Bodhrán Pronunciation

“What’s that there drum called?”

I’ll tell you, I’ve heard some strange pronunciations of the word ‘bodhrán’, from the backwards BOWED-ran (rhymes with SNOWED-can) to the British bah-RAHN (rhymes with ma-DAWN).  Every time I run into a native Irish speaker, I ask them how THEY pronounce the name of my drum.  That’s not been the sure-fire test either, as there are several regional dialects of Irish.  Here’s the best synthesis of what I’ve heard and learned:

  • foy_sessionAccording to the delightful Field Guide to the Irish Music Session by Barry Foy, the word rhymes with ‘bow – ron’. (That’s interpreted to mean ‘bow’: like the front of a ship or what you do from the waist, and ‘ron’: like the diminutive of Ronald.)
  •  According references in the Foclóir Póca (English – Irish, Irish – English Dictionary):
    bodhrán1 baura:n  deaf person; dullard
    bodhrán2 baura:n  winnowing drum; (kind of) tambourine

    • The á is NOT a stress mark, but rather a pronunciation guide for the vowel.  The slash mark over the vowel is called a fada.  It comes from the word fado which means long, and indicates that the vowel under it is long or broad.  In this case, á is pronounced like ‘ah’ as in “ah-ha!”.
    • Most Irish words are stressed on the first syllable unless otherwise indicated.  You are equally safe to stress the first syllable of bodhrán, or to stress equally both syllables.  Do not stress the second syllable, as the British are wont to do.  It sounds pretentious and just a little prissy.
    • No, you do not pronounce the ‘d’ and you do not roll the ‘r’.
    • If you say ‘bodhrán’ correctly seven time very fast, the name of the drum sounds like the sound of the drum. Try it.

    I hope this helps you in the elusive hunt for the Irish pronunciation of the word bodhrán.