Though Ireland became a predominantly English speaking country around the turn of the 19th century, the Irish made the English language their own by having Irish words and phrases quickly evolve into the language. This article will outline the top 50 most common Irish slang words and expressions, their meanings, and examples of how they are used. Use some of these on your next trip to Ireland and you’ll convince the locals that you’re one of their own!
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I think this term has made it across global borders now at this stage. For those who haven’t come across this term before though, “Craic” is Irish slang for fun. For example, “The craic was mighty last night.”
Since “Craic” is so important to the everyday life of the Irish, “Minus craic” is used to mean that something wasn’t just no fun, but negative fun… the worst!
Speaking of minus craic, “Dryshite” is a term used to refer to someone who is boring and no fun. This is a pretty big insult in Ireland, nobody wants to be a dryshite.
No, we don’t mean the fuel. “Gas” in Irish slang means funny. It can refer to a person, “He’s gas!” or a situation “That’s gas!” It can also be used to depict shock or disbelief. For example, “Jesus, that’s gas! I wouldn’t have thought that now.”
4. How’s she cuttin’?
This phrase is generally used as a greeting and is another way of saying “How’s it going?” or “How are you?” This is quite a culchie expression (see no. 16).
5. What’s the story?/What’s the craic?
Similar to the one above, this expression is used as a greeting all over Ireland. It is Irish slang to mean “How are you?”
This is a hard one to explain because the meaning of “Grand” varies substantially. In the true Irish meaning of the word, “Grand” means ok, fine, or adequate. Depending on the tone of voice and situation of usage it could mean anything from very good to absolutely dreadful.
7. Sure look
This is a great little filler expression. If there is a moment of silence in a conversation between two Irish people, you can almost guarantee that “Sure look” will crop up. It almost has a meaning of something being out of your control. For example, “Sure look, this is it. There’s not much we can do.”
8. I will yeah
This is where you’ll notice the Irish sarcasm coming through. “I will yeah” means "I definitely will not." For example, in response to the question “Can you make me a sandwich?” you can expect the reply “I will yeah.”
9. C’mere to me
This is another filler expression in an Irish conversation. It is short for “Come here to me” and is used to mean "listen to me" or "I've got something to tell you." Often done without wanting a person to physically approach them in any way.
10. Fair play
This is another common Irish phrase that has transcended borders. It is the Irish way of saying “Well done.” If anyone has done even a remotely good job or achieved something, then the Irish praise comes in the form of “Fair play.”
11. G’way outta that
This one can have a few meanings. It can be an exclamation of disbelief, a standard response when someone compliments you (the Irish clearly don't know how to take compliments) or have the equivalent meaning of "Don't be silly," or "It's no trouble." For example, "Will ye have a brandy?" "No thanks, don't be troubling yourself." "Ah g’way outta that, of course, ye will!"
This is Irish slang for “Go on.” It’s used as an expression of enthusiasm or encouragement. This Irish phrase was also made famous by Mrs. Doyle from the Irish TV show ‘Father Ted’ with her famous line “Ahh, g'wan! G'wan, g'wan, g'wan g'wan!” (this can go on for some time).
13. Delira and excira
This is an Irish exclamation of happiness. It’s short for delighted and excited.
14. Coddin’ ya
This is a great one! “I’m only coddin’ ya” means “I’m only joking.”
15. Acting the maggot
To “act the maggot” means to fool and mess around. It is used towards both adults and children. For example, “Stop acting the maggot.”
A culchie or bogger is someone who lives in a remote part of Ireland or “down the country” as they say. Those living in Dublin tend to refer to anyone living outside of the capital as either one of these terms.
This is an Irish word for being completely exhausted. For example, “I’m knackered after that.”
Ireland has a lot of terms for alcohol and drinking, as you can imagine. If you were scuttered last night, you were blind drunk. The Irish get very creative here and typically add “ed” to the end of practically any word to get across the same meaning e.g. buckled, locked, hammered, trollied, plastered, etc. Some of these also appear in British slang.
Another expression for being drunk. For example, “I was absolutely langers last night.” You might also hear “Langered” used which has the same meaning.
20. On the lash
This is a term for drinking in Ireland. For example, “I was on the lash last night.”
21. "Naggins" and "Shoulders"
You can’t be on the lash without a few naggins and shoulders. "Naggins" and "Shoulders" refer to the sizes of bottles of spirits, typically vodka. A shoulder will get you fairly scuttered, but a naggin is perfect for smuggling into a pub. However, we're not endorsing such bold behaviour.
