Ah the Irish, such a way with words. Stumble into your favourite Irish pub and you’re bound to be met with a style of dialect and turn of phrase that is oddly inviting and yet completely unfamiliar all at once. Irish slang words and Irish sayings have a way of cutting through the bullshit and nailing a great quote or toast no matter the occasion. And it’s not a new thing.
For hundreds of years, Irish sayings have captivated foreign audiences in a way that can only be described as deeply spiritual. From Craic to Slainte, the iconic phrases remain in use today, still just as relevant as when they were first handed down. But what the feck do they mean and how do you use them? This St Paddy’s Day, forget about smashing Guinness wearing a funny hat, invest some time in upping your banter, the traditional way. Stall the ball, we’ve got a hape of knowledge to impart.
What is Irish Slang?
First and foremost, it’s important to get your bearings right – Always remember there is a big difference between English and Irish slang. Where cockney slang is a form of word construction based around the English language that first appeared in the East End of London back in the 19th century, Irish slang has been around much longer. In fact, many of the common Irish sayings and slang words we use today are derived from the Gaelic language, providing a unique insight into the Ireland of yesteryear.
Nowadays, it is common for Irish slang to be a blend of Irish Gaelic and Scots Gaelic that has been translated into English, however, many phrases remain nearly identical to their original structure. But be warned, traditional Irish Gaelic isn’t exactly the easiest language to pick up for native English speakers. Here are some tips for getting it right
- ‘Ch’ is pronounced as in ‘Loch Ness’ not ‘Chalk’
- Gaelic has only eighteen letters in its alphabet, so no J, K, Q, V, W, X, Y or Z.
- A consonant + H denotes a completely different sound to the same consonant without an H following it.
Classic Irish Sayings
When it comes time for a toast, there are few cultures that do it better than the Irish. Through a long and storied history of producing great artists and poets who aren’t afraid to poke fun at themselves, Ireland has become renowned for its telling proverbs and blunt take on the human condition. Here is a list of classic Irish sayings you may have heard before.
- He who keeps his tongue keeps his friends.
- Men are like bagpipes – no sound comes from them until they are full.
- A family of Irish birth will argue and fight, but let a shout come from without, and see them all unite.
- May your coffee be strong and your Monday be short.
- May the Lord keep you in His hand and never close His fist too tight.
- In heaven there is no beer; that’s why we drink ours here.
- Who gossips with you will gossip of you.
- Drink is the curse of the land. It makes you fight with your neighbour. It makes you shoot at your landlord, and it makes you miss him.
- May the Good Lord take a liking to you — but not too soon.
- Bless your little Irish heart and every other Irish part.
- You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was
- May you live to be a hundred years, with one extra year to repent.
- This isn’t a hangover – it’s the Irish flu.
- You must take the small potato with the big potato.
- May your troubles be as few and as far apart as my grandmother’s teeth.
- May the road rise up to meet you.
- Don’t be breaking your shin on a stool that’s not in your way.
- You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was
- May your home always be too small to hold all your friends.
- May the cat eat you, and may the devil eat the cat.
- May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live.
- A kind word never broke anyone’s mouth.
- May the roof above you never fall in and those gathered beneath it never fall out.
- A little fire that warms is better than a big fire that burns.
- You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind.
- Never scald your lips with another man’s porridge.
- There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
- What butter and whiskey won’t cure, there is no cure for
- Lie down with dogs and you’ll rise with fleas.
Irish Slang Dictionary
Now, it comes time to up your banter game. If you want to rule the roost this St Paddy’s Day, take a gander at this list of Irish slang words and start pulling together your ultimate toast. Just don’t forget to end it with Slainte.
Here is the ultimate Irish slang dictionary.
- Acting the maggot – Acting in a particularly foolish manner
- Amadan – Generally refers to a fool or a buffoon
- Arseways – To make a complete mess of
- Aye – Yes
- Banjaxed – Not working or broken
- Bate – To be completely exhausted and out of energy
- Baytin – Regional pronunciation for the word beating.
- Beour – Female
- Bogger – Rural person, from out in the bogs
- Bóg – Illegal dancing pill or bomb
- Bollocks – Testicles
- Box – A rather uncouth terminology for the female genitalia
- Brock – Something that is bad
- Buck – Boy, man, lad
- Buckled – Under the influence, to be completely inebriated
- Bullin – To be very angry
- Bullin – To be randy
- Bure – Female
- Cat – An effusive way to say that something is awful or terrible
- Chancer – A rather dodgy or dubious character
- Class – A term used for something that is high-quality or good
- Clatter – A slap or a belt
- Clem – Something bad
- Coddin – Joking
- Cop On – An order to grab hold of yourself and not be so stupid
- Craic – Fun, banter
- Deadly – Fantastic
- Donkey’s years – A long period of time
- Dose – Something very annoying
- Fair play – Congratulations
- Feck – A polite way of saying f*ck. Popularised by the hit series Father Ted.
