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Travel Tips

How Do You Speak Like a Local in Ireland?

It’s terrific to have a handle on Irish slang and lingo when you visit Ireland. Otherwise, you could spend much of your time scratching your head when you hear certain phrases or words. Also, you’ll miss a world of fun. Here’s a brief tutorial on the languages of Ireland and what you can expect to hear.

Irish Language History

There are two official languages in Ireland. Irish is the national language, and English, although spoken by the majority of people, is considered to be Ireland’s second language. Irish is a Celtic language, closely related to Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, and Breton. It was the language spoken by most people until the early 19th century. The shift to English happened quickly, and by 1891 it was spoken by 85% of the population. The early 20th century saw a national cultural revival and the establishment of an independent Irish State. Ireland now makes it a priority to preserve the Irish language and encourages citizens to be bilingual.

The Importance of the Irish Language

Today, 32% of the adults in Ireland claim knowledge of the language. Irish is mainly used in areas known as Gaeltachts, situated along the western seaboard. (A State authority, Udaras na Gaeltachta, promotes industrial development in these areas.) Bord na Gaeilge (the Irish Language Board) promotes the use of Irish throughout the country and as a core school subject. A growing number of schools, known as Gaelscoil (all-Irish Schools), offer tuition exclusively through the Irish language. Radio na Gaeltachta broadcasts nationally in Irish, and a new Irish language television service, Telifís na Gaeilge was launched in November 1996. When you’re in Ireland, tune in!

Understanding the Accent

One of the most common problems visitors have is understanding the locals and their Irish slang. Although English is the spoken language, it is often accompanied by a very thick accent, especially in rural areas. Listening well to country folks as they speak is the best way to figure out what they’re talking about, but we believe we may be of some help.

Common Irish Slang

Bags; to make a bags of something = make a mess of something

To be banjaxed = to be broken or tired

Bird(s) = Girl(s)

Biscuit = Cookie – not to be attempted with gravy!!

Bold; to be bold = to be naughty

Bonnet = Hood (of a car)

Boot = Trunk (of a car)

Chips = French fries

Codger; you ‘ould codger = Joker – usually associated with an elderly male

To come down in the last shower = To be naïve/ wet behind the ears

Craic = Fun

How’s the craic? = How are you doing?

Crisps = Chips

Culchies = Semi-insulting term for rural people used by city-dwellers

To eat the head off = To verbally abuse

Eejit = Idiot/ fool

Fair play to you = Well done, approval of one’s actions or opinions

Feck = A slightly more polite version of the other infamous F-word

Fluthered, blocked, langers, sloshed, stocious = all kindly expressions for being drunk!

Foostering; fostering about = Making quite a fuss without really accomplishing anything

Full shilling; He’s not the full shilling = He’s not mentally competent

Gas; We had great gas/ He’s a gas man = We had great fun/ He’s a funny guy

Giving-out (about someone) = Scolding; speaking negatively (about someone)

Go away out of that = You must be joking

Gob = Mouth

Gobdaw/ Gobshite = Idiot/ fool

Guff; Don’t give me any of your guff = Don’t give me your excuses/ disrespect

Having someone on = Joking with someone

Hames; You made a hames of it = You made a poor job of it

Header; That fella’s a header = Mentally unstable person

Jackeens = semi-insulting term for Dublin people used by culchies!!

Jacks/ Bathroom/ Toilet = Restroom

Lad(s); One of the lads = One of the gang, male or female

Jaded = Tired/ Exhausted

Letting-on; I was just letting-on = I was just pretending

Lively; Get out that door fairly lively = Quickly; Leave the room with speed!

Messages = Groceries

Mot = Girlfriend

Petrol Station = Gas Station

Pictures; Want to go to the pictures? = Movies; Want to go to the Movie Theater

Puck; He got a puck in the gob = Punch; He received a sharp blow to the mouth!

Pull Your Socks Up = Get Busy

Puss; She had a right puss on her = She had a sulky/ petulant expression

Shook; He was very shook looking = He looked disturbed/ shaken-up

Slagging; I’m only slagging you/ Taking the piss = Good-naturedly making fun of someone

Scratcher; He’s just out of the scratcher = He’s just out of bed

Sleeveen = Sly, calculating person

Topper; He’s a topper = A term of praise usually reserved for the young; He’s a great lad


There you have it. You are now a graduate of the Authentic Vacations school of Irish slang. You’re ready to book the Ireland trip of your dreams and talk like a local. (Especially after enjoying an evening in a local pub!)

Wherever your Ireland vacation takes you, you’ll hear amazing words and entertaining turns of a phrase. Western Ireland may be your best bet for Celtic slang. Ask your Destination Expert what they suggest!