When you visit Ireland, you may be forgiven for thinking the English spoken here is a completely different language! English, of course, is spoken in Ireland. It became a predominantly English-speaking country around the 19th century. The type of English that is spoken, however, sounds distinctive compared to its English-speaking neighbors.
Indeed, since the dawn of time, the Irish have managed to invent our very own Irish slang words and phrases to unleash on all unfamiliar with the lingo!
In this article, we highlight the most commonly heard slang words in Ireland and words, their meanings, and examples of how they are used in everyday speech.
Whether you plan to visit this majestic country for the first time or you simply want to carry a conversation with a local (without needing Google to translate!), here are some Irish slang words and phrases you’ll find handy!
Pronounced similar to the word “crack”. But mostly said similar to “break”. Craic may refer to what’s new or what’s fun at the moment. So when someone asks you “What’s the craic?”, they’re probably asking you “what’s up?” It’s a great way to greet anyone you haven’t seen in a while. The word may also refer to something great. So when a night out with friends was exceptionally fun, you could say “That was good craic!”. Craic, isn’t it?
2. PINT OF GAT
When someone offers you a pint of gat, accept it. It’s Guinness – nothing much. It’s “just” one of the world’s oldest and most successful beer brands (EVER!).
Nope, nothing to do with eggs. In Irish slang, it’s simply another way to say “thing”. Say, an Irish friend of yours sees an object or a thing for the first time, don’t scratch your head when they ask “What’s that yoke of yours?”
4. STATE DA YA
Loosely translated, this phrase means “You’re a mess” or “You’re an idiot!”. It’s used among close friends for lighthearted chit-chat and isn’t meant to be offensive. If said to you, congratulations … you’re part of the team
5. WHERE’S DA JAX?
This’ll surely make you sound like a Dubliner! In Dublin slang, “jax” refers to the toilet. Keep this in your arsenal for bonus points from the locals.
6. TAKE THE PISS
Nothing to do with peeing. When someone takes the piss at someone, it means to subject them to ridicule or suffering. It can also mean being unreasonable. For example, when someone says, “These friends of mine are taking the piss! I’ve been waiting for two hours!” you know they’re being made to wait at their expense.
Easily mistaken to mean backward, arseways means to do something incorrectly or to have something go wrong. “We did as the cookbook told us, but the souffle went arseways!”
8. THE BOOT
When someone tells you to throw everything into the boot, don’t take it out to the trash! A boot is the car’s trunk. And you may just need to give your friend a hand packing everything into the car before you go on that road trip!
9. A JUMPER
A jumper in Ireland is either a pullover or a sweater (and not those one-piece denim overalls that take forever to piss with). Irish moms will always insist that you put on a jumper… so please oblige the lovely ladies. They love you and they mean well!
“Take a mineral! You’re driving!” means that you may want soft drinks or soda instead of alcohol. Visiting old folks? Expect to be served 7Up. They’ll assume this to be your favorite “mineral”.
11. DIESEL AND PETROL
If you rent a car when you’re visiting Ireland and you need to refuel, you needn’t go looking for “gas,” which is something else altogether and entirely unrelated to driving or flatulence!
You have to find out whether the car is “diesel” or “petrol” and fill it with that. Not with green diesel, mind you. That last thing you want is to get dipped by the guards.
In use: “Give me €20 worth of petrol, please.”
In Ireland, chips are crisps and French fries are chips. Be warned you will fall in love with a delicacy called “curry cheese chips” some night when you’re ossified.
Beyont is an all encompassing word for any place that isn’t the place you’re in at the moment. It can refer to the other end of the room, or to the other side of the world.
Expect to hear a lot of country people question you about stuff you have at home, and they’ll use the word beyont when doing it.
In use: “Would you have much rain beyont?”
14. THE “MESSAGES”
You will hear about people going out to do the messages, or going into town for the messages. Alas, middle-aged Irish women are not part of some secret government organization; they’re just referring to shopping.
The messages are what some Irish people call the groceries.
In use: “Anyone want anything I’m heading into town to do the messages.”
15. FECK OFF
Quite possibly Ireland’s greatest linguistic achievement, this phrase is the perfect way to curse without technically cursing. Replace the e with a u, and you have what this slang term means.
16. DO THE WASHING
Obviously, if you’re planning a long stay in Ireland, your clothes are going to have to be washed at some stage. Note that instead of doing “laundry,” we do “the washing.”
This is all weather related too, and if you’re staying with an Irish mammy she’ll constantly talk about doing the washing.
In use: “There’s great drying today, so I got up at half six to do the washing and get it out on the line nice and early.”
17. “I WILL YEA”
This can get very confusing. “I will yea” means “I definitely won’t,” it’s just an easier way of saying it. We’re big into our sarcasm here, and if you get flustered by it, don’t worry. You won’t be the first and definitely won’t be the last.
Ever encountered Irish slang that stumped you? How about Irish phrases that you simply couldn’t get enough of? There are still a bunch of Irish phrases and lingo that we missed. Let us know in the comments section below so we can update our list!
We’d love to hear from you.
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