wiktionary have completely different IPA: /'fɪər bʌl əg/ /fi(ə)r bələg/ /fʲɪɾʲ ˈbˠɔlˠəɡ/ \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Apr 23 at 13:57
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In Irish Gaelic, "fir" (pronounced "fihr" to rhyme roughly with the German "ihr", but "feer" and "fear" in English aren't too far off, just a bit long with the vowel sound) is the plural of "fear" (pronounced not too dissimilarly to "far" in English), meaning man.

"Bolg", means "belly", "fat", etc. and is pronounced a bit like "bull-ug" in English, as if there were a schwa between the l and the g.

So, "fihr bull-ug" would be my closest approximation.

(14 years of Irish Gaelic in school!)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You are wrong with the meaning, the second part does not translate as fat, it's actually a proper noun that has been decapitalised over time. \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Apr 21 at 9:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Have a read of the analysis section of this - it's not as clear-cut as you make out. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fir_Bolg \$\endgroup\$ – Zaphod Apr 21 at 10:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ The questioner wanted to know about pronunciation anyway, and most people can't read IPA. \$\endgroup\$ – Zaphod Apr 21 at 10:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wikipedia is unfortunately, not an authoritative source on the subject. I'll have a look into the underlying references, but so far, a lot of them appear to be non-native speakers doing the analysis, which for a system of mythology that is rooted in an oral tradition of storytelling is problematic. Most of the stories and myths from Ireland are meant to be passed down as a spoken tradition. \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Apr 21 at 10:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note, the intent behind my last comment wasn't to say "non-Irish linguists can't comment" but that there is a lot of cultural context they just won't have without significant effort, that native people have (when talking about mythology specifically). This is exacerbated when the mythology is traditionally an orally passed on one (until modern times). \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Apr 21 at 13:31

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