- Feek – Gorgeous girl
- Feen – Male
- Fierce – Very
- Flute – A silly or unintelligent person
- Gaff – House
- Gammy – Absolutely useless or out of working order
- Gander – A look
- Gas – An absolute laugh
- Gatch – The walk of someone
- Gawk – Sick
- Gimp – Fool or idiot.
- Give it a lash – Give something a go
- Gobshite – If someone gets on your nerves
- Gombeen – Fool
- Gom – Fool
- Gowl – Annoying stupid person
- Grand – Fine, ok, alright
- Hames – To ruin or destroy
- Hape – Or extremely large amount
- Haven’t a Baldy Notion – Having absolutely no idea
- Hi – A ending term that can essentially be added to the end of any sentence
- Horse – A friend
- Jackeen – Person from Dublin
- Jacks – The toilet
- Jammy – Lucky person
- Jesus, Mary and Joseph – If you’re going to use the lord’s name in vain, you may as well get the whole family involved
- Juke – A quick look around
- Lamp – To hurt someone
- Langers – To be inebriated or drunk
- Lash – A long drinking session with mates
- Lashing – Pouring with rain
- Leefs – Short for lethal, this means great. Commonly used by those in North-West Ireland.
- Leg it – Run away from
- Like – Used at the end of every sentence
- Lock – Small amount
- Manky – Very soiled, smelly or dirty
- Massive – Great, super, a welcomed success
- Meet – To french kiss someone
- Melter – A person who is a bit of an idiot
- Minus craic – Someone who is no fun
- Mitch – To bunk off
- Mog – Person of low intelligence
- Mouldy – To get drunk or something thats disgusting
- Muppet – Fool
- Ossified – Drunk
- Plastered – To be very drunk
- Puck – To hit with a closed fist
- Pure – Really/very
- Puss – Sulky face
- Quare – Another meaning for very unusual
- Ride – A good looking person
- Rotten – Something horrible/ disgusting.
- Savage – Very can be good or bad
- Scatter – A group (esp of inanimate objects)
- Scoops – Alcoholic drink
- Score – To kiss someone.
- Scratcher – Bed
- Scuttered – In a very advanced state of intoxication.
- Shades – Garda Siochana (this is the National Police Service of the Republic of Irelance – the term comes from the two shades of blue on the uniform)
- Sham – A friend
- Shift – French kiss
- Skank – Woman of ill repute (derogatory)
- Sketch – Used when keeping a lookout for an authority figure, and one is seen coming
- Slag – A woman of ill repute (derogatory)
- Slagging – Make fun of
- Slainte – A traditional toast, similar to cheers. It means ‘health’
- Slash – Urinating
- Snake – Sneaky person
- Sound – Reliable, dependable, a good sort
- Spanner – An idiot
- Stall – French kiss.
- Stall the ball – Hold on a moment
- Stocious – To be very drunk. Pronounced: Sto-shess
- Sup – Hello
- Sure look – It is what it is
- Tool – Idiot
- Up to 90 – Flat out doing something
- Wan – One
- Wean – Pronounced ‘Wayne’, this means child
- Wee – Small
- Well – How are you? Are you going well?
- Whist – Keep it down, please be quiet.
- Wide – To be made aware of
- Wind your neck in – To pull someone who is arrogant up on their behaviour
- Wired to the Moon – Absolutely steaming the morning after a big night and three coffee deep
- Yes – Affirmation that can also mean hello.
- Yoke – Thing. anything or object or person. A broad descriptive term for anything
- Yonks – A long time
What does Slainte mean?
The traditional Irish toast Slàinte Mhaith translates to ‘Good Health’ in Gaelic, however, interesting enough, the term is found in both Irish and Scots Gaelic.
What is the Irish motto?
The Irish motto is ‘Éire go, Deo’, which literally translates to “Ireland is Forever” in English. Nowadays, the shorter version of “Ireland Forever” is used most often.
What does Craic mean in Irish?
One of the most commonly used but often misunderstood Irish slang words, Craic is slang for fun, for example, “The craic was mighty last night”. That being said, “Minus craic” refers to something that was no fun at all.