Nope, the Irish are not referring to ice-cream here. "A few scoops" refers to a few pints or a few drinks.
23. Give it a lash
Not to be confused with the previous lash. To “Give it a lash” means to give something a go. For example, “I haven’t made pizza from scratch before, but thought I’d give it a lash.”
This is Irish slang for a male of any age. For example, “Some fella said hello to me on the street.” It can also be used for your group of lad friends, “Me and the fellas went out last night.”
25. Oul fella
This is an Irish expression for an older man or your father. For example, “I was down in the pub with me oul fella.”
26. Yer one
This refers to anyone who we don’t know. For example, “Yer one over there.”
“Cailín” means “girl” in the Irish language. A lot of Irish people still use this word even when speaking in English. The plural, “Cailíní,” is also commonly used, for example, “I’m meeting up with the cailíní later on.”
28. Now we’re suckin’ diesel
One of our absolute favorite Irish phrases! It might sound completely bizarre to some (understandably), but this expression is used to mean making progress. For example, “I couldn’t motivate myself earlier but now we’re suckin’ diesel.”
29. Giving out
If someone is “Giving out” they are complaining about something or going off on a rant. It also has a similar meaning of telling someone off. For example, “Me oul fella was giving out to me for cursing.”
30. Effin’ and blindin’
This is a gas one. “Effin’ and blindin’” means to curse and swear a lot. For example, “Yer one was effin’ and blindin’ at me.”
31. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
Speaking of effin’ and blindin’, when it comes to blasphemy, there are no half measures in Ireland. As a historically religious country, when an Irish person deems it absolutely necessary to take the Lord’s name in vain, they use the entire holy family.
This is another great one. “Banjaxed” is used to describe something that’s not working or is broken. For example, “The feckin’ car wouldn’t start this morning. The engine is banjaxed.”
“Manky” is an Irish expression to mean disgusting, dirty or rotten. It can refer to anything, but is commonly used to describe the weather in Ireland. For example, “It’s absolutely manky out.”
Similar to the one above, “Poxy” is a term to describe something that's either not great or not working. It can also be used as a replacement of a curse word. For example, “I couldn’t get the poxy TV to work.”
Meaning “idiot,” this can be a mild insult. For the meaning to reach its full insult potential, however, you need to add in the word “feckin’” beforehand and elongate that "eeeee" sound — “You feckin’ eeeeejit.”
This is a brilliant one. Another insult meaning “idiot,” it compares a person to a blunt object.
A variation of the general insult “Tool.” In this case, you're really just being more specific about the blunt object.
Another colourful term to describe an idiot in Ireland. It's all fun and games until someone drops the G-bomb.
This is Irish slang for something that you can’t remember the name of, like how you would use the word “thingamajig.” For example, “Give us that yoke there.” It also has the equivalent meaning of “thing,” for example, “You’re a mad yoke.”
“Jaysus, it’s fierce windy out there.” This is a common Irish phrase that you’d hear spoken. “Fierce” means very or extremely.
“It’s pure wet outside” would imply that there’s nothing but wet and rain out there. “Pure” is similar to “Fierce,” however, it would be on the more extreme side of the scale.
42. Up to 90
If someone is “Up to 90” then they are extremely busy. For example, “Mary, can you get the phone? I’m up to 90.”
43. A bad dose
This Irish phrase is used to describe a bad case of something. For example, “I got a fierce bad dose of the tummy bug last week.”
44. In bits
If you were out on the lash last night, your head might very well be in bits this morning. “In bits” is an expression to mean that something is in a bad way.
45. In rag order
Similar to the one above, for something to be in rag order it’s in a very bad condition. For example, “My head’s in rag order after those 12 pints.”
This has us in stitches every time. To do something “Arseways” means to do it the wrong way. It also means for something to not turn out as you expected. For example, "We tried to roast the turkey but it went arseways."
In general, this is what the Irish call soft drinks. However, really only one kind of soft drink is understood, that being the glorious 7Up. "Minerals" is a word particularly used by the older generation. If you're visiting your Irish grandparents they'll always offer you a mineral and will force feed you with it even if you decline.
We can’t talk about Irish slang without mentioning potatoes! “Spuds” is another word for potatoes.
Speaking of spuds, “Grá” means “love” in the Irish language. A lot of Irish people still use this word even when speaking in English. It can be used in place of the word love or it also means passion or desire. For example, “I have a grá for sport.”
It is Irish slang for a very long time. For example, “Jesus Mary, I haven’t seen you in yonks! What’s the craic?”