Why is there an 'ai' in plaid if it is pronounced "plad"? That's a word that used to trip me up when I was a little tyke. (This time, unlike my previous question, I hope I'm right in saying that this word is an oddity in having an 'ai' pronounced as 'a'.)

  • 1
    But don't confuse with Welsh plaid /plaɪd/ meaning side or political party.
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Aug 2, 2011 at 10:22
  • 4
    Tangential comment: "Plaid" appears to be a much more common word in the US than in Britain (even Scotland): what Americans call "plaid", we usually call "tartan".
    – Colin Fine
    Aug 2, 2011 at 11:31
  • @Colin Fine - Quite. Here in the US I have heard "tartan" used, but in the clothing industry you usually see them describe that pattern as plaid. My wife may even be able to describe a difference between the two words, but as a meer male I don't see one.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 2, 2011 at 14:01
  • 2
    A meer male is like a meercat?
    – GEdgar
    Aug 2, 2011 at 15:21
  • 1
    I thought that a plaid was a tartan cloak worn over the shoulder as part of parade dress. Nov 17, 2011 at 16:54

2 Answers 2


Because it's not English — it's from the Gaelic word for blanket.

According to Gaelic pronunciation, "ai" in old Irish is a short 'a' as in gather.

  • The Scottish pronounce it so that it rhymes with maid, that is nowadays.
    – Thursagen
    Aug 2, 2011 at 3:54

Just like to point out two things:

Plaid comes from Scottish Gaelic:

1505–15; < Scots Gaelic plaide blanket, plaid

According to the site that @Martin Beckett provided, Scottish Gaelic pronounces "ai", as short a.

  • But it doesn't say what C16 scots pronounced it as
    – mgb
    Aug 2, 2011 at 5:10
  • Scots Gaelic was still in use C16
    – Thursagen
    Aug 2, 2011 at 5:19
  • English isn't the only language to have undergone pronunciation changes. Aug 2, 2011 at 6:05
  • 1
    @Thursagen - I meant the pronunciation site didn't give a specific 'old' Scots pronunciation as it did with Irish.
    – mgb
    Aug 2, 2011 at 15:16

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.