second letter in the Irish alphabet, and the first consonant
of the Ogam alphabet. Irish name beithe
; hence beithe
luis, name of Ogam alphabet, see
IGT Introd. § 4.
O.Ir. b in absolute initial position, after m (imb), and
sometimes after l (Albu) and r (orbae) represents the voiced
labial plosive (Mod. Ir. b), and derives from IE *b, *bh and
Thurn. Gramm. § 188
). In other positions it represents
the voiced labial fricative (Mod. Ir. bh), and derives (i) from
the sources already mentioned, together with *p in IE *-pr-,
*-pl- (accabor, díabul), ib.
, and (ii) from IE *u in
certain positions (tarb, cubus, etc.). It is possible, however,
that the sound in case (ii) was not phonetically identical
with that in case (i), since they sometimes have different
sandhi treatment; compare dupall (dub-ball) with atrefea
(atreb-fea) and derbráthair, modern dearbhráthair (derb-
bráthair); compare also ropia (ro-b-bia), and in later
gairpeann (from garbh + peann),
IGT Introd. § 42.
-b(-) of the O.Ir. f-future is, according to the latest expla-
nation of this formation (Watkins, Ériu xx), a voicing of
f < *sw.
O.Ir. bb in all positions represents the unlenited sound
In Latin loanwords initial b- remains (baithis, baitsid). Ir.
b- sometimes represents Lat. p- (bóc,
), and medial -b-
(<earlier -p-), representing a voiced plosive, Lat. -p- (puball
s.v. pupall, abstal,
). The Lat. post-vocalic voiced
stop -b- became in Irish a voiced fricative (scríb(a)id, Mod.
Ir. scríobhaidh). For -b- for Lat. -f- (cobais) see
Gramm. § 201.
In the later language b combines with prec. m (Mid.Ir.
imm for imb), and initial mr, ml, become br-, bl- (brath,
bláith for older mrath, mláith); medial lenited b and m are
sometimes confused (mebuir for memuir).